After some years, this writer decided to go for a walk through the pathways of his infancy. I immersed myself in the Proustian scheme of going in search of times past. Although it is true to say that it is us that flies over time, and not time over us. The elderly have learned very well this lesson: time doesn't fly, we do. And one might add, with the wings of memories and the forgotten. Who hasn't at some time written their memory in the air over the landscape of eternal childhood? Who has flown back to their roots without feeling a shiver on the back of their neck?
Every one of us – it's a fact of life – paints the landscape in their own way, although we all fly the nest from the same tree. The same dogs and the same cats. The same devotions and the same myths. Wind. Air. Water. And the same sound in the forge. And the same little cunitas de Botones. A flight every year at the sound of the spoon stirring the tin: “Do you want some more?” “Than have some!” Parabapachinpachinpachin... The kids every fair – on account of Botones. They could reign the air for some minutes.
It wasn't some magic, but darkness that gnawed away at the times. Seeing a naked child, barefoot, and crying in the street, wasn't just the melodramatic lyrics of a petenera. When one remembers what one has seen, one's thoughts are overwhelmend as emotion just runs through the open field of feelings. Experiences fall one after another. Only a strong composure keeps back the feeling of sickness: memory is one thing, but remembering is quite another.
Purely by accident, I noticed on my way through the town, two fleeting images that encapsulated everything important and significant that sustains that din of memory, those memories that stir you inside. After all, memory seems just like a box camera which from time to time, goes off to capture the fleeting nature of an instant. Chance allowed me to bring together two sequences that I have already stuck in my aerial album of flights.
First sequence. Place: Puerta del Sol. The morning of the Levante. A little boy with tight, curly hair, his crown in a mess, puffy cherry cheeks, toasted skin. Shorts the colour of cane and dark shirt, chamois-leather shoes of indefinite colour, punished in the open air. He was crying, uncontrollably. Crying and crying. Bursting with tears. With no comfort from anyone. How doe the verses go of Benítez Carrasco: “When you see me crying/ turn around and leave me/ to cry until I don't know when.”
A gust of wind, untimely and unfortunate wind, had snatched it from the child, from between his fingers, the hanging thread of a white, transparent balloon like an impressive tear. The balloon was climbing into the sky. He watched desperately as the wind took it each time higher. He would have given in that very moment, two, three, four years of his short life - a whole life? - to have been a bird of prey – to have captured in flight that white dream that the wind had ripped from his hands. That wandering, shiny little cloud that was slowly losing itself in the atmosphere. Between tears of anger and impotence, the boy was watching his last dream go, the most resplendent of his dreams. His last memory, his last souvenir.
But he wasn't crying over the loss of the balloon. No, there are lots more balloons in the shop. He was crying because he couldn't be that bird. The wind, that wind that hits so hard the Plaza Alta, had taken from him, by force, his last hope. Something you can't even buy with gold. He knew, or felt, that he would never have the photograph of that white balloon that had come wrapped like a bittersweet prize. And the bad wind abandoned it to its fate, to the light and dark of its fate.
Second sequence. Place: Parque Municipal (El Jardín). A little girl, hair the colour of golden bread, just five years old, angelic face, freckles, dressed in a light-green dress embroidered with little lilac flowers. White shoes, somewhat scuffed at the toes. She was a happy child, a little bell. Everything was a delight to her. Although it seemed strange to the little angel, a discovery was amusing her: the fragility of a dream.
Each little bubble that popped in the air filled her with uncontainable happiness. The little blond girl dedicated herself stubbornly to the small container of soapy water, again and again, producing more and more soapy bubbles through the orange plastic ring. Different sized iridescent bubbles that climbed up into the air, among the bank of shadows in the grove of the park. Those little soap bubbles made by the child ripped through the humble and silent air. Each bubble that burst in the air, a bead in the necklace of a lost memory. And the child, over and over, threw soap bubbles to the wind. Soap bubbles into the air until she finished the water. The child was so happy because the air was eating up her string of dreams.
It's not the same, the freedom of the balloon that escaped, as the freedom granted to the little soap bubble. The moral is that we open a track of air when we remember, from a time when we gave wings of fire to memory. And the melancholy and cruel wind tore from our hands the blue days of our childhood.
The day will come – if it hasn't already arrived – when the little boy of the balloon, and the little girl of the bubbles, will cast into oblivion those volatile events. The pain and the happiness that once ruled their faces. The air is the same, it's the birds that pass by.
Fate that Spring day didn't intend that the photograph be made there. It didn't want the casulties. Although on its own, it might have photographed the passing souls of those two children, that stuck their different spoons into the air: between the happiness and the pain. Between a giant tear and a soap bubble.
In the transparent depths of the air, there one has to look for the lost photographs of our memory.
Jesús Cuesta Arana
Published by Andrés Moreno Camacho
[Article translated by Bob Lloyd]