Chromatics

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Hilda looks at her daughter through the window and fills her with light. She’s been regular as clockwork over the last couple of weeks, splendid, a mirror of the universe, without missing a single day. Yazmín experiences it differently every day —with skin flooded, with vermilion fury, with harsh calm, with her spirit in bloom— but she always, always, always comes to the window at around six o’clock to receive the maternal twilight. Because that way, and only that way, does #StayAtHome make sense: without Hilda’s colors, the house still seems like a home stripped of its soul.

Águas de março plays on a loop, which somehow seems inevitable, and Hilda smiles in orange and violet and sings é a vida, é o sol in a pink-tinged voice. Yazmín, however, finds the song gets stuck in her throat, and she can’t unsheath a single note — musical though she is— because la noite and la morte are still beating in her temples.

The sunsets of Lima have never been more beautiful. People credit it to this rare respite in the frenetic life of the gray and polluted city, but those are just idle rumors: Yazmín knows all too well that it is actually her mother at the fim do caminho —because she was buried at exactly 11:11 in the morning, with the portals to another dimension open, whence she shines — and that the sunsets will continue to carry her light and her face until she receives a proper funeral. It doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks: she is certain that Hilda Luz honors her second name every day at around 6 PM.

After sunset, Yazmín wipes away her tears and does yoga and then runs for a while on the rooftop, to open her chakras, stretch her body, and try to banish that mistério profundo, but she can’t make it stop being either mysterious or profound. 

Hilda always said that the spirit is eternal, and the body is just a garment, and she is now following her belief to the letter and appearing at every dinner in the mouths of Yazmín, her father, her brother, and Celestina —more than a housekeeper, part of the family—because her memory is always evoked at some point by a flavor or a squeak or a word or her favorite fork. And from memory, she passes into melancholy eyes. And from the eyes, she descends to the tongue. And the tongue makes her the star of every dinner. And Hilda is there, there, a promessa de vida no teu coração, chewing, savoring, existing, existing such as she can.

She also insists on appearing in every movie, on every show, in every book: the Aristocat Marie’s eyes invoke Hilda, Khaleesi’s courage is also that of Hilda, Jo’s intelligence is identical to Hilda’s. Everything. Absolutely everything screams «Hilda, Hilda, Hilda.»

Yazmín tries to go to bed early, because she rises at seven for work and because routine is healing. Her mother cuddles her with a faint autumn breeze, and with o corpo na cama, she drifts off to sleep.

Alone in the hospital, due to the pandemic restrictions, Hilda switched off her body at the time of her choosing: she departed on the same day as the equinox and Saint Joseph and was lowered hurriedly into the ground, one of thousands on that day, isolated from friends and family by the plague sweeping the land. Just as it was she herself, and not the cancer, who chose the day of her departure, Yazmín fears that Hilda’s spirit will make the decision to leave when the confinement is over, and she has a recurring nightmare in which the real funeral is completed, and Hilda’s light goes out. 

But the next day, Yazmín gets up, and the state of emergency continues unabated, and she works from home and, at around six, her mother bathes her once more in orange and purple through the window.

{Translated by Adam Lischinsky}

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More tales of the pandemic based on real stories at
Love in the Time of Coronavirus,
by Patricia Martín Rivas

Love in the Time of Coronavirus