Translated by Antoine Cassar
I Went to See Her, Pa
I bent down, cupping my hand over my eyes, as if shielding them from the sun, and I whispered to him, “I went to see her, Pa. I went to see her.”
The last time I visited him, he didn’t look so good. My younger sister had just left and, as usual, she had kept harping on about how he seemed to be getting worse. I felt I should keep things light and so I asked him about the women who had marked his life. That’s how we ended up talking about the Spanish woman.
He used to enjoy talking about the women he had known. In those moments he would seem to forget his pain, his eyes would sparkle and suddenly focus. Because, since he had gotten ill and been taken to the hospital, the women he had loved during his life had become for him a photo album, which he never tired of thumbing through. And beneath every photo there were another 50 hidden. There wasn’t one single detail that had escaped his memory. Sometimes I used to think he was making it all up, but when a month or two later, he would repeat it all with the exact same details, the same conviction, the same look and smile, my doubts would disappear. “Thank God I have them,” he would tell me when we were alone. “Tell me how else would I get through these interminable nights?” and then he would usually go on reflectively, “Sometimes I wonder, what do they think about, those other old men like me – alone – if they’ve never known the thrill of loving another woman?” And when he’d be strong enough to argue, I would tell him that maybe they would think about the countries they had visited, old friends they had had, adventures they had lived through, stories they had heard, the work they had done, dogs they had raised, days they had spent swimming in the sun, beautiful moments they had shared. And he would stop me with a wave of his hand, typical of people his age, “No, no, my son. It’s not the same. Oh, the number of jobs I had in my life! What do I remember about them all? Nothing. And the number of countries I visited and the walks I took….”
“How she’d love to see you,” he told me when we got back to the Spanish woman. “Listen, will you promise me to go and visit her before I die?” And he went on without giving me time to reply, “Go tell her everything and bring me news of her.” He was adamant about my going, and when he saw I was seriously toying with the idea, he pleaded earnestly with me to go.
“Go talk to her, my son, before I die.”