Thursday 22 December 2016
Time: 6 pm
The best thing I can do is to stop being mortified. It’s happened and can’t be changed. I think it’s one of the best lessons I’ve learnt in life and today, in particular, I have to remember it.
After Erik arrived at Plaza de la Magdalena, Samuel hurriedly said goodbye and went home. Elsa was very friendly on the way back as we walked along together until she said goodbye to go home. I’m not accustomed to a girl taking my arm, but with Elsa it didn’t bother me because I look upon her as a good friend and she knows about my feelings for Sofia. I keep asking myself how she found out, but as my friend Jon says, often the face expresses what the soul feels and we can’t control that.
In the end, I called my Uncle Daniel from my mobile while I was walking home. I asked after my mother and my brother. He told me that she had woken up, but was very tired and fell asleep again. I told him that I’ll stay home. He insisted that I should go over to his house, but after I explained that I had something important to do, he relented.
I’ve always had a special connection with my uncle. From the time I was small, we would often look at each other and I think that we knew what each other was thinking. My mother recognised it and with the loss of my father, I’ve come to realise that she has tried to keep the relationship with my uncle and his family alive. I don’t believe that she expected something to happen to her or that we would have to ask for help. Or perhaps she did, and is that the reason why she had a talk with us the night before? It doesn’t matter now. I have to make my own decisions and fortunately, we have Uncle Daniel to support us.
Elsa’s suggestion to remain in our own homes to get more information was a very good idea. I think each of us needs to be alone, to reflect and put our ideas in order. Well, I have no idea what Samuel will do. He continues being an unknown factor to me. In the case of Sofia and Erik, perhaps they have other plans, but I’ve decided to forget about that and concentrate on the ‘jump’.
As always, the computer takes a while to turn on, each time I press the switch button, it takes more time than before. I remain watching the screen as a lot of dialogue boxes open, they are visible for a while, then they say that the task is completed and finally close. And then there is another and another. While I watch it, I blame myself for its slowness because the computer technicians always say that it depends on the number of programmes you download onto your computer. The more there are and stored I don’t know where, the more slowly the computer will run. Next week, I am going to delete programmes.
I feel the silence at home. Deep down, it’s uncomfortable because the reason for it is not good. I hope my mother is well. I am sure that Marco will be having a great time with the cousins. I think deep down, he likes the youngest. But, after all, we are family.
My room is tidy. The truth is that the whole house is always tidy. My mother insists upon it and we dare not disobey her. Therefore my light brown desk does not have any paper on it. It is all stored in the drawers below, even my pens. I think that, of all the people in my class, I must be the only one with such a clear table.
What would impress a stranger to our home about my room is how simple it is. I have the bed behind me; opposite, the table with an enormous mirror in which I look at myself all the time; and a wardrobe on the right. On my left, the window allows full sunlight into the room because, a couple of years ago, I decided not to put up any curtains or venetian blinds that would block the view of the large tree on the street in front. Living on the third floor, I have a full view of the branches and leaves of the tree. I love it.
At last, the laptop is on. The Wi-Fi connection is good and all is ready. I look at my hands. They are not like Nicola’s. Mine normally touch the keys on the keyboard and pens for working. How times have changed! Years ago, boys my age were already working with tools, helping their parents in the countryside and doing various manual jobs. “This is all part of technological advancement,” I say to myself each time I make the comparison. I stretch my fingers in a sort of ceremony before the computer and, with a speed that amazes my companions, I start conducting my search on the Internet.
The first thing I do is to open the new application that we have been sharing in class. It operates like a videoconferencing tool on which six people can be online at the same time and see each other’s faces, one at every corner of the screen. We can automatically share files, information and in particular, websites for us to undertake a proper search. I have to send an invitation to the five of us although, at this moment, inviting Erik is one thing I absolutely don’t care to do.
Elsa accepts the invitation immediately and I can see her on the screen:
“Hello, here I am,” she greets me.
“One moment, I’m going to adjust the sound on the speakers,” I respond. Normally, I have it adjusted for headphones, but as I am alone today, I prefer to use the speakers.”
“I can hear you now and I can see you very well,” Elsa replies.
I adjust the speakers, the volume and the brightness on the screen. Elsa is in her room and is wearing a light-coloured blouse, and so I can see her face very well. If my mum were here, she would be commenting on how untidy my schoolmates’ rooms are. But, this is not the time to think of my mother.
“Perfect, Elsa. I can hear you loud and clear.”
Without saying anything more to each other, just seeing each other at the edge of the screen, we begin to type on the computer. From the sound on the keys, I recognise that we are both surfing the Internet. I am aware that unless one of us finds something really interesting, we won’t say anything to each other. Up to this moment, the only sound is the sound of the keys. Neither Samuel, Sofia nor Erik is on the screen. They haven’t accepted the invitation.
Suddenly, there is the sound that someone else has gone online and has connected with us. But there is no picture of them.
“Hello,” I say in the silence of my room. “Who’s there?”
I hear a strange noise on the speakers, like someone scratching a metal surface. It’s a grating noise. How unpleasant!
“Who’s there?” I repeat when I don’t hear a response.
“Hello.” I can now recognise Samuel’s voice. “Everything fell on the floor, the mouse and the keyboard.”
“I thought that someone was scratching something.” I hear Elsa’s voice on the speakers.
“Yes, well…” Samuel starts, “It was one of the cats. He was trying to draw a circle on the computer screen.”
“Ow,” Elsa says again.
“Ah, no harm done!” Samuel answers as if there was a question that required him to say something. “I have a screen protector which I change every month.”
I notice that he has not activated the video, only the audio. The only thing I see on screen is the photo that he posted up to introduce himself. Although I must say that instead of a photo, it’s a drawing. On a black background he has a drawing of the symbol of infinity in yellow, the typical number eight lying on its side. I’ve no idea why he’s put up that drawing and I imagine that he’s not activated the video because he doesn’t want us to see his house. I imagine that it is small, poor, with many people living together. Why did I say that? Sometimes, I feel ashamed of my thoughts.
I will focus on what I have to do.
I know where to begin. I type in ‘ashlar at Valencia Gate’. Many web addresses appear and I quickly try to see if there’s anything special. In my opinion, the ashlar is the start of all of this because Sofia was observing it when the guide approached her in the museum. Then, it was on one of the documents in her father’s briefcase. So, there must be something there.
After searching for a while, I stumble across the same translation from Latin of the letters visible on the left side of the ashlar. They all make reference to the words, ‘Those who built the gate may they return to their country’. Within this fanciful scenario, it is the only thing that makes reference to a possible ‘journey’ through the portal.
Introduce the same words in Spanish, French and also in Italian, ‘these marvellous online translators’. It is when I type in ‘Roman gate’ in Italian, something new appears.
“I think that I’ve found something,” I say on the microphone and I heard Elsa stop typing on the computer. “I am sending you the website address.”
A few seconds afterwards, Elsa answers:
“I’ve received it and I am opening it.” She is quiet for a moment and continues. “This is new. Guardian gods? What is this?” I notice that she is skimming the document and then she says: “I’ll start with this.”
I have no idea what ‘this’ is. I leave her to do the research. I found it in a study by a History teacher at a university in Madrid, and it is precisely all about the ashlar. It’s incredible that someone has been able to do research only on this stone. But, I am not surprised because I am totally intrigued, not so much by the translations, but by the right side which is impossible to read. How could someone do something like that? They left the letters on the left although not all can be seen. On the right, they carved something. Then, they ‘defaced’ it, or as they say when someone tries to erase what has been carved.
“Do you see anything?” I ask.
“Yes,” Elsa answers, reading as she speaks. “Here, there is another translation of the letters on the left side of the ashlar. I’ll write them out for you.”
I hear her typing on the computer and finally she presses a key which I imagine is Enter. Thereupon, I receive the following text:
‘(This is the) Gate of Rome: Let the people who built it work and bring offerings to (the images of) the guardian gods’.
“Caesar, (son) of the divine…”
I read it and ask: “What does it mean?”
“I have no idea,” replied Elsa.
Then, at this moment, my mobile rings. I look at the screen. It’s Sofia. My heart skips a beat. I noticed that Elsa and Samuel have stopped typing. I can only hear the sound of my telephone.
“Hi, how are you?” I ask amiably.
“Are you alone at home?” Sofia asked. If it was cold, I am now freezing.
“Would you mind if we came over to you. I am with Erik and we are close to your apartment. It’s best for me to tell you what I know and let us do the search quickly.”
False alarm! She’s back with Erik. I can’t think about that now. We have to focus on the ‘jump’. It does not make sense that they are close to my home because neither of them lives in this area. I don’t understand.
“No problem.” I answer. “How long will it take you to get here?”
“No time at all. We’re outside.”
At that moment, the doorbell rings.
Writer: Glen Lapson © 2016
English translator: Rose Cartledge
Publisher: Fundacion ECUUP
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