Chapter 4: On the Counterattack

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The conversation leaves all of us feeling down. It'll just be Juan and I now until December, and Marina if she doesn't get a boyfriend. Our group of friends gets smaller and smaller, with our morale at an all-time low. What did they do to Diego? How can Fátima live with the possibility of being married against her will?

Do we have no respect for others? Nowadays, I think the real problem is that people increasingly prioritize appearances and ignore their hearts.

The majority of people don't want to know what's really going on inside them, they're scared of themselves, so they end up locking away their own feelings. Then they want to control others because, in the end, they're scared of everybody else too. Listening to and acknowledging your own feelings is a huge act of bravery.

That evening, I share my thoughts with my mom and brother:

"I just don't get how situations like Fátima's exist. Why can't people just respect other people's own opinions and wishes?" I ask in indignation.

"These kind of things makes me really angry, too. I didn't want to say anything in front of Fátima in case it made her feel worse, but it's a really shitty situation and people don't talk about it enough. It's right here in front of us, a close friend of yours is a victim of all this," says Rodrigo.

"When traditions are so deep-rooted it's very difficult to question them, no matter what the country or culture. Raising your hand and disagreeing is considered a huge act of betrayal," explains my mom.

"You're right. I remember on March 8th last year when I didn't want to go on strike for International Women's Day, I almost got lynched at college. They interpreted it as if I was in favor of abuse. It was all so visceral that it was difficult to even talk about it at the time," recalls my brother. "My friends Olga and Nuria had to even come to my rescue the next day because a group of girls stopped me going into class, blessed democracy."

"There are people like that in my class too, Rodrigo." Aggressive assholes who treat everybody like shit, but when there's any kind of protest in defense of people's rights, they wave the flag of whatever side suits them, as if they cared about injustice and defending others, what a joke..."

"These days, daring to think differently is seen as a threat. I'm delighted my kids think the way you do, you're very brave," says my mom.

At that moment, Tomás, also at the table with us, emits a cackling sound that makes us all laugh. Was he following our conversation? Perhaps deep down Tomás takes everything in, that's how he connects with others, even if he can't express it the same way as everybody else. I hope one day he can answer when I ask him something. I know it'll happen at some point, sooner or later.

We finish dinner and when I get to my room, I check my cellphone and can't believe my eyes. I have a message from Diego.

Diego: Hey, Judith. Long time no see, right?  🙄 Feel like meeting up one day this week?

My legs are shaking, I can hardly stand up and tears start running down my face. My cellphone drops to the floor and a wave of joy and relief washes over me. Diego's alive!

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