120 pearls around the neck
Dearest Amalia:
I do not know how I did not think of writing to you sooner. During these days I have been resting,
my belly larger each day when I awake, and there have been many hours when I feel lonely. Daniel
calls me from the office all the time, but I spend most of the days watching TV and knitting. I recently
finished something for Juanita, then I zapped through the channels twice and there was nothing worth
It came to my mind how much I enjoyed writing letters to our uncle when he was living in Comodoro.
And lately, I realized that you are the person that I feel most distant from and that I need to bring
closer to me. I miss you without having met you, and that is new.
As a young girl, it hurt not to have mother. It upset me that grandmother was the one that had to buy
my first tampons, and I thought she would die of shame when asking me if I slept with Daniel. To have
lost a sister who was in the womb, whom I barely felt kick, was not what was keeping me awake at that
time. In that screwed up time, when I would smell mother’s perfume bottle, simply not to cry alone,
you were a the nostalgic wisp of a small hollowness.
When the grandparents sat me at the dinner table, with all the letters, to try to explain to me without
crying that they had been taken - we knew by whom but not where- it took me a while to realize they
were not coming back. I was not able to imagine the size of the emptiness lying ahead of me. Much
later, and over time, I understood this. I always knew it would take me a lifetime to finally realize what
absence is, and today I take ownership of yet another little piece. Today the hollowness is a gap, a
breach. I have learned how to live without parents, I grew big and strong. But it is still difficult to know
what it is like to live without a sister.
I do not want to explain all of this to you. Look, I am bored already. What I want is for you to come,
prepare dinner for the two of us and listen to me complaining of back pain. I want to tell you that my
hands feel swollen and that I am scared. The fear is greater than any fear I have felt in all my life. I don’t
want to move at all so that my Juanita will not get upset. I get frightened if she kicks because I do not
understand what she is trying to tell me. But if she does not move I hold my breath until I feel the foot
against my belly.
Then, I imagine you take a day off from some job and you come to stay with me. You talk to me about
anything to keep me distracted and spoil me a little. Your image combines some of mother’s features
and gestures grandmother spoke to me about, that I cannot remember, and pieces of my friends and
their sisters. And a little of me (sometimes the nose, or the hands; I do not know what makes us look
You wear your hair very long like the girls your age wear nowadays, you wear long necklaces and large
earrings. I make you out to be sweet and a little aloof. And since I am such a bad cook, I imagine you
inherited that trait from father. You brought cookies with colored sparkles and you put the water on to
boil. I let you borrow some slippers that you wear, dragging them to the kitchen.
As I listen to the first sounds of the teakettle, I tell you that last night I had another nightmare; you
already know this one by heart. You play dumb and ask me about Daniel. Has he finally bought the
television in installments or is he still unable to make a decision? You say this sort of yelling from the
kitchen as you put the cookies on a plate.
I do not want to stop and I tell you that after the nightmare I always wake up yelling out Juana. And
then sometimes Daniel says I yell out Amalia. Then you, while I am talking, sit next to me. You caress
my forehead, the two of us on the couch. You tell me to be calm, you tell me that Juanita is there and
that no one is going to take her away. That you are there. You stretch out your arm and grab the plate
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