• Paula Cucurella

And we had to set the animals loose

Updated: Aug 23

“This was not a desert,” the woman explained with a smile. Her almond-shaped eyes apologizing for something. She told me the story as if she were telling it to herself. Her memories lacked in scents, and in her words you could tell there was irritation, the effect of dehydration, that gave all her words a vague resemblance a story babbled in a few words, to save saliva and because everything we said sounded like a lie, without being one. “Do you believe me?”, she added from time to time, looking straight ahead, eyes dry. That wasn’t what she meant to say.

I looked around for an excuse to change the subject, but we were in that place that it had not always been a desert, and talking about something else was vane. I grabbed a short piece of wood near my feet and tried to draw a circle in the sandy soil.

“What can you do in the desert?” I asked her, looking at my circle.

“When it arrives so fast, you have to do different things every day.” I saw how she bit her lower lip as if trying to humidify it. I threw my stick away.

“Do you see those trunks” the woman was pointing with her head to a place some twenty meters from where we were, “two months ago, there was a cherry tree. It wasn’t giving any flowers anymore, but the bark will get all green. When I arrived to Curacaví, I used to smoke a cigarette under that tree, and somehow every now and then I will feel the sugary smell of the flowers, a ghost of flowers. Now, when I look at things, I wonder if I should say goodbye to them”.

There was no shade, but the sun wasn’t burning, or we weren’t feeling its rage. It had been three years since my last visit. Three years ago, I saw a dead cow on the gravel road. Somebody that couldn’t feed her had set her loose to give her a chance to find fodder somewhere else. I didn’t want to recall that memory, but neither did I knew what to say. Our eyes were dry, and mine were also searching the desert for something to say goodbye to.

From The Last Inane Days.

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