Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ghosts, Aira Cesar

On a building site of a new, luxury apartment building, visitors looked up a t the strange, irregular for of the water tank that crowned the edifice, and the big parabolic dish that would supply television images to all the floors. On the edge of the dish, a sharp metallic edge on which no bird would have dared to perch, three completely naked men were siting, with their faces turned pup to the midday sun; no one saw them, of course."

Barely out of childhood, he wasn't really a youth yet. Although fifteen years old, he looked eleven. He was thin, ugly, awkward, and his hair was very long. On arriving in Argentina with his parents two years earlier, he had been struck by the way young men wore their hair long, as common in the new country as it was rare back home: he thought it was sublime. Being young, foreign and therefore naive, he didn't realize the Argentineans with long hairs belonged to the lowest social stratum, and were precisely those who had condemned themselves never to escape from it. But even if he had realized, it wouldn't have mattered to him. He liked the look, and that was that. So he let his hair grow; it already reached half way down his back, below his flat shoulder blades. it looked truly awful. His parents, who were humble, decent people, had unfortunately tried to reason him out of it; if they had threatened him or issued a decree, he would have submitted to the scissors straight away. But no, they began by telling him he looked like a girl, or a lout; and once they had set off on that path, there was no end to it. They couldn't retract their reasoning, which was sound. Besides, they were kind and understanding. They said: "He'll get over it." Meanwhile their son went around looking like a little woman. Since his hair got in the way when he was working, he had thought of putting it in a pony tail with an elastic band, but for the moment he didn't dare. On the building sites no one remarked on it, or even deigned to notice. It really was very common; at least he had been right about that. In Chile, he would have been interviewed on television or, more likely, thrown into prison.

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