Dark heavy rain clouds elegantly sweep over the horizon just as many bolts of lightning give off a spectacle of light. A sparkly wonder which seems to kiss the arid folding of earth in these rugged regions with glistening perfection. Hmm, a view almost as enthralling as watching the dance of the Nothern Lights in the Artic belt.
I feel the corners of my lips slightly tug up at the sight of the threatening clouds settling low over great Mount Aconcagua in the far distance; a climber's paradise, some called it.
Clouds bringing rain.
It’s such a simple and natural sight, a rather uncomplicated phenomenon. One that I’ve seen many times from this balcony, especially now in the late summer where seasonal rains were becoming somewhat of a common show. Yet, I find it intriguing to watch the grey splattered clouds as they face the rough terrain with an imminent threat. I like watching the stillness of the mountains themselves as they boldly stand erect in the midst of heavenly peril. Some would say I’m just being super poetic about the weather, but those people can grow rhino horns for all I care.
Interesting, how these mountains always look majestic and gracious. Silent, but always presenting an unwavering front.
An unwavering front...
God knows how much I tried to maintain one amidst the tragic and unforeseen events that had escalated merely a few weeks ago. It’s the damnedest thing, losing everything you thought you ever needed, wanted...all within the spur of the moment. Here today. Gone tomorrow.
It’s almost like the dense morning fog which surrounds the jutted mountain peaks in the morning, but then suddenly disappears in the sizzling daylight.
It all happened so fast. Too fast. One moment I was with her in her dainty little kitchen being fed coffee and the next moment, I was standing in a dusty graveyard, looking at the tomb that engraved her name with dead eyes. I stood there frozen, with eyes that looked but never saw. Eyes that wouldn’t even blink...
‘I must be dreaming. That’s right...this is just another one of those horrible nightmares. This isn’t real. She isn’t gone. She can’t be gone. And I’ll wake up at any time now.’ I tried denying the blatant truth to my head. It seemed like the most rational thing. To believe that this was all part of some foul lie. Some nightmare...even a prank. Some people fake their own death as a joke. This had to be it, a joke, a cold one.
Yet it wasn’t. The miserable wailing and crying done by her leftover relatives wasn’t a joke, the drizzly Argentinean raindrops which pelted the roof of our umbrellas while we buried her wasn’t a joke and the white ornamented coffin which housed her lifeless body wasn’t a bloody joke either. It was real. Freaking real. As real as the throbbing sensation in my left upper arm where a deep cut penetrated my flesh.
28th of October 2008.... Was the day when my eyes finally saw. They saw reality, they saw pain and they saw what wrong choices had amounted to.
I take another gulp of the amber liquid from the glass snifter that remained firmly clutched in a slightly trembling hand, welcoming the burning sensation and a slight hint of vanilla as the perfectly aged Irish whiskey entered my system.
Stupid, how I seem to drink like a fish these days. Hell, I woke up in bed with a bottle of Scotch in hand more than twice already. I hated the cycle because it reminded me of other times I swore to forget, but I’m caught in it now. It seems to do just the trick; wading off memories I don’t want to remember. I'm going to stop when I want to. Now, I’m going to drink the hurt away to my heart’s content. Even if it means waking up with jack-hammering hangovers every day or vomiting my gut out in the sink.
I ram my free hand into one of the pockets of my jeans when I hear the familiar ding-dong sound from my phone. It’s the dumbest ringtone, but I like it just the same.
“Buenas tardes Abril,” I mumble a quick greeting, my voice coming off a little edgier than intended.
“James...oh big brother...I've missed you a trillion much. I couldn’t reach you for weeks. Oh James are you doing...okay?”
I close my eyes and draw in a long breath. “I'm fine.”
“You don’t sound like yourself anymore. And I don’t understand...” there was a short pause “I don’t understand why you can’t come back home.”
“I'm very much at home Abril, no?” I reply simply, allowing my eyes to meet the sprawling vast acres of land that belonged to my hacienda. In the distance, the neighing of a horse was audible.
“For heaven’s sake James! You know what I mean...New York City. Come back here.” She cries, exasperated.
“Because, this is where your life is James. This is where your business is, you just started your company, remember? I-it’s where I am...I love you James.”
“I love you too sport.” I take another sip of whiskey.
“Then come back!” she said almost screaming. “It’s been almost a month since...” she hesitates. “Well, since the accident. You have to move on, I mean...I'm not saying you should pretend like nothing happened. I just mean-"
“I know what you mean April.” I interrupt her, frustration slowly building up inside of me.
“You know beans!” she shouts from the other side of the line, muffled sounds of traffic slightly audible in the background. “You can’t stay at Rancho del Luces all alone. At the funeral...you seemed so distant...so formidable, even unapproachable. Nobody dared to ask how you felt, even John-Luke stayed away.”
“A wise decision.”
She literally screams on the line this time. “You’re blackly impossible!”
I shrug. “It runs in the DNA.”
I let out a long sigh. “Look sweetheart, I understand your concern. I really do, but I need some time alone...some time to clear my head.”
“You need someone to talk to.” She insists softly.
“I don’t need talking to!” I say behind gritted teeth, gripping harder at the crystal snifter “I’m not crazy April and I don’t need a psychoanalytic perspective from some shrink .Or do you think I need one?”
“I never said such a thing...” she defensively countered.
“Sì. I know.” I sigh. “But you damn well might have just said it. You were thinking it.”
“I was not!” she continues defensively as usual. “I know better than to call you crazy, but I also know that grieving men need comfort, a good ear and occasionally a good prescription of anti-depressants when the thoughts get too blinding. Unfortunately, some men are too proud as stone to admit that and they rather prefer throwing themselves over the balcony when the heat turns up.”
“Go to hell April!”
“Ah, care to provide transport fare and company while I’m at it?” she asks amicably.
I groan. “When did you become so annoying?”
“Why, I’m never annoying James dear. I just have a rather, how do you say it in English again? - Uh an eccentric personality…I’m an untamed woman of the 21st century!” she declares dramatically and I find myself laughing, I can’t help it. This child is nuts!
“Alright Miss Universe, I get it.” I drawl sarcastically “Although, I don’t think Dario Rodriguez ever will.”
“Trust me, he wouldn’t get the alphabet even if you read it to him,” She sighs and I had to muffle out another laugh.
“He’s your ranch foreman now, or so I hear.” She adds with a sort of practiced carelessness. I can already imagine that annoyed look in her freckled face, it was funny how Dario, my formerly appointed head of security and my sweet sister seemed to trigger a miniature earthquake whenever they came any close to each other. It's so unlike Dario to lose his temper around people most especially with impeccable manners such as his. To many ladies he's the demon of charm, but to April he's no good of a bulldozer. Still, somehow I know he'd never hurt her even if his life depended on it and that little verity keeps me calm.
“Yes, a good one for that matter. You should see how he runs this place. He's making me a small fortune with the cattle breeding program he’s overseeing.”
“He smokes worse than a chimney.” She replies abruptly. “God give him bronchitis already!”
I laugh despite myself. “Give him a break April, he’s quitting the habit. Although, I can’t say the same thing about his sweet tooth for wine, never drinks too much of it, but never goes a day without it too.”
“He'll get you pot bellied and round as a ball if you keep him too close.” she said with a tired yawn.
I chuckle. “Get some sleep baby sis, you sound restless.”
“I am.” She moans. “I have been doing a lot of painstaking research for my dissertation lately, it’s terrible sometimes.”
“Terrible my foot,” I draw in another gulp of the drink
“It’s a hell lot better than that nightmare of a job you had before you went back to college for your masters. Swooning over dead carcasses and all.”
“You stop that!” she bit off “Forensic anthropology is an interesting field of study. You ought to know.”
“Yes,” I concede “Interestingly boring you mean.”
“James Leonardo Juan Richards!”
I chuckle softly. “Fine, I’m sorry panda. Now, get some sleep. It will work miracles for that busy brain of yours.”
“Funny, how I’ve prayed for some these days.” She mumbles. “Oh, James it can be a pain in the neck sometimes and my supervisor won’t even hear half of it.”
“No pain, no game.”
“So I’ve heard.” She sighs. “James please come home as soon as possible. Time will heal the wounds, but denial and loneliness only deepens them.”
“I'll keep that in mind sport. Close those eyes now.”
“Certainly” She said shortly and the line went dead.
Time will heal the wounds...
I let out a spiteful laugh at the cliché of a saying my sister innocently used to comfort me or whatever. She’s a brainy young woman, but she lacks experience that can only be gained with age, it isn’t time that does the healing at all, it’s what someone does with the time that actually helps heal. I know that, but I doubt the philosophy even applies to me. I don’t just have wounds, I have a black void of space inside of me too, a space filled with nothing but guilt and blame.
When Diana died, I died too.
No, she hasn’t died, has she? Is she really gone?
I close my eyes again; barely able to hold the snifter in my hand with steadiness and my mind suddenly begins to remind me of better times, times when things looked hopeful, bright and promising. For me. For the both of us…
Like the time I surprised her with that family house I bought as an early wedding gift;
She stood there in the middle of the twenty-foot driveway of our new family home in silence, her back turned to me as the light wind picked up thin streaks of her soft brown hair, tendrils dancing in the soft breeze. I wanted to walk up to her and kiss her hair, I wanted to whisper heartfelt words into her ear, the ones she loved to hear me say yet I kept my stance, keeping my distance as I pointed the camera toward her, hoping to capture the emotional reaction the second she looked back at me.
“Mi amor, this home is beautiful! I can’t believe you bought this without telling me…” she had said, finally turning to face me. She was pretty in the sun’s generous light; her watery eyes were as tender as those of a mountain deer and they held a bright gleam of warm emotion in them. Her pale cheeks were slightly coloured crimson as a river of brown hair fluttered to her shoulders and her thin lips were brightly glossed in peach as they quirked up into a perfect smiling bow. I felt a smile of my own lingering on my lips as I quickly took a snapshot of her.
“Oh, stop that, come to me already.” She had said, faking irritation. I laughed freely and walked up to her, pulling her into the warmth of a bear hug, camera still in hand.
“I can already imagine the kids running up and about and the huge family gatherings we’ll hold. We could invite Tia Yesenia to make us those spicy tortilla roll-ups you love so much and even call your padre to come over.” she sighed with contentment but I felt my body tensing up at the mention of my father.
My imbecile of a father.
“Oh, come on, sooner or later you’ll have to tame that fierce heart of yours and forgive him. I trust that you will.” she said softly and I hadn’t replied. We just stood there in silence, basking in each other’s heat and enjoying the view of the place we would call home forever, a place we would build fairy tale dreams and happy endings in and I’d father a child...a boy would be nice.
Obviously, things didn’t turn out that way. Far the opposite had happened. Life was supposed to zig but it zagged. It zagged hard. The one woman whom I thought I loved, faded away leaving an empty shell of a man behind. A rusted soda can, that didn’t seem to belong to the world anymore. It was innocent affection that drew us to each other at first; I was a young man who seemed be carrying the world on his shoulders and she was the woman with the bright brown eyes who wanted to share the burden and warm the bed. It was all smooth until I became vulnerable to her and lost my head and heart. I was willing to marry her and she didn’t refuse, she took the invitation, but then decided to leave without warning. I can still see the blinding lights of that night, still hear the sound of glass shattering and the deep crunch of metal as the car flipped over. The sensation of something wet bathing my burning body and then finally the faint sight of the dashboard where…
Why do people die? Is humanity jinxed or something? Why do they keep telling me it wasn’t my fault when it feels like it actually was?
I’m no student of philosophy, but I can’t deny that my brain tries buffering the guilt by taking me back to ancient Greece, back to the ideas of the Stoics which stressed fate and natural destiny; that one should be of high virtue but strive for indifference to pain or pleasure and as much as I tried to make sense of it, it just didn’t. Surely, life unfolds according to the choices we make and pain a normal response to the abnormal, right?
Was it merely misfortune? Or the product of my own callousness?
Dios bueno…I don’t know.
Hell, I don’t think I know anything anymore.
I'd been the death of Diana Amelià Sanchez on that windy October evening and I can never outrun that truth. I took her breath away and she took my heart with her.
As if to allude to the emotional wreckage and emptiness I feel inside, the sky begins to pour its own tears and I find myself welcoming the feel of a hundred cooling raindrops with a mirthless laugh, one which started out soft, but gradually turned into a painful holler.
Screw Life, Screw everything...