An Argentinian friend came to Barcelona to spend the New Year.
I only ordered one thing from her: the last book that Sylvia Molloy wrote before she died.
, and it talks about the animals that accompanied her during her life: from her childhood, the obsession with insects and the rearing of silkworms that she would later release as butterflies;
the womb that her mother fed, who refused to accept domestic animals, but then she fell in love with a duck;
until much later when she was already living alone or later still, when she chose to move as a couple to Long Island, New York, to create her own refuge with a pen for the chickens and chickens and a lot of other dogs and cats - and visitors of snakes, why not—;
an animal shelter that she paid for until her last days.
is a precious book that I read and recommend, like every text by Molloy, a lucid and austere writer in her ways, a tireless worker with language and memory, who challenges me and prompts me to ask questions, this time about the animal world.
I was raised between the city and the countryside, a small town on the outskirts of Buenos Aires.
Pets, as such, did not exist.
The animals were something that was there, part of the landscape: a cat that climbed the sheets of the roof and slipped into the kitchen to steal food;
a neighbor's dog that suddenly had a family;
my cousin's horse that took us shopping;
the chickens that lived in my grandmother's yard;
the pig that was butchered for the end of the year.
My first boyfriend, also from the countryside, had a chicken shed.
and I'll show you
, he said one day and I saw something that I will never forget: hundreds of yellow balls stepping on each other's heads in a small and hot shelter.
Beyond, the cows.
But neither my family nor my boyfriend had cows.
The cows were for the rich.
Our first pet was a rabbit.
I was little, I was three or four years old, and I called him Blanquito.
He was a wild rabbit and with his sharp teeth he chewed every piece of furniture in the apartment.
One day, we took him with us to the village: my aunt had invited us to lunch.
It was she who suggested that the rabbit be left outside, tied with a rope to one of the trees in the patio.
When I came out, after eating, the rabbit was gone.
I ran to look for it desperately, I was afraid it might have been stolen, that it might already be boiling in a pot in the neighborhood.
Until a few meters further on, I saw my aunt's dog lying belly up, full after his banquet.
Sol was a huge English sheepdog, with gray and white hair, with one eye of each color.
She looked like something out of a magazine.
My mother spent a whole salary to buy it, my brother was a fan of a neighbor's dog that was of the same breed and her dream had always been to have one of hers.
My mother is one of those mothers who is capable of spending all the money from her salary and more to fulfill the dream of one of her children, even if we don't have to eat for the rest of the month afterwards.
Before she judged her, now she doesn't.
I remember Sol in a wound: her teeth nailed into my instep: the time she mistook my foot for food.
Years later, I stopped by the vet on my block and it caught my attention to see how they exhibited a small honey-colored puppy in the window.
Seeing him there only caused me infinite sadness.
I went into the vet and asked the price, guilty, they told me it was expensive and I left slamming the door.
When I got home I discussed it with my mother.
I don't know if I was aware of Sol's story. The next day, when I came back from work, my mother rang the doorbell.
It seemed strange to me: she has the keys to her house.
I opened the door and in her hands was that ball of honey-colored fur.
I wrapped him in a blanket and carried him to my room in my arms.
Since that day, ten years ago, he has slept next to me every night.
The last to arrive was Antoño, my cat.
They brought it in a cardboard box.
He was very small, white and brown, and he already had a name.
Today it is so big that it looks like a wild cat: it is the same size as the dog.
In fact, they blend in: the dog likes to climb high places, and the cat runs after the ball.
Molloy writes a sentence that sums up something of all this that I try to convey very well:
“It took me a long time, and passing through two countries that were not mine, to realize that to be yourself is always better being with another, especially if the other belongs to a different species, that is, if it is totally not one”.
Belén López Peiró
Belén López Peiró
is a writer.
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