March 6, 2007
Today marks 40 years from the very first entry written in this journal. Within this journal lies a history of my life, a history of my fears, a history of good times, and most of all, a history of contradictions and nuances. I’m 52 now, and I must say that throughout my entire life, though so much has changed around me, I’ve always had this journal to turn to. It’s truly my anchor. It’s also probably the most prized possession my mother had for me when I was younger. Unlike most journals of wire- bounded paper, my mother found a hard covered book, with empty pages. It is a very soft light blue with a few striped-designs on the edges. I do not remember where she found it or how she got it, but I know I was always instructed to protect it. Mi mama used to say, “Ese libro contiene los secretos del universo. Tienes que cuidarlo.” To this day, I hide it beneath the floorboard underneath my bed.
I suppose we live in a country of remote peace and we’re moving closer and closer to “justice,” but so long as I live, I will never feel safe here. I will never be able to walk down the street and look my neighbors in their eyes. I will never be able to walk anywhere without feeling the need to look over my shoulder and see if someone is following me. Maybe it’s paranoia in my old age. Call it whatever you want, but you, whoever finds this journal long after I’m gone, you don’t know what it was like here. You don’t know what it’s like to be completely disposable. And for that ideal to be upheld by the people in the highest positions of power in the country all the way down to the man you walk past on the street, who might either be a fellow civilian and report you for suspicion of subversion, or be a policeman who finds your mannerisms suspicious and takes you in. You don’t know what it’s like to be here one moment and gone the next. You don’t know what that does to the people who love you, the people you walk past everyday; the people in general. You don’t know what that did to my father, a man who comes from a native people far south of here. You don’t know what it’s like to hear stories of your people’s escape from death and hardship only to travel to an entirely new place and have to escape death yourself. You don’t know what that does to your brain, to your spirit. You don’t know how much sadness one’s eyes can hold as they lie on their deathbed but can no longer fear death or be surprised by it because it’s all around them. You don’t know the pain of watching history repeat itself.
At this point in my life, I do. I’ve seen enough and no enough to have lost most of my hope for a better tomorrow. There’s a part of me that will always have my heart towards the future, seeking happiness for myself and others, but I think my brain will always be stuck in the past, inundated with memories of terror and loneliness. That’s why I never married. I never had children. I never really went on dates after my failed one with Malena. Imagine having your first real date just disappear from existence, with no idea of where she’d gone or why or when she was coming back or if she was coming back. Why even bother trying again? Clearly, my world wasn’t fit for watching games, holding hands, eating dinner together, making love, making a family. My world was a battle between survival and submission- forceful submission/violence/disappearance. So I chose survival. I spent each day going to work and then coming straight back to this same house where I grew up at. In this house, I wrote poems, held onto old memories, ate, slept, watched futbol, occasionally read the paper, and that’s probably all. But most of all, I would just sit down on my bed and think, think about things I’d never write about like why my mother left me, what it means to know poetry but be seen as mere muscle, how life must’ve been for my father growing up among the Mapuche, how lonely it is to be so old and so haunted by the past…I think about all of the nuances of my existence, and what life could’ve been like in another place.
But what’s the point. There’s no escaping Argentina’s past. So I’ll always be here just thinking, never acting, and I hope that someone will read this one day and find it interesting enough to restore mi patria.