Once Upon A Time
Once Upon A Time
forgive me for I have sinned. And Lord, forgive me for I have betrayed you in war and in peace. My blood will remain in this earth and my bones will turn into dust. And so, there will be the one who will be forgotten. Now Father, you may take me into your wings or into the confines of hell, for I, and only I know, the secret which will lay with me.
When I walked through the heavy, dark mahogany door, I swore it was going to be the last time I would see him. I was determined to get the business done and forget about it. It had caused too much agony and despair. I was still young and was going to erase it from my mind and start a new life.
It seems like I have tried to forget things and start a new life for a long time now.
But wait a minute . . .
In my mind, flashes of the painting I saw while walking on the streets of Amsterdam kept haunting me. It was all I could think about for the last hour. I remember every detail, color and feeling in that painting.
I had just left the famous Yellow Submarine Café.
“You can’t go to Amsterdam and not go to the submarine,” I remember Cristina and Agustín telling me the night we spent on their Grandpa’s veranda overlooking the sea.
“It is a must,” the Grandpa said from his rocking chair listening to our conversation. So, I decided to pay a visit to the coffee shop in honor of my dear friends, whose grandfather I will always remember.
I went in, ordered a cup of coffee and a slice of pie, while people around me were smoking the most exotic herbs from around the world. Nothing shocked me nor excited me by then, but I still smiled imagining Cristina and Agustín deciding on the herb menu on their trip to the submarine. I finished my coffee and my pie, paid my bill, and the café became part of my past.
The streets of Amsterdam were alive even though it was drizzling and the cold was burning faces and hands. It was the beginning of April, not summer yet, and it felt good to be all bundled up in some warm clothes—but not for long.
I was in Amsterdam because Roland had decided that I would be safe there—as if he gave a damn about my safety. I had time to spare before meeting him at the pub, so I lost myself to the streets for a few hours. And it was there, when I was walking on the Spiegelstraat, that a dim light grabbed my eyes. Down by my feet a glass window let the light shine through. I bent down and I saw it.
It was a small gallery in the basement of the old building standing by me. Inside, some paintings were hanging on the wall, some were on the floor; lying against old furniture and one painting was sitting on an easel. It was the most beautiful scene I had ever seen.
That painting carried me away to the middle of some sea. I felt as if I was standing on a ship looking at land. The land before me was green, and the water below was a nameless shade of blue that I can’t properly describe. Tall, slender coconut trees were swaying in the wind and the light on the mountains was revealing all the crevices in the land. The sand was white and deserted as if it was waiting for me to arrive. I held my breath for a second and I came back to reality. I did not want to make him wait.
Since I was a little girl I had dreamt of a beautiful tropical island, but nothing like the painting I saw in the small gallery. The scene in that painting surpassed all my dreams. I walked away from it because I did not want to be late for my meeting with Roland. Not that I couldn’t wait to see him, but because I wanted to get the business done and forget about it.
I walked through the door and saw him sitting by the bar. My heart jumped. Only God knows how much I despised him.
“Hello Marina,” he said, with his cold smile.
“Hi Roland,” I answered, regretting having waited so long to face him.
He sized me up and took a long sip of his drink. Without saying a word he passed me the envelope and ordered my favorite beer.
It seems like Roland knows everything about me. More than I do at times. But today I am the wise one. He doesn’t know that this is the last time he will see me, and how much I hate him.
We first met in the airport in Casablanca, Morocco. It was February of 1991.
I had come out of the airport bathroom talking to myself
and feeling humiliated because I had been given ten inches of toilet paper by a gentleman standing at the door of the lady’s room—ten inches of miserable paper, for me to do my business.
“This is terrible isn’t it?” Roland said, as I exited the room.
I raised my eyes from drying my hands on my clothes and gave him a halfhearted smile, agreeing with him.
“How about a drink while we wait for our flight?” he said grabbing my carry-on and walking towards the only coffee shop in the airport. Speechless, I followed him, because as he held my carry-on, my destiny was in his hands.