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On TV there’s a horse. It’s speaking our language. On the radio, there’s a man speaking the language of horses. What is real must be happening somewhere else. The sun is still in a cloudless sky. A few hours ago I scattered breadcrumbs for the birds on the balcony, so they would come in the morning. They bring me such joy; they come closer, timidly at first, pecking at the ground, giving me sidelong glances before flying off to another balcony. There couldn’t be a sadder parabola. Makes me think of something that has nothing to do with joy.
Dust spreads through the dining room with the stealth of a sickness or a blessing, depending on who you ask. Yes, I know physics can explain this phenomenon—why suspect the supernatural is at work? Other than a slow pan over the last few years, the day doesn’t give us any other option. There is the debris a tide washed up in a violent convulsion. One thing after the other, the beginnings and the endings confused. Confusing our attempts at reconciliation with our failures to be reconciled. All of a sudden, a shift in the wind’s direction and below, at street-level, a driver responds as the light changes from red to green. And even though I am wrong all the time—I am error’s own disciple—I am interpreting this as a sign. As if the universe revolved around me.
The lyrics of a song I must have misheard are stuck in my head. It’s likely I’m only remembering parts that were never there to begin with. We tend to think a song is good if it seems to be about us. Everyone must lead very similar lives. If that’s true, what to make of that girl on the sidewalk who doesn’t know whether to eat the ice cream melting down her wrist or pet the dog jumping alongside her, wagging its tail.
Before making my mind up sometime in September, I believed 2004 was going to be a good year. Now the house is a bag full of dirty clothes in the middle of the living room, two or three novels abandoned before I could finish them, ferry tickets, a message on the answering machine, that voice asking me about plans for last Friday or the one before that. This is how it is. A whole period of time can be reduced to a simple inventory.
I meant to explain something else, but the will is misleading like those mirrors at the gym. And yet, maybe it’s ok to stay up here on the balcony, without any birds, to see what, within a few hours, will overcome me. It’s ok to re-visit where I went wrong, to see it with my own eyes. The people we used to be are in a place where trial and error seem to repeat themselves again and again, while a song in the background tells us exactly what we want to hear.
But this is the only place that matters. The leaves yield to the north wind and the smog of progress. On the refrigerator, held-up by a magnet, is the photograph you took the night one of our phases ended well before we thought it would.
I am writing this on a light-filled morning. I can see a plane between the buildings across the way, the ones facing Avenida Cordoba. It cuts across the sky in silence, in slow-motion, as if its engines were fueled by memory. The outer world seems to flow with naturalness and calm. If only the world inside me could, too.
There were paper clips; nickels and dimes; stubs of a few Staedtler erasers; also two off-brand erasers Made in China which look a lot like Staedtlers; tickets to different movies at different movie houses from very different periods (like the Caribe de Zapote where King Kong premiered, before the theatre disappeared an ice age ago); floppy disks (diskettes?) with labels that implicate nothing and no one (“miscellaneous,” for example), or tautologies (as in, “documents”); an ad from a magazine with the caption “Do you have a cocaine problem?”, sent from a friend who decided to take all her mischievousness to another country; a keychain with Club Sport Herediano’s logo (because love for this team is a family tradition passed from generation to generation along with a predisposition to stomach cancer); random match boxes: one from Barcelona’s South American hotel, another from an ultra-modern bar in San Francisco and a third one, a classic, with a hole where you’d expect to see the crater of Arenal’s volcano; poems by emerging poets which were only published online; my first ID card; my last driver’s license; an expired Durex (yes, that one); a dose of Voltaren (also expired) and a handful of other anti-inflammatories; back issues of our zine Los Amigos de lo Ajeno; ¡¡¡a floppy disk!!! (that fossil of information technology); coasters embossed with the brand names of beers, domestic and imported; a pencil, a Mongol #2 used down almost to the eraser; notebooks full of lines and phrases that obviously left an impression, given the state of mind I was in, when I was writing them; other notebooks with lists of words and colloquialisms to look up in the dictionary alongside my New Year’s resolutions; a box of staples; a Polaroid taken the night that began at Las Ventanas and ended, twenty four months later, at Regina 51; a photocopy of an essay, one part in particular where the term “oxymoron” is circled; an old cassette tape I must have lugged everywhere, with a selection of songs which were well chosen, to say the least: side A, a soundtrack for days of sun and philanthropy; side B (emo without apology) like a steamroller flattening the freeway that leads to suicide; maps of cities where everything works as it should; address books from years as hard to believe as 1983; other address books with names and numbers that have been vengefully redacted with White Out; a clipping of the obituary belonging to someone I barely knew, who died in a car accident more than twelve years ago; three lighters with La Tortuguita’s logo circa 1996; letters from people I don’t know anymore; letters from people I never got the chance to know; letters from people I’d love to keep getting letters from; that photo of the group where the friendship between us seems almost certain; that other photo, taken in the same place, in front of the same equestrian monument, evidence that we keep getting older and older; a single die; the indelible candy wrapper: everything comes back every time I see it, the light, the sounds, the smell of the place where it was first unwrapped; a piece of paper with the phrase “I have photos that used to be ours” scribbled in red marker; a ring, a pair of earrings, a bracelet that isn’t a ring, a pair of earrings, or a bracelet; a single page completely blank except for the broken salutation: Dear_______.
Luis Chaves is a poet, novelist, and translator. His work has been published in Costa Rica, Mexico, Argentina, Spain, Germany, Italy and Slovenia. He was awarded the National Poetry Prize by the Ministry of Culture in Costa Rica in 2012. The Akademie Schloss Stuttgart in Germany awarded him the “Jean Jacques Rousseau” grant in 2011. He was a 2015 fellow for the Artists in Berlin Program and is currently based in Nantes, France.
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