Altamira, prehistoric cave painting
I am telling a story in my visual language. It is a true story that takes place in Spain and in my dreams here in America. Perhaps it is a love story, for a people, a culture, or my own blood. By the moment, I can't tell. Santander, province of the Altamira caves, my ancestral home, provides me with layered memories, flashbacks and enjambment. The story is real, still realism; but like speaking in broken English, breaks images down in myopic study to communicate. My painting now makes way for the personal marks that a more literal reality, heretofore, did not permit me.
In another dream I finally see him on the autobús. Did I want to sit with him? Of course, but would the others hear? Doesn't matter, he said; we will speak in English. Then I caught sight of four metal cylinders behind his bottom teeth. At once confused and certain, I told myself, "this guy's not real!" He saw that I noticed and began to tell me, "you see, I have this key…" I stopped him with my open hand at attention to his mouth. "I know." After the initial shock I was mostly worried that I'd not remember where to get off.
I got off too soon, as it were, to see strange silhouettes in the twilight descend past the gate to the old house. Guest shapes to what now occupied.
.…After the radio show I walk with the interview boy from the Casino into town. As we part on the curb he says, "Thank you for letting me swim in your eyes." In Spanish, in Spain, that doesn't sound corny…
Carmen has me in the Museo office to sign papers regarding the painting. At least now I know that Ricardo is faking it at the typewriter. I put the pen down, say I'll be back, split, call Jesus. I sit outside on the museo step, he sees me, throws a peseta, crosses his arms, laughs, "how hard is the artist life!" He sees me like a lost spy, a bird with a broken wing, looking strong in the battlefield, but without a canon. He says he knows it is inescapable and that I already know, but he wants to remind me that the piranhas will eat me. "In Spain, worse. They are more hungry. You will do well as a sack-lady. You will live like a queen, but it is good that you know about being a gypsy."
As I wait outside at Sauces Café some children playing a game tap me. One girl explains, they must touch something black. I'm wearing a 'Beauty and Sadness' T-shirt. Ramón at the Alerta says he should write in his column that I have been seen crying in the streets. Always at that point on that street he would say the same: "What a small thing painting is." I don't believe this. All week in each café along the paseo he shakes Sam's wrist, poking his index finger into his chest for additional emphasis as he makes one point, and another, about art. From the museo we go to the radio station where Jose Manual plays some Dylan before they talk about how great was my opening. Afterwards with my group in a tavern, hanging meats and miscellanea, over little dishes of octopus and blood sausage, Jesus and I argue loud bilingually about one chapter of the Scaduto Dylan biography. Then he tells Sam that he likes me more than my paintings!
I go with Mari to have coffee with her cousin Luz del Mar. She remembers that we played once when we were little. Three woman are in the other room sewing together in a bright windowed balcony overlooking a pueblo fiesta. A chorus of all men in the barrio. They tell me the people like this because it is local. They want me to tell them all about divorce in America.
In the hospital the sound of knitting needles and some American 60's music on the radio outside in the palm garden. The nuns are calming and clean. A priest comes in. Wooly Bully. Iluminada refuses to acknowledge him, puts on a blank expression. She objects to his manner. When I say my father is coming soon she snaps, 'shut up about that, I'm tired of hearing it. If I didn't have a son you wouldn't have a father!" I read her horoscope from the Alerta. "You believe in that?" she asks. I say, "No." "Me either." "Call the ambulance. I want to go home for the night and come back in the morning before the doctor." I say we can't do that. "There's no crime in it!" she screams. "I didn't need permission to come here!" She wants me to ride home from the hospital in the ambulance with her. She wears my lucite ring on her pinky, admires it all the way home. Inside, she's outside herself. "My room is exactly like this. Same doorway, same television, but this isn't my house." She points at her image in the mirror of the armario and says, "Enrique." Her son. My father.
Burros standing proud, rock walls, the art of all times. I walk fast, alone in the dark backstreets. My eyes are scavengers. Things are little off-center. I want to feel something. I talk to an old man on the autobús. He went into town to buy tongue, veal tongue, which he likes very much. I ask Cecelia if there were any calls. "Un señor llamó. Le dije que saliste."
In the morning he calls and tells me everything I did on the beach yesterday in front of La Concha. I moved a bottle, and my towel when the water came up. Reports how many times I went in for a dip and all about my bathing suit which matched his new watch. "You don't know?" "I was sleeping. Iluminada doesn't permit sleep, the beach is my only chance. I only see when I'm looking." He thought I'd gone a little crazy. That I put myself right there on purpose. "Honest, I swear, I don't even know who she is!" He believes me, is pleased, explains, "You can't imagine. You do other things. Not her. She says your legs aren't perfect." I'd been observed in detail. I shiver. I couldn't have made this up. Like a foreign movie. We accept the coincidence in front of La Concha like a gift of hope, an act of faith. Matters so obviously out of our control. My last day I go to the beach of La Magdalena, nervous still that I'm being watched. Have a vermouth on the terrace.
AFTER THE INCIDENT IN FRONT OF LA CONCHA
He startles me on the beach. I look up at his black clothes against the sun. "You change your place." "I always do." He says he watched me awhile talking to the German boy before he came to tell me about the cloud that was coming.
At night in a drizzle the sculptor that usually lives in Rome takes me to a mountaintop romería. My tapestry heels are sinking into the wet ground. I'm drinking beers from the bottle, my hair's getting curly. Clarita shows up with the nephews, is real surprised I'm there. I think this is my actual pueblo. Iluminada says high heels are good for climbing a hill, but not for coming down.
I hate weekends in every country. Difficult to fill myself up. Back home in my house I can usually do it. Work is there. "Why you don't say me you suffer? You say always everything perfect." I said I lied. He exhales that sound of triumph. "I heard you. On television you say you never lie." Caught. Pause. "We are having a mathematical relationship," I say. On one of those tissue paper napkins he draws again the receding arches and the 1x2x3x. We are bound in silent laughter that is two years old. I study his face. I say I hate jazz, children, and nature. He says, "More lies!" I check the morning paper for my private message in the political cartoon. 'Nunca miente.' He's rubbing it in.
Iluminada says the apartment has witches. She hangs onto everything she has as if a powder puff were life itself, screaming and crying all through the night. "Ven. Dame la mano. ¡Levántame!
Lift me up.
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