The Sword of Damocles

Illustration by Paloma Agüera

One fine day my father threw a sword at me that almost fell on my head. It missed me, but it has stayed there forever. Floating a few centimetres from my scalp, threatening. And although there are times it seems that it is not there, it has accompanied me in all the moments of my life, especially and while caressing the top of my head, in the most important ones.

He didn’t throw it to me because he wanted to, it was something completely probabilistic. He didn’t know that his life, and the life of his children, would be like the result of flipping a coin, the result of someone, or something, machiavellianly playing games of chance somewhere in the universe: odds or evens, put it all on red or black, even or odd.

That day when my father threw the sword at me, I knew that he didn’t start drinking again, the lesser evil, and that the strange behaviour he had been showing for a few months could not be explained by the gin he was abusing before I met him. That day, the one of the sword, he, who also had it over his head but without knowing it, was cut in half.

It did not kill him, although I would not say it was fortunate, it was with him fifteen more years to make him lose his balance, his memory, the story of his life, his ability to eat, speak, smile, touch a stranger, be still. The sword was taking away the opportunity to breathe on his own, to masturbate in the absence of the love of others, to see his children grow up, or even to try to run away from that self that it was no longer there. It took away such basic things as wiping his ass after taking a shit, understanding superficial conversations about the weather, sleeping without waking up every few minutes, maintaining those institutions he called family, friends, work colleagues.

It was erasing from his life, at a continuous, inexorable pace, all the verbs that exist in the dictionary. Until one day we decided to delete the last one he had left: to beat. I also hope, so that I can selfishly free myself from a guilt that makes me feel dirty, that for him the verb to love ceased to exist from the beginning. I cannot bear that he loved me.

That sword has a name and a last name: Huntington’s disease. And it also changed my life forever. Today, twenty years after the day we learned what it was called, I begin my psychological therapy. But it is not the first, nor will it be the last, there are times when the sword lifts the scab of a wound that is never completely healed. 

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