What About Miriam?

Miguel raised from his chair. He walked to the bar, and poured bourbon in a glass. Then, he turned toward us: “What about Miriam?”  The room was silent, immersed in a soft, orange afternoon light.  Miriam’s memory was present, rising from the ashes of time, coiling deep into our souls, invading our thoughts, rarefying the air in the room.

Miriam: that silky voice of hers contrasting with the fury of her paintings; that simple line of her short black dresses so different from the fierce colors covering her canvases; that strong smell of Columbian coffee which she used to drink every morning while watching the city coming back to life from the windows of her studio. How many times I wondered what she knew and what she didn’t, for she has never said too much.  How many times I wondered what was behind her display of love for Jacques, and, his display of love for her? For I have always thought that it was something more, something hidden, something that for some strange reason I was not supposed to know.

Angelo spoke: “Did Miriam ever paint a spider?”

The book I was reading fell from my hands. I was baffled: “A spider?!”

Angelo smiled: “Yes, a spider.”

Miguel said nothing; his eyes half closed, his hands nursing the glass of bourbon.

Angelo continued: “A spider; garlands of roses wrapped around his legs.”

Miguel open his eyes, a hint of tremor in his voice: “Can we talk about something else?”

I must have gotten irritated: “About something else? Yes, but first could I know what is it that we are talking about right now?”

Angelo raised his eyebrows: “Miguel can explain. He can simplify things. He is a reductionist.”

Miguel took a sip from his glass, watching me closely over its rim: “I definitely am, Angelo. I definitely am. I already simply my life with Clara!”

I smiled. In minutes the room got darker, the aroma of a masculine perfume, coming from nowhere was floating strangely in the air, penetrating my senses. I raised my hands to my temples, and I understood. Angelo, was not talking about any painting of Miriam’s. Nothing in our conversation was about Miriam! Angelo was talking about a pair of cufflinks that Jacques used to wear from time to time; a golden pair of cufflinks encrusted with little roses and something else; something vaguely resembling a spider. What was Angelo trying to tell me? And why was Miguel staring silently at the floor? The ring of a phone surfaced from the depth of my mind. Desperately somebody was calling my name. Who was it? When did it happen? I looked at Miguel. Tears in my eyes, I whispered: “Miquel, please, please!” He drank his bourbon, set the empty glass on the table, and said in a voice that I didn’t recognize: “No, Clara, no!”


Dusk and Dawn


His story was tragic. But he was too shallow to live his own tragedy, and too weak to escape it. It occurred to me that he has woven a web of lies in which he has perpetually lived like a curious spider lacking his own body. Night and day only crawling, spastic legs restlessly weaving lies, suffocating anybody who dared to approach him.  Empty, in the middle of his own cobweb, desperately contorting his legs, he was existing somewhere between heaven and earth in a demotic world not created by god, but by a relapsed and dark demiurge.

Suddenly, in the midst of that darkness, Miguel’s memory flashed before my eyes. His smile on a tropical balmy beach. His green eyes, the smell of the orchids that he put around my neck. His frugal kiss left on my lips. I hang on that memory with all my power, breathing through my every cell the overpowering smell of the tropic, out of fear that the empty creature in front of me was going to contaminate my blood, to devour my soul, and to drag me in a world of damnation.  I, for one, I was not going to be caught in his cobweb. Never!