When the bus reaches the more-or-less huge Jesus del Monte Boulevard, I recognize walls built of dust and smoke, the smell of rancid urine in lascivious corners of porticoes, and the carnival of noises that lays bare the display windows of aging stores. In a while we shall turn a little more to the south and then, from up high, we shall see the sea, which from that angle is like a suggestion of blue. The landscape makes unexpected movements and assumes fragile poses. I begin to ascend and descend alternatively, going through passageways, sensing a hospitable architecture. Everything is so domestic that I think I smell a faint odor of onions.

That afternoon I learned what poinsettias looked like. I saw them in a garden in La Vibora, and I also saw geraniums and bougainvillea. I saw white ironwork gates and porches with checkered tiles glowing in the shade. One felt like lying there, feeling the coolness of the tiled floor through one's bare feet. Then I thought that Amelia had no studio. That she painted thus, lying on the floor. And that's why nothing in her paintings is like what we see when we are standing up but like what we picture from the floor -- tables, landscapes, fruit, curtains, windows, wicker furniture. Why have a studio when one can lie down on the porch and from below paint the sea, the linen tablecloths, or the piano keys? Paint light and shadow, the breeze and freshness, the scents that visit this house at this time of the evening.

on the table lies the silverware, undecipherable. Meanwhile, the bells announce the zigzag, the prancing of winged trivia. In the garden conversation rings, barely touching its own image. The hues of hibiscuses and begonias, of ferns and lilies, of carnations and cacti shape the tiny rainbow that dominates over the vertical, itself dominated by the dust, which is nothing but time on the lookout. And there are other colors that are unknown so far. Wings never before seen, eyes not open before this discovery, beyond the smoke of a toylike city, between the orchard and that airy vanity table that is the mirror. Greenish-yellow. Like this fan on the wall imitating the evening, secure against gusts of wind, dancing on the hallucinated moss, seeking -- for God knows how many years -- the light precisely now discovered. But she didn't know when it was that she chatted with bewildered fish, domestic fish placing their warm eggs under the fan. This refuge grows for indistinct lovers, preserving this corner of the city, which remains marvelously intact.

I don't remember what streets I rode through. I do remember my astonishment at finding the bright white house. My steps toward the iron gate were timid. It looked like an embroidery [hovering] in midair. [I became aware of] the tranquility of the palm trees. When I stepped over the threshold I entered the world of pure sensations. I felt -- or rather intuited -- marble, crystal, wood, ceramics. I saw myself in a mirror, but I had become once more an astonished shadow drinking a glass of custard apple juice. I remember the conversation between the two women, but the words escaped me. At the end of the corridor there was a spot of blinding light. It seemed as if I were walking toward the end of the world.

And what can one say about a house? Amelia Pelaez lived and died in this house. It was built in 1912. There were few houses in that neighborhood at the time. Many similar houses rise there now. Houses that seem to talk among themselves, connected by an invisible dialogue -- with colonial furniture. Boys run from one sidewalk to the next, taking the house with them in a jolly confusion. In that same way Amelia took the house with her to many places. She took it to Paris and London, New York and Mexico. In Venice she placed it in the middle of Saint Mark's Square and went inside it to dream, facing the quadriga sustained by the shit of millennial pigeons.

And what can you say to a house? Say, "Hello house, I come from Havana. I've ridden through tortuous streets where the sun filters through like a hot sword. I came, puppetlike, hanging from the door of a bus. Let me browse for a while. I promise you that once I leave I'll forget everything. Everything except that spot of light at the end of the corridor, where the flower-bedecked garden glows in humid tranquility. Everything except that canvas on the easel, waiting for the hand that will never again touch it." The persistent odor of oil paint overpowers the environment.

the woman sitting on the rocking chair rocks the breeze. She hums a song while she rocks, almost hovering above a bird's drowsiness. The bird dreams about the woman, but she does not exist. She is only the dream of the bird, which smiles. On a cloud in the woman's dream, a streetcar floats by. Its groaning motion almost awakens the bird. It holds the bird for five seconds above the newly painted gate. Then it releases it gently over the rails, that smell like hot metal. The umbrellas watch in amazement and make comments. The rocking chair stops rocking. For an instant -- five seconds -- the bird prepares to fly away over the aerials of the neighborhood. But the woman undrapes a white and bountiful breast and feeds the bird so it can continue to dream about her being supple on the moist grass.

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