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Christmas Soliloquy on Sixth Avenue

Actualizado: 26 abr 2022

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Christmas nineteen eighty four is when Santa stopped coming to our house. A month before, I had a violent revelation in the hallways of my school, San Ignacio de Loyola located in the southern city of Concepción. That day I was arguing with my classmate about the existence of Santa Claus. He was saying it was all lies and I was defending that he was real, that I had even seen him fly over my house last Christmas and heard the sound of sleigh bells and Santa’s cry “Ho! Ho! Ho!” We were in religious education class, drawing baby Jesus in the manger, and not realizing how loud we were, until the teacher shouted, ”You two, out!” I was very annoyed because my animals in the manger were coming out so good, and I mean so good that surely this year I would be selected as one of the best in the class. In the hall of the second floor, we continued our argument until my classmate, tired of the whole thing, decided to cut the discussion short and said I was a “cowardly little girl”, because only little girls believe in Santa Claus. Actually it’s not an insult but in those days it was an outrage that can only be resolved in one way: fighting. I didn’t want to but he insisted, spat on his finger and touched my ear. There was no turning back. When he was getting ready to repeat the humiliating maneuver on my other ear, I punched him in the face, so he would learn, by the cruelty of my fist, who Escalona was; but he avoided it and as I lost any hope of turning back he hit me with a right hook, a left blow and then a mass of punches that I tried to avoid by bringing up a useless guard until he knocked me down and I began to cry, laying on the floor. With the commotion all the doors of the classrooms opened and those damned little mocking heads came out. Now the whole school would know. Then the superintendent of the floor appeared as well as the school director, a tall, thin priest with a colonel’s gaze. We had to stay in the school office until our parents arrived to sign the two-day expulsion notice. At home, my father hit me with a belt and told me that if I lost another fight, he better not know about it or the same thing would happen to me again. I went to bed very sore and cried myself to sleep. My Christmases were never the same after that year. Something inside of me was lost, in the way of the violent changes that haul in pre-adolescence, adolescence and eventually eternal adulthood.

Now, almost thirty years later, I live in New York City. I walk with my young daughter along Sixth Avenue around Radio City Music Hall, Fox News and the NBC Studios. The aroma of the pavement, wet from the drizzle that mellows the mood, smells so multicultural as it is mixes with the smoke from the carts serving falafel, tacos, churrascos, quesadillas and lamb over rice, and the nitrogen, the oxygen creating a different city from the one we left only a few blocks away. I tell my daughter, “Look at those lights! Look at that tree!” And she obliges, looks and smiles at me as if to say, “Yes, Daddy. I see it, I see it.” We explore a wealthy lobby to discover a precious Christmas tree that undoubtedly must have been decorated during the secret hours of dawn by Versace, Giorgio Armani or Ralph Lauren. Who knows. We are comfortable taking our photos as there are few tourists due to the virus thing. Some photos in front of the giant spheres between 49th and 50th Streets, others under the monumental nutcrackers flanking the doors of the UBS Building, as if they were guards of an enchanted palace; and those Christmas lights in front of the McGraw-Hill Building; all of it gigantic, all of it ostentatious, as if the immensity of the sky rises were not enough to demonstrate the greatness of a city that is imposing by antonomasia. We walk through a city reflected in the shiny dampness of its streets, fragments of lights caught by surprise, a gravitating city where only yesterday it was Halloween, and then Thanksgiving, and then Hanukkah and then Christmas and then New Year, and then, and then… and then my daughter pulls on my hand impatiently.

“Yes, of course, my love”, we need to mail her little letter in Santa’s mailbox at Macy’s, and I feel the daily seriousness and stress suspended as the streets have transformed into a large gift wrapped in golden paper with a green ribbon. I feel happy to go drop this letter, to think that time has granted me a small truce and that I have taken a big step into space to discover that in the year two thousand twenty, thanks to my daughter, I have recovered something lost on Christmas nineteen eighty four.

Manhattan, December 15th 2020

Translation corrections: Aurelie Cotugno

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