Just as past generations give rise to those that follow, so we, the living, take root in our dead.
In the depths of the pandemic, the dead rise like phantoms, and when I see myself in them, like a carnival mirror, I see myself altered, disembodied.
My feet, unsure, flail in the emptiness.
The virus leaves me rootless, breaking the generational line, on a par with the departed: my whole heritage collapses…
The illness, menacing, expels me from the world of the living, its presence shattering the certainty of belonging to a living, moving species.
Order is upended, like dialogue in silence.
The others, me: outside the world, like those who preceded us.
My body doesn’t recognise me, drifts away from me, towards already forgotten zones.
I return, in the midst of the pandemic, to the forbidden.
Intimate geography, fleshly prehistory, in which my mother, her regard, got lost in the furious winds of the Patagonian desert, which shaped the as-yet undefined space of my body.
It is her gaze, her very gaze, though blinded by terror, that gave shape to me in naissant form, her instrument. A body for doing: with its limits, its contours constantly under threat of dissolution. I was bound, tied to, anchored in her pupils, on a path that earlier generations had opened for me.
Here’s what I’m trying to say.
And my grandfather’s eyes, the distant look of a crucified Christ.
Each of my limbs has a history from which multiple stories derive, an evoking that tears and opens, in isolated fashion, to creative and desiring losses.
Into my veins the past pours its images.
I write during the night.
In the intimacy of a Buenos Aires that is moulded in the silence.
Buenos Aires, my town, strangely hollow, in exile from herself.
And in this same exile from which I’m leaving, my body flings itself towards virtual spaces. I let her carry me, unable to stop myself, I halt my music and lend my chords to the shrill melody of egalitarianism.
I have become one with the wider body of society.
I am a simple dot, a characteristic.
I abandon my name, I am left with its traces, held tight to this deathly form, without relief, that I see duplicated on the screen, a representation of me.
From my radical alienation I attempt to make its stillness my own.
To continue to be within, to belong.
I give myself away.
Private sphere, public sphere.
Today, I do not think that anybody can fall ill and suffer as we suffer from love.
Medicine: its place is removed from what happens in reality.
Abstraction through statistics: a dagger which separates, fragments, shatters life entirely.
A numerical razor’s-edge, chiseling away at the body of society. Objectiveness, replicated in masse.
In tears: that’s me.
Illness is no longer a gift, a journey towards my own integrity. It is no longer a path, a vital process.
It is a rupture with singularity.
I remain passive, protecting myself by limiting my movements, shortening my stride, watching.
I renounce recourse to real words, and place the flag of my desire at half-mast.
Aggressive multiplication of the same thing. Viral revolution.
Sickness comes from outside, we’re told, from the East. And its condition, its very nature, leads it to reproduce, like a factory-made product, consumer-ready.
The same consonance, repeated in the same bodies; the body of the pandemic.
I shrink, losing my bearings.
Between what others know of me and the four walls of my house.
Surrounded by green, but encircled by cars. And blue sky, glowing incandescence.
Never, they tell me anxiously, has the sky been so clear, so pure.
Rigid lips articulate beneath the mask.
The victories of the lockdown: a convalescent world, Mankind, incorrigible predator, cloistered.
A new era beckons over the horizon. For a certain time, they say, no one will be able to harm the planet.
And then, what comes next, who knows…
I have another opinion. I don’t listen to these clean-air prophets.
Nature isn’t my religion.
My friends try tentatively to persuade: society will be different after the pandemic.
Better: more connected, togetherness, bonds of love, enlightened empathy, all made equal by the sickness.
Which of us can honestly say that we have overcome the catastrophe and learned from it?
Isn’t memory, as Pierre Chaunu once said, just a machine made to forget?
To be alive, is to live each experience to the maximum.
But are we truly alive?
The streets are full of zombies, wrote Louis Thonis.
Fear turns us into automatons, today more than ever.
And those who are not: band together and try to disappear.
Resistance of a kind.
Because I don’t understand anything.
The world of zoom links me to other forms: discontinuous, broken.
The screen is a mirror that swallows my veracity.
I am other, public. I observe myself and confirm that I am a foreigner.
I put my hand on my forehead, I observe. My face is a still image, each gesture is projected, appearing on the screen several seconds after what has really happened.
Can I say that this other hand which rises after my own belongs also to me?
If I see the ocean, the wave breaks on the sand, whereas on the screen, it cannot rise up higher than the horizon.
Desynchronisation… meaning beyond space, beyond time.
I watch myself, I try not to watch myself, I repeat to myself: it isn’t me.
An intense and mortel fascination.
Without my body, I die.
Each morning, a false identity: my words, pure fiction.
My heartbeat is disincarnated, the soul takes off, like a bird, far from the screen’s ideal frame.
No odour of wilted leaves, decadent and explosive rose, of autumn.
I am safe.
My contact is ascetic, I connect to the others, but it’s as if I am connected, the air I breathe is scant.
It’s from the past.
It’s no longer possible for me to be joined to others through the air we share.
Confined within the intimacy of my office.
Autistic breathing, hands always spotless.
The surrender of the body; impossible object of medicine.
Analysed, measured, controlled, manipulated.
As if it could be exceeded.
Hearts grow excited by the statistics, the number of people infected, the deaths, the minute details of self-creating rituals, not from the past.
Equality today means dying alone in a hospital room, where nobody can get close to you, like a leper.
The pandemic has confiscated my body. Now, it’s a single indistinguishable body, without a history of its own: cells, lungs, immune system, nervous system, and a neverending list of bones, muscles and arteries.
And once again, the duality, division, fracture.
We’ve been warned.
Temperature: 39 degrees means you’re off to the hospital.
Headache, sore throat, loss of smell, fatigue, swollen eyes.
No surname, no first name, I belong to a long line of glaciers, rugged and repeated cliffs, of the dreaming sea.
I measure my conformity against several characteristics.
Without these, it's lockdown inside the hospital, a fight for survival.
And there I am. Unmoving like stone, a body no longer my own, devoured by the pandemic: an immense and powerful wave that rises and sweeps away differences, singularity, desire.
They tell me what awaits me, which risks to take, how to live in this, my body, without endangering the tribe.
My life no longer belongs to me, no longer lives in me: life is owed, now, to the common good.
All that’s left is writing, and the body that emerges, real, from my hands.
The pain of the imposed division finds resolution in writing.
I become one again, through writing.
I relieve the empty landscape in which my head lies, I dive deep in what’s to come, rooted in the ancient paths which open only for me, virginal, trembling with desire.
I write, I write myself, to myself, in the silence of the city that collapses, exhausted, into the arms of the night.
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About the author
Sofia González Bonorino
Sofia González Bonorino is an Argentinian writer. Her last novel: Mi cliente (Editores Argentinos, 2015).