A few days ago we were watching an American news program (we will withhold the name of the cable outfit) when the lady host, accompanied by a gentleman, said that a Canadian woman had publicly returned the few stones and pieces of brick that she had clandestinely taken form the archeological site of Pompeii many decades ago because she felt they had brought great tragedies to her life, including cancer. She prudently announced the news without making any additional commentary. But the man (what’s new pussycat?) decided to wisely interject a supposedly funny joke. –“Oh, we didn’t know that we had been having bad luck due to the coals,” he said.
We have observed the same derogatory attitude against issues or events that, without having a solid scientific explanation at present, might have some valid elements. When we were 12 years old, we spent a long summer in the apartment belonging to Marta Salguero, a.k.a. Memé, my paternal grandmother, and Ricardo Laplume, my paternal grandfather. They lived in La Ciudad Vieja, the old section of Montevideo that dates way back to the time of the Spanish colonization in the seventeen and eighteenth centuries; at the time it was circled by an enclosing stone and brick wall. Near the ancient Catholic Cathedral in the Plaza Matriz (opposite what was the seat of the colonial authorities across the central square) a street named Sarandí, had, and still has, several lovely quaint little shops and cozy cafes, favored by the European and American tourists visiting my great city of birth.
One day, coming back from a leisurely stroll in the square, I passed by a little shop full of antiques on display at the big street window; prodded by my youthful desire to have new experiences, I decidedly stepped inside it. After making just a few steps inside, I was abruptly accosted by a cacophony of various voices that spoke at the same time in different tones and languages.
Vaguely we remember that when we looked at an old fashioned rocking horse, a boyish voice emerged saying in Spanish: “It’s my turn now…Get off it.” When we abruptly turned our gaze to a delicately painted Bavarian set of dinnerware, we heard the authoritarian summons of a man in Sicilian dialect saying: “This soup is cold…Fix it.” We remember that we paused with the melancholic look of a Victorian doll that whispered in English: “I miss you…”
The old man that tended the shop noticed my big distress and escorted me back to the front door. He told me the following: “Take a deep breath and calm down…I know what you are going through now…Stay here.” He went back inside and came back a few seconds later with a glass of fresh water. I was feeling very dizzy. I gulped it.
He told me that it took him some time to get used to “those voices” but that the process had been gradual as he had inherited the business from his late father’ he used to take him to the shop on a regular basis, for little periods of time until he got used to it. He had been slowly inoculated against the anguished voices of the past that speak through the objects they had cherished and collected during their past lifetimes. Thanking him for his help, we skedaddled and never returned to that little shop. We even crossed to the other side of the street when we unavoidably had to pass by it on our way to the Avenida 18 de Julio.
Always reluctant to visit shopping venues, we nonetheless like to wander in modern places like one of the outlets from the Swedish Ikea, checking all their practical objects, buy something we might need, and if possible, have lunch with their delicious meatballs. We like to smell the fresh wood from the furniture and enjoy their fabulous lighting.
But visiting an antique store or auction, no matter how prestigious they might be? Fuggedaboutit!
What do you think? Please tell us.
Don’t leave me alone.