Friendship

A story I wrote years ago, with minor amendments. Progress is slow.

He stood in silence. Jake didn’t mind, really. And, if he did, it was not as though he could show it. Paul listened. Breathing, mechanical hissing, footsteps and whispers – the usual repertoire of lifeless sounds. He looked around. The room was orderly and clean, the sheets on the bed unruffled and pale. He tried to take a deep breath and almost choked. He needed some air, the night, a less painful quiet. He needed a light.

A good friendship is many things. First and foremost, though, it is the mutual desire to share. We share our time. We share stories, memories and ideas. When we meet someone cute and funny; when parents give us shit about decisions; when there is something we want desperately, our friends know. Relationships are built upon words, nourished by the music of laughter and strengthened by strife. But what happens when the words fade? When the laughter subsides? Paul pulled out a cigarette.

The hazes swirled away in the night chill. Funny, he thought, how even smoking reminded him of the accident. Jake was never a fan of sleep. He hated his bed, called it a prison. He always greeted the morning with a happy vengeance. Even after his wife’s passing, he sought to make others smile. He lived a normal life in many ways, but his heart was abnormally large, his eyes unnaturally bright and his story helplessly addicting.

Paul still remembers the day he met Jake. It was the middle of fourth grade, near Christmas time. Paul had just moved into the neighborhood and didn’t know a soul. He ate lunch alone. Walked home the same. Told his parents he was making tons of new friends. Then, one day, someone sat next to him in the corner of the cafeteria and asked Paul if he wanted one of his Lunchables pizzas. Paul offered applesauce in return. Everything changed. Paul came to love school; waking up with dread was a thing of the past. He took one last drag on his cigarette before crushing the butt under his foot. Waking up, for Jake, was a thing of the past.

He stepped into Jake’s room as he had at least once a week for the past eight years. Jake lay still, oblivious to his friend’s devotion, staring blankly into the universe that twisted his fate into a hopeless knot. Paul sat and wept. He remembered the high school dances, the late-night study sessions in college, their marriages. He didn’t know what to say. Indeed, ran out of words years ago. But, he knew what he wanted. He wiped his snot, glanced at the screens, and dropped lids to their resting place.

 

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show don’t tell [1] – fear

This shall be another kind of series, of exercise. I shall take no less, no more, than 30 minutes to show and not tell. I will likely disappoint. I invite your critiques. And I invite you to give it a try. Try not to worry so much about how the tale turns out. We do that enough in life. Take the half of an hour. And if you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to read what comes about. Cheers, then. Here we go.

Christopher began the long walk over to his aunt’s house. The darkness of the day had arrived recently, and the young little man felt the shadows nipping at his heels. His block was a few blocks away, and so he had to distract his thoughts as he passed the other houses. The sidewalks that rose and fell, had ridges and slopes in between. The lawns that had chain-linked fences, more weeds than grass, and sat silently under windows often decorated with boards and adjacent to the signatures of rival gangs. The globes of illumination that fell from the posts in between homes was spotted, inconsistent, unworthy of the notion of continuity. So some parts of his familiar surroundings seemed more ominous, depending upon where the light happened to be falling. Christopher usually got along well with his aunt, indeed, the whole of his mom’s side of the family. Sue was his mom’s oldest sister. Both ladies were born in the city, raised there, educated on poverty and disturbance. The stereotypes are a pity, thought Sue as she sat in her kitchen, sipping on some whiskey. The trampoline is broken, and the couch needs fixing, Sue thought as she made herself a sandwich and took her position in front of the television. The people in my life are worthless, and I still have to put up with them because it’s better than feeling lonely, Sue felt as she opened the door to greet David, the guy she was seeing, one of the many who liked himself a good once in a while a healthy beating. The crickets had started chirping, and Chris was eager to get to his destination. He wished his mom wouldn’t send him over so late. But, she also had little say in the lining of the school districts, and it was better that he wake up at his address, near where the bus comes in the morning. The night was swaying, as if there was an energy imbalance, as if the streets were conspiring with the architectures of the firmament. The diagnostics were alarming, the redness blaring, and Christopher’s imagination was reeling. The car on the corner was bouncing, and there was a couple walking with a couple guns in their back pockets, marking territory, making the rounds, living with a purpose, clarified meaning. And he wondered about his fate, his path – was he the one doing the step taking? The school was largely filled with those with other stories, kids with patterns of speaking and fabrics of experience with different stitching, knitting of a different order, and though one culture may be superior to another, it seemed unfair to compare when one has been playing unfairly and the other subject to its immorality. The tension in the house was immediate, disconcerting, as soon as Christopher entered the lair. He could tell that Sue had been drinking, and that perhaps recently there had been a disagreement of sorts. The kitchen was accented by a pile of dishes, a floor with visitors crawling in different directions, lights without bulbs, a half-open fridge and overflowing recycling bin, and specks of blood in various locations. On two of the walls, a cup on the counter, droplet cities navigated between and among by tile critters.

“Christopher, is that you? Let me hear your voice, sweetpie.”
“Good evening, Aunt Sue. Are you in the living room?”
“On the lazyboy. Please, come in. I’d get up to greet you, but I’m just so comfortable here.”
“Sure thing, Aunt Sue.”

Christopher turned the wall that opened up into the living room, and dropped his backpack. He wanted to scream, but something inside his mouth was not working. It was loud in his head. Though he couldn’t hear anything reaching his ears from outside of them. The aunt whose spirit he usually equated with her cherry pies was standing in the middle of the living room, most of her face bloody and an opening on the right side of her upper head, the hairs were jagged and mixed with what seemed to be dried blood and glass, and she held a knife in her hand, a blade that was still wet, and seemed to have dripped away from a puddle, a silent mass, a curve that resembled that which a body takes when resting on the ground, the flesh that was once called David, in a heap marinated in less frequently oozing, cooling blood. And the noise turned into a din, a steady drilling, a piercing note that was emitted by all objects, living and plastic, and Chris turned at once to leave, run back home, to safety. His feet started to move, and he felt the earth tremble behind him, as a predator took its form, dug in its feet, began to move stealthily. She took steady steps, strides, to offer Christopher a sense of confidence and reassurance. Cooing and motioning looming, Christopher found the doorknob uncooperative, frozen in the winter’s stubbornness. His aunt’s shadow was first seen making its way along the passage, moving and covering multiple walls, the size of the fateful encounter was growing with seconds inflated into momentous eternities, and the beating of his heart beat to the drowned chorus of uncertainty as what seemed to be the point seemed like a spear in the play of the light, and then his aunt’s body summoned and consumed the wraiths, which proceeded to reunite in full force in a maddened countenance. A cry, a wail, a wish for warmth and home, mommy’s arms and cookies at night, his aunt put on a smile, approached with a hug, loosed soothing syllables as she tightened her grip on the knife, and gave her little nephew a kiss that lasted a night.

who’s there?

Marco walked the streets of the night, the music blaring from a distant window, people with drinks and lit sticks in hand, some clumsy, some less drunk, some in arms and some lonely, going and coming to and fro, the singing of the moon’s adventures could be felt humming through the air, like the beating of bee wings, or the soft pulsating chambers of an airy breeze. he was one of those who lacked pleasant company, but no matter, for the time was his, the events on the itinerary undecided by he, the sole decider, and of others at any rate he had little need. the sights around were aglow, the yellows of standing lamps shedding upon facades and windowpanes, the paved and cobbled streets, the old car here and the still-wet-from-the-rain motorcycle there. roofs oft slanted, angles that tipped hats to a wanderer with no debts, the dipping of man’s structures, the engineering of entreaties, bowing buildings, yes, to his majesty. the night was one like most of the others. drinks. scouting, hunting ass. working, working, slaving for a kiss, a grab, a squeeze, a look that has some unforeseen intention, a dance that resonates, hips that continue swaying, give memory a tune to swing, a sticky dance floor with light but heavy feet, ordinary streets and where, oh, to where am I walking?how did I get here? the questions that repeat, inquiries that lose meaning as objects all persons seek, most like children whipping air at a caricature hanging from a string in the backyard of a couple that will soon hardly tolerate the presence of one another and come home anguished to know that the bed they share with the person they loved will be a cold and foreign place and what was hoped and aspired to ended up being much like anything else, disappointment, a failure, something that could not be followed through, that is, if the couple is not already there. the questions that one finds asked as they find their feet on paths, bush, brush, jungle, jumping through vines, shadows with eyes stalking a half-naked boy looking for shelter and nourishment, a hungry jaguar that may have a motherly instinct, the concrete divisions that pit people, chain ambition, schools disintegrated and history told by those who are too afraid to look in the mirror because the soul that rapes suffers metaphysical blindness, pits, snakes, demons and whispers, the doubts that circle and rise, wings that hover high, eying carrion, the feast of dead bloody dirty flesh, shards to be shared, the eating far away, on chairs and cushions while the unknown toil, toil, toil, and grind their very essence into the plastic we throw into oceans and poison with which we raise future generations. the uncertainty of his present condition, his purpose and direction, they floated into the atmosphere and mingled with the notes of salsa and merengue, reverberated off stony and uneven walls and passages for machines that take transportation and turn it into obligation, they ran and soaked his clothes, made his toes itch, his socks feel warm suddenly, the environment a chorus of ghouls, faces that made no sense. what chance did i have? the certainty of waste, the disposal of what is assigned function, be of value, be labeled by what you are and look like, and how you speak and what you believe, have a name, a name to your fortune, a home, a clothing that marks your style, be a man of this world, a social creature, one that participates in the games and trolling that other people need to continue doing what they wake up for, because we cannot be satisfied to think and know that no designed mechanism or divine creator would ever manufacture a monster so monstrous as the human being and not feel shame, the slaughterer who sleeps in his mother’s belly, the liar who slits his sister’s wrists and then beds her daughter, the villain that will let children starve and die of thirst while they fly around and fuck dumb bitches who think their ass and tits leave them empowered as they’re used and tossed around and off boats. by bimbos who think they’re men. the night’s wonders are lost to me. the ecstasy of the stars, the embrace of distant counterparts, undeniable appendages of identity, their spirits offered light but no warmth, presence but no words. a corner approached, a meeting point, and Marco turned his head, looking this way, and he noticed a young man leaning against a wall near a door. Marco’s head began to move away, to turn to perceive something else, because i’m tired, exhausted of being so used to life, so accustomed to custom, hooked on normality, lying in bed watching TV thinking about my dreams but too afraid to tell my loved ones or friends or people who i hope are friends because i never made an effort to challenge and know myself and so now the people who surround me are just shells of people with passions as frivolous and stupid as my own, the couch, the late nights eating shit and talking shit about people who don’t matter, the streets that you roam with your squad because you’re the shit and what else would you be doing god forbid reading a book that you actually like to read oh wait because you never learned to read and so i’m here in this godforsaken village where people wait on tourists and get excited because there’s a new restaurant or hostal, where the world happens to simple minds, where meal is a processing of sustenance, a feeding, a fulfilling of what is always empty, to ensure that tomorrow’s tasks are accomplished, that the rhythm of the global enterprise that funnels riches into the hands of smiling White wolves that parade their ambitions with philanthropy and flashiness reminds everyone else that they aren’t good enough for greatness. his head goes to turn, and the door opens, and out comes the head of a young girl, one who looks across the street, both ways, checks, lets the boy in, quickly now, so no one sees, and then immediately closes the opening behind him. at this time of night. what was she worried about? hiding? who are they and what are they doing? Marco found himself thinking, pondering, realizing, standing and no longer walking. mystery is around me. i just wasn’t looking.

The Pomegranate

Sheridan approached the table slowly. He took his seat and pulled on the gloves. Not a single person condemned to the Red Trial had ever successfully completed it. The crowd loved it. Expected it. Hoped for it. He could think of nothing else as he grabbed the uneven, red ball. He stared at it, as if confused. He held it, as one would a babe newly born. He realized suddenly that the quiet continued to reign. He looked up and around. Not a single pair of eyes did not meet his own. He looked at the dais. At the king and the queen. At his son. With a deep breath, he began to dig into the tough, outer skin.

“He is innocent, I tell you,” the queen once more asserted to her husband, the protector of the realm, the keeper of justice.
“Do not be fooled. Your spirit compromises your reason.” The king did not raise his voice. His breathing did not change. His face remained expressionless.
“At the very least, reconsider the sentence. No man deserves such a fate.” She was pleading.
“Treason is intolerable. The people need to know as much.” He swept past her on his way to the courtyard. It was time.

Sheridan sat in the black silence of the dungeon. Drops of water echoed in the distance, making their way toward him as they bounced off the uneven walls. Sweat rolled down his face as his thoughts raced his heart. Days after the sentencing, disbelief and terror still held their ground. They still held his breath. Things were so different only a few days ago.

Sheridan’s life was simple. He and his son lived on a farm nestled deep in the rolling countryside that surrounded the castle. Rane, but twelve years old, was still too young to understand most things. Though, he knew with certainty that his family was different. It was smaller than most. He did not know his mother. He did not even remember having met her. His father told him and anyone else that asked that she died while giving birth and never a word more. Still, Rane would occasionally ask about her, hoping to come away with something, anything, that helped him see her in his head. On such occasions, Sheridan looked away before telling Rane that he no longer remembered.

Sheridan’s life was peaceful. He did not meddle in the affairs of others, and he expected, and generally received, the same treatment in return. Rane was his purpose. He hoped to give to his son a better life than his own. He worked from dawn until dusk so Rane wouldn’t have to. He invested in Rane’s scholastic and military education to give his son the privilege of choice. He taught his son to aspire to the strength of a knight, the virtue of a saint and the wisdom of a king. Rane would be more than a peasant. With such thoughts Sheridan rose in the morning, and with such thoughts Sheridan retired in the night.

The dungeon denied him rest. His sleep was fitful and his body haggard. As he wavered in and out of consciousness, his thoughts marched to the rhythm of the distant dripping. He loved his son, the joy of his life. Drip. Sheridan did not know why he was accused of treason. He did not understand how he was found guilty. Drip. He wanted to close his eyes and feel his son’s body wrapped up in his burly arms, struggling to wriggle away. He wanted to see his son smile as he ran home towards supper. Drip. Rane’s mother was beautiful, and she loved him dearly. Drip. His son was his purpose, and his son had been taken. Sheridan felt failure, resentment, pity, and he wept. Drip. Does blood fall softer? Does it sound at all? Drip.

A key ring chimed. A guard pulled open his cell. It was time.

He dug grooves into the shell of the fruit with the slight edge that remained of his fingernails through the lining of the glove. Dig too deep, and the red flows. Dig not deep enough, the fruit does not open – and still the red flows. He carefully traced two intersecting circles that wound their way around the pomegranate’s surface. He took the orb between his hands, cupping his palms around the fruit. Most people met with fate at this junction. One must apply pressure inward and outward at once to break the whole into pieces. Only then can one begin to excavate the deeply entrenched seeds. Sheridan observed his hands. They did not tremble. Sweat did not distort his vision nor loosen his grip. He was focused, determined to free his son, resolved to triumph. He pulled. And the chunks came apart without a single seed falling. Without a single seed dying. A sigh of relief escaped him.

The courtyard at the center of the castle was massive. Yet, people swallowed nearly all of the smooth, gray stone. Masses of farmers and merchants, hordes of banners and flags, throngs of screaming fists and impassioned gibberish saturated the space. The king and queen sat upon an elaborate dais at one end, surrounded by armed guards and bearded counselors. Attendance was obligatory, noncompliance punishable by death. Only enemies of the realm would not wish to see justice served. Sheridan was escorted to the small square of space reserved for him at the center of the madness. A rock caught him in the cheek. Spit collected in his hair and on his clothes. The words, though, were the worst. That is, until he entered the space reserved for him and lifted his eyes. Upon a table sat a pomegranate. And beyond, bound and deathly still in a heap at the king’s feet, was his son. Sheridan screamed. The deafening crowd took that, too.

The king slowly lifted his right hand, and silence fell.

“Welcome, my loyal denizens. Today, we bear witness to the Red Trial, for we have before us a traitor, a vile and abhorrent abuser of the king’s trust and the peoples’ faith. Do you understand what it is you are to do and what is at stake, villain?” The king addressed Sheridan directly, who, unable to speak, just shook his head.
“You will don the gloves that lie upon the table. You will then proceed to extract every seed from the pomegranate there placed. The slightest bit of juice that falls on a glove will render its entirety a crimson red. You must injure not a single seed. Should both of your gloves turn red before you have completed your task, I will behead your son. You will then share the same fate.”
“Please, my lord, is there no other way? Is there nothing I can do to save my son?” Sheridan found his voice in search of hope. His attempt to look at the king was thwarted by the blur in his eyes. He wanted to appeal to the queen, but his fear would not allow it.
“Someone akin can willingly take your son’s place. Have you a wife, traitor?” The king did not raise his voice.
“No, my lord.”
“Siblings? Other children? Parents?” His breathing did not change.
“No, my lord.”
“Then it is settled. You may begin.” His face remained expressionless.

Sheridan set to work on the largest of the chunks. He carefully pulled back a thin membrane that coated the seeds lying on the outermost edge. Pulling the gloves as tight as possible so as to gain maximal dexterity with his fingers, he began to wedge the seeds out of their resting places. The seeds could not be plucked like apples or oranges. Squeezing them was too risky. Instead, one must push on one side, hoping that the root gives way and falls harmlessly to the table. Intense and unified was his concentration. Too much so.

Stirring awake, his son rolled over to look out at the crowd. He saw his father, his best friend and only family member, his protector and his caretaker, his inspiration and his happiness. And he called for him, not thinking, only feeling. “Father!” With a gasp, Sheridan looked up. The crowd gasped as he looked into his son’s eyes. Rane yelled again, this time louder, more hysterically. The roar erupted anew. Sheridan looked down. Blood coated both his hands.

“No! Please, no! Please, do not do this! I’ll do anything.” Sheridan watched in agony as the king reached for his sword. Silence fell.
“Let this be a lesson to you, traitor, and to all those in attendance. Prosperity and peace are no less fragile than the seeds of that fruit. They come at a price. Sacrifice and justice are inseparable.” The executioner brought to the dais a block. Rane’s head was placed across it.
“No, please, have mercy. Have mercy” He sobbed, begged, as one does when he is about to lose the only thing he cares for in this life.
“Have you any final words for your son?” The king did not raise his voice. His breathing did not change. His face remained expressionless.
“Enough. ” The queen rose. The crowd stood unnaturally still, paralyzed as reality shattered violently around them. Rane looked up through bleary eyes at his queen, his mother. Her face bore a smile tragic in its love, triumphant in its defiance.

It was time.

– JiNiT

 

El Regalo

Algunas historias terminan el el medio – así es la

La arena contra su espalda, su cabeza contra su pecho, y el sol contra sus párpados, estaba él contento con el quinto aniversario de su matrimonio. Gabriel e Isabel se casaron en una playa. Era otra, una preciosa y escondida por una isla chiquitita en el pacífico. Ambos querían la música de las olas en el fondo. Ambos querían que fuera pequeña la boda, íntima y tranquila en vez de formal y grandiosa. Y resultó bien. La felicidad tenía harto alojamiento todos los días – sin sorpresa. Con estos dos, la felicidad era ya un visitante frecuente, un compañero bien conocido.

Viajaron para celebrar este aniversario. Decidieron que fuera el último antes de que intentaran tener hijos. Como había que despedirse de una época y saludar otra, había que hacerlo bien, hacerlo correcto. Naturalmente, había que ir a una playa. Gabriel movió su mano lentamente por su pelo, acariciando su cabeza con timidez. Sospechó que estaba dormida. Pero, tenía que hacer algo. Recordar lo que compartía con ella siempre le daba miedo de que no fuera real. Para asegurarse, se asegura de su presencia. Busca la suave fragancia de su piel, la imperfecta melodía de su voz, la morena eternidad de sus ojos. Y así tranquiliza el corazón – por el momento.

La tarde, se parecía, pedía una audiencia. Un espectáculo de luces pintaba el cielo, las nubes. El sol bajaba, fielmente acercándose al agua, la que aún no se había cansado de ese beso brillante. Respiraba Gabriel, y apreciaba. Un universo enigmático, a veces, nos regala transparencia, claridad, certidumbre. Y nada era más verdadero en el mundo de Gabriel que el amor que compartía con Isabel. El viento llegó a acompañarlos, y a la vez se fue el calor. El cuerpo de Isabel respondió sutilmente. Gabriel se sonrío. Su ternura al despertarse era una de esas cosas que sin razón ninguna le encantaba.

“¿Ya estás despierta, mi amor?” le preguntó Gabriel. No contestó.
“¿Se despertó?” le preguntó de nuevo, y la apretó con un abrazo.
“Yaaa, pohhh, Isabel. Mi amorcita, despiértate. Despiértate.”

Se despertó, mientras Isabel seguía soñando. Gabriel se había quedado dormido al lado suyo, y le estaba hablando Rodrigo.

“¿Cómo estás, hermanito?”
“Agradecido por un dulce recuerdo,” respondió Gabriel.
“¿E Isabel?”
“Estable.”
“¿Vas a dormirte en el hospital de nuevo esta noche?” preguntó Rodrigo.
“Sí.”
“¿Hasta cuándo?”
“Hasta que se despierte.”
“Gabriel, no sabes si se vaya a despertar.”
“Los médicos tampoco saben.”
“Han pasado tres años. Por tres años, has pasado cada noche en este maldito hospital. Se te están esperando tus amigos, tu familia, tu vida. ¡No puedes seguir así siempre!”
“La voy a esperar.”
“Gabriel, por favor. Te necesitamos nosotros también.”
“Ella me necesita más.”
“Ni siquiera sabe que estés aquí, en esta silla. No percibe. No piensa. No está en esa cama la Isabel que todos nosotros amamos.”
“Sí, está. Y si de verdad la amaran, también la estarían esperando.” Gabriel creía eso con todo su corazón.
“¿Esto querría ella? ¿Ella querría que tú malgastaras tu vida así?”
“¿Querría que fuera feliz,” dijo Gabriel.
“¿Y lo eres?”
“Pronto lo seré.”
“No, Gabriel, así no. No te hagas esto. Estás siempre en el presente. Quédate en una ilusión del pasado o una esperanza para el futuro, y la vida te pasará y ni te darás cuenta. La felicidad es una decisión, y la vida es demasiada corta para no tomarla.”
“Es una cosa estar feliz y otra cosa serlo. Fácilmente podría seguir con mi vida y estar perfectamente feliz. Pero, sin ella, nunca más seré feliz en esta vida. No puedo soltarla, Rodrigo. Te juro que no puedo.”

Las lágrimas corrieron, acostumbradas ya al trayecto de esas mejillas. Tres años, y no dolía ni un poquito menos. Se enterró la cara en las manos, sollozándoles, rogándoles una explicación, una justificación, “¿Por qué? ¿Por qué ella?” Rodrigo dejó su molestia, levantó a su hermano menor y lo abrazó, pensando no todo tiene sentido, hermanito; no todo tiene razón. 

Nadie lo esperaba. El quinto lo pasaron perfectamente. Estaban listos para regresar a trabajar. Emocionados para comprar una casa. Nerviosos para ser padres. Eran felices. Y ahí ocurrió. Un día, no se despertó Isabel. Los médicos revisaron todo varias veces. Y se supieron solamente dos cosas – estaba en un coma profundo, y tenía una condición cardíaca. Su cerebro la mantenía viva, pero hacía poco más que eso. Gabriel, en un instante, perdió todo. Y sabía que todo tenía que recuperar. Superaría esta prueba; lo haría para los dos.

Seguía trabajando para poder pagar su tratamiento. Y el trabajo que no podía terminar, lo traía al hospital. De hecho, traía todo, y todo entregaba. Canciones para que pudieran navegar juntos un mar de recuerdos. Películas para que pudieran reírse, asustarse y desahogarse juntos. Su comida favorita para que juntos pudieran comer rico. Fotos, videos y noticias de lo que estaba pasando en el mundo. Manos para que pudieran descansar en las suyas. Labios para que pudieran rezar por su frente. Un esposo para que lo tuviera su esposa. Así aprendió amar. Y así seguiría amando.

Nadie lo entendía. Los empleados del hospital, por ejemplo, eventualmente cuestionaron su salud mental. Aunque, más que nada, les daba pena – con una excepción.

Sami es enfermera. Su primer día como profesional coincidió con el día en el cual se ingresó en emergencia Isabel. Inevitablemente, ella y Gabriel se volvieron a conocer. A Gabriel le gustaba conocer, que fueran lugares, ideas o gente. Además, estaba presente en el hospital casi igual de a menudo como los trabajadores. En las noches, mientras se dormían los pacientes, estaban despiertos los profesionales – y estaba despierto Gabriel, leyendo, trabajando y, de vez en cuando, conversando.

Sami es joven. Recién recibió sus primeros pacientes. Recién comenzó a cuidar a otros humanos. Recién se enfrentó al sufrimiento. Tal vez por eso ella buscaba oportunidades para ofrecer alivio. Años de pérdida e injusticia aún no habían deformado el valor intrínseco que asociaba con el ser humano. La angustia todavía le llamaba la atención. Entregarse aún no le costaba. Cuando estamos presentes, cuando escuchamos en vez de oír, sentimos en vez de tocar, vivimos en vez de existir, lo que importa no se pierde entre lo que se presenta. Sami, si nada más, estaba presente. Tal vez por eso los gritos del alma de Gabriel impregnaban el aire. Tal vez por eso decidió hacer algo al respeto.

Sami tampoco tenía una historia hermosa. Sus padres se divorciaron cuando tenía nueve años. Su papá era drogadicto que pegaba a su mamá. Y su mamá era drogadicta que pegaba a ella. Casi todos sus amigos seguían tranquilamente los caminos de sus familias. Caminos que tenían fines oscuros, fines predecibles. Ella era esa persona – la que quería tener éxito solo porque el mundo no lo quería. Pero, por todo lo que intentaba, igual ganó la vida. Se embarazó durante el verano antes de empezar en la universidad. El chico, su novio en esa época, el que ella amaba tanto, la abandonó. Quería algo diferente para su hijo. Algo mejor. Sin embargo, para ser estudiante y madre a la vez, requeriría ayuda, apoyo. De su propia familia, no podía esperar nada. Así qué llamó a una amiga. Una que ni siquiera conocía tan bien. Y contestó. Con la gracia de dios, contestó.

“¿Cómo estamos hoy, Isabel? ¿Y tú, Gabriel?” preguntó Sami mientras entraba. Rodrigo ya se había ido, y había que cambiar las sábanas.
“Bien. Cansado, pero bien. ¿Y tú? ¿Y el pequeño rey?” Gabriel respondió para los dos.
“¿Basilio y yo? Más felices que nunca. Llevamos un año en el departamento ya. Y mi wachito cumple siete años en algunas semanas,” dijo Sami con una calma entrenada.

Se supone que la mayoría de la comunicación que realizamos nosotros no es verbal. Lo que decimos, en gran parte, decimos con nuestros cuerpos. El lenguaje corporal es como cualquier otro. Hay que practicar para hablarlo con fluidez. Algunos hablan mejor que otros, y algunos escuchan mejor. Gabriel tenía un oído impeccable. No siempre podía describir por qué o cómo llegaría a concluir que alguien estuviera distraído o ansioso o lo que sea; pero usualmente tendría razón. Esa noche, para Gabriel era obvio. Sami era bien profesional, bien comprometida a su vocación, bien determinada a compartir alegría. Aún así, la tristeza la cubría como el sarampión, como una quemadura horrorosa. Quizás era tan obvio para Gabriel porque se sentía algo parecido. Quizás su corazón sentía el suyo, porque allí las palabras no pasan por el cerebro.

“Sami, todo está bien, ¿cierto?”
“Sí, por supuesto, poh. ¿Por qué?” Sami le respondió mientras revisaba la ficha de Isabel.
“Si no quieres decirme, está bien; no te molesto. Pero, pensé que te preguntaría, por si acaso quisieras compartir.”

Sami paró de escribir, y lo miró. Sabía que sabía.

“Es Basilio,” dijo ella entre respiros. Volvió a la ficha – esta vez, con los ojos cerrados.
“Ah, Sami, entiendo que es difícil. Ser una madre soltera puede ser complicado, exigente, estresante y mucho más. Es como otro trabajo…”
“No, no es eso,” interrumpió Sami. Una gota mojó un rincón de la ficha.
“¿No le va bien en la escuela? Recién ha empezado; no te preocupes. Pronto a él le gustará…”
“No, Gabriel. Todos lo adoran, todos lo aman, lo necesitan, y nadie más que yo. Eso es parte del problema.” Sami estaba llorando, sin mover, sin hacer ningún ruido. Se lo había enseñado bien la vida.
“Perdón, pero no entiendo.” El corazón de Gabriel entendía perfectamente. A veces, resistimos reconocer algo hasta que estemos obligados hacerlo. Pero, ignorar la lluvia no la impide. Ver o no ver el relámpago, igual llega el trueno.
“Está perdiendo, Gabriel. Está luchando, y está ganando el cáncer.” La ficha abrazó la lluvia, la consumía.
“Sami, ¿qué estás diciendo?” Gabriel no quería creerlo. No podía.
“Está por todas partes, Gabriel. En todo su cuerpecito. No sé qué hacer. Es el único que tengo en esta vida, y ahora a él también lo voy a perder.” Movió. Movía su cabeza, lentamente, de un lado a otro. Como un viejo reloj, gastado por contar más tiempo que puede recordar.
“Sami, tienes que ser fuerte. Para él, tienes que mantener tu fortaleza, tienes que tener fe.” Gabriel dijo esto mientras él mismo estaba al punto de extirpar y exponer su propio pena, su propia debilidad. En lugar de eso, ofreció a Sami algunos pañuelos.
“En cualquier momento, Gabriel, me voy a desaparecer. No es algo que sepa; es algo que sienta. Y quiero que nadie me venga a buscar. Solo quiero que le digas a Isabel, ‘gracias por todo.'” La confianza en su voz dio a sus palabras un peso, las imbuyó con un mensaje.
“Sami, no hables así. La vida da, y la vida quita. Siempre así ha sido, y siempre así será. Para todos. Además, tu vida no es solo tuya. Tienes que pensar en todas las personas que te quieren.”
“No me voy a suicidar, idiota.” Sami no pudo evitar una sonrisa.
“Me asustaste, aweonada.” Gabriel no pudo evitar un poco de alivio.
“¿A Isabel le molestaría si me dieras un abrazo?”
“Usualmente, diría que sí. Pero, siempre hay una excepción. Ven, amiga.”

Se abrazaron. Y después de esa noche, Gabriel no la vio más.

Sami se quedó al lado de su hijo. Por nueve días, no salió del hospital. Temía la idea de no estar para despedirse de él. La muerte caprichosa e infatigable la tenía aterrada. Su pequeño rey era su guardián. La defendía, la protegía. Un caballero era, uno de puro piel y hueso. De cabeza desnuda. De ojos cada día menos brillantes. De ganas cada día más calladas. Del fuego cada día menos ardiente. Su vida partía como una verde hoja en el otoño, una caída incomprensible, inevitable. Sami no lo podía soportar. Sin embargo, cada vez que lo pensaba, miraría a su hijo, a su valiente luchadorcito. Y se daría cuenta de su suerte, la mala y la buena. Su tiempo con él se estaba acabando demasiado rápido, demasiado pronto. Pero, todo se acaba. Que igual buscamos y encontramos significado es impresionante. Es humano. Sami era agradecida. Pasó rápido, pero no lo podría haber pasado mejor.

Una noche, una hoja hermosa bendijo el suelo, aterrizando con una paz desgarrador. Llegó, y Sami se fue.

– JiNiT