Before mountain, the mountain, and when I came down, yesterday, the mountain. Like passive commas, sky, and sea: long blue, some green, then blue again, pink, purple; always alone, and still.
Sometimes I thought they had their backs to us, the sky and the sea.
A note: I will try to get this all down, before I forget it, if I can forget it.
Your reaction: a series of global forecasts peppered with proclamations that ended in a non-heroic and conclusive “It’s the hellhole of South America”. Before adding, in an all-together different tone, “I’m sure your father will be thrilled,” meaning that because you hated the idea, ironically, he would love it. Plus, he got stuck with his mom for all those years, and then he got stuck with me all those years; he would have loved to take off and disappear to the only snow-capped mountain in the Caribbean. I feel like I’ve almost been trained to say that. He would have liked to disappear anywhere. I can’t say I blame him. It reminded me of the way you reacted when I told you I’d be studying anthropology. You might have liked to study that, or anything for that matter.
A fat man makes her gobble down Chinese food. All she can say is “It’s terrible, just terrible, this Chinese food”. She has an inferno in her head, in this ‘home’ where heaven doesn’t look very promising. The drawing of that bearded woman with the glowing heart next to her bed can’t get inside her head.
Those visits to the home, bleaker than Beckett. So you leave, again.
(It’s me that you call when you’re drunk / It’s me that you call / You’re gonna have to live with someone you don’t want to / Meanwhile, you’d love to live with me)
Remember my Dad saying that my trip here sounded like Kumbaya and smelled like jojoba? Well, before going to bed once, after a numbing quantity of beer, he said to me while I was on the computer comparing plane ticket prices, “I think you’re doing the right thing”. Now I’m sure that he’s the one who named me.
Up there I spent time with Felip and Marie, a French couple who hated each other. When Felip got away from Marie he started complaining about her, how she nagged him and didn’t take his work seriously; then when she got me alone, she would say she didn’t know what they were doing there, as if the rest of us did.
The trip was cleared by the division of camos that slept in the surrounding trees, on hammocks like poisonous post-industrial nests for barbaric birds of prey. The director of the school at the base of the mountain, a middle-aged Kogui who had lived for fifteen years in Bogotá (having fallen in love with a bogotana) okayed it too. “Then she left me and went to Spain. That’s when I decided to come back to the Center of the World,” he told me. I asked him if he had missed it and he said, “If there was a boat leaving this cliff tomorrow, I’d hop on it if only to be a rowing slave”.
On the way back down, the very same school director asked me how I could leave paradise. I didn’t know this was paradise.
When I woke up, I was being carried through the rain on a stretcher made of sticks. The hazy net of clouds hid thousands of meters of nothing: air, silence, space. What else is falling but too much perspective?
The five resident tribes believe that what happens on the mountain reflects the rest of the world; hence The Center of the World. I thought you’d find that surprising, coming from your own center of the world.
A few Koguis sat in a circle, working their sticks into wooden bowls like they were churning butter. Behind them slouched the profiles of soldiers, whose pointy rifles stuck out like bare branches on a hedge.
Felip, bug-eyed, sat next to the camouflaged card-players. Laid out on the table were three piles of crumpled dollar bills. They were playing blackjack. You know I’m no good at blackjack.
(Like God on Earth has no friends / And as he don’t have any friends on Earth / He walks on air)
We mumbled through the song with them three or four times, despite the fact that neither of us really knew the words, until the only one left singing was the handcuffed card-dealer. He sang the chorus a few more times. The company stood around him waiting for him to finish. Instead he begged for a drink. One of them handed him a bottle. He drained it, breathing heavily through his nose, then sat for a while with the empty brown whiskey bottle in his hand, staring at what would be the night sky if it weren’t so dark and cloudy.
“Would you walk to your own death?” I asked Felip this morning.
He took the shot.
We flinched in unison as if it were one blink. I looked for something else to talk about, but gave up and joined the silence.
It was the last thing we heard before hanging up our hammocks and going to sleep. They told us it was lights out at eight. Sure enough.
The last thing Grandma told me before she permanently came out of the wheelchair was that she had seven kids to support. That’s why she went out and bought a bicycle to ride to work. If only she had time to study. “I should go mountain climbing,” she added. “At least the fat man can’t get up there”.
If God walks on air, he must float between the sky and the sea.
Before he left, Felip shook my hand and, with his wife right in front of us, asked me if I had ever fallen in love. Before I could get the words out he said, ”You don’t have to have”.