We landed in Ezeiza, Buenos Aires’ international airport. Mami and my brother Dany walked towards us. We stood next to the luggage claim carousel. My sister Karen and I were surprised by their showing up there. Papi must be really bad, I thought once we saw them. Mami looked as if she had been hit with a straight-up fist to her face, with purple and red circles under her eyes, and a cast on her nose. “Did you have a nose job?” I asked. This was not unusual in our family or Argentine’s plastic-surgery happy. My sister, at the age of 14, had hers done before to our immigration to Israel, a parting gift one can say. Or maybe a welcoming one? Either way, she had it done with the hopes of creating a more appealing look in the new home, amongst new friends. Later in life, when her relationship with mami became acrimonious, she would blame her for pushing the nose job feeding into the belief she was not pretty enough.
“I got a nose job,” she told us quickly in-between hello kisses. “When?” I asked. “Just a few days ago, I didn’t know this would happen,” she said. What did she mean? Papi’s heart attack? Her bruises on her nose? Us flying across the world from Israel to Argentina? “There’s more to tell about papi,” she continued, “He’s in intensive care and it doesn’t look good.” I wondered what looking not-good meant. Mami and Dany seemed haggard and tense. Karen started crying and I continued with my numbing practice that began on the plane. “Let’s go to the hospital to see him right away,” my distraught sister said.
Dany drove us while Mami attempted to make light conversation. The vacuum between us kept increasing as the car inched closer to the hospital. Nobody was making eye contact. Each of us in our silent world. We parked and went up to the ICU floor. “There’s something else, lets go in here,” Dany said pointing to a door that led to stairs between floors. We all sat down on the cold tile stairs. The formless silent vacuum wrapped tightly around each of us confirming that with the next events our experiences would split, and our memories would lock into a unique trauma, shaped in our dimensions. The four of us in that staircase belonged to this family but from this moment on, we would be reborn into separate beings attached to this moment, to this trauma and experiencing the legacy of it.
“Chicas, les temenos que contar algo,” (Girls, we have to tell you something), Mami said. What now? I thought. Karen already in a state of deep grief. “Papi esta en coma y no fue un ataque al corazon, se trato de suicidar,” (Papi is in a coma and it wasn’t a heart attack, he tried to commit suicide), “We didn’t want to tell you until we saw you,” mami completed the thought.