After almost 15 years of having left my native Dominican Republic, I have decided to share my thoughts and my "drafts of inspiration" again.
Sometimes my texts will be in Spanish and sometimes in Dutch; but mostly they will be published in English: a reflection of the reality I live everyday, where choosing only one language to express myself is simply impossible (Spring, 2009).
The band is playing nearby the seashore, along the edges of the beach boulevard. The music seems to dissolve in the wavy gusts of the ocean breeze, as if it was a vague reminder that once upon a war, there were indeed moments of youthful joy.
A small group of veterans and a handful of elderly widows are their only public. With their neatly pressed uniforms and their polished medals, the men salute each other with reverence; and then, politely, they greet the widows, delicately kissing their hands.
The widows nod graciously at the gentlemen’s gesture; and then continue waving their colourful hand-held fans. In their time, this was a sign that meant that they were available, at least for one frugal dance. The musicians notice the elegant courting and the timid flirting and decide to speed up the piece and improvise. Hand in hand, cheek-to-cheek, the veterans and the widows flow with the music, smiling to the roar of vintage airplanes, which travel with the jazzy notes across the cloudless blue sky.
The soft melon and pistachio green walls reflected the shadows of the lazy ceiling fan. I fixed my gaze on the flapping wings, wishing after every slow turn that the events of that hot summer afternoon had not been real.
My books, my poems, my diaries, my photo albums, my pen-pal postcard collection, my drawings, my teen magazines, my birthday cards, my newspaper clippings, my old Billy Idol and Rod Stewart posters, my autograph collection, my comics, my dictionaries, my fashion catalogues, my “if-I-win-the-lotto” wish list, my high school transcripts, my address book, my hardly-ever-touched bible, my linen stationary paper, my funky pen collection, my freshly purchased college books seemed to have gained a life of their own before shamelessly spreading in complete disarray on my bedroom floor as if wanting to remind me of the hurricane of my obsessive desperation when I tried to retrieve that precious letter a couple of hours before.
It was in between my private collection of poems that I hid it. I knew my mother had the nasty habit of sniffing around my things, so I had to prevent her from finding it. But my mum, an overprotective fire survivor, has an incredible knack of being able to unveil a secret as easily as she can detect an iron that has been left on even as far as the next-door neighbour’s home. Nothing, virtually nothing, escapes my nosy mother, and my letter was no exception.
“Either you tell you father what you have done or I’ll give it to him. This letter confirms that the sexual innuendos in your poems are not just a product of your imagination. "I am blissful with happiness for having lost my virginity to you.” Mom quoted me with a reproachful, condemning tone, omitting the subsequent “I love you”. I locked myself in my bedroom repressing the urge to slam the door. I had three hours before dad would return from work.
On a bookshelf, a picture-frame of us sitting in our living room reminded me of better times. With his left arm warmly wrapped around me, his neatly trimmed moustache displayed a discrete cinnamon pearly smile. I was laughing, revealing that it wasn’t long ago that I had grown new teeth. I stared at the black and white photograph trying to imagine how my dad, a man of few words and a placid, quiet character would react. I was his only daughter. I was seventeen.
I lay on my bed, held a pillow against my chest and for nearly three long hours I fixed my gaze on the ever-vicious circling of the ceiling fan, which seemed too weak to disperse the humid heaviness that filtered through the half open blinds. I thought I heard distant thunder claps. It was to rain heavily that night and the lurking heat of the paved streets outside would burst into steam. I glanced through the window, recalling what it was like to shower naked and play in the rain. Those happy Caribbean childhood summers were gone and no matter how hard I wished for it, the feeble fan could not turn back time or return my innocence. I had to tell dad.
I heard the recognisable smooth vintage sound of his Peugeot 404 approaching as I counted the ticking seconds at the pace of the fan's flapping wings. It would take just a few minutes before dad knocked on my door and claimed a kiss, like he did every day when he came back from work. Thick rain drops started to fall far away and the smell of moist tropical soil gradually invaded my bedroom.
It was early morning Friday, when fire sirens assaulted my smooth running pace. A fire down Hope Street was bursting savagely and even from a few hundred meters I could see the flames flare up like a ferocious volcano at the break of dawn.
I ran faster to have a closer look: a fence of tightly aligned policemen was surrounding firm, confident fire fighters who were trying to convince a teenage girl to jump. “She lives on the ground floor, but she had to run up 9 stories to be able to escape the climbing fire”. I heard someone say.
I could feel her tension and her vertigo. I too, would be bloody afraid. I closed my eyes and prayed incessantly until I heard the crowd awe and clap. I caught a glimpse of the girl just before she touched the safety trampoline: she looked like a human-sized porcelain doll landing blissfully on a cloud of human compassion.
This is the saddest case I’ve witnessed since being glued to the walls of this nursery room. You should see her: a pale cheek boned beauty, resembling Knox, the goddess of the night, trapped in the numbness of self-love starvation.
Poor woman. Her despair pains my soul, but I’m so weak myself that I nearly can’t say anything. I see her curling up at the break of dawn, and fall into deep sleep while her onyx eyes remain wide open. She seems to be in trance with this wall to which I’m doomed to stay glued on. I too, can’t stop looking at her.
In all these years, I’ve seen too much misery and abandonment to be able to make a concise account. I honestly don’t know how I’ve been able to survive the grievances lingering in this room, but this time I’m certain that if I don’t save her, I’ll die with her. That is how much my tired heart wants to live.
I still remember how the playful sunlight would filter through my semi-transparent reddish petals as they swang fragilely with the imaginary wind. But those ghostly sorrows have gradually degraded my joyful wallpaper tints into horrid yellows and devastated poppy meadows. No wonder she believes that I’m monstrous.
I see her surrender to her husband’s patronising sweetness. I want to tell her that he’s evil, and in my effort, my patterns choke and make ugly faces. I think she noticed me. I can see her look away to the musty ceiling and tremble with childish apprehension, but I cannot reach her. She’s still too feeble to trust me. I have to wait.
Today was one of those days where the masquerade of her husband made me nauseous again. Just like my case, he wants her to disintegrate bit by bit, by making her believe that nobody, including herself, can save her. What a despicable man.
When he left the room, I saw her helplessly scribble on her secret notebook "he truly loves me". She was crying again.
I tried to scream by cracking loudly and harshly tearing my pieces off the wall so she would notice me. And dear heaven, this time she did.
She observed me with her studious, bone-shaped expression. Her dark hollow gaze carefully followed every convulsing pattern of mine. She stared at me perplexingly until I sank into her drowning eyes. I had to tell her my story. I had to save her.
Eyes tightly shut, I recalled when I was a firm wallpaper sheltering bright Amapolas, which spread under the sun like graceful frescoes over emerald valleys. I fiercely tried to regress to my robust forms and glowing tones while telling her that she was mesmerising, that she deserved better, that I loved her.
My tearful passionate efforts softened and moistened my dying paper. With fervent determination, I crawled and held onto the porous wall until my fading poppies slowly burst out giving birth to blossoming, full-bodied Amapola trees.
With diamond-like tears revealing her bewitching onyx eyes, she timidly smiled and delicately caressed my dancing colours, as I held her hands and invited her in.
I live alone and I love doing the dishes. That's what I’m doing right now. I wonder what my mum would say if she just saw me. Me, the rebellious teenager who used to avoid the sexist chores in our ever-busy Dominican kitchen, now finds this daily task soothing and fascinating.
I feel the softness of the foam and the sponge caress the most inanimate and necessary objects. I’m washing round plates, which are my favourite, because I love to draw hearts and circles, and that is exactly what I’m doing: I’m drawing circles and hearts and circles and hearts and thinking of David, the man I love to cook for.
I rinse the last plates as the hot tap water runs through my hands. I switch to a fresher temperature. Now I'm dreaming of tropical Dominican rain and summer with David as my bachelor kitchen begins to look spotless.
I arrived at his place 15 minutes earlier than agreed. The table was neatly set but he was still busy in the kitchen. Jokingly he reproached me for being early (“I didn’t expect that from a Latina") and politely offered me a glass of wine.
There is nothing I like more in a man than a strong sense of simple perfection and the natural ability to please with the most surprising little details. I carefully observed his confidence in cooking, his fine taste in arranging the table and the cozy and balanced display of candles. I felt his solid, yet smooth presence in every movement, in every word spoken, in every brief look exchanged. And yes, he was strong, simple, a charmer, a pleaser, and a gentleman; and even though he claimed that his cooking skills were average, I could not see a single flake of flaw in him. I felt fragile, pampered, desired, special and safe. In those fifteen minutes in the kitchen, the irrevocable epiphany of love madly possessed me. I had indeed, without a single doubt, fallen for him. I was in heaven.
At seven fifteen we sat at the dining table. As the charming host he was, he agreeably explored every topic that seemed to be mutually fascinating. With Piazzolla as backdrop music, we ate slowly while he talked about his latest diving assignment and asked about my recent trip to Argentina. He was careful with his choice of words, and elaborated every sentence as if he was preparing himself to say something important. The easiness he had shown in preparing the last details of the food we were about to finish gradually disappeared.
He felt his voice break as he struggled with trying to disguise that in spite of the intimacy he had staged, he was about to announce he needed distance. He felt a lump in his throat and took another sip but the wine felt too bland. Nervously, he poured another glass and drank it in another long, single sip. “I love you” he thought he heard himself say. That voice that seemed to be his had spoken and damn! he couldn’t prevent it. The three fugitive words had escaped before he could handcuff them like he had done in the past three months he had been dating her. “Yes, I love you, and every day I love you more and more and more”. The words kept pouring as he hastily emptied the last bottle. He felt ashamed at his loss of control and tried to correct it by firmly holding his glass and steadily gazing at her. “But I think I'd better find a woman from here, a Dutch woman”. Still staring at her, he lifted his glass and took another long gulp. As if wanting to hide the imminent liquidity of his sad and embarrassed blue eyes, and avoid her puzzled, piercing expression, he lowered his gaze and fell silent as he drew circles around the rim of his empty drink.
The window at a hotel somewhere... dawn or sunset, every beginning has an end, and viceversa.
Beautiful spring blossoms looking out to...
A second later after my previous pic, surprisingly, the flowers gave birth to an ant...
And this could be us in just a few seconds from now...
You can buy these and put them on your son's gravestone... his name was Daniel, he was only nine years old.
But I believe there will always be spring to watch over us.
and make us spark, even after we are long gone.
Life and death, ying-yang... halves of a same equation.
"Lee, our braveheart". I never met him. He was only nineteen.
and Michelle was his girlfriend... (a close-up the heart of the previous picture).
A lot has been buried, except love.
The spark on the gravestone is the reflection of the sun - I love how it connects to pointing chime, and to the coloured balls and the fairy and the leaves above. Everything, living or dead, is interconnected.
Another bright spark resulting from the reflecting sun- it seems to reflect on the light of the flowers hanging above while giving light to the pink flowers below. At the back, there are angels and faith everywhere.
What's love got to do with us? | The desire to be desired, the hunger? | The impatient egoes that get in the way? | Our fabricated insecurities? | Being afraid to speak freshly, lovingly, kindly? | The common failures in our individual stories? | The fear to be in pain again? | The annoying "ifs" that never happened? | The thirst for connection and youthful passion? | The tongue-biting silence that keeps us lying? | The invented excuses to delay togetherness? | The hidden dreams? | The rational focus on sex, the blissful pleasure? | Losing our deceiving freedom, our stubborn claims of not being ready? | What's love got to do with it all, but haunt us? | If we don't surrrender to it, that is.