Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Rostro de Vos

In re-reading my last post I wasn't sure what to do here next, so I thought about it for a few weeks. I had some photos of my Christmas and recent LA visit but that didn't seem to fit. Then I came across this poem who's themes seemed appropriate. I had been digging through my old letters and things from my time in South America and I came across this poem that I've always loved by Mario Benedetti. I've tried to translate it as best I could. I asked a few people what they thought of the translation and, not liking their suggestions, did what I wanted anyway. I had a particular problem with the fifth paragraph because it is an expression and just doesn't translate well.

I think this poem represents the best of what I love in his writing. It is so moving and uses such simple language and short lines to convey such powerful emotions.

Here is a link to the poem in Spanish.

Rostro de Vos by Mario Benedetti

I have a loneliness
so crowded
so full of nostalgia
and images of you
of long ago good-byes
and kisses welcomed
of the beginnings of change
and the last car of the train leaving

I have a loneliness so crowded
that I can organize it
like a parade
by color
and promise
by period
by touch
and by flavor

Without a tremor too many,
I embrace your absence
and it helps me
with my image of you

I am full of shadows
of nights and desires
of laughter and some
vague curse

my guests assemble
conspire like dreams
with their newfound spite
lacking innocence
I bar the door
because I want to be alone
with my image of you

But your image
gazes elsewhere
with it's loving eyes
that no longer love

Like food
looking for its hunger
they look and they look
till morning turns to night
and my day is extinguished

The walls depart
the night remains
the nostalgia departs
and nothing remains

Already your image
has closed it's eyes
and it's a loneliness
so desolate.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Maria Fernanda Genovart

If, in your short life, you are fortunate or maybe lucky, you possibly could meet someone that you so profoundly connect with that you can’t help but be fundamentally changed.

I was lucky and fortunate to have met someone like that. Her name was Fernanda and we met when I was living in Mendoza, Argentina a dozen years ago.

It was the night of October 2nd 1993. I had met another expatriate in town, Donald, and he invited me to dinner and dancing with him and some friends. My take on it was that no one is supposed to be single in these Latin Am. countries and much effort is put into making sure that that situation is quickly remedied. Excited at the prospect of a fix up, I happily agreed.

We met for dinner at a little place in town near calle Emilo Civit and Belgrano. There ended up being 6 of us total; myself, Donald, Silvia (Donald’s girlfriend), Lucila (the fix up), Fernanda and Georgio (Donald’s roommate). I don’t recall dinner but I do remember that we all piled into Georgio’s TINY Fiat 1600 afterwards with me getting the enviable backseat between Fernanda and Lucila. They were taking turns asking me questions about my family, what I liked about Argentina… the attention of 2 beautiful women in the tiny backseat of a Fiat might technically not be heaven but it is as close as I have ever been. It was probably past midnight at this point and we headed off to the local dance club, Runner. We danced nonstop to booming techno until the place closed around 4 or 5. We ended up at a cafĂ© getting a late night / early morning snack, and were sitting in an outdoor patio. The tree above us was losing its spring flowers (October = spring in the southern hemisphere) so as the sun rose and the morning breezes warmed us, it would rain fantastic small purple flowers on us. The whole night felt like a dream.

I had read about South America’s "magical realism" and it was as if I was living it and had literally stepped into another world that night and was changed forever. There are these short moments that the day to day living stops and there is no being reasonable, no thinking about what you are doing: just no being. You transcend feeling beauty or joy and just are those things. It wasn't the dinner or the Fiat or the people specifically but all of those things. I’m not sure I can really describe what that night was for me except that it was an epiphany of how life could be that I had never experienced before.

Fernanda and I saw each other several more times before I left around Christmas. I met her grandmother and brother and heard stories about her parents and how they died when she was younger. We kept in touch by writing each other thick letters every few weeks. I would open one and try to be patient and slowly read each page. I would hear about her adventures in Russia, Cuba, the US, etc… I got to know how selfless and generous she was. How thoughtful and strong she was. What life was like for her in a small Latin American town (pueblo chico, infierno grande = small town, big hell as she put it). How she spoiled me by writing in English. As I read each one, I couldn’t believe that I had met someone that I could share so much with and that even through the language and societal barriers, that we could communicate on such a profound level.

When I went back to South Am. in 1995, I visited her while she was living above a bakery. One night she made me a fantastic dinner and we watched the summer's terrific heat lightning and could smell them baking downstairs, getting ready for the next day’s business. As we sat there, she cried, she said that the beauty was overwhelming. (If you’ve read this far or have even come to this page, chances are that you know me pretty well and know that I’m going out on a limb here but this is no ordinary post) That night I quickly jotted down these short few lines that I never intended to share with anyone:

“She lives above a bakery.
At night, while I wait in her living room,
I’m filled with warm delightful smells;
fresh bread and tortillas.
we lit a candle,
and in the darkness
searching for her deep brown eyes,
in the heated explosions of light,
I could see the long curls of her hair,
I could see the flashing reflection in the wetness of her tears
because the truth was so profound”

As email replaced our letters about 5 years ago, they became notes and random thoughts and less frequent. We threatened to visit each other but never did. Then about a year ago, Fernanda had called me. She told me that she had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and was being treated and that things looked good. We traded more emails saying how sorry each other was about the lack of response and the distance, how we have changed and what it would be like to meet each other again. Would we recognize each other? Would we be the same people or even see that same person in each other? I had hoped to visit her this year possibly with my cousin to celebrate his birthday and we had made some excited plans.

But I had not heard anything from her for a few months and was getting concerned. Wednesday morning I saw an email from her in my inbox and, relieved, quickly opened it. It was sent from Fernanda's computer by her friend and business partner, Silvina. Apparently, the cancer returned in August. By the time they operated, they found that it had metastasized and quickly spread through her body and there was nothing they could do. Fernanda was not so fortunate or lucky this time and passed away on Dec. 7th.

As I was walking to work that Wednesday morning, rain falling on my face, the colorful fall leaves on the ground, I was thinking that I’ll never be able to tell her again about how much beauty there is in the world. About how much I’ll miss her laugh and her sweet smile. About how kind and beautiful she is. I am so glad that I met her and am a better person because of it. I cannot describe how much we have all lost with her passing. She made my world, our world, a better one and it is a colder and darker place without her. I will miss her so very much.