The day dawns bright, a bit crisp, but in the city in the sky high in the central range of the Colombian Andes, at this time of year, a time that in other latitudes one might refer to as autumn, it’s impossible to predict how the day will turn out, at least weather-wise. The city enjoys changes of season but does so daily and changes are not only temporal but spatial. Just move a bit and find the climate you favor. Manizales, a city that resides in the soul as well as in time and space: “Manizales del Alma” as it’s known far and wide.
On the tenth floor of an apartment in that beautiful city, an apartment with a three hundred and sixty degree panoramic view, a man sits pondering his present, reflecting on his past and wondering about his future. He seems to have everything but too often, as too often happens with those who seem to have attained the security for which so many of us spend our lives seeking, he wonders whether he’ll ever attain happiness. He is not wealthy, at least not now although he has been; not often but several times, still, he has what many would consider enough and he acknowledges that to himself as well as to others. Nonetheless, his soul feels stifled and unquiet, unfulfilled, though his life, like the title to Pablo Neruda’s biography, reflects a life all too fully lived.
There’s a woman responsible if not to blame, very different things.
He can’t decide if she’s confusingly complex or deceptively simple, only that he appears to be her’s while she, well, the relationship, if it can be called that, is decidedly asymmetrical. An image comes to mind of an intelligent and prudent predator feeding, withdrawing just enough life essence to almost satisfy her while not permanently destroying him. Ironically, the image shifts to that of a cow being milked while her hungry calves look on. The woman seems incredibly beautiful to the man and perhaps “incredible” is the perfect adjective, perhaps only he perceives her as impossibly attractive, but no, she’s had her share of shattered pretenders. Some seem to have left her shattered as well. The word “dysfunctional” comes to mind as descriptive of both of them and of their so called “relationship”, one where he gives, sometimes happily, and she takes, … always.
He wonders how she acquired and maintains her distortive veils of illusion, veils she works like an expert ecdysiast, weaving a spell from which he’s almost able to escape, almost but never quite, at least not yet. As with most slaves, hope springs eternal and plots sprout like weeds in untended summer gardens. He knows in his heart his hopes are unattainable but the most frustrating aspect of that knowledge is that it seems he’ll always be left with just enough doubt to make him stay, always for at least one more day.
An ocean of verdant mountains peeks in through his windows, curious and a bit sad, clouds playing among and above them, sifting and shifting and reflecting light and shadows, distracting him. Sun and moon alternate vigils, curious as well. Stars sing Don McLean’s starry, starry nights as Van Gogh’s ghost paints the man in palettes of blue and grey.
The man wonders if he’ll manage to keep both his ears, hoping she won’t demand one as a token. He seems to see things all too clearly but he’s been bereft of the will to care. He drifts in and out of fantasies, many dark and negative but a few just paradisial enough to keep him tightly bound, tightly wound, ticking like an all too predictable clock. A cuckoo clock perhaps.
He wonders what she thinks.
She doesn’t. Things seem fine just the way they are. Why think? Just enjoy.
Or perhaps she wonders: “just how long can this perfect balance last”.
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2018; all rights reserved. Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.
Guillermo Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia although he has primarily lived in the United States of America (of which he is a citizen). Until recently he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.