Ultimately, the image of a body with an autopsy cut to the right comes to me. I still can’t tell whether this corpse belongs to reality or to illusion. Anyway, it’s there. It’s here.
The weight of Atlas’ sky is taken off my back and that’s enough to bring me a wry smile. Relief is not enough to describe what my body and mind feel. Honestly, I’m so ecstatic to have gotten a glimpse into the answer to my life’s question that nothing else seems to matter. I had been reborn. I’m happy, after all this time.
There is no usual “Y” in the torso of this life’s victim.
In one last breath out of this life, life itself escapes through the wound as relief, lightness. I once again remember what Lucy once said to me: “Just as the term ‘psyche’ comes from the Greek word for both ‘soul’ and ‘butterfly’, the spirit comes out of its chrysalis and reaches its ethereal destiny.”
– You chose what?
As if I were out of my body, I see the image of Lucy and me on the penthouse of my building. It’s almost dark. The sky has turned orange. The wind blows hard. I’m smoking a cigarette and enjoying my surrounding environment. It seems I feel everything for the first time. I had chosen a higher place precisely because it was closer to the heavens. Protection. Fate.
– I chose to be a father, Lucy. Sorry.
A flashback of my mother guffawing in the Insane Asylum invades my nervous system and a shiver flashes inside me. But I’m resolute.
– Will you choose a stranger instead of me, who has known you for years, who loves you? – With her face almost hidden by her blond strings, Lucy mixes supplication and anger. Revolt.
– No, Lucy. I’ll choose my son.
This was the time for decision.
– No-no-no-no-no-no. Not now, when we were connecting better. I can’t agree with this. – Her tremors are stronger. Nervousness reaches her epidermis. – You told me everything about your parents... even about your childhood... and to me, only.
– Lucy, do you really believe you know anything? – The words just come out, I don’t know whether consciously or unconsciously. But they came out sharp. I thought of my brother and his chest.
Astonishment distorts Lucy’s face. Her soul seems to sour... to wane. Soon, her eyes will bleed salt.
– What do you mean, Dante? – The fine ice gets its first scratch. It silently plans its icy and erosive cartography.
– You only know what happened, not how it changed my life...
Lucy’s dry stare makes me thirsty... hungry... no. Lacking. An eternal and profound lack of something still unknown.
– Have you ever wondered why I go to bed with everybody?! – Adrenaline now dyes my own veins. Taboos will be put on the table. I can’t avoid a feeling of lightness and even pleasure, though it clearly hurts Lucy. But ending a relationship has always been akin to manslaughter.
– I thought... it was... – Another wide crack in the thin ice. The submerged cold water pushes its way out.
– Just a man thing? You’re totally wrong. – Now I look at the horizon, like my mother. – It has nothing to do with it. – I just want to be... different.
– Different?! From whom, my God? – The ice map becomes wider.
– My father! – Orange reaches its climax in the skies. Sunset. – I want to prove to myself that I can be a better father than him. – Purple stains the clouds. – That I won’t be affected by the way he raised me... or the way he didn’t; that I won’t be a byproduct of his actions, just a copycat. – Darkness begins to consume the sky lights. – I’m gonna let my son have a decent childhood, with love. I’ll care and take care of him. But then I married you and...
– Then you couldn’t become a father? – Her scream is a slap on my face.
– And then I found something that could make me different!!! Lucy freezes and looks at me, surprised. A break from all the flood of feelings she is feeling reaches her, and she’s taken by silence.
– You... Lucy.
– But... I didn’t get pregnant and you went on! – One last breath from the already exhausted revolt. – Can’t we stay together and you can still be a father? – Choose both?
– But that’s exactly what my father did!
My yelling makes Lucy retreat a few steps.
She finally cries.
– Then why bother to come back with me?
A long silence takes place.
– Because I expected a miracle...
Another mental reticence hits Lucy’s oceanic eyes.
– “A miracle?!” – The thin ice has cracks from end to end. – You can only be kidding. Do you still believe in miracles?!
– Of course I do! Abraham had Isaac with Sarah when they were very old... – I say it in the most sincerity.
– My God, I can’t believe I’m listening to that...
– What?! What do you mean?! – Now the illogical hits me. None of that reaction makes any sense.
– I’m no longer religious, Dante. Since our wedding... – Disdain comes from her sly look stained by her eyeliner that writes her tears. Her arms crisscross and she turns to one side.
– How did that happen? When? You had your vow of chastity and everything else as a Mormon.
– But we had sex before the wedding! – It’s not hatred that goes before her eyes... it’s bitterness. Remorse. Resentment. Then derision and hatred sparkle at her tearful blue eyes.
– Before? – All images of sex go through Dante’s mind. Infinite images.
– Before the wedding party! – The ice is broken. The hands go to the eyes in an attempt to contain what would come from there.
– But that was just minutes before... – Darkness attacks the last trace of light.
– It doesn’t matter. I made a confession, later... I thought it wasn’t going to be a big deal either, because I was very happy. But they didn’t accept the news with the same mood, I was excommunicated of the Church. Expelled, forever.
– So much bullshit. Even Mary Magdalene was forgiven, you...
– You never forgave your father...
That answer silenced me. It was a slap. A wound had been struck. The sun paints a last ray of blood in the sky.
– It doesn’t matter. Anyway, I didn’t know. Lucy – It’s hard for me to breathe in the air that’s needed for what’s coming next: – I’m sorry.
– Too late, now. The damage is already done and I... I... have only you. – Lucy rests her hands on the wall and falls to her knees. Her hands cover the icy waters fleeing her newly destroyed prison.
I swallow hard.
What did I do?
– I’m sorry, Lucy... forgive me. When I tried to go to my father’s service...
– “You tried”?! She says, drying her eyes as much as she could, staring up at me from that rising angle of outrage and indignation. – But I thought you had gone...
– No... I didn’t go to the funeral. – My hands close among uncontrollable tremors. It seems that my nervous system is going to give up containing itself, that my senses will simply vanish by remembering such a fact, such an event, such shame. The ice breaks completely like a horizontal mirror of the sky, now consumed by darkness. – I just stared from a distance. From outside.
The then-blurred image of the burial is, now, finally clear in my mind. It was on a clear day. No wind. Quiet. Nothing extraordinary, except for the fact that there were several women and men in their 30’s wearing black around the tombstone. Many women and men in their 30’s mourning around the tombstone.
– When I got there, I couldn’t believe there were so many people at his funeral. So many people in his honor. But then I noticed something much more absurd. The face of every child I saw when I was a boy. They visited my father with their mothers and returned empty-handed... giving me that look... – The image of the kids leaving with an empty, distant, but immeasurable sadness. – that look stuns me and gives nightmares when I’m awake. It chases me, it swallows me. I’m the only one who had the father of all of those who came to his funeral, even though he was a monster. Thus, from those looks I had always felt a non-local connection, a repulsive connection of anger, envy, and evil.
Those many glances stun me for a moment. I catch myself breathless, my gaze lost and my soul obscured. I’m poisoned and unable to move. As long as I wanted to approach the dead monster and father of so many children, I couldn’t. A monster-father of so many children.
– I don’t know if you’d understand, Lucy. All...
Faces of children.
Faces of teenagers.
– All, indeed...
Looks of aversion, fury and anger.
– My father’s children... the children of a father with whom they never lived and there they were, showing their love for a man who denied his for everyone else. When he could no longer refuse them, everyone came to meet him, even though he was no longer among us... no longer among us to deny them companionship, though from one floor below. And everyone to blame me optically for having been the “chosen”, the firstborn. I could never get any closer under that optical barrier, that spiritual expulsion of so many people. They blamed me for being myself the son. But I... I hadn’t chosen it!
Shame takes me and my gaze gets lost in the lines of my hands; in the blue of my veins; in my blood; in my father’s blood...
I have a knot in my stomach.
– All my brothers...
Water droplets fall from the sky toward the ground.
– I couldn’t look them in the eyes...
I throw up right there as if the looks had only now produced their effect, pounding on my stomach and all my insides, which twisted in totally uncontrollable spasms. Their image doesn’t leave my mind.
The drops fall on the dry lines of my hands. Tears and vomit mingle. The liquid is rapidly absorbed or drained like water over an arid region. Soon, I’m dry inside, still sobbing a psychosomatic cleansing. But soon a second transparent drop falls... the third... the fourth. From eyes which are clearly red. And a river forms in the palms of my, for long, Saharan hands. I think Lucy will come to also contain this watering, and she would be my ark in such a flood, which soon turns into full overflow. But she didn’t come... and I just continued to...
– Then I had to complete my mission more than ever... to carry this cross alone.
I imagine myself like a Christian atlas. However, instead of feeling pleasure, through the Passion, I feel heavy. I feel the tons of my existence on earth. My burden. A taste of sweat in my mouth. The exhaustion of my muscles reaching their limit. The horizon of the end. The face of the abyss.
– I had to be a better father than my own, but then... when I met you... we couldn’t have a child.
A brief moment of silence goes by and I realize that it’s me now, on the ground.
– You mean I couldn’t have your child.
– No, Lucy...
Although it’s already night, a blinding light comes from Lucy’s eyes. I can’t look at her. Not because she had ascended to the other stage of existence, but because I was aware of my descent, my fall, and looking up into the infinite vertical distancing in which we stood was profane.
The heavens fall on me.
– I’m sorry... – I kneel and stare at the floor and my own dirty hands. – I’m really sorry... – Drops and more drops fall on the last page of the very reader, so liquid and salty they are. I crawl toward Lucy. – Forgive me, Lucy. But when we were married and worried that we couldn’t have children, we took the test...
I’m in Santa Catarina hospital on Avenida Paulista, years ago.
I take a brown envelope from the doctor’s hands, smile, thank him and walk out the white hospital halls I know so well. My hands are barely able to hold such an envelope, almost can’t keep themselves from opening it all the way out of the hospital. The secret in my hands seems to weight a ton. My heart beats fast. It’s difficult to walk, I almost crawl out of the hospital. My hands shake and sweat. But once I’m out, all is calm. I open the envelope and see the results.
– That’s when I found out...
Among all the notes on the long record in my hands, only a piece of information jumps out and stuns me like a jellyfish:
– But I couldn’t believe it! – My gaze gets lost. My hands try, in vain, to keep this insane memory from leaking from my head. – No! No! NO!!!
I think it’s absurd, it’s a medical or divine mistake. I rip the results in as many pieces as physics allows me and I throw them in the nearest trash can to wipe my hands of such now small sacrileges.
– I had to be a father! This was wrong! This was very wrong! How was it possible!? God let my father have me, so many other children, and I... I CAN’T HAVE CHILDREN?!
A hundred drops on the pages of the book that tries to hide my face on my way home. By chance, it was The Karamazov Brothers.
After some time, however, and changing my commute to give some time for such a flood to dry, I get back home... “recovered.”
– Dante, did you get the results at the hospital? – Lucy asks incredibly happy and hopeful, by then. She jumps in place uneasy and smiles from ear to ear. A silence of expectation controls her whole body. She stops everything she was doing and looks at me. And wait for me to give the ultimate answer...
– Yes, Lucy – I look down, eyes already dry, but which threaten a second flood. – I’m sorry.
A sad look.
The jumping stops.
A look between infinite abysses.
And the smile slowly subsides.
– I’m so sorry...
– Oh, no... oh, no... – Lucy falls to her knees. – It can’t be. – The memory of that scene repeating itself burns my soul to ashes... All that’s left of it. – It’s me, isn’t it? It’s my fault! I knew it! Well before the wedding... my God, why? It’s all my fault!
There, ashamed, I saw a golden opportunity. I reach and hug her.
– It’s all right, Lucy... it’s all right. No need to blame yourself. – I told her, playing with her hair and turning away from her gaze. – We can’t have children, Lucy. Us. It isn’t anyone’s fault.
My arms look ghostly. No matter is felt. I’m not there. I don’t exist there. For lack of feeling, I’m just a specter of what I once was. I’m so sorry.
– Oh, no... oh, no... God, why?
On the balcony, back to the harsh reality.
– So... that means that I’m not sterile... – Lucy points to her womb, finding materiality on her own body as if sterility, the life of another, of a child, was taking her life away all this time. – And all those years I thought God was punishing me for being expelled from the church. How, Dante? Tell me! How could you?!
In my mind, the memory of a still blue body in the morgue emerges from oblivion, lying down and cut only to the right side instead of the usual “Y”.
– But the bartender got pregnant with you? How, then?
I naturally open my hands in her direction as I show her my palms. I smile. And it seems like it’s been a long time since I did it.
– That’s what I said... it’s a miracle... – I smile even more, insanely, because that’s what I was left with, lacking my reason. And this is precisely the battlefield of miracles: the horizon of madness.
Lucy looks like she’s surprised. Good. But then she laughed like Sarah, Abraham’s wife on hearing the absurd, the scandal of having a son being her so old. Her face of witty hallucination sourly melts and she takes a step back.
– Lucy, Abraham couldn’t do it with his wife either, so he tried his slave... – I try to convince her not to be afraid. – It’s all God’s work.
– But he had to sacrifice his son with his wife!
– Yes. He went to sacrifice what he loved most in the world... – I hold Lucy’s hand, even if she keeps her arm stretched out. I feel her warmth, her life, and smile at her. – and he won an entire nation for himself. “Your generation shall be numerous as the stars in the sky.”
– I can’t believe it. Oh, my God... – Lucy takes her hand from mine and begins to walk in circles. The icy night wind touches us. And few lights dare to approach. – Is that what you lied about and hid from me all those years?... and all those women you hung out with were meant to have a child, not with me, but rather to take revenge on your father? Your father who’s already dead?
I’m silent, just looking from where I am to where Lucy’s still standing. Mentally, I pray she understands. However, her circles of reasoning don’t stop. Have faith, Lucy.
– Do you understand, then?
Lucy’s eyes were never so close to me.
The mouth too, though from its same place moving silently, has never received so much of my attention.
Her hand still holding the doorknob...
The night ends.
As if out of my body, I find myself petrified on the balcony, alone. Even though near the skies, no help came from them. No animal appeared to save my son or the relationship between me and Lucy, as in the story of Abraham. The door is black and white. No color. No life. It’s a black hole. And, still staring at the closed door, I remember that even light is sucked by a black hole.
The horizon with an almost new moon has incomprehensible and synesthetic colors, showing the reflection of the last sunrays in some other distant place. Running late, I can finally assimilate that previous silence from Lucy’s mouth.
“What I wanted was just to love you...”
“Just that... only that...”
“You got it... really... you got it...”
“I don’t want to see you ever again...”
“Go to hell.