August 12, 1988
Even though most of our protesting has stopped, the power and vibrancy of the Chilean people still lives on in the feelings on the street. I finally found a job, at age 31, that I think I am willing to do for the rest of my life. I started painting people’s homes late last year, repairing bullet holes in the walls, bringing color back into their lives. Last fall, my friend Victor came by my house to check up on how I was doing, and when he heard I still didn’t have a job, he mentioned that another friend of his was starting a business. At first, I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it, since I’ve never tried to paint before. But it turns out that doing an okay job is pretty easy, and with all of the time I’ve been spending recently working, I’ve gotten pretty good. At least, that’s what my boss says. I feel that while I cannot erase the horrors of the past, I can help others embrace the present, and the future. It is an uplifting time here in Santiago.
I have also been contacted by a couple of more politically active people about my painting. I’m not sure what’s brewing, but I do know that everyone is talking about how Pinochet’s term is almost over. There is no way that I will accept the rule of that tyrant for another 8 years, and the memory of my father wakes me in the night almost daily. I am not the only one who has trouble sleeping. I sometime wake to the shouts or screams of my neighbors, the old man especially. I’m pretty sure his name is Fernando, and he has nightmares about seeing his wife’s dead body floating down the river. Surprisingly, my mother has found her calling through this man, and others like him.
She had another breakdown in April, and then also somehow suffered a stroke, long after I had assumed she had recovered. When she was in the hospital, she met two patients in the same ward as her who were having even more problems with the past. They had almost classified one of the two women as clinically insane, but after a week with my mother, she would no longer throw her food at the walls or her tray at the nurses. Learning from this experience, my mother began holding meetings or La Terapia, as I have nicknamed them, where she would have up to seven or eight people in our tiny living room. I once sat in on one, and as far as I can tell, it’s a strange combination of prayer, meditation, story-telling, and weeping. I haven’t found it all that helpful myself, but that might be because of all the anger I feel. But that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that she hasn’t stopped eating or talking or sleeping since she started hosting these sessions. From just the last couple months, it looks like she might be able to truly recover, or at least as much as is possible.
As for me, aside from my job, things are looking up. I finally went on some dates with Anita from two doors down, something that Victor has been telling me to do for months. She is lovely, but I can’t help thinking that she has the same hair as Paula, who I still haven’t forgotten, even after all of these years. But I try to remain in the present and not the past, with both my pleasure and my pain, in spite of my dreams and my nightmares. Maybe after democracy is really restored I will be able to focus on the bigger questions in my life, like whether I can really marry someone, or raise a family, at least after what I’ve seen and experienced. Until I am sure that my children will not grow up under the thumb of Pinochet, I cannot commit to having any. No matter what happens now, at least I can rest easy knowing that both my mother and I have something to occupy ourselves now, her sessions for her and my painting for me. We can only hope for a better future than our past.