October 6, 1988
It’s almost midnight, and I can still hear celebrations out on the street and in neighboring houses. My mother is asleep, exhausted after this day of wonder and happiness. I can’t sleep, so I’ll record what happened as well as I can:
We were huddled around the radio in the kitchen earlier this evening, me, my mother, Victor, Anita, and some of my mother’s ‘patients’, listening to the election results. We held our breath as we heard the numbers coming in, bit by bit, from around the country. When they gave the final tally, complete silence gripped our little kitchen. Then we erupted, shouting and yelling and crying and hugging. I picked my mother up and twirled her around the house, laughing and crying all the way. It felt like our world had just flipped, that anything was possible. Then we settled down and just held hands for a minute. 55% voted against Pinochet! It’s almost too good to be true. We celebrated by making bread together, listening to the radio, and talking late into the night.
I have been very active in the last month. It turns out that painters are a valued asset for the campaign against Pinochet. I have volunteered my time to paint signs many times, and I was even hired to help some actors in painting for some kind of tv advertisement. I haven’t been able to see it because we don’t own a television, but hopefully one day we will be able to afford one. There were people chanting in the streets, and marches, rallies, and gatherings about the vote. Everything felt uplifting and happy, and I knew that things couldn’t remain in the hands of Pinochet for much longer, even if it seemed too good to be true.
Despite all that there is still a fear hanging over me, residing in my nightmares and the hour before dawn when I wake, shivering and frightened. I fear what may follow, what will happen after this incredible day. Will the junta decide that the country still needs to be ‘healed’ as they said years ago? Will Pinochet, in a rage about his loss, send his men out to kill more of us? I can still see my father the day he came back from being held captive, his jaw bruised, his eyes sullen, and his voice silent. The moment that victory was confirmed, that moment of silence that lasted a lifetime in only a second, I suddenly thought of my father, broken and lifeless in the morgue, and my tears of joy were also tears of sadness. I know that I already said that I will not stray to the past, that I will remain in the present with my mother, and my friends, and Anita, who I think I have come to love. But the pull of the past has torn at me, and has ripped a hole in my chest, where my father once was. I am no longer a boy, but sometimes I remember what it was like, being just 18, and having to be a man when I knew I was not, having to be the breadwinner. I could not, I could not just replace my father like he was some cheap copy, or some disposable thing.
A thought strikes me now that has never struck before. What if I found out who took my father, who beat him and who murdered him? And what if I met this person, face to face, and he was defenseless? What would I do? Would I hit him, or insult him, make him feel the pain I felt, make him feel the pain he inflicted on my father? Could I, knowing that if we had been switched, my father and I, my father would not have done the same, would not have hurt someone like that no matter what they had done? I have been violent before. I attacked the police, threw bottles and stones at them. I’ve never written this down before, but one time at school, a boy was talking trash about the mines, and I shoved him in the dirt and kicked him in the ribs. I fear myself, and I fear the truth. Maybe, I’ll just keep my head down and paint, wash away the past, and give life to the structure of the present. And maybe, just maybe, focus on our Victory, and not our loss.