CELESTE HAMILTON DENNIS
The buildings loom tall, casting dark angular shadows across the courtyard that hint at deprivation and loneliness. As I walk next to the bird-poop splattered walls, I struggle with a desire to run my hands over them, wanting to tangibly feel this reality. Since my father died one year ago, I have had to resist urges to obsessively touch objects all of kinds, feeling the need to confirm that reality exists—that the last year of my life happened, that it wasn’t just a messed up dream. The mental hospital is nothing like I’ve ever seen before. The graffiti scattered throughout, normally one of my favorite things in Buenos Aires, is half finished, the words lazily lounging on the buildings’ surfaces as if they are taking a nap. The grass that should surround me is instead replaced by hard soil that is weary from hundreds of patients walking on its surface on their way in, their way out, their way to nowhere. Flor, a local porteña who sits alongside me everyday at the nonprofit we both work for, links her arm in mine. Her sister has been in and out of institutions; I am relying on Flor to speak both the language of her people and the patients. Immediately we are welcomed with a small kiss on the cheek, which I try to unsuccessfully deflect as I am not quite comfortable with this custom yet, from a man named Juan who is sporting a worn dinner jacket. Juan is jittery and can’t decide if he wants to focus his attention on me or on the loose thread hanging off his khaki shorts. Flor distracts him by asking what he’s going to perform.
Published on Apr 15, 2012
Barely South Review's inaugural PDF/e-reader issue, featuring fiction, non-fiction, poetry, art, and the first-annual Norton Girault Literar...