The Other Garden

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jardinIf you make an impromptu trip to the garden, that is, if you’ve entered the garden without an invitation or at least without a guide, you probably won’t see it. But if you concentrate a bit, a bit more than you would need to in order to appreciate the colorful flowers, breathe the air that everyone agrees is pure, and show your surprise at the silence, like everyone else does, you will see the notch in the wall, the one between the kapok and the jacaranda.

Now, let’s say that you were there and you didn’t see it, or that you don’t trust me, because, after all, I’m just a writer, and am therefore entitled to lie to you; in that case, you wouldn’t be able to see it either.

But assuming that this is not the case, and that you are currently reading these words from a position of trust, hoping that I show you that place, which does not yet exist, not even for me, then you will surely be able to see the crack in the separation between those two aged specimens, planted by who knows who, one of the founding members of the family. So, you are able to distance yourself from the group and, with a skillful movement of your body, circumvent that tiny separation, which, to everyone’s eyes, is a study, solid continuum.  On the other side, you will be surprised by the span of the hidden garden. It’s no use for us to busy ourselves with measuring the length and width of the space, not even to perform a minimal inventory of the numerous species, which you are familiar with, but have never seen anywhere else, or at least not all together in the same environment.

So, you decide to explore, because there has to be a reason that you passed through the crack that we discovered earlier, and mentioning that again would be very boring. We end up taking the path that leads us to the pond. It is a path made of moldy red bricks. They are large bricks, because they are very old, and the pond looks like a lake full of plants and fish, too. How far have we walked? Quite a way. That is, quite a way, enough for us to feel tired and sit down; to be honest, you’re the only one who sits down, because I’m not there, I’m on this side. You are the one who’s there, sitting on an enormous fallen tree trunk. Under an enormous baobab. It would be interesting for you to be surprised upon seeing how old that tree is. You can do so by counting the rings on a branch that has broken off, which we all used to think was a fallen tree, given its enormous size, but it was just a branch from the giant tree under which you are seated. There is surely someone who thinks that, if they had been there when the great branch fell, they would not have told the story.  But you were not there, and neither was I, so that branch fell on a cold winter’s night, when the southern, southwestern wind, that so-called Pampero wind, raged against our garden and ended up blowing the branch down. But something else happened. It should have happened, because things happen in all secret gardens; such as, for example, someone dying, and months going by before anyone finds them, until a person like you shows up and sees them, or, better said, sees her, because, in this case, it is a young woman who lies bound to a tree, dressed in the scarce amount of clothing you can actually see, completely threadbare. It’s only logical that you would move towards her, intrigued, thinking of the young woman as a desirable living being, even though you are looking at a fairly well preserved corpse, if we disregard the anthill upon which her half-rotten buttocks rest. So, you probably think that she might have been a beautiful woman, that she might have been raped, that the act might have been carried out by a family member or a husband or a disenchanted lover, who might have killed her on accident. Or was it premeditated to cover up the rape? Because you’re sure that she was raped, if not, why the rope?  But that’s up to you, because, in my opinion, it was a couple of friends from class that wanted to play a prank on her, so they left her tied up, half-naked, in that hidden garden, sitting on top of an anthill, because they didn’t really want to play a prank on her, but to take revenge for her beauty, because she was quite lovely. And so they left her alone, thinking that one of them would go back to untie her, or that someone would find her, and that, out of shame, she wouldn’t tell anyone anything about what had happened. But no one went back for her, and since no one has passed through there until now, with your arrival, the poor girl died of hunger and thirst, tortured by the ants, driven mad by the mosquitoes, scorched by the midday sun. And the ones who didn’t come back for her didn’t say anything, because they were afraid that something bad had happened to her and they didn’t want to live with that guilt, and they didn’t even say anything to each other, because, why would they? They already knew what had happened, and it was very disgraceful to remember that cruel moment for which the education at the expensive school they attended had not prepared them. So, no one said anything about it. But her family (who surely didn’t love her, because they knew her to be sort of dumb, in the sense that she was an airhead, mentally handicapped, a burden on them, a moral burden who brought much shame, who forced them to pay for that expensive school and bribe the teachers so that they wouldn’t reveal that the girl could barely read, and, on the other hand, who thought that her beauty was for them, or rather, a superficial evil that hid her despicable mental retardation), the family only filed a trivial complaint with the police, saying that she had escaped; they even packed a suitcase full of her clothes and made it disappear so that their story would seem true. That’s why no one else asked about her, that’s why everyone forgot. Now, you’re here, and you have to decide how to go public with your finding. You have to think it over very well, because it is a truly gruesome story, and it will be widely covered in the papers. The TV stations will come to your home, and everyone will talk about you. Some will think that you are one of the suspects, because, honestly, what were you doing in that place where no one else goes? And where were you the day that the girl was murdered? A day you can’t remember, but one that Forensics will note with precision. What if it turns out to be a day that you can’t explain? Because maybe it coincides with one of those days that you visit your lover, telling your wife that you’re in a meeting with a client. It’s almost always a different client. But that doesn’t matter anyway, because the client won’t corroborate your claim, but your wife will indeed corroborate that you were not with your client; ergo, you lied, and if you lied, you become a suspect. Since you are a suspect, you’ll go to prison, and in prison, you’ll have to share a cell with other criminals. You know what happens to rapists in jail, and, well, since you know all that, you decide not to say anything. You quickly return to the spot where you entered, but in that moment, you remember that you left your footprints near the corpse. That could be a serious problem if Forensics manages to identify your shoe print. So, you decide to go back and get rid of the footprints. You find a dry branch and use that, but it doesn’t seem like enough, so you end up throwing the body into the pond. You untie it, but since it has started to rot, it all falls apart, dirtying your clothes. It doesn’t matter, you think, because you know that your gym clothes are in the car, so you just keep on throwing pieces of the body into the pond. You are delighted to see how the colorful fish, who once seemed so innocent, come up to eat the corpse, while the bones sink into the cloudy water. So, you go back to the other garden and meet up with the people there. You cover up how messy and dirty your clothes are by saying that you slipped and fell in the mud. Everyone acts like they believe you. In the end, no one really cares. So, you go back to looking at the trees, and you can no longer see the notch. And you think that maybe there isn’t a notch, and that all of this is nothing more than a good try on my part to grab hold of your imagination.