"I was on fire when I lay down"by Charly García

I am the youngest of three. My brother Fernando is ten years older than me and my sister Erica is nine years older than me. His complicity always overwhelmed me. It was a source of constant envy, although I knew one day it would end: one day I would grow up and could enter that brotherhood. In the meantime they would never exclude me, but I would always be the little one. The one who had to be cared for, who had to be educated.

With Christmas 1996 came a gift that marked my step from younger sister to sister pair of Fernando and Erica. Our parents had given us tickets to go see the presentation of Say No More, by Charly García, at the Opera theater, a few days later.

The album had been out for a month, but at home we listened to it non-stop. The musical education of my brothers, especially Fer, had been key in my life. Fer was rock, rebellious, he was the canchero brother that everyone wanted to have. Fer had always made us listen to Charly. His records are the soundtrack of my life.

Say No More It starts with “I was on fire when I went to bed.” There is a rain, synthesizers, sounds that pass from one ear to the other, keyboards, guitar. There is a weird atmosphere. It could be any rainy street, but I hear a rain in the middle of one night, falling on a deserted city, with tall buildings and lights reflected on the wet pavement. Enter the voice of a woman telling a story. And then Charly’s, defiant, and everything starts to make sense. The battery levels rise until the letter explodes in response to the question: “How did the fire start? / I don’t know … I was on fire when I went to bed ”. That phrase exploded and bounced off the duplex where we lived, in Ramos Mejía. With that sentence I complete mentally every time someone responds with “I don’t know.” That intro is the one I hear when I close my eyes thinking about that summer. We listen to that album every day since we had it in our hands. I know perfectly the linkages between theme and theme, even after a long time without listening to it, it hardly sounds and I can recite it in full. “Say no more” became our catchphrase.

It was my first Charly recital. They drove us and dropped us at the door, where they would pick us up a few hours later. We exploded with happiness, especially me: at night, with Fer and Eri, in the center, about to enter a Charly recital. It was too much. The recitals in theaters are always neater, orderly. There were entire families, single people, a smoke-free environment of any kind, the ideal environment by my family’s standards. We go in and wait. We were near the stage, row seven, eight, no more. The lights went out and I felt the adrenaline rush of the dark before a recital. I miss that adrenaline rush. The red velvet curtain remained intact, closed, an impenetrable wall. Hands were heard at the piano. Classical music. Was it Charly? This is how it started? The piano stopped. More lights went out. More adrenaline. Total silence, a whistle in the background, an applause that doesn’t turn on, the intro of “I was on fire when I went to bed.” Nobody said anything. Y Charly got angry. They don’t know the lyrics, he yelled at us, still hiding behind the curtain.

I knew the lyrics. I knew the lyrics perfectly. I had been imitating the woman who recited that news for more than a month. During the previous weeks, my imitation had become the fad sketch in the family home. “Yell at her that you know her.” “Go and sing it.” My brother and sister urged me to what? Run to the stage? Shout out loud? I recited the lyrics for myself and for Fer and for Eri: The news appeared in a tabloid newspaper. It simply said that there had been a fire. Only they listened to me. Charly was already gone.

Charly García (Photo: Nora Lezano)

They informed us that the show would be suspended, that they would return the money for the tickets. We left, defeated. It was the first time that Charly made this move that later, and for many years, would become his trademark. You were going to a Charly recital without knowing what time he would play. Or even if it would touch. We walked in droves towards the exit. There were many of us, but we were all somewhat sad, we could see the disappointment in our walk. Until Charly’s voice surprised us: “Did they believe it, assholes? Happy innocence day ”. And he started playing again. “I was on fire when I went to bed.” One run and we were back inside. “I didn’t know but I went to bed.” A bullfight that erased the theatrical order. “I know it’s not enough but you could understand that I came here on a mission.” Any chair was worth anyone. “I want to heal, but my hands only touch love.” The show had started. Charly spastic and full of energy moved around the stage, sang loudly, did songs in the middle. In the audience we were crazy. Jumping, singing, clapping, we wanted more. Twenty minutes later, it was over. He went away. Over the years I had recitals of Charly of all kinds, I did not want to see him. I had my rematches.

Time is deforming memories. Looking for a note to corroborate my memory I find that that pure passion Charly that I remember on stage was translated in the press as uncontrolled Charly, making gestures, throwing insults, despising his audience. I stay with my version, I saw passion.

But from that day, from that album, from that song, I have one last image left. We are with Fer and Eri standing at the door of the theater, doing time, waiting for them to look for us. Hours passed, the avenue is empty. Theater lights off. Then Charly’s white slime appears. Then Charly leaves the theater. Then he passes me and my brothers by. Only us. Because there is no one else. Huge, tall, infinite. Skinny, almost brittle, the ray that has always held us together. Even now, that of those three we are only two.

Maru Leonhard was born in 1983 and grew up in Ramos Mejía. She studied Image and Sound and has been working in television for fifteen years, first as an editor and since 2017 as a screenwriter. In 2020 he published Transradio, his first novel; and is working on a possible second. He is currently attending a writing workshop with Natalia Moret and is studying Screenwriting at the LAB, with Patricio Vega.

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