Pain (Book Extract: Borrowed Time)
Felipe is out on the balcony, oiling the teak chairs. I’m standing in the doorway.
“What was it really like, when the thing that happened happened?” Mexicans never discuss terrible things by name out of fear that they might happen all over again. It’s how they bamboozle the higher powers in charge, while the clever listener gets it right away. After twenty-five years I’ve got it down pat. “What was it like exactly, back then?”
Felipe puts the brush on the arm of the chair, stares into the distance and says, “Your father sat beside your bed every day. You didn’t say anything. Neither did he.”
I can see my father again sitting beside my bed in the semi-darkness, a big man who feels small in the dim room. He’s reading the newspaper, and every now and then he looks over to see if I may have given some sign of recognition.
Suddenly my stomach tightens up. I don’t want to allow this picture to take shape in my head. The retroactive pain I feel towards the worry and sadness of my father, Lisette and especially Felipe is still so raw that I can hardly take it in. It’s as if I had stuck a knife in their backs while sleepwalking. You can’t blame me. I couldn’t help it. But even so, I was the one who cause the wound. Every time someone starts talking about it I feel the scab being torn away, from their wound and from mine.
The worst part of it is that we can’t share this pain. It’s not the way it used to be, when Felipe and I could lay for hours in bed with our arms around each other. There are no more moments when we get lost in each other’s gaze and then interrupt it with an unexpected wink. Now when Felipe and I look at each other I avert my eyes. Shame, guilt, pity, helplessness − it all runs together. I want to comfort him. I want to make it all better. But I can’t. I’m no longer the one who comforts and makes better. The fear that I will no longer be that person makes me freeze.
“You sure that’s the right oil to use on these chairs?”
Felipe looks at me in surprise and nods.
I turn around and go back inside. I tried. I thought I could do it, thought I could know what really happened. But it was too much for me. I still haven’t mastered the pain.