It’s not Love that Dies
Translated by: Cecilia Mafla-Bustamante
Artwork by Miguel Bétancourt
where was your guardian angel surely so similar to the one you invented for my childhood grandma where when you opened that door and your eyes that could never get rid of the fright they saw what they saw and you ran down this very corridor all the way to the end looking for help knowing that no one could help you because you would have to be quiet forever and hide in your own fear where else grandma but in your own horror
Quito, October 28, 1921
Quito, October 28, 1921
You’ve gone and it is probably for the best. If you hadn’t, I wouldn’t have dared to write you this letter, and this situation, for good or for bad, would have continued without a solution.
since then you have that look that kind of goes poking at doors and more doors hiding silences shuffling mysteries those eyes always big frightened open as if they wanted to get rid of some ghost inside without being able to ever since then grandma even before you started confusing names and dates even before you went back to your adolescence thinking that my mother was yours even before you changed the name of my grandfather rafael and shouted and vociferated that his name was armando because nobody loved you as he did and no one else could sleep in your bed or eat by your side at the table except armando your first boyfriend armando armando armando
I think you know what I am going to tell you: this inexplicable relationship is over now. I can almost see your ironic smile as you read this; but one cannot control the melodrama of certain moments without falling into stupidity, or what’s worse, into hypocrisy.
another one of many ghosts that hid among the curves of your brain making nests and burrows poking and searching poor little grandma always so frightened by all those monsters in shapes too human too solid to be only fantasies of your old age frights of you-know-at-that-age memories more or less loved more or less hated always heartbreaking grandma always terrifying although everyone said never mind the problem is that she is old but the one who said this was your older sister who was much older than you and who would always end up biting her lips so that the terrible secret would not escape the black legend the shame of centuries trapped between the walls and the curtains concealed in sugar bowls hidden in trunks next to letters that were never mailed kept in boxes among sheets that smelled of naphthalene
What I want to make clear is that I love you very much, and perhaps that is one of the reasons which gives me strength to put an end to this situation. Something I never wanted to do was to hurt you. But this is not the only reason. It’s that I think about Margarita, and then all of this pain I have learned to endure—I don’t know how—becomes unbearable.
grandma forgetful of other deaths still thinking that the room downstairs where the junk is now stored is your brother alfonso’s office calling him each time you coughed or fainted grandma asking if his students from the university had arrived to solve problems and hand in homework while your wrinkled face peered through the balcony curtain with that false innocence of the adolescent that you stopped being when the fairies abandoned you and your curiosity pushed you to that closed door
You may be thinking that nothing can be improved, that between the two of you the relationship has been destroyed to the point of disappearing completely; and you are right, of course. After discovering what she discovered, it’s impossible that she would want to forget this matter (or even could), but I believe it’s the only way to compensate for the harm we did her. Besides, Armando, nothing can happen between us either, at least not here and now, and that is what really counts.
that was not the only door because there was another closed door when you came back from your honeymoon almost happy and ready to forget everything or at least give it a try you poor grandma in front of the body already cold next to the little bottle of who-knows-what your voice that sometimes still echoes between the walls and everyone running around and you repeating like in the last moments of your agony that he is dead that he killed himself and then mother convincing you that it’s all a nightmare a bad dream an inopportune memory a ghost grandma only that nothing more one of the many ghosts that come to visit you once in a while and you somewhat calm somewhat sane saying that you never saw a funeral so well attended because in spite of everything he was a good doctor because he was everything but a selfish materialistic person like the ones nowadays
How foolish of me, Armando, even in the worst moments, ever since I realized what was going on with me, I always had integrity, always tried not to give up and to live in the blinding light of what we know as "normalcy" and what we call “defects.” But this changed a few days ago. Now, when I reread this letter, I feel I can't go on, I cannot, and I feel I should not.
where did your fairy godmothers go grandma short story princess where was your guardian angel poor little grandma helpless little girl where why did no one warn you why did no one tell you why did no little dwarf in the garden take pity on you at that moment and pull on your skirt to take you for a walk and maybe tell you the whole thing little by little and explain that sometimes these things happen expose you to reality without violence help you understand it without pain
Why can’t life be normal for everyone? Why are some of us dragged and thrown into such small and dark places, Armando? And why are we alone to face our pain and anguish of trying to be but never quite being, of looking for answers and only finding questions that are more confined and heartbreaking every time?
grandma alfonso grandma armando grandma fear in your eyes grandma screams at dawn poor little grandma she is old grandma who is this in the picture grandma how did your older brother die grandma armando grandma alfonso grandma terror all over your face grandma nightmares every night grandma empty little bottle next to the body grandma silence grandma secrets grandma lies grandma armando grandma alfonso grandma closed doors grandma bewilderment grandma sudden silence after your last rites
I hope, Armando, that life gives you back all the peace that I took away from you. I hope you can forget me and go back to your normal life. You know that I wish you the best in the world, and although this farewell is as definite as death, I don’t want to lose hope that at least you and Margarita do go ahead with whatever you intend to do and someday find the happiness and peace that I only know by name, not by its colour, its music, its aroma.
grandma armando grandma alfonso grandma death grandma embrace armando embrace armando death armando alfonso grandma alfonso death alfonso peace embrace armando embrace alfonso grandma death grandma calm finally grandma peace
Receive a strong embrace and the farewell of someone who would have wanted to come into your life through a very different door,
Lucrecia Maldonado was born in Quito. She is the author of short stories, novellas, poetry and essays, including No es el amor quien muere, Mi sombra te ha de hacer falta, Todos los armarios, and Como el silencio. In 2005, she was awarded Ecuador’s National Prize in Literature for her novel Salvo el calvario. This piece was originally published in No es el amor quien muere by Eskeletra Editorial in 2005 and reprinted with the permission of the author and publisher.
Cecilia Mafla-Bustamante is professor of Spanish, Hispanic Literature and Culture, Linguistics, and Translation at Minnesota State University Moorhead. She has published Arí – Sí – Yes: Análisis lingüístico y evaluación de las traducciones de Huasipungo al inglés (2004) and the translation “Weeping for Pedro Jara” (1998) by Efraín Jara Idrovo.