Sunday, October 17

Borges’s birthday

When I meet someone well in advance for outings or events, I say yes with great enthusiasm, I am enthusiastic about the idea and it also seems like a cordial gesture to say yes to any social proposal. That is my sentence. When the day is about to come I start to think excuses or worse, I make things happen that require that I cannot leave my house. In some cases, I even try to convince the host that my being there is not a good idea. That afternoon, that’s what I was doing: walking around the double circulation of my Núñez apartment in Buenos Aires, thinking that the best thing would be to tell the truth to my friend, that he would understand it and that after all he knew me more than anyone, but also I know I had promised that I would go. Between return and return I hear that a message reaches me on my mobile, a message that I never expected to reach me in this life, although yes, life is full of surprises: it was an invitation to Borges’s birthday. Jorge Luis Borges. I found out at that moment that, after death, Borges continues to celebrate his birthday. As is my custom, I quickly confirmed my attendance. I think anyone in their right mind would have done the same. I saw my friend every day and the truth is that on Borges’s birthday I don’t know if they would invite me again.

I responded by asking if I could be accompanied and they said yes. So I called a friend and asked her to go to the birthday together. So that he wouldn’t ask too many questions, I told him we were going to a friend’s birthday. I also told him that my friend was quite formal, to wear appropriate clothes, between formal and elegant. The truth is that with each explanation I gave, I created more uncertainty, as I was getting tangled up by myself, thus creating an exaggerated mystery, but I also did not want to tell my friend that we were going to the birthday of a person who had died in June 1986.

In those times I had rediscovered the poetry of Borges, my forever favorite: The lover, when he says: “I must pretend that there are others. It is a lie.” So that day, late in the afternoon (the appointment was at 7:00 p.m.) I began to prepare. Again, walking around the double circulation of the house, I started to wonder if I should take something, I don’t know, it doesn’t look good to fall for a birthday empty-handed, but I wasn’t very clear about what I could take either. A gift. Flowers. And another round. “Moons, ivories, instruments, roses, lamps and Dürer’s line, the nine figures and the changing zero, I must pretend that such things exist.” My friend arrived, we got in the car and I didn’t speak to her the whole way. I feigned excessive concentration behind the wheel. It’s here, I told him. In that old door? Yes, at that door. We arrived, I gave my name to the man at the entrance, who told us, quietly, almost in secret: “Girls, quick, you are about to blow out the candles.” Damn, I always get everywhere early and I have to be late just for Borges’s birthday. Indeed, we entered a room where there was a table and a cake with lit candles, the kind that look like sparklers and in the background it sounded, at a fairly high volume, The Wall of Pink Floyd and a giant portrait with the Borges photo, the one in black and white, the one with his eyes closed, as if squeezing them hard, covered the back wall. My friend started looking at me as if asking for an explanation. We sang happy birthday, clapped and there was yelling and some whistling. We left the house and walked for hours through the streets of Barrio Norte. In conclusion, it had been a perfect night. We walked in silence.

I must pretend that in the past they were

Persepolis and Rome and that an arena

subtle measured the fortunes of the battlement

that the centuries of iron undid.

I must fake the guns and the pyre

of the epic and the heavy seas

that gnaw from the earth the pillars.

I must pretend there are others. Is a lie.

Only you are. You my misfortune

and my happiness, inexhaustible and pure.



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