23. X, Emma, Marseilles, dreams, Richie, escape to Cartagena
It’s the truth. Please don’t simply see it; feel it.
J.D. SALINGER, Seymour-An Introduction.
We went for food and drinks with my friend Sachiko, a fifty-year old brown-skinned surfer who in a two-year time faced the death of a father she barely talked to during his lifetime, her mother’s dementia and necessity for company and care, and her own breast cancer. The small tragedies that make life. Sachiko brought X with her. A tiny tanned red-haired woman with a boyish body and a frank smile. X was not particularly beautiful, short, flat-chested, silly, funny, and uneducated, the complete opposite of Yukiko. We kissed that night and started having sex, the only thing my body and mind seemed to want during those days, once or twice a week in motels near to my place. The first days of November, barely a month later, Yukiko showed me the first black and white prints of the ultrasound. The ultrasound shows that is was taken the third day of the thirty third week of pregnancy in December twenty one of two thousand and twelve. I could see with clarity the silhouette of who would be Emma, our second daughter.
October 25, 2012. Thursday.
I arrived in Marseilles, a city where I had lived for almost four years, in October twenty fifth, two years to the date when Father would stop being blood and skin and flesh and bones and become something, someone else. Marseilles was growing, changing, the city was, as the French would say, un grand chantier. Exhaustion often induces in me dreams, that more than dreams, feel like hallucinations.
A planet with a hexagon engraved on its crown, a young genius singing choral songs, a female vampire sculpting children out of dry blood, a heavy cyclone coming down on a marine port. I was praised, as a prophet or a hero, in an Indonesian island, the dark-skinned women danced and smiled and chanted for me, and they allowed me to penetrate their naked souls and cinnamon bodies. I was in the maze built by the Architect, where I met myself, the bearded man drank milk, breast milk, and only that forever. A woman on her palms and knees, possessed, a prostitute from Alexandria was asking me for help, I was poisoned with mercury, she told me. The skin of her hands peeled, her red face covered with a swarm of crawling insects. I wished to ask the Architect for some of his milk to heal her, but, as it seemed, he was nowhere to be seen. The last of the dreams placed me in Miami, where I met a smiling Richie, an associate of father and friend of the family who, not in a dream, had died after someone shot eight bullets to his face. Richie, what an appropriate name for a hitman, one could say, but that’s the true, that was his real name, was a short and wiry man, his nose closer to a vulture’s beak, that used to laugh and tell us crude stories while he smoked cigarettes of marihuana.
Richie was the one who told Mother, according to Mother’s words, that Father had asked him to pour battery acid to her face if he ever felt betrayed. Leave this town, leave, and never come again, Richie said. Mother obeyed. And then, as part of a cruel coincidence, Richie was found dead, his head lying on a bed of his brains and clotted blood, his face a mass of bone and flesh disfigured by the eight impacts. Mother parked the car in front of the gates, got off the car, stormed in, and asked the receptionist to call us. Sister and I left our classrooms, each one escorted by a teacher. The car, as a rule full of dirt and garbage, was crowded with dogs and lamps and plastic bags and suitcases. Where are we going? Far way. She drove fast, she drove with fear and anger. Mother parked in front of a building painted white. Wait here. I’ll be right back. She came back with a man, a bald and tall stranger. This is my friend Leonardo. Nice to meet you. Nice to meet you too. He will come with us. Where? To Cartagena. I met some of Mother’s friends. A gold-skinned man who rubbed petroleum jelly on his chest to make his chest hair darker. A pale man who wore a wig. An uneducated horseman. Leonardo drove fast and for hours through roads plagued with guerrilla. Puente Piedra, El Rosal, La Vega, Guaduas, Honda, Pailamocha, Purino until we arrived at La Dorada, a small warm town by the banks of the river Magdalena. A white church, a green plaza, the purring of the ginger-colored water, toads croaking, young people walking by in short pants and t-shirts eating diced fruit with toothpicks and drinking water out of small plastic bags. We found a hotel for the night.