“the sweethearts” by mario benedetti in the brooklyn rail


there’s a very lovely story in this month’s rail by uruguayan novelist mario benedetti. from 1958, there’s the slightest mustiness to it–or maybe some rearguard yearning–but that to me made it all the more dee-lish…

…Solitude is a precarious substitute for friendship. I didn’t have many friends. The Aramburu twins, the son of Vieytes the pharmacist, Tito Lagomarsino, and my cousins, Alberto and Washington Cardona, came to the house often because our mothers maintained an old relationship filled with habits held in common, the exchange of gossip, and shared fellowship. Just like today, we talk about professionals from the same graduating class, in 1924 the women from a main province felt they were friends since their first meeting on only one historical level: their first communion. To say, for example, “Elvira, Teresa, and I received our first communion together,” signified, plainly and simply, that the three of them were united by an almost indestructible bond, and if on occasion, because of an unforeseen hazard, which could take the form of a sudden trip or a subduing passion, a friend from first communion were to separate from the group, her rude attitude would be immediately added to the list of the most incredible betrayals.

The fact that our mothers were friends and lavished kisses on each other every time they saw each other in the plaza, in Club Uruguay, in the Gutiérrez Department Stores, and in the plush semi-darkness of their days spent entertaining visitors, wasn’t enough to decree pleasant coexistence among the most illustrious of their offspring. Any of us who accompanied their mother during one of their weekly visits would automatically be allowed to go downstairs to play with the children of the lady of the house after uttering a respectful: “I’m fine, and you, Doña Encarnación?” Most of the time, playing meant pelting each other with stones from tree to tree, or, on better occasions, we ended up punching each other and rolling around on the ground tearing our pockets and ultimately fraying our lapels. If I didn’t fight with more frequency, it was because I was afraid María Julia would find out. In spite of her freckles, María Julia contemplated the world with a smile of smug understanding, and the strange thing was that that understanding also included the trappings of adults.

read the story at: http://www.brooklynrail.org/2009/03/fiction/the-sweethearts

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