By Martín Caamaño
Translated by Frances Riddle
The following is an excerpt from Martín Caamaño’s 2009 novel Pálido reflejo (Pale Reflection).
It wasn’t the first time that it had happened to me: to cross the mirrored door at Arrivals in the Rio de Janeiro International Airport and find that no one was there waiting for me. The first time had been a long time ago and I wasn’t alone. I was traveling, ironically, with Soledad, my maternal grandmother. I was eight and I hadn’t seen my father for two years. I remember that in those days I went to Dr. Nancy’s office once a week and one fine day (shortly before traveling) she asked me to make her a drawing of dad. After sketching a fairly accurate and fairly attractive portrait of his body, when it came time to draw the details of his face, I asked the nice Nancy where the mustache went, above or below the nose.
My parents separated without making much noise when I was five years old. My father’s recurrent infidelities, which the whole world knew about, except mom, were the cause. A spiteful neighbor opened her mouth and pulled the wool from her eyes. When mom confronted dad he didn’t deny anything, which made things much simpler. From that day on, or more accurately that night, he did not return to sleep at home and the next year he went to Brazil. Two years later I went to visit him for the first time.
Now I was back at that airport with no one waiting for me, but the circumstances had changed: I was alone and I was no longer a stranger. For seventeen years I had traveled to Rio de Janeiro every summer. I spoke decent Portuguese and I understood everything that was said around me. Since dad left I had gone against Paracelsus’s motto: “Be not another, if you can be yourself.” My secret motto went: “Why be yourself if you can be another” and I had grown up with it. But that summer Paracelsus had intervened and seemed to win the war after having lost all the battles. I arrived in Rio de Janeiro with a motto of my own authoring, convinced that “You can only be yourself.” All my life I had lived in error. This is what I was thinking when I crossed the mirrored door of Arrivals at the Rio airport. With time I had become accustomed to that waiting game and the anxiety of the metallic open and close of the automatic doors that signaled the passage to the other side, and the chance that upon crossing, you might not find what was hoped for. When I didn’t see my father, far from worrying, I went to the closest public phone and I called him collect on his cell. Marina, his wife, answered. I asked her where they were. She told me they were ten minutes from the airport, that the police had stopped them, that there had been a problem with the car’s papers but that I shouldn’t worry, that they were almost there. So I sat on a bench, opened the book that I had been reading on the flight and started to wait. That summer Dad died.
Martin Caamaño was born in Buenos Aires in 1980. He is a writer and musician. He has played guitar in the band Rosal since 2003 and together they have recorded five albums. In 2009 he published his first novel Pálido reflejo (Pale Reflection) through the Madrid based publishing house Lengua de Trapo. He studies Literature at the University of Buenos Aires where he is a member of the Department of Brazilian and Portuguese Literature. He translates from the Portuguese and contributes articles on cinema, music, and literature to various publications. He is currently finishing his second novel.