by Valeria Sestua
What is our relationship to death? In this essay, Valeria wonders about her own griefs exploring fields as diverse as paleontology and astronomy, allowing us to approach death in all its materiality.
The other day I read that octopi and squids are lonely animals.
That they get together just for mating. That the male leaves as soon as the female lays the eggs, and that she stays behind to take care of them, but the moment the eggs hatch, she dies.
So, the little orphans raise themselves, everything they learn they learn on their own, without guide, without teacher.
And it’s well known that both the octopus and the squid are extremely smart animals, they have an extraordinary capacity to solve problems, to relate with forms. They think with their skin.
There were several of us, among them Franco, I believe, walking down the street on a clear night.
An extraordinary night where the stars were all there, and not just that, but to my left I saw a constellation. Truly it was a solar system, but I called it a constellation.
This system could be seen so clearly.
Its sun, its planets, the most beautiful thing was the mutant color. It went from red to green, like a nebula, or as if it was surrounded by an immense northern light.
My old man was a practical guy. That is what we say, my sister and I.
He once removed a stye from one of his eyes just like that, with a Gillette. I remember the horror faces on me and my sister, and the nervous giggles.
Of those, several.
Ha called me one day on my birthday and told me he had cancer. He told me he would start treatment.
Almost two years later there was another call telling me my father had shot himself in the throat, right where the cancer was. He wasn’t going to die of that, the bullet had gotten stuck at a place where it hadn’t caused great harm and it wasn’t worth taking it out.
That wasn’t so practical. In fact, when I went to see him at the clinic we both laughed at his lack of practicality and then I told him he would die anyway and soon. He wasn’t cured and he knew it, of course.
He died a few days later. We didn’t hold a wake or anything. That is how we are in my family, practical.
We cremated him at a far away cemetery. It was just my sister and I and we stayed there for hours waiting for his ashes.
I remember coming back on the intercity bus with the ashes in a box and my sister not daring to touch them, so I carried them the whole time. After a while they got heavy.
Then we took another bus to Alta Gracia and it was right in front of our old-time house, among the eucalyptus, where we dug a hole in the earth and emptied the box. My sister and I stared at the ashes and the empty box for some seconds, astonished. Secretly, we were both expecting to find the bullet. But no, the bullet wasn’t there. And I don’t know about Paula, but I wanted it.
The other night I dreamt of it, of the lost bullet. I also dreamt of Chile. Of a white horse from whose shoulder blades came out a big white horn. Of the construction of animal and people hospitals among the ruble. And of my old man who took me in his car to the doors of a new place.
It was night again and I was going to Ana’s at 71, as I stepped down from the bus I found in the silent, empty, dark street a big gray cat lying in the middle of the sidewalk, his abandonment attitude more typical of dogs than cats really caught my attention.
I intuited there was something wrong, I approached him carefully and somehow I knew he couldn’t move.
Once I was a few centimeters away he looked at me with softness, so I stroked his head and he gladly received my gesture. Some minutes later he died.
I thought: his soul went through my fingers, my bones.
Rubio fell down from a high place, it seems.
Just the other day I was thinking how high Vero’s house is.
That steep, endless spiral staircase. The advantage of seeing the river, the Boca field.
Water must be removed from his lungs, they must check if his diaphragm is not broken. Just like my brother. Lungs, diaphragm.
I wonder what he saw before falling.
Did he think it was going to be like the other times?
Falling on his feet.
A disappeared/lost bullet
Some stones piled up
Oxide green bodies
Pulverized star dust
Animal bodies’ hydrogen
22 photos of houses
New solar systems
New feeding systems
Food for larvae
An incommensurable emptiness
Pain in the body of that who loses
Disappointment at the known world
Mystery mystery mystery
Light traveling through space for millions of light years
Photography & Text
Argentina. 2020 (ongoing project)
Published in November, 2020
Volume 4 , Issue 1