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Catastro : Prosa Junio 20, 2012

Life in the inner provinces
Jorge Etcheverry

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Before I start I have to clarify some things. Even if at times I've been taken as a natural, especially one branch of them, I wasn't born here. Maybe this air of familiarity has developed with time, I don't know. It's certain that in some circles they can still identify me as a foreigner. But they wouldn't ever show it. They continue as usual with their errands, their comings and goings. For me the very peculiar ways of the naturals are due in part to their English blood, in part to the climate maybe, or to their very real isolation from the rest of the world, a fact that might surprise some readers accustomed to the banalities in textbooks about the country, and especially the provinces. The heat is getting heavier by the minute even though we are slowly getting into evening. At this hour you feel almost an anguish; the heat has been straining every one of your nerves; you are covered with sweat from top to bottom and it's difficult to breath. The naturals of mixed ethnic background-as it is said in the bland History books around here- are seated at their porches, drinking coffee or tea, or getting drunk, waiting for the night or a sudden storm, and, I imagine, since I sense it, getting horny, almost hysterical. In the streets of center town, this is the time in which most of the fights explode. The ambulances will pass all night by my veranda, interrupting my heavy sleep. They will also interrupt the sleep of the woman next door who will feel the urge to pee and move, bare naked, back and forth in front of her window, moments after lighting the room, carelessly showing off her full breasts, voluptuous movements, entangled pubic hair. Afterwards, I won't be able to sleep because this woman will make me remember another who has had my life in her grip for the last two years. Anyway--if it weren't this one, it would be some other, and given the characteristics of the naturals, it; could be even worse. But these are the kinds of thoughts I have after having been suddenly awakened at night, clear and conscious, detached and objective, because the summer sun and the humidity aren't stretching my nerves anymore, and the circumstances of life and, in some degree, I, myself are far, below, and controllable.

It is in such moments that the memories of my former life in other more normal countries, and in the one in which I grew up, are so tangible that I have the sensation of almost having them at hand. But I cannot fool myself, nor can I imagine that this state, almost nirvanic, can last even part of the next morning. It is like a mirage, produced by who knows what features of the provinces. I have heard some people saying--other foreigners--that in the capital and in the provinces of the center, one feels more normal, relaxed, and sometimes, almost happy. But it's in human nature to be kind with whatever lies in the past or far away green pastures. Lucas used to tell me that he always had the impression that beyond the curtains of one specific theater there was a little door, and through it, he would be able to appear just at one corner of the capital city of the country in which he was born.

But, as I've just said, the uneasiness that hangs over the provinces is what makes you have these kinds of fantasies. Given the near impossibility of even getting close to establishing yourself in the field of business, since the naturals control it absolutely, but in the way they have—unnoticeably, you cannot dream of getting enough money to go back, or abroad and get established. Besides, the country creates a strange and routine attachment. I have met through the years every manner of foreigner, always talking about leaving, but for one reason or another, incapable, it seems, of actually doing so. This uneasiness which we feel also affects the naturals, but they don't seem to be aware of it. It could be that something similar happens in my own country, and maybe in every country, but I doubt that it happens there with the same intensity as here. What can we do then? . After some years in the country, after having got settled, maybe for good, in the provinces, in which as I was once told, the chances were almost limitless, the only thing that I can say to the newly arrived (who are already feeling the urgent need to leave as the way of life here starts to entangle them) is that nothing, nothing can be done, and I say this in the moments of recovery from everything that the net of life throws over me, without interruption, because that's how life is lived here. And then I pay for their drinks or coffees and leave, to give myself to the concrete life here, that I would avoid if I could, like anybody else would perhaps. But, I do not know why, it' impossible.



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