Marcos had moved out of his parents’ house almost three years ago. Graduated in sociology, with a doctorate completed, he went to live alone as soon as he managed to pass a competition to become a university professor.
An only child and very attached to his mother, he frequently visited the house he called home for over 30 years. As he began the cycle of visitations, he noticed what he had never noticed while passing so hastily through the daily life of the house: the parents hardly spoke to each other.
They woke up at the same time, the father set the table, the mother made the coffee, then the father went out to buy the bread (three when Marcos was there, two when he wasn’t), he came back, they sat down at the table, she served it coffee, he cut the bread in half with a knife and put it on her plate, they took turns with the butter, he served her juice, they ate without exchanging a word.
Retired, they spent a lot of time together indoors. He, mason and she, domestic worker. Dad found a thousand things to fix, pipes to repair, walls to paint. Her mother spent hours at the sewing machine arranging clothes for friends in the neighborhood, who paid her with cakes, beers and coffee.
At night, the mother cooked, the father washed the dishes and words were always rare.
Marcos began to find that relationship strange, almost embarrassing, but he never said anything. Uncomfortable with so much silence, he reduced the visits and started to go on alternate Sundays.
Until the day Marcos’ father died of a heart attack, aged 77.
Marcos remembers thinking that his mother wouldn’t be so sad about the loss because, after all, they hardly spoke at all. But he soon saw that he was wrong: his mother was torn apart. Marcos moved in with her for a while, waiting for the grief to take its course.
When his mother was less devastated, one night when Marcos came home early, he found the courage to bring up the subject that was bothering him.
“Why are you and Dad barely on speaking terms?” he wanted to know.
“What do you mean,” she returned. “Your father and I communicated perfectly,” her mother added.
Marcos thought that his mother had gone into denial and insisted: “I didn’t hear you exchange a word”.
The mother, who was setting the table, stopped at this point, pulled up a chair and sat down.
“Marcos, my son, do you think that words are the only means of communication? Let me tell you a few things then. Your father and I communicated by making love, for example.”
“Marcos, stop being silly. I’m a woman before I’m a mother. How do you think you came into the world? But if it relieves you, forget about sex as they show on TV and in the movies. That’s not making love. I’m talking to lie together, to kiss another body, to be intimate with another body, to mingle with another body. We communicated with our eyes, with our hands, with the corner of our mouth. Spending hours next to another person without finding who needs to say anything is a way of communicating love, intimacy, affection. He was my partner, my accomplice, my partner in the immensity of life’s silence. When he died, he took a part of me. We remake ourselves, life it goes on, but the pain doesn’t subside; it just becomes part of us. I miss being silent with him, dancing with him in the room when we were alone. What you perceived as silence was just love, my son .”
When the mother finished speaking, Marcos reached his hand across the table and reached for her hand. Looking into his mother’s eyes, he thanked her. They ate without saying anything.
That night, when he went to bed, Marcos was finally able to mourn his father’s death.
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