On The Invisible

La Invisibla moves once again through the city, down avenues and past buildings, silent and watchful as always. At this hour of morning the city reduces itself to echoes and effects, unseen traces of the past: all that lingers after the facts, when what remains are the essences left behind.

Drifting silently down a street off Corrientes, La Invisibla passes a restaurant where behind a glass window, a waiter cuts through the room, delivering orders to the kitchen, preparing tables, making sure existing customers remain content. The face of the waiter is waxy, his head slightly larger than life-size; he wears a uniform, and though he moves delicately it would not be right to call him delicate. When a sausage is ordered it appears, crackling and piping hot, on the table; a few minutes later, two freshly made empanadas join it, along with a bottle of wine. In going about his work the waiter follows the unseen steps of previous mozos, the knowledge passed down from before.

Where is La Invisibla now? Turning to visit the Museo de Bellas Artes, where paintings from the Novecento period are on display on the recently-opened upper floor. All of them contain something of nightmare. In the works of Giorgio Chirico and Mario Siron, people walk alone or in pairs, drifting down abandoned streets or through empty plazas, passing palm trees framed by arches, bronze statues, Greek marble busts. Walking across black and white tiled floors, they enter decayed villas and abandoned tenements, beneath white skies that seem part of some other cosmos, close to but separate from the one we recognize.

These places, crafted from fantasy and dream, are colored in violently vibrant tones — magenta and blue, rust and ochre. Just outside or beyond the familiar, they might be imaginary or exist in reality, capable of access via passage through a secret door or a chance meeting with the right person. As in the children’s story The Golden Key or the tales of Moravia, landscape is analysed as an extension of thought, and the division between mind and world disappears absolutely.

Now La Invisibla passes a school, where children complete art projects on acid rain, combustion and the carbon cycle. These involve squeaky plastic sharks, bags of rice and ample quantities of Scotch tape, as well as cotton balls, cardboard cylinders and miniature palm trees. Questions are shouted about which animal eats phytoplankton (ballena, whale), whether the orca is a member of the dolphin family (yes), the structure of the respiratory system of axolotls and blob fish, unit conversion and the electromagnetic spectrum. A biology teacher reminds pupils that “in the Atlantic no tunas exist”; unseen links are sought between discrete units of knowledge, the way informational systems connect.

I feel the presence of La Invisibla brush by while sitting on a park bench with a mate gourd in hand, at the hour between night and day when things grow strange and uncertain. It has just rained, which amplifies the effect, as after the rains everything is the same, only cleaner. Near me is a big bush with white flowers, which in the dark glow like fire flies, and in front a bird — a thrush with orange belly. With quick movements it flits about looking for worms. Another close to it, the same species but more slender, moves in the same way but delicately, with quicker and lighter steps. Though they inhabit the same space, the two birds make no sign they notice one another. Each goes about its business, darting and dipping its beak into holes in the earth, occasionally resurfacing with the desired treasure.

As the minutes pass I start to discern an order in the movements, impossible though it would be to call it a pattern. The first bird comes increasingly near the bush then hops away briskly; the second approaches the first before rapidly drawing apart. After some time they  begin, slowly and indirectly, to move toward one another again . This continues for a few minutes, and despite the hesitations, recoils and uncertainties a certain progress is unmistakable. Occasionally the birds go back on their steps, returning to spaces previously inhabited or slowing to look at sky or ground, but the invisible dance never stops.

Any interpretation I might provide would lack scientific accuracy, as not being a birdwatcher I do not know these animals’ normal interactions. Do they usually take this much time to circle one another obliquely, or is this a special occasion, a build-up? Does a preordained order coordinate the movements, or are they performed purely at random, an aleatory sequence without greater meaning? I suspect the flowering bush and worms are only props or intermediaries, that the birds’ primary interest is not the search for food but each other. La Invisibla, do you know what what unseen impulse animates these creatures?

And how about you, reader? Do you feel La Invisibla as well? I thought I heard her whisper (her voice like the whir of traffic on the avenue I crossed leaving the park) that she feels close to all those who approach her with openness…

Image by Stavros Markopoulos

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