titulo

Palabras Errantes Latin American Literature in Translation

Palabras Errantes
Apparition

By Vera Giaconi. Translated by Carolina Orloff and Fionn Petch.
español

She underwent one of those impossible tests where you can’t work out the connection between what they’re asking and what they want to know. Ana answered: a girl with a stolen plastic bracelet, to my mother, petrol, a forest seen from underneath, every day, three times a day, doves, the eldest, father and a brother, jasmine flowers, like a sponge, clots, thirteen times seven, pearls, yellow, pain, none, white dogs, the stomach, at thirty years of age, my ears, clean-shaven men, cellophane paper, summer. Like that, for two hours. She couldn’t remember the questions, but she could recall each and every one of the answers.

One week earlier she’d chosen what to wear for the appointment. Nothing was new, but it had all been recently washed and pressed. The violet t-shirt with green trims, the white linen skirt, the ecru leather sandals, the green neck scarf. She had considered wearing the glass bead necklace, but at the last minute went for the pearl one instead. Sometimes she was sure that that necklace brought her good luck, although she preferred not to think about it much so as not to spoil it or let herself down. When they distributed her mother’s possessions, it was the only thing she grabbed without permission, and guilt free, as if she was actually just taking back something that had always been hers.

She left the house a couple of hours earlier. She had decided to have breakfast out, in a café near the clinic. She spent so much time shut up inside the house that when she went out, she became a sponge, and she found it impossible to classify everything that she absorbed, as if everything was new and too intense. It would take her a good while to feel at ease and regulate her pulse and breathing like they had taught her. That morning she had to go to the clinic feeling calm and confident. That morning in particular she really had to control herself.

It was very hot and the sky was like a huge clean sheet spread over the city. Ana chose a café facing the square, a table outside, in full sun, and an orange juice.

She placed her purse on her lap. She put her brown hair up in a bun that even when freshly done looked as if it was about to come undone at any second. She raised her head to look straight into the waiter’s eyes as he brought what she’d ordered.

‘Would you not prefer a table in the shade?’, he asked.

‘Ana.’

‘Excuse me?’

‘My name: Ana’.

The man smiled and lowered his gaze.

‘Wouldn’t you prefer to sit over there, Ana?’

‘Where?’

The waiter was pointing toward a table set aside from the rest, protected from the sun by a large wooden parasol with white canvas.

‘It’s a pretty table, but I’m fine here. Thank you.’

The man withdrew half-bowing and Ana congratulated herself. She had spoken with a stranger. She’d been gracious and polite and did not feel like crying. It was a good start. She placed one of her hands on the pearl necklace and ran her gaze over the other tables.

There was a couple, a man and a woman, more or less of her age. The woman was talking without pause. She was sweating a lot. She was wearing a blue short-sleeve dress and when she leant forward, you could see a patch of sweat on her back. He remained silent and did not look at her. He scratched one of his ears compulsively, as if he had a nervous tick. Ana couldn’t quite hear what they were saying but she could have sworn that they were not arguing, rather they were talking about something that made them tense. They had to make a decision or they had just had some news which they were trying to assimilate. Each in their own way. Ana thought that his strategy was the best: silent reflection. She, on the other hand, when she stopped talking she would be as confused as ever.

Facing her was a woman of around 70 years of age who occupied with dignity the small circle of shade cast by the parasol. Her white hair made the sweet features of her face glow: the small nose, her make-up free eyes with long lashes, her cheekbones firm despite her age. She seemed used to being on her own. She was an elegant woman. Ana was an admirer of elegance because she considered it a gift, a visible form of wisdom. The woman drank tea in small sips and would not take her eyes off a book with blue covers which she held at a certain distance. Underneath her chair, a white poodle lay asleep. Ana could not see what she was reading, but she wanted it to be a romantic novel, the type that contain those long erotic scenes where it is all necks and thighs and burning lips. The wet pussy of a seventy-year old woman, that is what Ana was thinking about while watching her. The woman was wearing a white silk blouse and a long skirt, also white with purple flowers. The hem fluttered in the breeze, stroking the poodle’s head but never touching the floor. It was as if both of them were floating.

For an instant, she imagined she was the woman, that she got turned on in public while reading that book with its blue covers, and that at some point she would stand up, nonchalant, and, followed by her poodle, she would walk back to her charming three-bedroom apartment, filled with books and plants and imported crockery and stylish furniture. She imagined she was good at playing piano, and that she had the habit of writing letters to the newspapers, and that at weekends she’d go for strolls with her female friends and that a maid as faithful as her poodle kept her at bay from petty worries such as dusting, eating or answering the phone.

She would have liked her to be an old aunt in the family, someone she could go visit and receive advice from. She could tell, just by looking at her, that she was the type of person who thought people worry too much over things that don’t matter. She would certainly laugh at her fears but instead of ridiculing her, she would help her put them into perspective, which was exactly what she was supposed to be learning to do on her own. She could tell she was someone with whom she could talk about her mother and reminisce about the good moments, because a woman like that would not want to know about the accident, would not care at all about weapons and would not allow any chinks for guilt to slip through. She felt the urge to talk to her. She thought carefully, and she was almost certain that this was not the kind of urge she was told to avoid. Ana raised her hand hoping to get the woman’s attention. If she was lucky, she would invite her over to her table.

‘The bill?’, asked the waiter, who she hadn’t realised was stood nearby.

Ana saw what time it was and accepted the suggestion.

Up until then, she had not felt the heat, but she found the walk to the clinic long and tiring. With each step that took her further from the poodle woman, she lost a little of her hard-won calm. However, just before surrendering to the clinic’s revolving door, she took a deep breath and again felt some confidence and a certain sense of self-control.

At reception, as always, they took down her details in a form she had to sign. She was asked to take a seat for a moment, and soon someone would lead her to the interview room. It had all begun three years ago. And for three years Ana had been passing through different rooms where they carried out studies on her, assessments, consultations, tests, sessions, questionnaires, exams, analyses. Ana had a name for each one of those visits, but the people at the clinic called them all by the same name: interview.

A few minutes later, an elderly man who she’d seen once tidying up the chairs in one of the group therapy rooms or drawing the curtains in an empty hall led her in silence to the door of a room. It was spacious and bright. In the middle of it, there was a long table and three chairs. One of the chairs was for her, the other for whoever was going to interview her. She wondered who would sit on the third chair.

‘Someone will see you shortly’, said the man, who turned around and closed the door with a thud.

She had never been in that particular room. She hadn’t even noticed that they had such large rooms at the clinic. It was the first time that there were more than two chairs. On the table, she could see the folders with her name, surname and medical history number on them: Ana Suárez, 2787. Written like that, in that brusque square handwriting, in black marker pen, her name, which had always seemed boring to her, now looked less like a name and more like a classification as impersonal as a diagnosis. She had never made much of the numbers until her brother, who during the first year went with her to all the interviews, had told her that in the lottery and dreams alike, 27 symbolised a comb and 87 meant lice. ‘You see?’, he had said. ‘One removes the other, they complement each other, they cancel each other. Interesting numbers.’ He had also said to her that she had to be grateful there were so many sevens, because seven was a good number. Ana mentioned this in passing in one of the interviews, she couldn’t recall when or what the person that was interviewing her looked like, but that person – and she was almost certain that it had been a man – had asked her if she knew the meaning of the number seven. Of course Ana knew that seven symbolised the gun, and she also knew that it was a magic number with too many meanings, which made it impossible to answer that question correctly. That is why she’d only replied by saying ‘No, I don’t know’, and the man had followed by asking if she thought seven was a good number. She could only think of the gun. One of Ana’s aunts had lost a leg when the gun she had been cleaning discharged accidently. One of her father’s old cousins had been shot twice, a bullet in each hand, as a collection on a gambling debt. Her best childhood friend had died when a stray bullet hit her during a New Year’s Eve party at her grandparents’ country house. And, there was also her mother. Inside the clinic, Ana never again said anything to cover an awkward silence or to seem agreeable.

Suddenly, the door flew open. A large woman came in, carrying even more folders, a bottle of mineral water and a big black briefcase. Her bright red dyed hair made her look like an old doll. She had a limp. Ana wondered if she walked like that because of a birth defect, because she had hurt herself or because her sandals were too tight. Her feet looked swollen and the flesh under the leather straps had begun to turn purple.

‘Are you comfortable?’, the woman asked while she sat down. Her voice sounded like the purr of a cat and her teeth were yellow.

‘I’m fine, thanks.’

On the table, the woman placed her bottle of water, two small plastic cups, the folders, a fan, a pen, a hair clip, her sunglasses and the briefcase. Twice she’d had the urge to place the briefcase on the third chair, and twice she’d repressed the movement. Even before sitting down, she had brought the third chair a few inches closer. Although Ana felt tempted to ask if they were expecting someone else, she made an effort not only not to ask the question, but also to act indifferently. She was not willing to get caught in the trap of the third chair. No. The chair was not her problem. Actually, if there was someone else coming to the interview, all the better, for it would then mean that Ana would have two faces and a few extra expressions to interrogate every time she gave an answer or when she paused to think.

The woman poured some water into the small cups and passed her one.

‘Hot, isn’t it?’

Had they started? Was that question part of the examination?

‘It is, yes, but I am fine’.

‘I hate this city in January. There is nowhere to hide. The heat is so sticky here, right? Horrendous.’

‘Yes, the heat is hard going’, said Ana, not too convincingly.

The woman spread out her fan. The air stirred her red hair that framed her face like an aura of light. For a moment, she looked over Ana’s shoulders, who sat with her back to the door, and opened the first folder, the pink one, while she mumbled the patient’s name and medical history number.

‘Everything ok with the medication?’

She didn’t know they’d talk about that. She hadn’t brought her file cards, nor her diary, she didn’t even have the packet with her. Just before going out, she had taken the pills out of her bag and left them on the bathroom shelf. She thought it would be a bad omen to come to the interview carrying the small red pills with her. The woman was staring at her waiting for an answer. Were her eyes green? Grey?

‘The medication, yes, fine’.

‘It says here that you went to have a check-up two weeks ago.’

Ana nodded.

‘They changed your dosage.’

‘Yes’.

‘They increased it.’

‘Aha’.

‘And? Everything ok?’

‘Fine, yes.’

‘And going out?’

‘It’s alright.’

‘Are you sleeping ok?’

‘Yes, very well, thank you.’

‘There’s no need to change anything then’.

‘No’.

The woman stretched out an arm so as to place it on the back of the empty chair, revealing a wide sweat stain on her blue shirt.

‘It’s really crazy how hot it is in here. I’ll see if I can get us a fan or something’.

The woman left the room with three strides. She was robust, tall and strong. Strong as a mule, thought Ana but she didn’t laugh in case the cameras caught her. She was convinced that in a place like this, they would have CCTV cameras everywhere, although she had never been able to discover them. For that same reason, she stopped herself from turning round the pink folder and reading a fragment of what they had written about her, so many different doctors, all so different from each other. Instead, she focused on the woman’s briefcase, which had remained open, lying on the table. She saw a pack of cigarettes, five or six boxes of pills (one of them was the same as the one she took in the mornings), a notepad with blue covers and white spots, a heart-shaped keyring that read Jorge in gold (a son? the husband?). She also saw a pack of tissues and a little pouch like those for putting your makeup in.

‘If you don’t do things yourself here, no one will do them for you’, said the woman when she came back in, dragging a huge yellow fan and placing it at the centre of the room. She plugged it in using an extension cable which she carried all wound up on her right arm.

The fan made an awful noise. Ana felt that the blades would come out of the fan’s body and turn into hands with sharp nails that would grab hold of the woman’s red hair and extend it as if it was a long, long rug on which whoever came to sit on the third chair would have to tread.

The woman squinted.

‘This is better’, she said, ‘don’t you think?’

Ana took a deep breath, like she practiced every morning, and tried to replace in her head the fan’s noise with the image of the old woman with her poodle. She imagined her sitting on the balcony of her flat, with a small mirror and a pair of tweezers, plucking her eyebrows under the midday sun. She would have been delighted to help her. She would have done that and then she would have combed her white hair with a soft-bristled brush. And she would have prepared a light lunch and then, during nap time, she would have answered all the phone calls and written down all the messages with her handwriting all neat and tidy, a handwriting that she would have acquired by copying the woman’s, in the same way that she had once learnt to forge her mother’s signature. Ana was good at that.

‘More water?’, the woman asked with the bottle half tilted over Ana’s cup, staring at her as if she needed to look at her several times in order to see her face, her real face.

‘No, thank you.’

The woman filled her glass and emptied it in one gulp while she dried the sweat from her forehead with a tissue.

Ana heard the noise the door made when it opened and looked for a reaction in the woman, but she acted as if someone was directing her movements from afar and complied with one order at a time. First, do something about the heat. It would appear that now her only concern was the water. The third person could come, take the chair and the woman wouldn’t even turn around to see them. Ana held her gaze and smiled like you smile at an empty cot.

‘Your name?’, asked Ana.

At that moment, Ana had two aims: one, to catch the woman off-guard to see whether beyond the commands, she was still able to respond to ordinary stimuli, and two, to warn whoever had just arrived that they would have to introduce themselves.

The woman flicked through the pink folder before replying.

‘Lucía Carrasco.’

‘Doctor Lucía Carrasco?’

‘Ms. Carrasco.’

‘Ms. Carrasco’, Ana repeated, relishing that flavourless name.

The woman is responding well, Ana thought. It won’t be too hard. Then she heard steps. It seemed to be the kind of sound she was always told to ignore. A faint echo gave them more weight than the other sounds and brought them into the foreground. Yet while the woman was scribbling something on the last sheet in the folder, a sheet that so far had remained blank, Ana turned around to look towards the door which, as it turned out, was ajar. The woman hadn’t noticed because at that moment, without raising her eyes, she said:

‘Are you ready for us to start?’

Yes, Ana was ready to start but didn’t say it because it was her mother who was standing at the door asking her if she was feeling ill. Ana wanted to say no to her, that she wasn’t feeling ill, but she didn’t know what phrase to use to reply to both of them at once.

‘Ana?’, they asked in unison.

The woman’s voice was slightly huskier than her mother’s, which was deep but clear.

Her mother looked beautiful. It was a pleasure to see her. It was always a pleasure to see her walk, see her laugh. She was like a bell chiming in an infinite void. It occurred to her that maybe the third chair was for her, that at the clinic they knew that her mother was going to make an appearance, or that perhaps they had prepared it all as part of the examination. Was that part of the examination? Ana sighed and turned around to face the red-haired woman.

‘I am ready.’

‘What is the first image of yourself that comes to mind?’

Her mother, who was now standing behind the woman, nodded and with a smile gave her approval for her to say it. Ana and her mother knew the answer to that question:

‘A girl with a stolen plastic bracelet’.

Apparition

Artwork by Rocío Muy Bien


APARECIDA

Le hicieron uno de esos test imposibles, de esos en los que no se puede adivinar la relación entre lo que están preguntando y lo que intentan saber. Ana respondió, una nena con una pulsera de plástico robada, a mi madre, nafta, un bosque visto desde abajo, todos los días, tres veces al día, palomas, la mayor, padre y un hermano, jazmines, como una esponja, coágulos, trece veces siete, perlas, amarillo, dolor, ninguna, perros blancos, el estómago, a los treinta, mis orejas, los hombres lampiños, el papel celofán, verano. Y así dos horas. No recordaba cada una de las preguntas, pero sí todas sus respuestas.

Una semana antes ya había elegido la ropa que iba a usar para la consulta. Nada era nuevo, pero todo estaba recién lavado y planchado. La remera violeta con vivos verdes, la pollera blanca de lino, las sandalias de cuero crudo, el pañuelo verde. Había pensado usar el collar de cuentas de vidrio, pero a último momento eligió el de perlas blancas. A veces pensaba que ese collar le traía suerte, aunque no insistía mucho con esta idea para no echarla a perder o para no desengañarse. Cuando repartieron las cosas de su madre fue lo único que agarró sin pedir permiso, y sin culpa, como si estuviera recuperando algo que siempre había sido suyo.

Salió de la casa un par de horas más temprano. Había decidido desayunar afuera, en algún café cerca de la clínica. Pasaba tanto tiempo encerrada que al salir se convertía en esponja y lo que absorbía le resultaba imposible de clasificar, como si todo fuera nuevo y demasiado intenso. Le llevaba un buen rato aclimatarse y regular el pulso y la respiración como le habían enseñado. Esa mañana tenía que entrar a la clínica sintiéndose tranquila y confiada. Esa mañana en especial tenía que controlarse.

Hacía mucho calor y el cielo parecía una gran sábana limpia extendida sobre la ciudad. Ana eligió un café enfrente de la plaza, una mesa en la vereda, a pleno sol, y un jugo de naranjas.

Apoyó la cartera en su falda, se ató el pelo castaño en un rodete que incluso recién hecho parecía a punto de desmoronarse y alzó la cabeza para mirar al mozo a los ojos mientras le servía el pedido.

–¿No quiere una mesa a la sombra? –preguntó él.

–Ana.

–¿Perdón?

–Mi nombre: Ana.

El hombre sonrió y bajó la vista.

–¿No prefiere esa mesa, Ana?

–¿Cuál?

El mozo señalaba una mesa apartada, protegida del sol por una gran sombrilla de madera y lona blanca.

–Es una linda mesa, pero acá estoy bien. Gracias.

El hombre se retiró con una media reverencia y Ana se felicitó. Había conversado con un extraño, había estado atenta y educada, y no tenía ganas de llorar. Era un buen comienzo. Se llevó una mano al collar de perlas y deslizó la mirada por las otras mesas.

Había una pareja, un hombre y una mujer más o menos de su edad. Ella hablaba sin hacer una pausa. Transpiraba mucho. Tenía un vestido azul de mangas cortas y cuando se inclinaba hacia adelante se le veía una mancha de sudor en la espalda. Él permanecía en silencio y sin mirarla, se rascaba una oreja de forma compulsiva, como si fuera un tic nervioso. Ana no alcanzaba a oír pero hubiera podido apostar que no estaban discutiendo, sino hablando de algo que los ponía muy incómodos. Tenían que tomar una decisión o acababan de enterarse de algo y estaban tratando de asimilarlo. Cada uno a su manera. Ana pensó que la estrategia de él era la mejor: silencio y reflexión. Ella, en cambio, cuando terminara de hablar iba a seguir igual de confundida.

Sentada frente a ella había una mujer de unos setenta años que ocupaba con dignidad el pequeño círculo de sombra bajo la sombrilla. El pelo blanco iluminaba un rostro de facciones dulces: la nariz pequeña, los ojos sin maquillar y de largas pestañas, los pómulos firmes a pesar de la edad. Parecía acostumbrada a estar sola. Era una mujer elegante. Ana admiraba la elegancia porque la consideraba un don, una forma visible de la sabiduría. Un caniche blanco dormía bajo la silla de la mujer, que tomaba el té de a pequeños sorbos y no levantaba la vista de un libro de tapas azules que sostenía a cierta distancia. No pudo ver qué leía, pero le hubiera gustado que fuera una novela romántica, de esas que tienen largas escenas eróticas en las que nunca se mencionan más que cuellos, muslos y labios palpitantes. El sexo húmedo de una mujer de setenta años, en eso estaba pensando Ana al verla. La mujer tenía una blusa de seda blanca y una pollera larga también blanca estampada con florones púrpuras. El ruedo se agitaba por la brisa, rozando la cabeza del caniche, pero nunca tocaba el piso. Era como si los dos flotaran.

Por un momento se imaginó que ella era la mujer, que se excitaba en público leyendo ese libro de tapas azules y que en algún momento se pondría de pie, indiferente a todos, para volver a su coqueto departamento de cuatro ambientes, plagado de libros y plantas y vajilla importada y muebles de estilo, seguida por el caniche. Imaginó que tocaba bien el piano, y que tenía el hábito de escribir cartas a los diarios, y que los fines de semana paseaba con sus amigas, y que una empleada tan fiel como el caniche la mantenía a salvo de preocupaciones menores como el polvo, la comida o el teléfono.

Le hubiera gustado que fuera una vieja tía de la familia, alguien a quien visitar y de quien recibir consejos. Con verla, podía estar segura de que era la clase de persona que considera que todos se hacen demasiado problema por nada. Que se reiría de sus miedos pero sin humillarla, sino ayudándola a ponerlos en perspectiva, que era lo que se suponía que debía aprender a hacer sola. Que sería alguien con quien podría hablar de su madre y recordar los momentos buenos, porque una mujer así no querría saber nada del accidente, no mostraría ningún interés por las armas y no le dejaría ni un resquicio para pensar en la culpa. Sintió el impulso de conversar con ella. Lo pensó bien, y estuvo casi segura de que esa no era la clase de impulso que le aconsejaban evitar. Ana levantó una mano. Esperaba llamar la atención de la mujer y, si tenía suerte, invitarla a compartir su mesa.

–¿La cuenta? –preguntó el mozo, que se había quedado cerca sin que ella lo advirtiera.

Ana miró la hora y aceptó la sugerencia.

Hasta entonces no había sentido el calor, pero el camino hasta la clínica se le hizo largo y agobiante. Con cada paso que la alejaba de la mujer del caniche perdía un poco de la serenidad que había conquistado. Sin embargo, justo antes de entregarse a la puerta giratoria de la clínica respiró hondo y pudo sentir algo de confianza y cierto sentido del autocontrol. En la recepción, como siempre, anotaron sus datos en una planilla que tuvo que firmar y le pidieron que tomara asiento unos minutos, que enseguida alguien la iba a acompañar hasta el salón de la entrevista. Hacía tres años que había empezado todo, y desde hacía tres años Ana había pasado por diferentes salas y consultorios donde le habían hecho tantos estudios como interrogatorios, consultas, pruebas, sesiones, tests, cuestionarios, exámenes, análisis. Ana tenía un nombre para cada una de esas visitas, pero los de la clínica les decían a todas de la misma forma: entrevista.

Unos minutos después, un hombre mayor al que alguna vez había visto acomodando sillas en alguna sala de terapia grupal o cerrando las cortinas de un cuarto vacío, la condujo en silencio hasta la puerta de un salón. El lugar era amplio y luminoso, en el centro había una mesa larga y tres sillas. Una silla era para ella, la otra para quien la entrevistara. Se preguntó quién ocuparía la tercera.

–Enseguida la atienden –dijo el hombre, que dio media vuelta y cerró la puerta con un golpe seco.

Nunca había estado en ese salón de la clínica, ni siquiera sabía que tenían salas tan grandes, y era la primera vez que había más de dos sillas. En la mesa vio las carpetas rotuladas con su nombre y apellido y el número de su historial: Ana Suárez, 2787. Escrito así, con esa letra brusca y cuadrada, en marcador negro indeleble, su nombre, que siempre le había resultado soso, le pareció menos un nombre que una clasificación tan impersonal como un diagnóstico. De los números nunca había pensado nada hasta que su hermano, que durante el primer año la acompañaba a todas las entrevistas, le había dicho que en la lotería y los sueños el 27 era el peine y el 87 los piojos. Dijo: “¿Ves? Uno saca al otro, se complementan y se anulan. Números interesantes”. También le dijo que tenía que agradecer que hubiera tantos sietes, porque el siete era un buen número. Ana comentó esto al pasar durante alguna entrevista, ya no recordaba cuándo ni cómo era la persona que la estaba interrogando, pero esa persona, casi estaba segura de que era un hombre, le había preguntado si ella sabía el significado del siete. Por supuesto que Ana sabía que el siete era el revólver y sabía también que era un número mágico con demasiados significados como para responder a esa pregunta sin equivocarse. Por eso solo dijo “no, no sé”, y el hombre le preguntó si creía que el siete era un buen número. Ella solo podía pensar en el revólver. Una tía de Ana había perdido una pierna cuando se le disparó el arma que estaba limpiando. A un viejo primo de su padre le habían cobrado una deuda de juego con dos tiros, uno en cada mano. Su mejor amiga de la infancia murió por una bala perdida durante una fiesta de fin de año en el campo de sus abuelos. Además estaba su madre. Adentro de esa clínica, Ana nunca volvió a decir nada para cubrir algún bache en la conversación o para parecer agradable.

La puerta se abrió de un golpe y entró una mujer gruesa, cargada con más carpetas, una botella de agua mineral y un gran portafolio negro. El pelo teñido de rojo intenso le daba aspecto de muñeca vieja. Rengueaba. Ana se preguntó si caminaba así por algún defecto de nacimiento, porque se había lastimado o por las sandalias, que le quedaban demasiado justas. Tenía los pies hinchados y bajo las tiras de cuero la carne estaba poniéndose morada.

–¿Estás cómoda? –preguntó la mujer mientras se sentaba. Tenía una voz como ronroneo de gato y los dientes amarillos.

–Estoy bien, sí, gracias.

La mujer dejó sobre la mesa la botella de agua, dos vasitos de plástico, las carpetas, un abanico, una lapicera, una hebilla para el pelo, los anteojos de sol y el portafolio. Dos veces había tenido el impulso de apoyar en la tercera silla el portafolio y dos veces había reprimido ese reflejo. Incluso antes de sentarse había acercado la tercera silla unos pocos centímetros. Aunque Ana estuvo tentada de preguntar si esperaban a alguien más, se esforzó no solo por no hacer la pregunta sino por actuar con indiferencia. No estaba dispuesta a caer en la trampa de la tercera silla. No, la silla no era su problema, es más, si se sumaba alguien a la entrevista, bienvenido, así Ana tendría dos rostros y unas cuantas expresiones más para interrogar cada vez que diera una respuesta o cuando se quedara pensando.

La mujer sirvió agua en los vasitos y le acercó uno.

–Hace calor, ¿no?

¿Habían empezado? ¿Esa pregunta era parte del test?

–Hace, sí. Pero estoy bien.

–Odio esta ciudad en enero. No hay dónde meterse.

¿Viste que el calor es como pegajoso acá? Un asco.

–Sí, el calor es bravo –dijo Ana, sin demasiada convicción.

La mujer abrió el abanico. El aire revolvió el pelo rojo que le enmarcó la cara como un aura de luz. Miró un instante por encima de los hombros de Ana, que le daba la espalda a la puerta, y abrió la primera de las carpetas, la rosada, mientras balbuceaba el nombre de la paciente y el número de historial.

–¿Con la medicación vas bien?

No sabía que hablarían de eso. No había traído las fichas, ni su agenda, ni siquiera tenía el blíster. Justo antes de salir había sacado el blíster de pastillas de su bolso y lo había dejado sobre la mesada del baño. Le había parecido un mal augurio ir a la entrevista con las pildoritas rojas encima. La mujer esperaba una respuesta mirándola fijamente. ¿Tenía los ojos verdes, grises?

–La medicación bien, sí.

–Acá dice que fuiste al control hace dos semanas.

Ana asintió.

–Te cambiaron la dosis.

–Sí.

–La subieron.

–Ajá.

–¿Y todo bien?

–Bien, sí.

–¿Y las salidas?

–Tranquila.

–¿Domís bien?

–Sí, muy bien, gracias.

–No hay que ajustar nada, entonces.

–No.

La mujer extendió un brazo para apoyarlo sobre el respaldo de la silla vacía y quedó a la vista un lamparón de sudor en su blusa azul.

–Es de locos el calor acá adentro. Voy a ver si nos consiguen un ventilador, algo.

La mujer salió del salón en tres zancadas. Era robusta; alta y fuerte. Fuerte como una burra, pensó Ana y no se rio por miedo a las cámaras. Estaba convencida de que en un lugar así tendrían cámaras de vigilancia por todas partes, aunque nunca había podido descubrirlas, por eso reprimió el impulso de girar la carpeta rosada y leer algo de todo lo que habían escrito sobre ella tantos médicos distintos, todos tan distintos entre sí. En cambio, se detuvo en el portafolio de la mujer, que había quedado abierto, tumbado sobre la mesa, y vio un atado de cigarrillos, cinco o seis cajas de remedios (uno era el que ella tomaba a la mañana), un cuaderno de tapa azul con lunares blancos, un llavero en forma de corazón que decía Jorge en letras doradas (¿un hijo, el marido?). También vio un paquete de pañuelos descartables y un estuchecito de esos en los que se guarda el maquillaje.

–Acá si no lo hace uno, no lo hace nadie –dijo la mujer al regresar, mientras arrastraba un gran ventilador amarillo hasta el centro del salón para enchufarlo usando un alargue que traía enroscado en el brazo derecho.

El ventilador hacía un ruido imposible. Ana sintió que las aspas se saldrían de la carcasa y se convertirían en manos de uñas afiladas que agarrarían el pelo rojo de la mujer y lo extenderían como si fuera una larga, larguísima alfombra sobre la que tendría que caminar quien llegara a ocupar la tercera silla.

La mujer entrecerró los ojos.

–Ahora está mejor –dijo–. ¿No te parece?

Ana respiró hondo, como practicaba cada mañana, y trató de reemplazar en su cabeza el ruido del turbo por la imagen de la anciana del caniche. La imaginó sentada en el balcón de su departamento, con un espejito de mano y una pinza, depilándose las cejas bajo la luz del mediodía. Con gusto la habría ayudado, habría hecho eso y después le habría peinado el pelo blanco con un cepillo de cerdas blandas, y le habría preparado algo liviano para almorzar y después, a la hora de la siesta, se habría ocupado de atender los llamados y anotar todos los mensajes con su letra pulcra y pareja, una letra que habría aprendido a hacer imitando la de la mujer, como alguna vez había aprendido a imitar la firma de su madre. Ana era buena para esas cosas.

–¿Más agua? –Con la botella medio inclinada sobre el vaso de Ana, la mujer la miraba como si necesitara verla más de una vez para realmente dar con su cara, con su verdadera cara.

–No, gracias.

La mujer llenó su vaso y lo vació de un solo trago mientras se secaba el sudor de la frente con un pañuelito descartable.

Ana escuchó el ruido de la puerta al abrirse y buscó la reacción de la mujer, pero actuaba como si la estuvieran manejando con algún comando a distancia y acatara solo una orden a la vez. Primero había sido combatir el calor. Al parecer, su única preocupación ahora era el agua. Podía llegar la tercera persona, ocupar la tercera silla y la mujer quizá ni siquiera giraría para verla. Ana le sostuvo la mirada y sonrió como se le sonríe a una cuna vacía.

–¿Su nombre? –preguntó Ana.

En ese momento Ana tenía dos objetivos: el primero era tomar desprevenida a la mujer para ver si a pesar del comando aún era capaz de responder a estímulos normales y el segundo era advertir al que acababa de llegar que tendría que presentarse.

La mujer hojeó la carpeta rosada antes de responder:

–Lucía Carrasco.

–¿Doctora Lucía Carrasco?

–Licenciada.

–Licenciada Carrasco –repitió Ana, paladeando ese nombre que no tenía gusto a nada.

La mujer responde bien, pensó Ana, no va a ser muy difícil. Entonces escuchó pasos. Parecían la clase de sonido que siempre le decían que debía ignorar: un eco tenue les daba más cuerpo que a los demás sonidos y los colocaba en primer plano. Pero mientras la mujer escribía algo en la última hoja de la carpeta, una hoja hasta ese momento en blanco, Ana se dio vuelta para mirar hacia la puerta, que descubrió entreabierta. La mujer no lo había notado, porque en ese momento, y sin levantar la vista de sus anotaciones, dijo:

–¿Te parece que arranquemos?

Sí, a Ana le parecía bien, pero no lo dijo, porque era su madre quien estaba de pie junto a la puerta preguntándole si se sentía mal y Ana quería decirle que no, que no se sentía mal, y no supo elegir una frase con la que contestarles a las dos al mismo tiempo.

–¿Ana? –preguntaron a coro.

La voz de la mujer era un poco más ronca que la de su madre, que era grave pero limpia.

Su madre estaba hermosa. Era un placer verla, siempre era un placer verla caminar, verla reírse. Era como una campanada sonando en un gran vacío. Se le ocurrió que quizá la tercera silla fuera para ella, que en la clínica sabían que su madre aparecería, o que lo habían preparado así como parte del estudio. ¿Eso era parte del estudio? Ana suspiró y giró en su lugar para encarar a la mujer del pelo rojo.

–Estoy lista.

–¿Cuál es la primera imagen de vos que se te viene a la mente?

Su madre, que ahora estaba de pie detrás de la mujer, asintió moviendo la cabeza y con una sonrisa le dio el visto bueno para que lo dijera. Ana y su madre conocían la respuesta a esa pregunta:

–Una nena con una pulsera de plástico robada.

 

Copyright © 2011 Vera Giaconi
English Translation © 2018 Carolina Orloff and Fionn Petch

Vera Giaconi was born in Montevideo but has spent her entire life in Buenos Aires. She has worked as a freelance editor, corrector and writer for various magazines and publishers for the last twelve years. She also gives literary workshops. Her first book, *Carne viva*, is a collection of stories that focuses on women and madness. She participated in *Extratextos 1: Clarice Lispector, personagens reescritas*, an anthology of stories published in Rio de Janeiro on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the writer’s death. *Seres queridos*, her second book of stories, was one of the five finalists for the 2015 Ribera del Duero International Prize for Short Fiction.

Carolina Orloff is a writer and translator from Buenos Aires currently based in Scotland. As well as being a published poet, Carolina has worked as a translator for over a decade, with her translations appearing in the UK, Argentina, Mexico and Spain. Her translation of collected short stories by Virginia Woolf was published in Argentina by Ed. Godot (2015). Her research, dealing mostly with contemporary Argentinian literature, cinema and politics is available in Spanish and in English. She wrote a book on the politics of Argentinian writer Julio Cortázar (Tamesis, 2013), which she herself translated into Spanish (Ed. Godot, 2015). She has translated Gabriela Fonseca’s story Homme Fatal included in ‘Mexican Speculative Fiction, Just Like Riding A Bike by Marianne Díaz Hernández included in ‘Voices from the Venezuelan City’, the Argentine short story writer Mariana Docampo’s Love and The Root, and her own poems have been included in ‘Contemporary Argentine Poets’. Carolina is the co-translator of Ariana Harwicz’s *Die, My Love,* long listed for the Man Booker International and published by Charco Press, a publishing house dedicated to contemporary Latin American fiction which she co-founded in 2016.

Fionn Petch was born in Scotland, lived in Mexico City for twelve years, and is now based in Berlin. He translates fiction, poetry and plays from Spanish and French, and also specialises in books and exhibition catalogues on art and architecture. He has curated multidisciplinary exhibitions, including the Citámbulos urban research project, and worked for several film and literature festivals. He holds a doctorate in philosophy from the National University of Mexico (UNAM), on the concept of persuasion in early Greek thought. Fionn can be contacted at That Elusive Word. His translation of Luis Sagasti’s *Fireflies* was published by Charco Press in 2018.

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