For my birthday we traveled to a Mediterranean city. We pack the suitcase the morning of the flight and bill the tickets the night before. Since I have known Luis, I have the feeling that any administrative process is easily resolved. I arm myself with a strange patience and become someone more decisive than I ever remember being. I convince myself that perhaps I am the person my mother wanted me to be: able to move steadily through any river of responsibilities, able to go out into the world without trembling when answering in a foreign language or walking through an airport knowing full well Where I go.
Two days ago I turned 28. They took me by surprise -in a slightly disoriented taxi to the polygon- to the Diverjump, a gigantic recreational park with trampolines. “So you feel like you’re still young,” they laughed. The fact is that things went almost the other way around. We had seen photos on social networks with private parties and groups of university students going in the late afternoon. But on Friday at six that was a succession of children’s birthday parties announced over the loudspeaker: “Guests at Nico’s birthday, come up and have a snack!” Being surrounded by hundreds of girls and boys screaming and banging against every possible padded surface was: one, a contraceptive; and two, the brief reminder that the age when not everything is possible is approaching dangerously. Even so, mind you, we overcome our embarrassment, we jump, we laugh and there are mobiles that store videos that should never see the light of day, but that’s another story.
Every time I have a birthday I think of my mother. We’ve been almost 20 -nineteen and eleven months, to be exact- and she recently told me: “Your 28 have been more fun than mine, better used.” I don’t know if she was only talking about the time elapsed until her 28th birthday or until she is about to turn 48 in May. At my age -just the age I am now- my mother had two children: one eight years old and the other five months old; He had just left his job in a supermarket butcher shop and, before that, he had worked since he was 18 in a nightclub wardrobe, distributing bread to the villages, scrubbing bars in Riazor from 5 in the morning… But this did not It is a story of overcoming the American style, it does not end with me telling how my mother found a stable job and we began to have vacations somewhere in the south, two cars… Rather it is the story of those who, bordering on fifty -Just as I touch the 30 with the tips of my fingers-, they continue to live precariously.
My parents pay an abusive mortgage, trained in the idea that they should have a house, ask for a loan, trust the banks; they have working hours that exceed -almost double- what is stipulated in the contract; They don’t go on vacation, we never went, and even so, it’s easy for them to understand that my life is different. For them, much of what I learned, much of what job uncertainty taught me – languages, master’s degrees, foreign friends – prepared me to live better no matter what happens, to expand the limits of the world and even break them. Even if it takes me away from them.
For months, the debate about whether or not our parents lived better than us occupied the media and social networks. Those who opposed nostalgia used the rights conquered in recent decades, the freedoms, the LGTB and feminist struggle, the lack of prejudice… I, honestly, could not stop thinking that what really should be talked about it’s about money: how there were always people who had it and people who didn’t, how the ghost of the middle class poisoned our parents before us and annulled us as working class. It is true that I belong to a generation that has always lived in crisis -S11, 2008, 15M, COVID-19-, but I was already poor then, and even before all that.
Back on the plane, Luis touches my arm and tells me to look at the snowy mountain peaks. Years ago, traveling alone, I wrote precisely about this strange feeling while flying over the Pyrenees: the sunlight coming through the window, warming me little by little, and the impossible cold of the spring snow kilometers below. Something similar happens when I observe the distance that separates the story of my life from that of my mother. It is something beautiful and sad. For a long time I did not have a better job than his, nor more resources, nor less desire. He separated us, I think, something else, something that has to do with History, with the University, with almost always empty words that are written in capital letters. Now I am concerned that no one cares about them, about those born in the 60s or 70s and still half-finished, living in their own underrepresented uncertainty. While I worry, Luis waits in the next seat for him to finish writing and falls asleep. He is calm now that he knows that I will finish the article and send it on time. Calm that he writes. And I’m glad -in the air- that this is our only concern today.