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Mångata

(A road-like reflection of moonlight on water)

Written by Silvia Rojas | Illustrated by Katie Zhou | Translated by Per Forsberg

 


 

[English / Engelska]

One of Ana’s earliest memories was watching her grandma peeling a smoked pepper in the kitchen, quietly laughing and murmuring something to herself while looking through the window; outside, there was a jade-coloured hummingbird dancing around the bottlebrush tree, examining flowers here and there, propelled by a strong wingbeat that contrasted with the stillness of the leaves. Grandma Luisa, Ita, slowly turned around with a smile that felt as if she knew that Ana had been peering into the kitchen for a while. 

“That is my mum,” she said, “your great-grandma”. Ana tiptoed into the kitchen and stretched her body to try to get a good look at the bird, but she was already gone. “She always comes in different shapes,” Ita said. She opened the tap and washed the roasted skin of the pepper from her fingertips.

When she turned 23, Ana moved to Australia to study for a Master’s Degree in English Literature. Day after day, her life seemed to revolve around black printed letters which brought to life some of the most memorable people she had met in her life. Every story, in its own unique way, resulted in a riveting sensation of belonging to a dreamlike realm somewhere far away from the here and now, but sometimes not even literature was enough to make the feeling of homesickness subside. 

On November the 1st, during her home country’s celebration named Día de Muertos (1), Ana was talking on the phone with Ita, while placing photos of her grandad, her aunt and her Boxer dog on the altar she had prepared in a corner of her living room. A sudden move through the window caught Ana’s attention. Ita’s voice became distant and echoed while Ana tried to make sense of the abrupt interruption.   

A moment later, there it was again. It was a jade-colour hummingbird flapping her wings with its unrivalled speed, making absolutely no sound while floating under the ray of light. 

“I forgot to tell you that the bottlebrush tree is gone. They are going to build more apartments in the unit, so the whole garden is gone,” Ita said. “But... where will the hummingbird go?” Ana asked. “My mum? She always finds a way. I saw her earlier today at the park and she had beautiful plums growing down her arms and legs,” Ita replied. “Ita, can you only see my great-grandma? Or can you see or speak to someone else?” Ana asked. “Well, mija, we all can talk to anybody regardless of the time or space difference”, Ita explained. “As unlikely as it seems, we are connected to everything and everyone that has ever existed. I’ve found the way to connect with my mum through nature and I’ve seen you’ve found a bridge to connect with yourself and others through literature.” 

Ita died the following year. 

On the evening Ana got the news, she walked to the nearest beach. She sat down and cried while she buried her fingers over and over again in the sand. “Ita? Can you hear me?” she asked. The moonlight revealed strands of foam that were being written in the sand with the flow of the waves. Ana got closer, kneeled down and touched the strands with her right hand. A warm wave encompassed her hand, caressing it delicately. She closed her eyes and, for a moment, she was back at Ita’s kitchen, watching the hummingbird colouring the sky with its blue and purple hues.

Ana timidly laughed, murmured something to herself and made her way back home.

 

. . .

[Svenska / Swedish]

Ett av Anas tidigaste minnen var att se sin mormor skala en rökt paprika i köket, tyst skratta och mumla något för sig själv medan hon tittade genom fönstret; utanför var det en jadefärgad kolibri som dansade runt flaskborsteträdet och granskade blommor här och där, driven av ett starkt vingslag som kontrasterade mot bladens stillhet. Mormor Luisa, Ita, vände sig långsamt om med ett leende som kändes som om hon visste att Ana hade kikat in i köket ett tag. 

“Det är min mamma,” sa hon, “din gammelmormor”. Ana smög på tå in i köket och sträckte sin kropp för att försöka få en bra titt på fågeln, men den var redan borta. “Hon kommer alltid i olika former,” sa Ita. Hon satte på kranen och tvättade pepparns rostade skal från sina fingertoppar. 

När hon fyllde 23 flyttade Ana till Australien för att studera för en magisterexamen i engelsk litteratur. Dag för dag tycktes hennes liv kretsa kring svarta tryckta bokstäver som väckte liv i några av de mest minnesvärda människor hon träffat i sitt liv. Varje berättelse, på sitt eget unika sätt, resulterade i en fängslande känsla av att tillhöra ett drömlikt rike någonstans långt borta från här och nu, men ibland räckte inte ens litteraturen för att få känslan av hemlängtan att avta.

Den 1 november, under sitt hemlands firande med namnet Día de Muertos (1) (De dödas dag) pratade Ana i telefon med Ita, medan hon placerade foton av sin farfar, hennes moster och hennes boxerhund på altaret hon hade förberett i ett hörn av sitt vardagsrum. En plötsligt rörelse genom fönstret fångade Anas uppmärksamhet. Itas röst blev avlägsen och ekade medan Ana försökte förstå det plötsliga avbrottet. 

En stund senare var det där igen. Det var en jadefärgad kolibri som flaxade med vingarna med sin oöverträffade hastighet ljudlöst medan den svävade under ljusstrålen. 

“Jag glömde berätta att flaskborstträdet är borta. De ska bygga fler lägenheter i enheten, så hela trädgården är borta,” sa Ita. “Men... vart ska kolibrin ta vägen?” frågade Ana. “Min mamma? Hon hittar alltid ett sätt. Jag såg henne tidigare idag i parken och hon hade vackra plommon som växte nerför armar och ben.”, svarade Ita. “Ita, kan du bara se min gammelmormor? Eller kan du se eller prata med någon annan?”, frågade Ana. “Tja, mija, vi kan alla prata med vem som helst oavsett tids- eller rumsskillnaden,” förklarade Ita. “Så osannolikt som det verkar är vi kopplade till allt och alla som någonsin har funnits. Jag har hittat ett sätt att få kontakt med min mamma genom naturen och jag har sett att du har hittat en bro för att få kontakt med dig själv och andra genom litteraturen”. 

Ita dog året därpå. 

På kvällen då Ana fick höra nyheterna gick hon till närmaste strand. Hon satte sig ner och grät medan hon begravde fingrarna om och om igen i sanden. “Ita? Kan du höra mig?” frågade hon. Månskenet avslöjade strängar av skum som skrevs i sanden med vågornas flöde. Ana kom närmare, knäböjde och rörde vid strängarna med sin högra hand. En varm våg omslöt hennes hand och smekte den försiktigt. Hon slöt ögonen och för ett ögonblick var hon tillbaka i Itas kök och såg kolibrien färga himlen med sina blå och lila nyanser. 

Ana skrattade blygt, mumlade något för sig själv och tog sig hem.




1. Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a multi-day holiday in which people honour loved ones who have passed on.

Silvia Rojas

Silvia Rojas is a Mexican writer who is curious about everything (literally, everything), particularly Indigenous cultures around the world. She believes that there is something magical in connecting with people from different latitudes who have a unique vision of the universe. She is also a big fan of sports, arthouse cinema, heavy metal and conversations with strangers.

View more of Silvia's work

Katie Zhou

Katie Zhou is a Melbourne-based graphic designer and illustrator specialising in colourful and playful designs. Katie’s aim is to leave people feeling happy and enlightened after viewing her creations. On the occasion that Katie isn’t designing, you can find her going to art galleries, clothing markets, live music gigs, camping and exploring new places.

view more of Katie's work

Per Forsberg

Per Forsberg is a musician and educator. He has played tuba for some amazing acts like rocklegends KISS, Lior, Hans Zimnmer and many orchestras including Melbourne Symphony and John Foreman’s Australian Pops Orchestra. He enjoys the outdoorsy life (think camping and hot springs) and loves spending time with his family.

This story is part of

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Campfire Stories #01: Mångata

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Get a limited edition print of Mångata delivered to your door. Written by Silvia Rojas, illustrated by Katie Zhou and translated into Swedish by Per Forsberg, Mångata is a story about unlikely connections. 

Designed to be enjoyed by readers of all ages, you can expect a heart-warming story about family, love and connection.  

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