Fabiana Elisa Martínez
My mother would be spared the torture of the noise. She would feel in her bones and nostrils the increasing speed, the tension, the changes in the pressure. But she would never be able to understand that such a physical turmoil is also accompanied by a deranged echo. Her ears would pop after the stabilization but the hum would be impossible to perceive completely, like the colors and distances we don’t grasp or the tastes we don’t guess that documentaries assign to cats, eagles or fish.
My mother never took a plane; only boats. She was conceived in one and returned in another with her mother, unaware of the voice of the waves. Possibly she will die without ever crossing the skies. She has been cocooned for more than fifty years by different flocks of nuns who protect her more now, in her old age, than they should have sheltered her in her youth to avoid my existence. But I am here, the coda of a story that was never told because an alumna of the Instituto Araújo for Deaf Girls, the one who stayed and became their cook, got pregnant by a mysterious visitor and hid behind her muteness and her lack of shame for the sin. It is a blessing for my mother that those nuns do not speak much either. There is not much to be heard in the old school after all. Cecília the cook, they call her. Cecília the deaf who bears the irony of having been named after the saint of music. Meanwhile, Cecília smiles and peels and boils and slumbers in the feathers of her eternal silence.
My mother has only one memory of a long trip. She was fourteen and the only hint of the departure siren for her was the fact that her mother squeezed her hand on the deck rail a little more strongly during those agonizing moments. They were leaving forever an immense metropolis, drawn in the dregs of political turmoil and smog, a city that has never honored its name: Buenos Aires. My mother was born deaf and Argentinian, two characteristics that may seem unrelated until touched by my scrutiny and logic, by the curious eyes of a daughter who loves reading and writing and detests travelling by plane. My mother and I do not share the silence but we do hold the extremes of a thread that connects and separates us: we both came to exist by the seed of men who seduced, loved and hurt in irreparable ways. We both came from women who faced their mistakes and turned them into blossoming life.
My ears pop, and my breath follows my permission to expand and flatten my chest. We will reach our regular altitude shortly. The sensory distractions will start soon. I always wonder whether such a display of lights and smells are tended to cover the constant murmur of the engines or its undesirable stop in case of a disgrace. When a plane falls, are the absence of that mechanical moan and the screams that occupy its void the most terrifying elements of the conjoint, unavoidable death?
My plane slides elegantly through invisible paths of clouds and light. Travelling west, I will only see a constant afternoon, a stretching day running away from a slowly oncoming night that will never reach it, until we land in my new city.
If I were fourteen, I would be much more scared, even in the secure cradle of a giant ship. My mother was leaving the only place she knew, the only father she barely suspected. She could not imagine the domes and turrets that waited in Lisbon. For her, the only familiar legacies of her childhood would be a fighting mother and her own private cave of quietness. Unlike her, I know where I am going. I have flown between these two cities for years. I will miss the view of the sea from my Alfama window and embrace again the hint of salt in the snow of Boston. My mother was taken by the hand and pushed to leave. I decide every time which extreme of this Ariadne’s threat of my life I want to hold. My mother never saw her father again and possibly her secret lover after I was introduced to the rocking of life. I fly back and forth as well between two men. The one who will patiently await my unforeseen return to Lisbon, without asking anything, sitting and smoking in our bench at the Rúa dos Remédios, and the one who wishes I would never come back to Boston again but would fall in my arms with the thirst of many winters and the crumbling cadence of the impossibly salty snow he cherishes.
I hope this time again, as always, to avoid the unsuspected window that waits somewhere to receive the impact of my flying soul, deaf and blinded by the western sun, like a broken bird a second before dying.
Fabiana Elisa Martínez: "I was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I graduated from the UCA University in Buenos Aires with a degree of Linguistics and World Literature. I am a linguist, a language teacher and a writer. I speak five languages: Spanish, English, French, Portuguese and Italian. I have lived and worked in Dallas, Texas, for almost twenty years. I am the author of the short story collection 12 Random Words, my first work of fiction. I am currently working on my first novel."