Night flights

Salpicon of Ideas

by Pablo Alvarez

March 24 marks the 45th anniversary of the coup that overthrew the democratic government in Argentina. I, like many other 40-year-old Argentines, remember that time of the dictatorship from a childhood perspective. One of the stories that caused me recurring nightmares was that of the death flights. This was a method of extermination that consisted of throwing people into the sea from an airplane, in order to assassinate the disappeared detainees and eliminate the evidence of the crime.

This is something I wrote inspired on those nightmares:

Their chests were frozen more from fear than from the cold of the heights. An identical cold bead of sweat rolled down their foreheads, turned almost horizontal by the gust from the window. They both gulped with their hearts in their mouths. These congruences blurred the boundaries of reason and confused identities. The sound of the engine got mixed with the vibration of the turbulence and made their clenched teeth chatter. They were opposite poles that attracted and rejected at the same time, they also shared the same confusion, like two rivals who meet on the ground after breaking the rope they were pulling from. They tried to ignore their fate now settled, but they were aware of impending doom. In the next few moments, although in different ways, they would both change forever. One would be killed and the other would become a murderer. They both wanted to change their fate, but they were both hostages to this horrible scene. In their nightmares they repeated this scene dreaming of being the other, with the roles exchanged. One dreamed of being young and subversive, full of life and inexperience; the other dreamed of being more mature, bored with his life, but satisfied with his security. One, in his dreams, sinned ignorant and enjoyed his state of perpetual apprentice; while the other, for his part, prided himself on knowing his monotonous future. The military man and the student made their first and last flight respectively. They both tried to hide their fear by wanting to fulfill the expectations of their roles; one rebellious, the other obedient. The damn red light came on, definitely extinguishing the hope of a miraculous change of orders. The nightmare of his endings grew more and more real. The side door of the plane opened and the icy wind matched the chill inside them. The abundance of air suffocated them, drowned them like the absence of it at the bottom of the sea, where one of the two would sleep forever. Time behaved like in dreams, sometimes it made the seconds eternal, other times it skipped the hours.

Then a body fell into the void, but which of the two was it, the soldier dreaming or the student dying? The confused military man, seeing the body falling, feared that he was the student who dreamed of being his own murderer. There was only one solution to change the unjust ending of this dream (or reality.) An instant later, after an act of courage mixed with confusion, two bodies were falling into the sea; which was which no longer mattered much.

My name is Pablo Álvarez and I have the privilege of joining the family of writers for the CNY Latino newspaper in January 2021. My column will try to reflect the same degree of diversity as my academic formation, which is why I decided to call it “Salpicon of ideas”. I will address current issues with a varied approach, that I hope is also of interest to our community. Although it sounds a bit strange, I’m proposing a more or less open relationship. Let’s just say that I don’t promise to be exclusive in my content, since I also write fiction. However, I faithfully commit to you that I will give my best in these monthly meetings. I hope you do the same. Read as much as you can, since knowledge does not take up space, but try to return every month to this corner of the CNY Latino newspaper to continue cultivating this friendship.

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