Some normal families
About the book:
Neighbors from a building, office colleagues, two inseparable elderly sisters, an unemployed manager, a taxi driver who doesn’t have a family. The characters in these stories are “normal people,” but Mariana Sandez’s art consists in watching normality from a closer angle, looking slightly to the sides, in order to find that subtle anomaly that opens the door to fascinating worlds, as personal as they are strange, in a way that proves that, if we look close enough, no one is normal.
Oddly enough, I wake up making lists. Still in bed, blinds ajar and a stripe of sun falling over the sheets, I mentally list unanswered messages, tasks pending since Friday, possible meals for this week. Activities that I might share with J in an attempt to rouse her from the apathy into which she has fallen due to puberty and lockdown during the pandemic… You know, all that mess.
I list books that I committed myself to reviewing and translating in the next few months, even though I have little desire to read or write. The truth is I am dying to read or write, but I can’t. A portion of the day is wasted in apathy: fatigue causes more fatigue, energy sinks into a swamp of inactivity, and the better half of the day is swallowed up by the lists of unfulfilled lists.
Everyday life, which used to be endured by a whole choir, has turned into a solo motherhood act, without the support of school, teachers, friends, grandmothers.
I list all the supermarkets that are far away so I may have the chance to walk, the only freedom we are allowed since lockdown began; “freedom” bound by codes and silicone, just peachy! I go out, an empty bag in my hand and a list of groceries in my pocket, the essentials and non-essentials, to justify the flight. P gives me an intrigued look: “Are you going shopping again? Do you want me to go?” I say “No” or “I need this.”
To me, walking and fantasizing are synonyms, just like walking and writing. I write a lot on the go, in the air, you told me it's the same with you.
Boy, so many stupid things come to mind that I want to tell you. They collect and force me to walk slowly so as to organize them, make them stay still. I know I’ll forget about them later and we’ll end up talking about anything else. A snapshot.
Snapshot: you and I in—let me see: December, January, February, March, April, May— six months ago in a hotel in Mexico. There was no plague then.
“If you go too far away, the police may stop you; you should stay within the permitted area,” P warns me. I’m not worried; I’m good at lying, I’ll make something up as I go along, an item that is difficult to find and that explains my detour towards the forbidden zone. For things like those, that require anonymous audacity, I am a good actress. My children are amused by my ability to play the part of the rescuer; I am good at playing dumb, the reaction of the victim who gets what she wants because she pretends not to know, not to understand, not to realize; she pretends to feel terribly sorry for the mistake, to apologize with the true repentance of a devoted nun, to smile when appropriate with the right dose of strength or weakness. I hate teaching them to lie, but I also try to show them that you can live your life without looking that much at yourself in the mirror of others. I always say: “don’t act like the monkey (monkey see, monkey do).” They laugh out loud, though confinement has slowly spoiled all the laughter.
I had never seen this side of me. I only found out about it as an adult; with this weapon it’s difficult to be afraid. I enjoy the type of self-knowledge that comes with age and I don’t miss youth at all. I would never envy a young person’s extreme uncertainty; hesitation to act, the constant zigzagging in order to believe in yourself, harshness in relationships, the extreme convoluted love stories, the excruciating pain. (Though look at us, or rather look at me, I’m a total mess, a pathetic farce.)
Farce: A light dramatic work marked by broadly satirical comedy, particularly one that satirizes ridiculous and grotesque aspects of certain human behaviors.
That’s why I write, because I know how to lie. Or perhaps it was the other way around: since I am so good at lying, I was drawn to literature.
I opened this space so that I may continue my dialogue with you without your knowledge. I write in this diary to avoid texting you, to avoid trespassing on your private property at odd hours.
The only thing I’m good at is writing in vain, writing for no one, my specialty —talking to someone who is absent, unnoticed or asleep, as you surely are right now in your city, in another country, with C by your side. I can see you.
is spending my hours erasing what I think/feel.
Writing: a secret way of wasting time, idealized as a grand task by most people. My thing in no way compares to your thing; you write for a trained audience, your fandom, your hordes, your freaks.
I am amazed by the fact that literature, an extremely meaningless act, is such a pregnant substance for people like you and me. The fact that our moods — we have talked about this —change according to the success or failure of words.
Farce: description of ideas such as success or failure.
The other day I picked up the book that I took to Mexico to discuss my ideas and a bunch of papers fell on the floor. Guess what? They were the plane ticket stub, the hotel bill (they only charged for a few items from the minibar: a chocolate bar, a couple of beers), and the ticket from the last coffee we had together. I don’t know why I kept them. After all, I didn’t pay.
Want to know what the most stupid part is? I was about to throw them away and I stopped myself; I tucked them back into the flap. That’s odd, I normally get rid of expired things. At that moment, I realized how many times I must have gone through that same mental micro-itinerary since I got back from Guadalajara: I open the book, papers fall down, I think about throwing them away, I stop myself, I leave them inside the book, you are still there.
When I manage to get out, I walk around the neighborhood with otherness stuck in my body, some sort of resistance or whim. I toy with the idea of travelling back in time and rectifying the past: erasing you.
I am so distracted that sometimes I see you in other faces on the street, despite the one thousand two hundred and thirty-five kilometers of clouds and the confinement. It’s May, 2020 A.CO (anno COVID). Here it is 11:00 pm, covid time. What time is it there? (…)
Translated by Natasha Besoky / Laura Estefanía