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A SORT OF COMPENSATION
It happened on a single afternoon, on one of those days when I used to feel like a prisoner chained to that Latino American city of which I don’t want to speak here, where I was living among many others prisoners, roaming as usual like an archaic automaton. By then I couldn’t even remember how long I had been feeling the fatigue of too many monotonous days, not able to conceive where should I go to rediscover myself. Since I’d break up with Marcela, my life had become a journey dictated by tedium through a endless desert. Women didn’t interest me anymore… Was that a sort of childish vengeance against the entire female gender? And still, I knew that nobody was especially guilty. But since it seemed quite impossible to stay in home, living in between work and television, sometimes I pushed myself to go out. Since I didn’t have the guts, that madness of spirit necessary to give oneself some sense to his life, I kept looking outside for one that could suit me. I walked through the plaza, trying to escape from many reminiscences, Marcela’s bitter words and tears against my granted indifference, or presumed unconcern, about our relationship. It was painful to see it all ending in that way, enough to remember. Why do I think about the same things all the time? I asked myself once more, feet tired, ignorant of other possible options. Yeah, I used to end up remembering the fights, the never-ending separations… Marcela’s expectations used to make me feel guilty, so I always kept coming back to her arms. But none of us were ignorant of the consequences, afterwards: plain distress and despair. My pilgrimage used to take place around the second-hand bookshops of the centre of town: those remains of dead libraries. Like I said, still looking for somebody I thought lost long time ago. Then I saw her in front of the philosophy section, and hesitated about saying “Hello”. Why do I seemed so inclined to follow until an absurd end all kinds of things? Why does it seem I didn’t have the chance of leaving something incomplete? But what else could I have done then? Not talk to her? To ignore the comfort and relief of a familiar face? To pretend indifference, as if I didn’t know her, because everything between us had ended badly enough to try to extend it a little more? But there weren’t any real options, nothing I could have chose. As always, my behaviour seemed dictated by my innermost desires. Apparently surprised, Marcela sketched the smile she had the first time I met her; the smile I had fallen in love with. And then she began the recriminations: “So long not seeing you! You could have give me at least a phone-call.” As a sort of compensation, I invited her for an ice cream. She said she had some free time, so why not? As I wasn’t expecting much more from her, her answer was ok. We emerged to that well-know agony of light called sunset. Then Marcela said she was hungry, so we better look for something to eat. Of course, an ice cream wouldn’t be enough. I knew her. As we made our way to a restaurant, Marcela didn’t seem to notice my anxiety to look more trustworthy than ever to her.
Our scarce words were like water drops falling down because of plain gravity. Steady, slow words about irrelevant things, interrupted, as we didn’t have anything more to talk about, came from our mouths as from a couple of sinks impossible to shut down. An almost perfect situation to enjoy those light-minded topics that could appear suddenly, almost magically, to our minds. Then, between pizza and beer, we let escape a few more words remembering shared referents, trying not to touch each other, the others we had been before, left behind in the past. We were quite cautious about possible sores not yet healed, transformed in scars. Gone was the time when we had to persist in smoothing out our differences, eradicate our problems… as if we had known in advance that our case was lost, forever. There was nothing we could have done. Nothing at the reach of our hands, nothing at the reach of our possibilities or of our desires. At least some calm had survived. The calm of each one’s loneliness, emptiness and boredom, of endless doubts watching the time pass, our life wasted, apparently incapables anymore of finding happiness in the realization of our desires. Only because such calm was there, that’s why reconciliation seemed almost possible, almost perfect… by a methodical “good sense” learnt from the imperfections of this world, where happiness didn’t seem to have much time for us. So, why to spoil the moment? I would have preferred to go to sleep, but it wouldn’t be right with her, so I tried take hold on something to combat my sudden apathy. By a kind of emotional inertia, almost everything, then in its accessory nature, seemed indifferent to me. So I tried to think what could happen next if we were supposed to have another chance. From the back of his desk, the concierge would greet Marcela with an inclination of his head. If I were lucky, they wouldn’t start a conversation to find out with how many women I had been with since her. But going up the stairs (the lift was still “in reparation”) I would feel stroked by the sudden memories of another nights when we had went up to my flat feeling almost happy, for different reasons. It had been so long since the last time she visited me at my apartment… Remembering those days, afterwards, I used to miss her presence, to the point that only her death could have materialize her in a ghost if she wanted to haunt me more vividly. So, with her there again, almost reincarnated, she would fright me for sure, as if the spirit of all those times we had a fight could take grip of her again, transfigure her in another woman, in the same one she was in the last days, dreadfully painful. The thought that we could be like before, playing the roles of a couple, would then cross our minds once more. As if that could have been something we wished for an instant, with curiosity. Something gravitating over our heads, none of us ignoring the possibility that it could crash against us. But none of us would be undertaking any movement, going forward in such direction, anyway. None of us would be considering that it could happen that night. The first time we had looked out of a window to see a moonless night, drinking cheap red wine. And at a sudden moment, we forgot what we had been talking about, an interlude where my lips left red traces on her lips. Then, it hadn’t matter the sequels, what could have follow, derived. Now, my security would trip over my lips. Not knowing what to think, judging with an idiot’s smile the performance of my assumed superior consciousness, I would like to kiss her, put my arms around her body, not caring of the problems that a misunderstanding can bring me. But we would be just playing a tired seduction, with bitter sadness blooming from our past.
Then, holding my naked body, Marcela would watch me inquiring about us but saying nothing. I would avoid her eyes, preferring the grimy ceiling, thinking how to escape again from her snares. I know her, I would tell myself. And I would see the green-eyed monster of her jealousy coming, asking me about all those other women… And I would then lament the mythic paradise lost where I used to be happy living alone. Then, I would be unable to conceive a more absurd scene: with the bed in between, Marcela would reject me, while I stand at the other side, screaming recriminations to her, against her falsehood... A full confession would be necessary in order to conceal her faults. I would have to be sure of everything as well. I would need to listen to her confessions too, if we were to confine in our memories every betrayal like another aborted happiness, killed by mutual consent. But Marcela wouldn’t be willing to capitulate. She would refuse to think about the next movement. With a frozen smile in the harvest moon of her face, she would wait for me, to say the next words. And she wouldn’t be happy until my corpse remains with an empty, plain look, accepting the destiny of a failed reconciliation. “I have to go,” I tell her, abruptly. “It’s better this way.” She doesn’t say anything. She doesn’t follow me.
John Wynberg 2004
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