02 Oct Interlude of Images
Interlude of Images
by Luis Aguilar Monsalve
I was notified that I would leave on Friday. But it was on Wednesday I received this wonderful news. The first thing I was going to do was tell my wife that I would soon see her; I repeated this phrase every moment: I’ll see her on Friday, I’ll see her on Friday, I’ll see her…but the last moment I decided not to do it. Rather, I chose to surprise her. I would appear before her. If I announced it now, when she saw me she would not react in the same way; her surprise, I told myself, in seeing me without warning, would be more spontaneous, unique.
Then I began to imagine her reaction: she would be dressed as always, with a wide skirt, a short-sleeved blouse and white canvas shoes; the hair would be collected in a ponytail, thus freeing up its’ extraordinary hedge. Seeing me, she would become pale, and then remain still, and I would have to run to hold her.
I would kiss her with passion, while her tears would wet my shirt collar, and, possibly, I too would cry. Following that, she would put her hands on my face and I would feel their softness, and we would begin to speak, but then we would pause and we would laugh. A new emotion shifted from my mind to my heart. It was not a smooth feeling, but rather something warm, even watery that seduced us, more dramatic, even firm.
Anyway, I cannot wait any longer, I must leave right now, but they will not let me. I have to run away tonight. What attracts me most is that I am going to forget the absence, the distance, the martyrdom of having been outside of Susana’s life as well as that of my son Alex. How will he be? Will he still cry or be cocky? Spoiled and pampered? Can I still hold him in my arms? He was so small the last time I saw him! He had her mother’s heavenly eyes and a dark complexion just like mine – he was so beautiful!
I now began to enjoy every moment of the anticipation. I chose not to run away – the risk was too great. I could spoil it and it was only two days before I could see them and be, as in the old days, very happy. I realized that one cannot let go of memories even if they do not have the distinction of yesterday. Yet that is the bond that binds us to absences.
I did not know how to continue – the voice stopped in the silence, and then I stumbled against a hard-hitting reality and once again I plunged into a sweet, yet heavy melancholy, without a frame of reference. I listened to the sound of my fierce breathing and realized that an entire history had been overlooked, one regarding this inconsequential man mistreated in the fog of a civilization in crisis.
Friday came. It was dawn. The room grew smaller with the first glimmers of a diffused blue-green light. I left at sunrise, moving at a slow pace and stared down. Above, a vapor of blazing, nonexistent color trembled, which the childish daybreak tried to ignore. I stumbled between the mechanical dust of doubt and the anguish of callous guilt.
I left in the middle of a perennial rain. It was very cold and I lacked the proper clothes to protect me. Furthermore, I felt like I was carrying a huge load. I did not want to continue, but it was as if some officer was forcing me and pushing me to go on with something I did not want to do, as if I had been sentenced me and was now going to receive, in some miserable cell, a lethal injection. Inside I felt, to quote Antonio Machado,* like “soldierly plains and bleak, ascetic plateaus.”
When I finally came to my former home, I did not want to knock on the door. I was now suddenly afraid. I felt guilty about everything. It was then that I decided to go around the house and I took my time. I looked up at the sky, at the shadowy underside of a transitory cloud. In an immense blue sky swallows, with their Dominican figures, cried. With their impertinent flight they created illusory highways. Yet something was wrong. What was happening was not logical. After all I was going to be with my wife and my son, whom I long for more than my own life.
At the back there was a very large window overlooking the family dining room and backyard; feeling like a thief in my own home, I stealthily approached and looked down at ground that I was standing upon: it was chestnut, yellow, and gray. This pale lawn extended outwards.
Susana appeared as I remembered her, and meanwhile, Alex was crying uncontrollably. She was carrying a large bowl, beating the egg whites with a wooden spoon. Her face was angry – and suddenly a man the same height as me began to talk to her. They began to shout, but I could not hear what they were saying. I only knew they were acting like a husband and a wife.
The whistle of a cicada impregnated the air as if announcing the inevitable. Yet I had to see her face. Could it be possible that during my absence of six years, she would have taken up with another man? As for Alex – would he have taken up with another father? I fastened my anguish to the tip of my fear.
The rustle of the leaves, the cry of the birds, and some human voice – distant, far, almost mythical – redoubled the hyperbolic beating that emerged from my heart. Somehow I managed to get closer to the window. The man turned his back on me and left the room. Susana, upset, dropped what was in her hands. She seemed to scream hysterically without looking at either one of us. The man then hastily returned, but a damn cherry branch, of all things, blocked my view of him, as if it had been placed there intentionally, just to distress me, to hinder my accelerated march towards darkness, but when I broke it, I became livid; the man was me. In his right hand he had the dagger.
*Antonio Machado, (26 July 1875 – 22 February 1939), was a Spanish poet. The line comes from the following poem:
Through Spanish Lands
Men of this land who set pinewoods ablaze
And expect a booty from the plundering,
Used to level off black oak forests, yesteryear,
Cutting down the robust groves of the sierra.
They see their poor sons off, fleeing the land today;
The tempest carries away the rich silt
Through sacred rivers onto wide seas;
And they toil in cursed moorlands, and suffer, and wander.
Men who are sons of tough wayfarers’ stock,
Shepherds guiding their merino hordes
To fertile Extremadura, migrating flocks
Soiled by dust, baked by the sun along the way.
Short, nimble, suffering, his eyes those of a cunning man,
Sunken, apprehensive and fickle; and as though
A crossbow’s limb, in his dry countenance of
Salient cheekbones, the bushy eyebrows.
Plentiful, the wicked fellow in fields and villages,
Capable of the worst vices and most brutal crimes,
Hiding an ugly soul under the brown smock,
Subservient to the seven capital sins.
His eyes, ever blurred by envy or sadness,
He hoards on his catch and cries over his neighbour’s gains;
Neither does he ponder his misfortune nor enjoy his riches;
He’s hurt and assailed both by fortune and disgrace.
The numen of these fields is cruel and fierce:
At sunset, in the faraway hills,
You’ll see the shape of an archer, looming huge
As though an enormous centaur, readying his arrow.
You’ll behold soldierly plains and bleak, ascetic plateaus,
-sure, not the seat of the biblical garden around here –
These lands are rather for the eagle, a chunk of the planet
Crossed by Cain’s wandering shadow.