jueves, 30 de junio de 2011

The Green Book

By Klenya M. Morales

The road was long. Maybe someone added a few inches to the last hour of the path, because it seemed eternal. Magdalene was so tired behind the wheel, trying to understand the variety of arrows in the black highway. The radio was playing music of the eighties. Just as she liked to drive. Every now and then she stared into her own eyes, reflected in the central mirror of the car. Yes, it was supposed to face the cars behind her, but hers always reflected her face. There were a lot of things that she would love to change about herself, but her deep dark eyes.

She had been on that road before, but she could never recall a moon as perfectly full as that one. The silhouettes of the things that were between her and the light were defined, almost supernatural. The sound of the air that the car left behind, matched every new mile of moonlight and shadow.

Instead of a person, on the passenger’s seat there were all sorts of books. She stared at the green one with large golden letters. She had found it exactly one month ago in the public library, and she kept on reading it until the librarian asked her to leave.

It was a mere coincidence. She found green the book while doing some research for her final project. She tried to get some History books that were out of her reach. So she stood in the tips of her toes and jumped to get it, but instead of the one she was searching for, the green book fell at her feet. It was an old edition of dusty yellow pages.

Magdalene read the title: “Letters to Regina” and turned the old pages, just for curiosity. The library was empty. She could hear the echoes of her own breathing.

She read the first letter:

“Genoa, July 16, 1501”


These short lines will tell you, how fascinated I am about your ideas about the interior harmony. To compare the lost paradise with the lost of contact with yourself the way you do it, has been doing my mind spin all night. I think you shall go further into your thoughts. I know your heart is in conflict and you are afraid of your thinking, but fear is what freedom is made of.”

Reading this Magdalene said to herself: “How can freedom be made of fear?”, and amazingly the letter followed her line of thinking.

“...if there was no fear, freedom would not exist, it shall not have a foe. Heaven or hell, good or evil. How could you define those concepts without it’s opposite? How could you choose if there was no election?

Excuse me if I change the subjects. I just remembered your skepticism to the existence of hell. I’m giving you one more reason to believe.

Keep on looking for your own answers. Even when you think everything is said you shall remember: your thoughts are unique. As unique are your dreams, and your smile. Defy fear and be free. Don’t give up. Write back soon please, ragazza. I can’t wait to know how are you going to escape from the contradiction between your heart and your mind. Your friend always,


It was almost as if the letter were answering her. As if Magdalene was having a conversation with someone from the past. She felt like she knew Leonardo at some level. When she first grabbed the book, Magdalene was expecting to read usual love letters in an ancient dialect, but instead, she found the words of a man who was interested in the mind of a woman, in her hopes and her dreams. And somehow she felt like if the words where meant for herself. She was inside the book. She decided to keep it.

“ Nobody will miss it anyway,” thought Magdalene as she revised the chart in the back of the book. She noticed that nobody had ever checked it out from the library. It was just a nest of moths and dust.

In the following days she read all the letters. One by one she experienced in a certain way that she was being understood. She had so many questions and nobody to share her anxieties and philosophical thoughts. Nobody cared about those things anymore. Fairytales, mythology, witchcraft, miracles. She cared about things that, for most people, didn’t worth a second of discussion. She had just so many questions and struggles in her soul. Sometimes she felt lonely. There were important things inside her that nobody else noticed. She was looking for the answers in all the places, and in all the people she found. Fruitlessly.

You also want to know about fate and destiny and reasons to live. About punishment, mistakes and rewards. Well, there is a story about a king that got so angry with his son that he sworn he would throw him a big rock as a punishment. Later on he decided to forgive him, but he could not take back what he sworn. So he ordered to break rocks into little pieces and after that throw them slowly to his son. God’s logic is different than human logic. Even if we are right, even if we are wrong. We are able to change things; things just don’t have to be in a certain way. The kind of life you search is possible if you desire it with all your heart. There are possibilities beyond the logic of the common people.

She was just having a conversation with a book. That’s the only way she could describe it.

“You have to understand your own story, and read carefully the signs. Listen to the voices inside, they are never wrong. That way you will be faithful to yourself, only the you will be free.”

“Some say we do not pick a book, the books selects us in a magical way. Maybe this is what has happened with me this time.” Magdalene was recalling the words of the green book, and analyzing the mysterious link between her and a man born several centuries ago.

The lonely black highway grew long in front of her eyes, while Magdalene enjoyed Sting’s voice in the radio singing “Every breath you take” and following it’s classic bass with her fingertips against the wheel.

Leonardo’s words were still hammering in her head just as if she could hear him:

“Cara ragazza mia:

When I think about you, I have the feeling of being in a prison. You shall not be sad, please. It is just that you are so afraid to be yourself, to pack your bags and leave from the life that you know... You want to fly so desperately, but at the same time you don’t wan to lose what you have now...

...it is painful to know the answers to your questions, and not having the strength to face them and believe in your own promises. But that pain is so personal that you just can’t share it…

So don’t search for answers in the outside. Trust the promises that you have done to yourself.”

She had been having that sensation since she first read the book. How many times had she wanted to hear those things from someone else’s lips? And she realized how relieved she could feel, from hearing from other person just what she had in her own mind, reinforcing her believes, in a world so full of everyone else’s opinions.

While diving into her own thoughts and revising all the self search that she had been trough the last days, Magdalene saw an unknown building at the left hand of the road, a building she had never seen before, at least not that she could recall. It seemed like some sort of tavern or antiquity shop. It could be a restaurant, she just wasn’t sure. Maybe there she could satisfy her craving for a Coke and a Snicker’s bar. That may help her stay awake. She decided to pull over.

The parking lot consisted on a brick road outlined by bushes. Sudden mists covered the entrance. Magdalene fixed her hair into a ponytail. She looked like child as she walked towards the brick building and opened the heavy wooden doors. A sense of peace invaded her because the place seemed warm and safe. She almost felt invited to go inside, and so she did.

The place was crowded, which was strange, since there weren’t cars parked outside. It was like a cafeteria. She felt sheltered, just like being home from a long trip. A man in the door received her with a big smile.

“Would you follow me?” he asked with a strange accent, and Magdalene did it without hesitation, charmed by his familiarity and kindness. She noticed that it was sort of a party in which people gathered in small groups around tables lightened with blue flamed candlelights. The soft music flowed and the room smelled like cinnamon and sandalwood. People from all races, men and women, young and old shared the tables. There was just a little bit of everything she knew, shaping a complete different magical world.

At that point, she had millions of questions in mind. The doorman told her, in his strange accent:

“Welcome, Magdalene. This is a place were you will meet people, from all times and all places. Your presence here is a gift. A special gift for someone who searches. Enjoy it, use it wisely, and you will be allowed to return.”

Then he took her to one of the tables. Fascinated for the warm and seducing environment. Magdalene realized how everyone was dressed like in a costume party, but the costumes were totally real. They were all speaking in different languages, but, strangely, they seemed to understand each other well.

All these things were presenting in front her logically, even though it was so unnatural, like in a dream. She could see, touch and hear everything. Then she noticed how her unknown host was guiding another young woman towards her. She should be twenty. An exotic girl, dressed like an Arabian dancer.

“My name is Snardezza, which means almond,” “This is your first time here, right?” said the girl, in that funny language that Magdalene strangely shared, and they both felt safe with their new companion. Snardezza made herself comfortable right away, began to talk to Magdalene. That wasn’t her first night there, but it will probably be the last.

For one moment Magdalene doubted if she was in the middle of a dream or being victim of a joke, but inside her, she believed every little detail she was listening. Snardezza told her about her first time in that place. She felt weird her first night too. That first time, she met a brave woman, dressed in armor, who directed the army in Orleans, that was far in he West. She told her about the day she met a poet from a new world yet to be discovered at her time, who decided to write about her big still eyes, and how he dedicated her the saddest lines that night.

“ I think the reason why I’m here is to learn and remember.” And she told Magdalene about how she was trying to compile the stories that she heard from her grandmother and her slaves, and some others she had heard in that place, into one scroll as a gift to the man she really loved. But she was promised to be another’s wife. When she returned to her time and place, she should obey her father’s choice.

Feeling sad for her, Magdalene just asked “Would you tell me at least one of your stories?” and as Snardezza began to tell her about flying carpets, and bazaars, and lamps that guarded spirits who could satisfy whichever desire you should have; Magdalene’s heart beat stronger and faster. She knew perfectly the style of the “Arabic Nights” and she understood that she was facing one of its compilers. Snardezza smiled and kept talking about mysterious lands, palaces, precious stones, about magic caves and princes.

After a while (there seemed not to be anything such as time in that place), of sharing with her new friend, fantastical journeys and ideas about life and love through different moments of history, both women realized that a third party had joined them. A young man, dressed like they used to in the Renaissance Europe.

“How long have you been here?” asked Magdalene, giving him a long curious glance.

“I did not mean to bother you. If I may be excused, I have been so delighted listening to the most intelligent women I ever heard.”

“Should we take that as a compliment to ourselves or as an assumption that for you women cannot be intelligent” asked Magdalene, apparently amused.

“Oh no, please take that as the humble proof of my admiration” said the man, looking at her with his honey-like, brilliant eyes.

Snardezza smiled again and invited him to stay. “What is your name?”

“Antonio Sforza” he said.

“So are you Italian?” Magdalene asked.

“From the very heart of the fair Genoa. May I join you?”

“Please, be seated,” said Snardezza.

And the three youth held the most incredible conversations speak about every imaginable issue. They spoke about diseases, cures, peace, war, loyalty and betrayal. They shared their conceptions of art and philosophies of life. Magdalene and Antonio could talk about Shakespeare, trying to explain Snardezza about the beauty of Romeo and Juliet and the darkness of Macbeth.

Snardezza told them that the next day she was going to marry a business man that she didn’t love, and she was leaving at that moment because she wanted to finish writing her stories for the real love of her life, as a last proof of her eternal faithfulness.

They all said good-bye to the Arabian girl, between embraces and tears. The new bond in the table grew strong as the conversation increased and the dreams were shared. And Magdalene stayed by the blue candlelight beside Antonio, feeling pity for the sadness in the eyes of their new friend. As they kept on talking Magdalene asked:

“Is there anything we can do for her?”

“She will give birth a beautiful heritage for the universe, maybe she was meant to suffer all that for you to be here, somehow,” answered Antonio, wiping her tears with his hands. “Smile, ragazza.”

At that very moment, Magdalene felt that all her senses came alert, like from a deep sleep.

“But tell me more about yourself, I may not speak about things to come in the future, but you can tell me more about your time, your world...” Magdalene was curious, she could ask him whatever she wanted, because he was ahead from her in the history, nothing could be changed form the past.

“The word of my century is discovery. There are new rich people, and also new diseases and new kingdoms. The world will never be the same. There’s so much fear and so much to conquer. Men fear what they ignore, and in the New World everything is unknown. The God we knew is different. There are people behind the sea has other gods, and other universe. The land is just so much more than our familiar horizons.”

“What can I say? I’ve been through a lot of things, like all men. I have found pleasure in many things, to write, to love a woman or to watch a sunset. I am a simple literature teacher in a small and poor town in Genoa, by the sea. I was born in a wealthy family but I felt I didn’t belong to high society rituals and luxury. I packed my things and left. I am in the eternal search of my soul, and I try to do it through the words of the ancient and the longing of those things I do not have but that I want with all my heart.”

As he talked, Magdalene felt like all his words were making sense for her, as never, anyone’s did before. They talked about religion, sex, politics, from different points in time, and trying to understand the different concepts of the time and space that separated them.

Magdalene wanted to explore that Renaissance man. She had always felt attracted by the medieval Italy and the awakening from the dark ages of the world. She asked “But what about love? Is there a woman who understands your dreams and hears the rhythm of your heart?”

“I’ve been in love, but I have not been loved back. I still wait for the right woman. I even write letters to her, though she cannot even read them, and maybe never will. I picture her in my dreams just as I want her to be. Just as I think she would be. As a painter creates her masterpiece, as a god creates life. I call her Regina, which means queen, in my language. I do not want her to fulfill me but to share with her my inner world. And if she does not find me it is just because this is not my time.”

Feeling strange inside and noticing how cold her hands turned suddenly, Magdalene asked him without even thinking it, with direct words:

“Are you Leonardo?”

“They both took a long glance into each other’s eyes. The silence surrounded them for seconds, which seemed to be like ages.

“Have you found the letters?” asked Antonio, more in an affirmation than meaning to make questions.

“You don’t have to answer,” he said while taking her hands between his hands. “I knew you would read them some day”.

“Do you love this woman?” asked Magdalene, almost in a sigh.

“That is the only question I shall not answer”, said Antonio, with trembling and soft voice.

And Magdalene replied: “You don’t have to. A man that knows so much about a woman has to love her in the most perfect way.”

Suddenly, the lights began to turn down slowly, surely meaning the end of that strange night. Antonio and Magdalene stared at each other with the deep sadness that surrounds an eternal farewell, without saying one more word.

The moon was still shinning full and pale against Magdalene’s car. The highway was still black and lonely. The radio was still playing the same song. She was still Magdalene. But she was also different.

Magdalene untied her hair and looked back. And she whispered: “I’ll trust my own promises.”

miércoles, 1 de junio de 2011

Las manos de mi abuelo

“Por las barbas de Mercurio, abuelito...¡Pareces un príncipe!”

No es el inicio de una frase de Robin (el de Batman), ni el parlamento de un capítulo de Heidy. De acuerdo a los registros familiares, son la reacción espontánea de una chiquitina de cuatro años, ante la visión de su abuelito perfumado, peinadito y listo para salir a un importante evento social.

El “Viejo” también conocido, entre sus discípulos como el “Maestro”, ha visto el mundo a través de sus lentes de carey, desde detrás de un torno o una fresadora, en su taller de calle Central David, durante gran parte de su vida. Ha visto crecer a David, a sus hijos, a sus cinco nietas y dos bisnietos. Ninguna de las nietas ha aprendido a soldar. Sus manos reflejan más de 50 años de sacrificio incansable y trabajo. Como ha trabajado entre cigüeñales, pistones, camisas y árboles de leva, toda su vida, palabras éstas, cuyo significado, solamente entiendo por ser la nieta de un tornero, esas manos llenas de cicatrices, grasa y asperezas, siempre han sido para mí un signo de amor, el poema de una vida dedicada a la educación vocacional, a la familia y a la comunidad que se beneficia de todos aquellos que son excelentes en lo que hacen.

Desde su taller ha orquestado la salvación de muchas máquinas que de no ser por su experiencia habrían pasado al olvido. Ha rescatado automóviles y equipo pesado los cuales, sin su trabajo o el de muchos de los que ha enseñado ese mismo oficio habrían detenido una obra. También ha sido cómplice de inventos y peticiones especiales que van desde candelabros, trapiches modificados, hasta proyectos antigravitatorios.

Salesiano en su formación, mi abuelito siempre ha sido un hombre de pocas palabras, buenas acciones y de sonrisas escasas, pero capaces de iluminar un día que se perfila difícil. De camino al trabajo a veces me detengo un ratito en el taller a saludarlo para que me bendiga y me anime con una de ellas. La magia de su presencia siempre me llena de paz.

Muchos temas pudieron haber sido la apertura de esta emocionante aventura del consumismo. Como todo en la vida, nunca sabes lo que va a pasar. Sé que habrá momentos de sequía en mi pluma, sé que habrá gente que pase de largo ante mis palabras. Pero sé también que hombres como Don Deme, pasan por este mundo dejando testimonio de amor y de trabajo, y un legado así no puede ser ignorado por las personas que tenemos la dicha de tenerlos en nuestra vidas.

Doy gracias a Dios por mis abuelos y la bendición de su refugio. Pienso que nuestra sociedad debe mantener a nuestros mayores en el sitial de respeto que merecen, como las grandes culturas del mundo que han homenajeado a sus viejos y los escuchan e incorporan a la vida de comunidad.

Cualquiera que tenga la dicha de poder contar con ellos y darles el sitial que les da su experiencia y sacrificio durante nuestro paso por la vida puede considerarse muy afortunado.

Abuelito: Eres mi inspiración. A ti te dedico mi primera Esquina del Triskel

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