Saturday, March 18, 2006


The Cruellest Month

“My secret about keeping secrets...that's what you've just said some minutes ago. Do I really have a secret about keeping them? Do I have secrets? And from whom do I keep them? From the others or from myself?

I guess I haven't the answer.

Besides whenever I try to keep a secret, it grows extraordinarily inside me, that it stops being a secret to become a whole world of unspoken words and worlds. Therefore they are no longer secrets but living creatures, long extensions of myself that dwell in an atmosphere that lacks order and logic.

Although I've always lived without obeying blindly to these two, I need them around to maintain a certain balance that keeps me in the surface.

So much about secrets ; maybe I'm just a big secret that everyone can see except me, or just the opposite, I have no secrets at all but everyone insists on seeing me as one, because, either it's easier that way or because it's just difficult or unpleasant or unattractive."

She was writing about secrets; but actually she had no idea of what she was talking about, because she knew that in a way she was talking about herself and that's when the chaos started. She had serious problems about having a good perspective of her life. I mean she was able to understand other's worlds, lives, problems, charisma, tortures, and enigmas, even secrets. But when it came to her own life everything turned into a mess.

Unfortunately or not she was that sort of person who kept opening and closing doors, analyzing all the obscure motivations for every single thing she did, or said, or thought. Nothing was random; everything must have a purpose, which means that intellectually speaking she had work for a millennium. The term was " thinkaholic" - a compulsive-furiously-without-any-breaks- thinkaholic.

Now, this starts "hurting" after some time. I mean years. Lets face it. She was now thirty-two and … except for her son nothing delirious had happened in her life. She was not a gifted tortured painter, or a promising tortured writer or a valuable tortured journalist, she was just … tortured. She had this ability to recognize something good, but not to create it; and that, that was absolutely devastating.

Meanwhile she had a life; a real life and she often found herself having the most unthinkable thoughts while she was working or cooking dinner. It was always with great pain that she realized that she lived in two different worlds at the same time. She knew of course that she was not schizophrenic or something; well, she knew because she had checked it with a specialist. As I told you before nothing was random about her. So, leaving out the schizophrenic thing she just was this sort of person who had to be quite skillful in order to keep things moving without screwing up any of them. One day a shrink had told her that it was her move, her decision, her call _ either she accepted things the way they were and that would make life a lot of easier or she could change whatever she wanted to change and that was good too. No kidding? And she had paid a fortune to hear those amazing, sharp, brilliant, unthinkable words. While shaking hands and saying goodbye she could see the shrink radiant face, the living image of someone who thought wonders of himself, maybe believing-wow- I saved another soul today! I am good! She felt sick. It was outrageously embarrassing to her to realize that she had actually paid to listen to this.

So much for shrinks and their wonderful suggestions.

She never lost consciousness. In any situation had she forgotten who she was and where she was; that may be looked at in an unpleasant way considering certain circumstances. The-night-she-opened-that-door - that's exactly what she was thinking about when she put the milk back on the fridge; she closed it and suddenly and very clearly too, all the details came back to her head. One thing that you might not know about her yet is that she lives in a huge sea of details. She never misses them and apparently they never miss her either.

I don't think that she has ever understood this characteristic about her: being alert all the time. Of course, as a child she was more relaxed and she remembers perfectly when she put her head on the pillow and just opened her eyes the next day. Those were the times when she immediately got up, looked at the window and rushed to her mother with a big smile and an almost-screamed "Good Morning mum!" That's the way she was. Especially when she lived in the south. She was probably eight; her memories of that place are filled with sensations: the sweet smell of dried fruits, the warmth and comfort of lying down in the fields looking at the sky while chewing a straw; the beautiful vision of nature, the flowers she picked every afternoon to her mother, the old and fabulous olive trees where she used to hide to think or to play. There were two boys living next to her and of course she never played with dolls, and she would rarely go out without her arch and arrow.

She loved olive trees. She couldn't imagine anything safer and stronger than an olive tree. Sometimes she would touch and caress them but with respect as if she was dealing with an older, wiser person. Olive trees were the goddesses of her youth.

She lived there for about two years and then they moved again.

Her mother had been miraculously in good health; during the time they lived there she didn't have a single asthma crisis, not a single one. Back to north, back to hospitals, sad nights, and cold houses.

Her father hadn't left yet and he already knew that it was going to be a big mistake He was aware of it and when she heard him saying that, she thought that they could always come back; daddy didn't need to feel guilty or bad 'cause if things didn't work out up north they could always come back to the olive trees' land and nobody would blame him. "Love you Daddy, always will".

But of course things went wrong and of course they didn't come back. Actually she hated the new place. They arrived in a rainy day. The house was big and cold but she remembers quite vividly the way she went up and down the stairs helping to carry things and put them in their new places. In fact she loved these moves. She had always loved them. The thing is that this time it was, she knew it also, a wrong one.

Anyway, olive trees were gone and so was her father. He died three months and ten days after her marriage.

She was working hard back then, getting used to her new situation in life and suddenly that Wednesday the phone rang. It was a torturing trip back to her parents house; usually it would take her about twenty minutes to get there, but it was rush hour, so it took her an eternity to drive there, cross the old bridge, open the gate, run upstairs, open the door and… see her father lying down on the kitchen floor.

After that, January became "the cruellest month", not "April". When she understood and whispered "no", her brother coldly asked her if she was going to make a scene. She looked at him, at her mother who looked so helpless, so silently helpless. No, she wasn't going to make a scene. Instead she started giving orders. Her father had to be cleaned up, dressed up in his finest suit, the one he had worn at her wedding; the one that made him look so great.

Her mother, a gentle woman who had never complained about a single thing in her own life, had for the moment, accepted the facts, and was organizing everything. Calling the relatives in a quiet, smooth way, explaining what had happened. That his heart had finally given up. One could hear her on the phone whispering "calm down, it's all over now, no use of getting like that. You must be strong." She was actually calming the ones who had never given a damn about her husband when he needed them. But that's the way she was. An extraordinary woman, a very generous one who had endured a life of bitter details, who had devoted her life to her husband and children. She was probably the noblest person I've ever met.

Meanwhile I should tell you that her daughter was now dressing her father, practically on her own. She coldly refused any sort of help. Her brother kept to himself; as he had always done. You couldn't penetrate that blank face, expressionless. He was there, you could almost hear him drowning but he wouldn't allow anyone to get close, and so he stayed alone. Staring.

He didn't shed a tear; actually no one did. Well… not exactly, because when the aunts and uncles and cousins started to arrive, they looked like professional weepers, but the atmosphere on the house and the look of the faces they found there, sort of froze their first impulse of turning all that into a weeping circus. They got in with sad-ready -to burst-into tears faces and they got out puzzled and confused.

I knew that she remembered quite vividly her last words to her dad. She had seen him a couple of days before. She had found him more and more sad, like someone who had given up on life. She knew. She definitely knew that look in his eyes. She knew that he had stopped singing in the mornings, like he used to do. He had enclosed himself in that house. He had lost pleasure in reading. If there's a vision of that men that will last forever in the minds of those who met him, is this familiar one of watching him in his room, sitting on his red old couch, reading. Always reading. Like the day when his daughter told him, quite abruptly, that she was going to marry. After a while one could still see him, staring at the newspaper, his hands shaking, his eyes lost somewhere.

So, that last Sunday when they saw each other for the last time, he was next to the window, as he used to, looking outside, watching God knows what. She went to him when they stayed alone in the room and without looking at him she told him how proud of him she was, how proud of him she had ever been and that she was aware of his agony and sadness, but that he needed to go beyond that and go on with his life as he had always done.

It was pointless. His last "performance" had been in her wedding. He was ravishingly brilliant, he gleamed on that party. He had his last dance with her daughter and he bade farewell to those who had met him.

She knew that she would remember this forever. That had been his present to her. The most extraordinary you can ever imagine.

Time went by. It took her about two years to realize that she was drowning. The enraged words that she had shouted at him over the years were haunting her; destroying her brain. That endless, unbearable zapping on her mind had to stop.

It took her two years more to end a conversation with a dead man- her father. She realized that much later on: she had accomplished what had seemed impossible; to be forgiven by a dead person and so get her rightful share of peace.

It had been a long journey and unfortunately she was quite aware of the damages done.

Maybe that's why someone had told her repeatedly that it was the innocence in her face mixed up with that interrogative, enraged, and sad look in her eyes that immediately had hooked him for good.

But somehow that beauty others claimed she had, had brought her nothing but distress and grief.

It was a sort of stigma. I know, it's weird, but it's exactly what it looked like. That beauty had apparently scared and repelled some people, and unfortunately had attracted some others.

The outcome had always been surprise, deception, and finally sadness, for her at least.

I guess that sometimes she used to think of herself as one of those cursed women who used to throw themselves in dark rivers after having brought disgrace to the ones around her.

People do tend to describe her as a passionate person. Well, as a matter of fact she is a passionate person. But I know, as she probably knows as well, that passion is a consuming fever that weakens you in the long run. Yes, I think that she is quite aware of that. Of course she is. She begged all her life not to be, but as I 've told you before she is a sort of prisoner of her feelings and thoughts. The monsters inside her dwell in an endless quest for victory. She knows that she can't beat them. They are and they have always been part of her. She has just tried to live with them, acknowledging them, looking at them in the eye and carry on with her life .Her life of details.

I haven't seen her lately. The last time we met she was with her son. I was looking for a book and that's when I saw them. She was with a poetry book in her hand, her son's coat. She was looking at the shelves with hear head leaning to the left, reading the titles of the books. Her son was quietly sitting on the floor.

Watching a book. Watching it very attentively, as if he was reading it.

They seemed so calm and lost on their own worlds that I almost felt sorry for saying: " Hi there!"