A Card Felt, and Felt Again
27 – 1 – 1972
Translated by Holly Pike
For more than 30 years this unaddressed postcard has been jumping up at my hands, licking the face of memory, like a friendly dog when you come home laden with bags and the only thing you can think of is kicking off your shoes. But today I’ve had to look for it, and it hasn’t been easy. Boxes and folders full of yellowed papers from innumerable days; boxes opened and shelves emptied on the floor have made me think that maybe things also have souls: more of all written things, like independent pieces of the soul that wrote them. And, as though created in their image and likeness, little souls capable of awakening care, loyalty, resentment and even vengeance.
I was sure I hadn’t thrown it away, ripped it up, or burned it in one of my fits ‘to hell with papers!’ when I start to feel that they’re kicking me out of my home. No. I’ve always believed that I’d finish it. And then, that day, whichever day it was, the unaddressed card compelled me. It doesn’t really mean anything, what they call ‘meaning’, it doesn’t mean anything to me. Nor has it ever meant anything to anyone, even though ‘meaning’ was its whole purpose.
Nor has it ever meant anything to anybody, even though saying it was its destiny. That’s why it’s lasted.
I wrote it myself, on the deck of the boat. With my smallest handwriting, in terrible French. I mustn’t have known the address and it stayed there, as a mark between the pages of a book. Waiting. Waiting more than 30 years. And now I don’t even know to whom I was writing, nor even who the ‘dear friend’ that never received it was. I wonder if she’d waited for it, if she got tired of waiting in vain. If, after all, she didn’t mind not receiving it.
It finally appeared inside a card with a bouquet of violets on the front, covering a message from Antonio Zozaya announcing the publication of his text Por los cauces serenos. As letters were delivered by hand, the card carries his address: Republic of El Salvador 14-26 July, 1941. The violets, the green stems, even the message could now be considered a hyperbole of camp. Antonio Zozaya would have been 84 years old then and he died not long after… I’m not sure why I’ve kept his messages and photographs…. He always forgot he’d already sent me one the week before. I don’t know why I’ve kept them. Perhaps because I promised him I’d go to Antonio Zozaya Square in Madrid one day, and I’ve not been. I don’t even know if a square with that name still exists. The idea that it’s now any old square saddens me.
I don’t either, every day I know less, why the unaddressed card is exactly there. Maybe because the date, 26th July 1941 marks the first anniversary of the end of that journey. As such, I could have put it there myself. But today everything seems possible: the card could have gone there itself, sick of waiting. To finally forget, stuck between violets, or to keep remembering. To avenge my easy and voluntary forgetting.
With so many papers spread out, sitting on the floor like a fakir with dancing snakes around me, I spent quite a while making a frame for a photograph of Don Antonio and one of his messages. I wasn’t brave enough to include the violets or the green stem. Hung on the wall of my office, it’s like a homemade prayer to help souls leave purgatory. And remembering that Don Antonio, to cook in the miniscule kitchen of his apartment, would wear a pure white chef’s hat and apron to match his beard, I felt like crying… but, by luck, I learnt a long time ago to hold back my tears.
With all of this I’ve almost forgotten why I was searching so earnestly for the card. It’s not even a pretty card with vivid colours. Not white, nor black, nor sepia… it’s what I imagine the colour of boredom is. But, yes, the boat in the picture is spacious, powerful, … and still. Like a dolphin during the siesta. It has two chimneys. I don’t know what all the other parts are called. If it was as old as my memory, it would have candles, but it doesn’t. Only one line at the bottom “35-paquebot cuba de la compagnie generale transatlantique M D”
How long do boats live? Would the Cuba still be alive? Over the years many things could have happened to it: it could be at the bottom of the sea, finally brought down by a mine. If it died a natural death it would have been taken to the boat cemetery, which is where, I don’t know. If it was still alive, even though it was really old, would it remember us?