Roxana Robinson Reads from The Little School Tales of Disappearance and Survival
Last time I heard my full name it was at Army headquarters, the evening of the day I was kidnapped. The military man repeated it in a calm and even joyful voice. Meanwhile I could hear the sound of a typewriter in the room. It was the first time I was wearing my blindfold.
“Twenty-one years old.”
The truth was that, while doing political work, I seldom used my real name. The day Graciela, Zulma’s sister, was arrested we all changed our aliases. In my particular case it was not necessary because Graciela knew my name, my parents’ address, my history. If she spoke under torture, no change of nicknames would have saved me. But she did not speak. Zulma says that Chamamé told her Graciela had been heavily tortured. But she did not speak.
I left my house for some days, just as a precaution. I named myself Rosa. Sometimes the whole affair of the alias seemed ridiculous. Giving it some thought I decided the aliases were probably okay in a little town, where everybody knows everybody else, where there is just one Gumersindo, one Pascual … but how to you find an Alicia in a city of hundreds of Alicias, a Carlos among thousands? We learned slowly. Each pebble of information helped create the avalanche that would crush the rest of our friends: the colour of the hair, the inflection of the voice, the texture of the hands, the name, the nickname … details. By the time of my own avalanche, I was Rosa. When they came to arrest me, I didn’t know whether they were coming for Rosa or Alicia, but it was for me that they came.
At the Little School we don’t have a last name. Only Vasca calls me by my name. The guards have repeatedly said only numbers will be used to call us, but so far that has only been a threat.
The day we took our third shower – I had already been here for almost two months—a guard was bringing me back from the bathroom; my long hair was wet under the white blindfold, my dress still torn from the leap over the backyard wall, my hands tied, my bones sticking out of my cheeks and elbows ….
… Since that moment they have called me Death. Maybe that is why every day when, I wake up, I say to myself that I, Alicia Partnoy, am still alive.