So many of the human connections in 2666 are superficial. Even Pelletier and Espinoza, whom we think of as a strange mix of bosom buddies and rivals, have a brief chat about loyalty and (if I recall correctly) how it’s not worth much. Their relationship with Norton is strange, at times urgent and yet at other times disposable. Norton and Morini’s getting together was something of a bolt out of the blue and still, frankly, seems kind of strange, as if it fit formally the arrangement Bolaño wanted to create but with no real believable basis in the text itself.
Fate sees some moments of connection at his mother’s neighbor’s apartment, but he’s not really involved in them. He’s not exactly close to Guadalupe and in fact almost abandons her. Rosa Amalfitano he develops something of an across-the-room crush on, and he does wind up rescuing her, but I don’t know that there’s anything to that acquaintance that I’d call an especially close or connected relationship. Rosa’s father and mother are about as distant as can be imagined, and though Lola begins living with her graveyard lover, it seems to me that it’s as much a financial arrangement as one of true and lasting affinity. Lola’s connection — a very close one in her mind — with the poet she pursues is imagined.
In last week’s reading, we met Juan de Dios Martinez and Elvira Campos. He desperately wants connection, but she keeps him at arm’s length. Sure, she’ll nail him on a rigid twice-monthly schedule, but forget pillow-talk afterward, much less anything gesturing in the direction of a meaningful relationship.
The backdrop for all this aloofness, it should be noted, is a series of grisly crimes perpetrated as acts of unwanted connection.
At last, on page 408, we have a real connection. Erica Delmore is looking for her friend Lucy Anne Sander, who is later found murdered. She finally starts going to hospitals to ask if any American women have been admitted. At the last one, she has this experience:
[A] nurse suggested she try the Clinica America, a private hospital, but she answered with a burst of sarcasm. We’re blue-collar workers, honey, she said in English. Like me, said the nurse, also in English. The two of them talked for a while and then the nurse invited Erica to have coffee at the hospital cafeteria, where she informed her that many women disappeared in Santa Teresa. It’s the same in the United States, said Erica. The nurse met her eyes and shook her head. It’s worse here, she said. When they parted, they exchagned phone numbers and Erica promised to keep the nurse posted on any developments.
It seems an empty enough gesture. How often do we say, even to people we consider to be fairly close friends, that we’ll call, with no real intention of doing so? But get this: Just a couple of pages later, after they’ve found Erica’s friend, she calls the nurse to let her know the body has been found. When she gets to the morgue to identify the body, the nurse has, unasked, come to help her through it:
As they were waiting in a corridor in the basement, the nurse appeared. They hugged and kissed each other on the cheek. Then she introduced the nurse to Henderson, who greeted her distractedly but wanted to know how long they’d known each other. Twenty-four hours, said the nurse. Or less. It’s true, thought Erica, just a day, but I already feel as if I’ve known her for a long time.
It’s tempting to call this a Good Samaritan moment, though I’m not sure the politics of the different cultures (somewhat distrustful of one another) in Bolaño’s vignette quite lines up with those in the source material. Still, it’s a nice little moment of human connection, an oasis of friendliness in a desert of aloofness.