March 25th 1976
Yesterday, as I always do, I woke up at 3am for work. Waking in the dead of night does not faze me – my body is used to it after almost a decade – I splashed water over my face, brewed my first cup of coffee, and turned on the radio, as I always do. And instead of hearing the soothing voices of my regular station’s late-night newscasters, I heard a voice that I did not recognize. Its firmness immediately struck me as sinister, even before I could process the words themselves, and even before the words became clear through the static, I knew in my gut what was happening. The pressure had been building up for years, and it was about time the top blew off. The voice cut through the static: from this day forward, the country is under the operational control of the Joint Chiefs General of the Armed Forces… My thoughts immediately jumped to Raúl, who now teaches history at the Universidad de Buenos Aires. His classes have a reputation for having a left-wing flair, and the administration has been looking for excuses to fire him for years. As the pressure has been rising, he’s told me, even his friends and fellow intellectuals at the University have been keeping their distance from him. Even Elena, hi hermana mayor, who is decidedly apolitical, recently advised me to take space from him. “It’s not safe,” she said. “You can’t be associated with him. A los militares, eres un radical. Eres un subversivo.”
But Raúl has been my closest friend since childhood. I picked up the phone and called him. I let it ring for minutes before hanging up. I called Mamá, who answered the phone groggily. “Turn on the radio,” I said, and we sat in silence, breathing on opposite ends of the phone line, listening together. I could hear the voice on my own radio, and through the telephone, through my mother’s breathing. I heard Elena enter the room: Mamá, ¿que pasó? My mother said nothing, and the three of us sat silent, listening.
I called Laura, my assistant in La Paloma, and told her not to come into work. I closed the bakery for the day. Every few hours throughout the day, I called Raúl – I still have not heard from him. I have barely slept in the past forty-eight hours. The military has sent patrollers to Corrientes and I can’t stop my mind from reeling through every friend and friend-of-friend and acquaintance – Martín who comes to La Paloma every Saturday morning and reads Hegel or Engels or Marx over his masa de banana y café con leche; Luís from the book club that I quit two years ago who makes sculptures of big nude goddesses; Marlena, a friend from down the street who wrote a book about Frida Kahlo. My world feels like it is shifting around me – I sit by the phone, waiting for Raúl to call.