It was heartbreaking to be there. “The walls are closing in. I’m completely alone in this house, all the time,” my grandma said; her brown indigenous skin turned light for the lack of sun. It was my annual visit to Santiago de Chile, and I was back to her place. And in my wondering, gloomy mind, I could barely fathom the immense depth of her loneliness. There was nothing I could do about it, than to spend some time listening to her. So, as she went on, I looked into my half-empty cup of cheap coffee, then stared into her tired dark eyes. My pain felt so small in comparison. So very small.

She is a sexual assault and domestic violence survivor. My grandfather almost beat her to death before leaving her for another woman, whom he also hit on occasion, until he died. The bastard. “Maybe I’d be better off if I died,” my grandma said with a sigh. How pointless her survival must feel now when she’s 83 and confined to a cold, dark house in the ghetto. Left for dead. Ironically.

After a couple of hours of catching up, I got ready to leave. Gave her a tight, long hug and a kiss. Took a couple of pictures with her, even a selfie. She smiled, or at least tried to. It seemed as it she hadn’t done it for ages, as if she forgot how to do it. Perhaps that’s why she still looks sad. “You are my favorite grandkid,” she said when I was on my way out. “You deserve to be happy, Eduardo. I want to see you happy.” I went back and held her again, tighter. “I’ll see you next time,” I said, with a lump in my throat. “If I’m still around,” she replied, as she limped away and disappeared behind her door.

It was a very sunny, dry and hot summer afternoon. I took a deep breath and coughed the dusty air of the slums out. It was Tuesday, December 18th 2018 and the bus was fully packed and warm as fuck. My pain still felt small.

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