George de La Tour (1645)

Georgetown, Washington DC, 1988

Along with “pass me the salt”

And “we have to take the car to the garage”

Let me just say,

You’ve made me happy all these years

Before lightning ends your life or mine

Let me whisper in your ear

That I crave your embrace

That you’re the mast I gladly cling to

I, an untameable animal, lover of my freedom and the confinement of your arms

Let me tell you, lest the moment slip away,

Between “we haven’t finished the tax return” and “the printer’s run out of ink”

That I love you beyond all limits

With the certainty…

Georgetown, Washington, 1988

A côté d’un “passe-moi le sel”

Et un “on doit emmener la voiture au garage”

Laisse-moi te dire

Que tu m’as rendu heureuse toutes ces années.

Avant qu’un éclair ne mette fin à nos vies

Laisse-moi te dire à l’oreille que j’aime tes bras.

Que tu es un mât auquel je m’accroche.

Moi, oiseux libre, aimant de ma liberté autant que du confinement de ton étreinte

Laisse-moi te dire, oui, ne laisse pas ce moment m’échapper,

Entre “nous n’avons pas fini la déclaration d’impôts” et “l’imprimante n’a plus d’encre”

Que je t’aime sans mesure

Avec la certitude que tu es…

Stauffacher bookshop, Bern, April 2021

The shelf labelled “Libros Españoles” holding books in Spanish irritates me.

I now challenge the salesperson every time I see it.

“Excuse me, would you place Friederich Dürrenmatt, Max Frisch, and other Swiss authors under “German Books”? I asked the salesman at Stauffacher in Bern yesterday.

He looked puzzled, so I tried to explain,

“You see, many of the books you have on this shelf are not “Spanish books”. Take Isabel Allende, she’s Chilean, Borges, Argentinian, García Márquez, Colombian, Vargas Llosa, Neruda…oh, you even have Joël Dicker here in Spanish, he’s Swiss. There is a difference between Books in Spanish

Yesterday, while browsing in a bookstore in Bern, I stumbled upon the letter you wrote to your psychiatrist on February 4, 1963. I heard the voice of a clinically depressed, sensitive artist, and mother, making a colossal effort to keep her head above water.

“I write from London where I have found a flat & an au pair and can see ahead financially for about a year…What appals me is the return of my madness, my paralysis, my fear & vision of the worst…” [1]

Exactly one week later, at the age of thirty, you took your own life.


Ya nadie mas se sentará en el Eames lounge chair

A todos les quedará grande

Solo ella, con su mirada ancestral, presidía desde allí, observando impávida el ir y venir de vidas agitadas

Podría uno confundir su actitud con soberbia

Pero no, era la sabiduría de quien está de vuelta de todo y calla

Majestuosa en su sillón, buscaba enseñarnos lo inmaterial, lo absoluto, lo bueno, lo imperecedero

Polo a tierra, fuerza centrípeta, punto de encuentro, Violeta

Era una perra citadina, no le gustaba la casa de campo que debía compartir con perros igualados

Sabía siempre quién en casa la…

“Madame, you will not be able to board the flight, your COVID test is in German,” the Swiss airline employee told my daughter at the gate in Zurich airport, as she prepared to fly home to London.

“Excuse me? It says “Negativ,” just add the “e” and you’ll turn it into English.”

“No, Madame, we’re sorry. Please step aside, we will proceed to unload your luggage.”

In pre-COVID times Europe had no internal borders, at least for a short period of history. Those lucky enough to have a European passport or a valid permit moved freely through the Schengen space…

Illustration by Stephanie F. Scholz (The New Yorker, 2018)

Six men and one woman sit around a large mahogany table at the Colombian Embassy in Brussels. At the head of the table, the Ambassador, a man in his early thirties, smoking and smiling with the other men. The woman looks down at her large belly, she will soon deliver a child. The men’s laughter continues. She looks down again, at the floor, and then out into the garden through the window. She wants to get away. From what? She can’t name it. The smoke, for sure. She’s pregnant, and the windows are shut.

Has she become invisible to them?

Una mujer sabia no desea ser enemiga de nadie; una mujer sabia se niega a ser víctima de alguien. -Maya Angelou

Traducido del inglés por su autora

Sucedió hace más de diez años. Tenía una sinusitis y fui a un centro de salud en Ginebra, Suiza, donde vivo. El lugar es un establecimiento vetusto que data de los años 70, no suele haber gran afluencia de pacientes. Debí haber tomado aquello como una advertencia.

Después de algunas preguntas, el médico que me recibió me dirigió a la mesa de examinación.

— Es una sinusitis recurrente, necesitaré antibióticos — le dije.

Ximena Escobar de Nogales

Colombian, Swiss, and Spanish, mother of three, volunteer tutor in prison. Impact advisor, co-founder El Boga Foundation, apprentice storyteller, dog walker.

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