Liliana Heer



Liliana Heer

The Letter to Ricardo
By Liliana Heer
Translated by Norman Thomas di Giovanni and Susan Ashe

The letter to Ricardo rubber-stamped ‘No return address’, came into the hands of an employee in Department 27 of the Office of Post and Telecomunications. The file on this employee notes his facial features, vital statistics, attire, fingerprints, and particular tendency to apprise himself of the contents of the mails. This last word, even out of context, induced in him a state of ecstasy that resulted in his committing acts of gross moral turpitude.
Owing to the fact that the internal structure of the organization makes no disciplinary provision for crimes committed visually, in ensuing managerial meetings the employee was transferred from department to department until his position was found for him where his practice not only did not constitute exentric behavior but was consolidated into that of bearer of postal information and intelligence under the classification 'Secret’.
A number of assumptions were made concerning letters without a return address; first, that they were from persons who, owing to cumulative ignorance, failed to include the particulars of their name and address; second, that they were from persons so anxious to include their business that they posted their missives while in a state of oblivion brought on by total absorption in what they had just consigned to the letterbox; third, that they came from genuine cases, for which elaborate inspection procedures were set up, initiated by the aforementioned office. In accordance whit the provisione of the law, the underhand conduct of these persons makes them liable to arbitrary punishment. As with all third categories, there were several further divisions. These in turn involved degrees of gravity of omission, classifiable under the following headings: amatory, anonymous, extortive, propagandistic, etc.
For four years Rubén had scrupulously read each item of the daily post, which he sorted into numbered boxes, except for correspondence touching on the erotic. This remained in brown canvas bags for a few months before being consigned to the basement, from where its subsequent destination is unknown.
It should surprise no one that our hero felt himself to be the proper recipient of this sub-group, since the duty of placing such letters in the bag fell to his hand, and by this act he became confused with the frustrated receiver.
In recent years, after a good deal of hesitation, he had ventured to misappropriate various letters, mostly from women who were no lovers of complaint but, on the contrary, harboring traces of nostalgia for the secrecy that forced them to remain anonymous, were lavish in offers of themselves and in recollections of exquisite moments.
The letter to Ricardo upset him for an entire morning and prevented him from sorting his usual quota: that afternoon, still behind, he received comments from his superior, and these were repeated over next few days, resulting after a given period in his dismissal.
Rubén ignored the warnings but, having retained every word of the outlandish syntax in his memory, in his overcoat pocket, and in his skin, he went on and mumbling the convolutions of a story that was condensed into a few pages –a story he found incredible inasmuch as it constituted a paradigm of love.
About Ricardo, he was able to deduce a demonic fact, periods of withdrawal, moments of clarity, his body outlined on top of the one who loved him and his certainty of being loved even in the most complicated circumstances.
These things were invasive, and bit by they changed Rubén’s habits until he was signing and answering to Ricardo’s name.
About her, Rubén knew no more than her name. In his dreams, he recognized her on the apron of a stage or somewhere in the wings, her voice resounding like an echo.

Text  published in CELESTE Goes Dancing and other stories, An Argentine Collection, 1989, edited BY Norman Thomas di Giovanni, Constable London