Commentary on “At the Tea Vendor’s” by Milagros Oregui Navarrete

Mare Nostrum

I am going to analyze the story “At the Tea Vendor’s” from a psychoanalytical perspective, because that is my field of expertise. I think that this story tackles the issue of how much we can afford to challenge the norm and survive as individuals. I believe this to be an important topic because the suppression of individuality can stir up feelings of loss, which, in turn, can cause psychological pain.

I think that this story is revolutionary in that it exposes the human urges that prompt us to contravene the societal norms that we have ingrained in our minds. I understood the place where the main character sits down to drink tea as a representation of the mire of melancholy in which we are doomed to gradually sink when we feel abandoned.

This Sudanese author invites us to listen to what the undertones of our own stories are telling us, to admit the responsibility we have for the way our future plays out. It is the sense of guilt over not having done enough to become someone else and be somewhere else which drives the characters of the story to forget. I believe that the only way to break the curse of the self-fulfilling prophecy that drives one to repeat one’s story endlessly is to recognize that one is wounded and to find the words to vent out one’s frustration.

Is it not a mechanism of self-defense to only be able to see what can be perceived as beautiful and splendorous? Does our incapacity to see all the colors on the spectrum not indicate how vulnerable we feel? And that is how we forget the purpose of being alive, which, to me, resides in indulging in the pleasure of navigating the difficult and muddy waters that contrast creates.

The horizons of the main character stretch when he discovers that he has also forgotten something, like the other man he couldn’t entirely relate to previously, but to whom he feels closer after realizing that they are both owned by the same mysterious forces that bring them to forget. This forgetting throws a monkey wrench in the works and keeps them from becoming their ideal selves, regardless of whether that approximates more to being transgressive or exemplary.

The truth reveals itself to those who are brave enough to confront what leaves them tongue-tied and reassemble back into a coherent discourse what previously could only find expression in a sense of awe. We should all find our own truth in naming what hurts us, because that is the only way to seize power over it, to denounce the violence that muzzles us and elaborate it into a form of art, like this author brilliantly managed to do.


Version translated from Spanish.

Written by Milagros Oregui Navarrete.