There is no justifying our optimism, no signs give us reason to believe things could get better. Our optimism grows by itself, like a weed, after a kiss, a talk, a good wine, though we have very little of that left. Surrender is like that, too: the poison of defeat springs up and grows during a bad day, with the clarity of a bad day, spurred by little things that, in better circumstances, wouldn’t have hurt us and yet, if the final blow happens to come right when we’re at the end of our strength, manages to annihilate us. Suddenly, something that we wouldn’t even have noticed before destroys us, like a trap laid by a hunter whose skill outpaces our own, a trap we didn’t pay attention to because we were distracted by the lure. And yet, why deny that we ourselves, while we could, hunted in the same way, wielding traps, lures, and grotesque but highly effective camouflage.
Anyone who looks carefully at this house’s garden can easily tell that it’s seen better days, that the drained pool isn’t out of place with the buzz of airplanes that punish us nightly, not only here on this property but throughout the valley. When she comes to bed I try to calm her, but the truth is that I know something is collapsing and we won’t be able to build anything new in its place. Each bomb in this war rips open a hole we won’t be able to fill, I know it and she knows it, although we pretend otherwise when it’s time to go to sleep, searching for a peace we no longer find, for a time like before. On some nights, in order to dream better, we remember.
In that other time, we enjoyed what we thought would be ours forever. The cool waters of the lake—we called it a lake, but it was more like a big pond—not only refreshed us on hot days, but also offered all sorts of games and safe adventures. That last thing, safe adventures, is without a doubt a contradiction we were unaware of at the time.
We had a small rowboat and the boys spent hours in it pretending to be pirates, and sometimes, on summer afternoons, I’d take her out on the water, as we say, and we’d each get lost in our own thoughts, not talking much, but serene.
Yesterday a letter arrived from Augusto, our son, our soldier, and it informs us that a month ago he was still alive, though that doesn’t mean he isn’t dead today. The joy the letter brings us also feeds our fear. Ever since the pulse signals were cut off by the provisional government’s decree, we’ve gone back to waiting for the mail carrier, the way our grandparents did. There is no other form of communication. At least we have month-old news of Augusto, it’s been almost a year since we’ve had word of Pablo. When they left for the front, the pulse signals still kept us constantly in touch with their heartbeats; she said it was almost like having them inside, like when she’d felt them living in her womb. Now we’re forced to dream them into being, in silence. War, for parents, is not the same thing as war for the men who go and fight, it’s a different war. Our only job is to wait. Meanwhile, the garden despairs and dies, worn out. She and I, on the other hand, get up every morning ready and willing.
Our love, in facing this war, is growing stronger.
It’s hard to say now how much we loved each other before; obviously, the kisses at our wedding were sincere, but that sincerity is a part of what we were then, and time has clearly turned us into something else. This very morning, I walked the property to confirm yet again that this place barely resembles what our house used to be. The lake is almost dry; someone, likely the enemy, has dammed the mountain streams. The shores of the lake, once as green as the jungle, are withering.
War doesn’t change anything on its own, it only reminds us, with its noise, that everything changes.
And despite the war—or thanks to the war—we carry on, good morning, good night, one day after another, just like that, one kiss after another, against all logic. The water boils, the heirloom teapot with its crocheted cozy, the last tea bags .?.?. the little we have left boils, is protected, goes on. Something dies and lives between us, something nameless that we decide, for good reason, to ignore. Passion either ignores misfortune or dies. We’ve made choices; one of them is not to be alone.