She has long legs like a pair of rivers coming together at the source, a deep lagoon: dark, wet and mysterious. But she also has a pair of repeating words, a tattoo on her back and hands that knead you like you were dough.
She says that she killed her uncle. She walks barefoot because she feels the earth growing inside her: she says that the earth slips up through her heels and grows along her veins like power lines, or roads, grew up next to the railway.
The earth makes her strong, she says, it’s how she can stand the way people stare at her. If it weren’t for the earth, by now she’d be cracked like an ombú: crazy, she says.
And she says that she left a newborn baby in a field in Benítez, about five years ago. Time has clearly left its mark. So has the cumbia music she whistles as she walks down Avenida Güemes, just where Avenida Güemes starts to go downhill so sharply that it seems as though it’s burrowed underground. It doesn’t just lose its asphalt coating, it acquires a carpet of shards of brick that were supposedly meant to fill in the potholes around the ceramics factory.
So now you tell me a story, she says when she’s finished her own. She always tells me her story. And then she chews on a blade of grass sitting by the side of the stream that bears away the waste from the pigsties and the ceramics factory behind us. On this hot evening the factory looks like a crumbling empire. I make up a story for her. She likes adventures involving warriors and princesses. She likes castles and witches. She likes landscapes that take her far away from these ruins. She likes tigers.
She’s not from around here, say the taxi drivers lined up along the curve. She came with the guys who built the Federation and stayed. She lives behind the ceramics factory in an abandoned house choked with weeds. You see her with the dogs (she talks to the dogs) and hanging around with the kids from the country. They’re much younger than her, they say. She can’t have kids yet but the way she’s going, it’s only a matter of time, someone will take her, the taxi drivers say from their wicker chairs on the pavement. They don’t know the girl’s real story. They’d never be able to imagine the scene inside the corrugated iron shack, on a farm in Castilla, her uncle pulling her hair, tearing off her clothes, entering her with dark pleasure in his eyes and a continuous whisper on his lips. Neither are they capable of imagining her six months pregnant, on a rainy night when her uncle came back and she firmly plunged a knife into his torso, coolly, no different from slicing a loaf of bread. And they can’t imagine the girl’s face, the image that pursues her every time she closes her eyes lying on an old mattress in the abandoned house, of when she left her son behind – because he didn’t feel like hers, he’d been born dirty – amid the bales of hay in a field in Benítez. She’s unimaginable to them even though they make up stories about her, even though they’re watching her now as she disappears down Avenida Güemes, swaying atop her long legs like a pair of rivers coming together at the source.
Image: Jairo Alvarez