La Ventana de Rosa, Mission San Jose, picture taken by the owner of this blog
Miriam, Angelo, and I were sitting at our usual table in that small Mexican bar that we all used to love so much. The evening was new, colored by the magnificent purple of the tall jacaranda trees. Cars were rushing through the noisy streets as rapidly as the blood coursing the arteries of a febrile, humongous body. Miriam looked tired: dark circles around her eyes; an unusual pallor to her face. An almost moribund evening light, filtered through the large windows of the bar, was making her hair shimmer.
The ice was melting in our glasses. I tried to take a sip from mine, but my hands were shaking. Angelo looked straight into Miriam’s eyes:
“You need to start selling some of your paintings.”
Blue veins appeared on her forehead, and a dismissive look flickered in her eyes. She replied in a dry voice that I did not recognize:
“Sell? For that I need to take up photography. Can’t do it Angelo, can’t do it! You know better than that. My paintings are my soul. Who needs that? And in case anybody needs my soul, how much should I ask for?”
I watched both of them closely. I did not intervene. Something was wrong with Angelo lately, but I couldn’t tell what.
He said: “You are too young to think like that!”
She replied quickly: “And you are too obtuse today!” Her tone of voice made it clear: that conversation was over.
They felt silent. Finally I managed to take a sip from my glass. The noise in the bar grew louder. My head started aching, and instantly last night’s dream rose from the depths of my memory. I was standing in the middle of a large, round room, its walls colored in purple. The ceiling was high, dark, filled with stars. The checkered tiles under my feet were cold like ice. A crepuscular light was coming from nowhere. Painted on the purple of the wall was some unintelligible, magnificent, yellow writing. Cautiously I started moving toward the wall. The closer I got, the darker its purple became. For a few seconds, the yellow writing started fading, only to appear immediately more luminous, scintillating, dancing on the notes of some mysterious melody that I could not hear. I was mystified. I stopped walking. I quickly realized that there was something wrong with that room: it had no doors and no windows! I was trapped! Fear inundated me. My breathing stopped, my vision blurred. I started shivering. The voice came out of nowhere: “Welcome to my soul, Clara!” His familiar laughter fallowed, enveloping the room in its warm tonalities. I turned around, my hand grasping at my chest. There was nobody in the room, but me. Yet I heard his voice. It was Jacques’! It was his laughter. I could even feel the heat of his body around me. Somehow, I understood. I was trapped in his soul! I was trapped in his soul, and I was suffocating! The writing on the wall became intense, almost blinding me. I remember thinking: How did I get here if there are no doors and no windows? After that everything turned black. I woke up screaming, soaked in perspiration. I got out of bed, and opened the balcony’s doors. A fresh morning was being born from the waves of the ocean.
I heard Angelo’s voice as if coming from a tomb: “Clara, Clara! Are you OK?”
I stared at him. He had a mischievous look on his face, his black eyes wittingly cemented into mine. Something told me he knew what I was thinking.
I answered “Yes, I am.”
Quickly I turned toward Miriam. She seemed better, her pallor gone, her glass emptied.
I asked: “Wasn’t Jacques supposed to be here?”
She said: “He got caught in some business. He can’t meet us tonight.”
“Miriam, have you ever painted his soul?”
Her chestnut eyes narrowed, her face looked petrified.
“Have you ever painted his soul?”
A long pause followed. After that, Angelo’s mischievous look appeared on her face. A flicker of a vague enigmatic smile on her lips came, and disappeared quickly in the shadows of the room.
She answered: “I can’t even begin to imagine what his soul looks like, Clara. Can you?”
Yes, they knew what I was thinking. In an imperceptible way they knew. And no matter what, I was going to find out how they knew. I turned my face toward the window: the jacaranda trees were long vanished in the night, the street lifeless, dark and empty. Where did everybody go?