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En Español: Campos de maíz


Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

Es de noche y camino por el campo de Cathy y Ralph. Algo de luna se refleja en los silos, en las escaleras que suben a los techos, en el camión que lleva al maíz cuando ya está listo para ser vendido. Tras los silos, unos pinos hermosos y gigantes que Ralph me explica dañó la tormenta Derecho. Tras ellos, kilómetros de campos que se multiplican, hasta los molinos de viento que en la noche encienden unas luces titilantes coloradas.

Debería hacer frío, pero no, el viento ha comenzado a soplar y se lleva en remolinos algo de tierra del suelo. Acabamos de llegar de cenar. Fuimos al Olive Garden, entramos con nuestras máscaras, nos sentamos en una mesa con distanciamiento social, pedimos vino y pasta. A metros nuestros una beba y su madre. Los ojos de la beba brillaban, miraba en nuestra dirección. Le respondimos. La beba río, la madre le dio besos, limpió la baba que se le caía mientras la beba saludaba con los deditos.

Ralph, sentado frente a mí, me habló del maíz, de las épocas en que se prepara la tierra, de cómo a veces la nieve, si cae en el momento preciso, hace que las plantas crezcan más verdes. De la cosecha antes de que empiece el otoño, de que es necesario secar el maíz luego de cosecharlo.

Hace tres años que vivo aquí, hace tres años que vivo rodeada de estos campos, conduzco de una punta del estado a la otra y los atravieso, los silos junto a cada granja, la nieve que los cubre, las luciérnagas en verano. Nunca nadie me explicó sobre la cosecha, de los tipos de tierra que trabajan, que a veces es mejor la arcilla, a veces la arenosa, que los silos hay que limpiarlos cada verano.

Ralph se quita el sombrero. Me dice que hace este trabajo desde los quince, hace cuarenta años. Es lo que hacía su padre. Ahora vive en la granja donde creció. Las plantaciones las maneja con su hermano.

Pienso en todos los años hacer lo mismo. Que se pase una vida en el campo. Yo, que desde los veinte no me quedo quieta. Que he tenido una veintena de profesiones, de buza en el Caribe a hacer las vendimias en Nueva Zelanda. Catadora de vino en el Niágara, camarera en México, ejecutiva en una multinacional en Buenos Aires. Escritora en donde venga, profesora de español en Maryland. Alguna vez recepcionista en un banco. Alguna vez extra en la filmación de Las Crónicas de Narnia en la Costa Oeste Canadiense.

¿Qué me une con este hombre que me cuenta de su trabajo y sus campos de maíz, en esta noche estrellada? No es la máscara de la que ambos nos quejamos. Tampoco la soledad de la pandemia. Ni siquiera la amiga que está en Buenos Aires y nos contactó, la que alguna vez vino acá de intercambio, se quedó en su casa y ahora, tantísimos años después, estando yo acá, nos pone en contacto.

Es esta noche loca en la que debería haber llegado la nieve y, sin embargo, hay una primavera de veinte grados. O la necesidad de conectar, de escuchar historias, de sentir el olor de otros seres humanos. El antagonismo de nuestras vidas, sus años en la cosecha, los míos en cualquier lado.

Ya de vuelta en la granja, luego de recorrer los silos, Cathy me ofrece algo de calabazas que le trajo el vecino. Son verdes y naranjas. Me dice que envíe un texto al llegar a casa, que tenga cuidado con los ciervos, que un ciervo en la ruta puede dar vuelta el auto. Me abrazan. Por segundos no me importa la pandemia. Me fundo en sus brazos.

Enciento el auto y salgo a la ruta. La 30 que da a la 1. En la 1 doblo y de ahí ya no necesito el GPS. Es media hora derecho, el asfalto te va llevando. El cielo está más despejado aún y cubierto de estrellas. Hay una media luna. Y por unos instantes, por una noche, este lugar casi una casa.

Cornfields

Translated by Allana Noyes

I’m walking through Cathy and Ralph’s cornfield at night. Beams of moonlight reflect off the silos, the ladders spiraling up them, the truck that transports the corn when it’s ready for sale. Behind the silos are several large, beautiful pine trees that were damaged by the derecho, Ralph explains. Beyond that, kilometers of fields doubling all the way to where the windmills light up the darkness with their twinkling, colored lights.

It should be cold, but it’s not. The wind has begun to blow and is kicking up little dirt devils. We’ve just come from dinner. We went to Olive Garden, where we wore our masks and sat at a table with social distancing measures in place. We ordered wine and pasta. Seated nearby there was a mother and baby, her sparkling eyes looking in our direction. We waved. The baby laughed. Her mother kissed her and wiped the drool from her face as she waved hello with her little fingers.

Ralph, seated across from me, talks to me about corn. About the time needed to prepare the soil. About how sometimes the snow, if it falls at just the right time, makes the crops grow greener. He tells me about the early October harvest and how it’s necessary to dry the corn after it’s been picked.

I’ve lived here for three years. Three years I’ve lived surrounded by these fields, driving from one end of the state to another, crossing them, the silos standing along their edges, the snow that blankets them, fireflies in the summer. No one ever told me about the harvest or the different types of soils. That sometimes clay is better, sometimes sand; that the silos must be cleaned each summer.

Ralph takes off his hat. He tells me he’s been doing this since he was 15 — 40 years. It’s what his father did. Now he lives on the farm where he grew up, and he and his brother manage the crops.

I think about what it means to do the same work every year. Spending an entire lifetime in corn. Ever since I was 20, I couldn’t stay put. I’ve had dozens of jobs, from diving instructor in the Caribbean to grape picker in New Zealand. I’ve been a wine expert in Niagara, a waitress in Mexico, an executive of a multinational corporation in Buenos Aires, a writer wherever I can, a Spanish teacher in Maryland. Once, I was a receptionist for a bank, another time an on-set extra for The Chronicles of Narnia movie somewhere along the western coast of Canada.

What could I have in common with this man telling me about his work and his cornfield under this star-studded sky? It’s not the mask we both complain about. Nor is it the loneliness of the pandemic. It’s not even the friend in Buenos Aires who connected us, the one who once studied abroad and lived with them, and now, so many years later, because I am here, has put us in touch.

Maybe it’s this strange night when there should be snow, but instead there’s spring weather. Or the need to connect, to listen to stories, the familiar scent of other human beings. The way our lives grind us down — his spent farming, mine doing whatever.

As we’re walking back from the silos, Cathy offers me some squash the neighbors brought over. Green and orange squash. She asks me to text them when I’m home and to be mindful of the deer — a deer in the road can flip a car. They hug me, and for a brief moment, the pandemic does not matter. I melt in their arms.

I start the car and pull onto the highway, first the 30 then the 1. Then there’s no need for GPS. Just a straight shot for half an hour, the road takes you there on its own. The sky has become even clearer now and is dotted with stars. There’s a half moon and for a little while, for one night, this place almost feels like home.

Mariana Mazer is a writer and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Iowa.

Allana C. Noyes is a literary translator from Reno, Nevada. Her work can be found at allananoyes.com.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 294.


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