Borges’ birthday


When I meet someone well in advance for outings or events, I say yes super excited, I’m enthusiastic about the idea and also I think it’s a cordial gesture to say yes to any social proposal. That is my conviction. When the day is about to arrive I start to think of excuses or worse, I make things happen that require that I can’t leave my house. In some cases, I even try to convince the host that it’s not a good idea for me to be there. That afternoon, that’s what I was doing: walking around the double circulation of my apartment in Núñez in Buenos Aires, thinking that the best thing to do would be to tell my friend the truth, that he would understand and that after all he knew me better than anyone else, but I also know that I had promised him that I would go. In between the returns I hear a message arrive on my cell phone, a message that I never expected to arrive in this life, although yes, life is full of surprises: it was an invitation to Borges’ birthday. Jorge Luis Borges. I found out at that moment that, after his death, Borges is still celebrated on his birthday. As is my custom, I quickly confirmed my attendance. I think anyone in their right mind would have done the same. I saw my friend every day and the truth is that I don’t know if I would be invited to Borges’ birthday party again.

I responded by asking if I could go accompanied and they said yes. So I called a friend of mine and asked her if we could go to the birthday together. So that she wouldn’t ask too many questions I told her that we were going to a friend’s birthday. I also told her that my friend was quite formal, that she should wear the appropriate clothes, between formal and elegant. The truth is that with every explanation I gave I created more uncertainty, as if I was becoming entangled on my own, creating an exaggerated mystery, but I also didn’t want to tell my friend that we were going to the birthday of a person who had died in June of 1986.

At that time I had rediscovered the poetry of Borges, my all-time favorite: El enamorado, when he says: “I must pretend that there are others. It is a lie. So that day, at dusk (the appointment was at 7 pm) I started to get ready. Once again going around the double circulation of the house I started to think about whether I should bring something, I don’t know, it’s not nice to go to a birthday party empty-handed, but I wasn’t sure what I could bring either. A present. Flowers. And one more round. “Moons, ivories, instruments, roses, lamps and Dürer’s line, the nine figures and the changing zero, I have to pretend these things exist. My friend arrived, we got in the car and I didn’t speak to her the whole way. I feigned excessive concentration behind the wheel. It’s here, I said. At that old door? Yes, that door. We arrived, I gave my name to the man at the entrance, who said to us, quietly, almost secretly: “ChHurry up, they’re about to blow out the candles. Damn, I’m always early everywhere and I have to be late for Borges’ birthday. Indeed, we entered a room where there was a table and a cake with lit candles, the kind that look like sparklers, and in the background The Wall by Pink Floyd was playing quite loudly, and a giant portrait with Borges’ picture, the one in black and white, the one with his eyes closed, as if squeezing them tightly shut, covered the back wall. My friend began to look at me as if asking for an explanation. We sang happy birthday, we clapped and there were shouts and some whistles. We left the house and walked for hours through the streets of Barrio Norte. In conclusion, it had been a perfect night. We walked in silence.

I have to pretend that in the past it was

Persepolis and Rome and that a subtle

subtle measured the fate of the battlement

that the iron centuries undid.

I must pretend the weapons and the pyre

of the epic and the heavy seas

that gnaw the pillars of the earth.

I must pretend that there are others. It is a lie.

Only you are. You, my misfortune

and my fortune, inexhaustible and pure.

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