Montevideo Tales #12

Two old ladies walk in to a cafe, then one makes a confession. This story feels so Uruguayan to me that I'm still mulling over all the reasons why.
By Karen A Higgs
Old Ladies in the Old City of Montevideo by Maja Dimitroff
Last updated on February 26, 2019

This story feels so Uruguayan. The author, video game designer, Gonzalo Frasca, is one of those people that writes prolifically on Facebook and every piece is a gem. I assume he overheard the ladies.

The café in Ciudad Vieja is almost deserted, except for a couple of tourists looking out-of-place.

Two ladies walk in. They’re friends or distant relatives I suppose, around eighty years old and one of them uses a walking stick.

They talk for a while until the one with the cane makes a confession.

“The other night I decided to do it, in spite of the mosquitoes. It was so hot. I was watching TV and all of a sudden I said to myself ‘Graciela, give yourself a break, if you don’t do it now, you never will’.

The mattress was a lot heavier than I thought it would be but I dragged it out onto the patio. I raised it up on some newspapers and took out a chair. Because obviously the hardest thing was going to be lying down—let alone getting up after.

So I slept outside. And I slept really well, all night long. I’d always wanted to do it. I didn’t feel the cold or anything. It was lovely. I would have liked to have seen the stars but with these lenses I can’t see very far. But I knew they were up overhead. I’m so glad I decided to do it.”

Her friend cracks up. “You were always crazy!” she laughs. Then she pauses, and the laughter stops. She sips her coffee pensively, and after a while she says, “Good for you, Graciela. Good for you.”

If you would have fun practising your Uruguayan Spanish, here’s the original. It’s packed with local expressions like ‘dejate de jorobar’ which my Google translate tells me is ‘stop being a hunchback’ and ‘me animé’. I have not encountered this use of the verb ‘animar’ elsewhere in Latin American Spanish.

El café en Ciudad Vieja está casi desierto, salvo por un par de turistas desubicados.

Entran dos señoras, imagino que amigas o parientas lejanas. Rondan los ochenta, una de ellas va con bastón.

Charlan un rato hasta que la del bastón se confiesa.

“La otra noche me animé. A pesar del miedo al sapo y a los mosquitos. Hacía calor. Estaba mirando la tele y de golpe me dije ‘Graciela dejate de jorobar, si no lo hacés ahora no lo vas a hacer nunca más’.

El colchón pesa mucho más de lo que pensaba pero lo arrastré hasta el patio. Puse unos diarios abajo y llevé una silla, porque obviamente lo más difícil fue acostarme y ni te digo después levantarme.

Dormí afuera. Y dormí lo más bien, toda la noche. Siempre lo había querido hacer. Ni siquiera pasé frío ni nada. Estuvo precioso. Me hubiera gustado ver las estrellas pero con estos lentes ya casi no veo de lejos. Pero yo sabía que estaban allá arriba. Por suerte me animé.”

La amiga se mata de la risa y le contesta “¡Siempre fuiste una loca!”.

Luego hace una pausa; ya no ríe. Toma café pensativa y al rato repite: “Lo bien que hiciste, Graciela. Lo bien que hiciste”.

By Gonzalo Frasca published in Facebook December 28 2018. Translation into English: Guru’Guay.

If you want to find out more about What Uruguayans are Like, check out The Guru’Guay Guide to Montevideo which has a whole chapter on this very subject. Uruguayans tell me they could never write a book like this about themselves.

Photo: Maja Dimitroff for Guru’Guay

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