[eng] Catalina Illanes - Insectarium

I once made a list of all the men I have been with. All those that mattered to me and with whom I felt I had something. The list was a row of meaningless little words. A collection of names and several were repeated; four Pauls, two Andrews, two Santiagos.

How many men are a lot of men? I wonder if there’s a quota or a number of lovers you should have. Is it a requirement to have loved them? Because from that list I loved very few. And I couldn’t claim to have been loved by more than three or four, or two.

I have embroidered a heart for each of them. I have red, pale, broken hearts. Among the stitches, I hid pieces of those stories. A train ticket, a button from a coat and a green plastic comb which I once took from a motel.

One of them is made from a shirt the owner forgot in my house. The scissors cut through it with fury. They seemed to say, don’t dare claim it! And he dared. He dared to call me and ask for the shirt, two CDs we had bought together on a trip, a photo album and an edition of the Odyssey. An edition that was only sold at newsstands on Thursdays and we carefully put together with the rest of the collection for when we had our house. That one we never had.

I told him I’d only give his shirt back. I said, come and get it. Here it is. I proudly showed the garment turned into a heart. A tribute to the fallen. Do you still want it?

Some of those names deserved more than one heart stitched and patched. Some have torn pieces, dangling and tangled threads, knots. On one, I embroidered the words I never could say. I have one name tattooed on my arm so I will never forget that I chose to certainly not be with him again.

I haven’t let go of any of them completely. They don’t know it, but in that collection of hearts, of kind little voodoos, I somehow have them. They are still mine. I sometimes write to some of them. An email, a birthday greeting, a fleeting memory that appears and wanes. 

I write to them out of nostalgia. And because I want to.

* Catalina Illanes was born in Santiago de Chile in 1980. She studied Literature at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile and is a language teacher. She took part of María José Viera Gallo's autobiographical writing workshop between 2016 and 2019. She is currently following a master's degree in Education and writing a book for La Bonita Ediciones. She has two sons and two cats.

[1] Translated from the Spanish by Andrea Balart-Perrier and Carolina Larrain Pulido.

© Catalina Illanes.

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