Friday 23 December 2016
Time: minutes between dawn
It’s still night, yet we can see the first light of dawn. The door of the Church of La Magdalena is still in darkness. The building is lit up at the beginning of nightfall to provide touristic views of the city and it is switched off in the middle of the night to save electricity. So the only light in the plaza is from the few street lights in the area. We are alone in the street. The bars nearby are still closed. All is peaceful and still, except us.
I’m absolutely terrified. I remember last night when, after listening several times to the tune Erik was playing on the dulzaina, we heard Nicola’s deep voice from inside his room saying:
“Get a rest, tomorrow is going to be a hard day. You have already found what you are looking for.”
We were startled. We thought that he was sound asleep.
I then mentioned to the others that I thought he also said he knew that we would find it. But nobody else heard it. After that, our faces lit up and we went to sleep as best as we could in the living room. We arranged ourselves between the large sofas and the rug on the floor, and despite being very afraid, I fell asleep almost immediately. Fortunately, Nicola had left some blankets because, if not, we would have been frozen. How cold it was in his apartment!
It was Nicola himself who woke us up a few hours later with the smell of coffee and by switching on the lights.
“Good morning,” he greeted us with great kindness. “I don’t know if at your age you drink coffee, but if you have not already, after the night you’ve had and what awaits you today, I suggest you drink it.”
In my case, he was right because it was the first time that I had ever drunk coffee. In any case, the greatest surprise was when we went into the bathroom we found five bags, each equipped with a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap and a towel. How could he have known that we were going to spend the night in his home? Every minute seemed more unsettling.
During breakfast, we went over everything we were going to do. He reminded us that we could not carry anything from the present to the ‘other side’ (as he referred to it). So in the same bag that he gave each of us, we put everything we had. I packed my whole backpack in which I keep everything that I carry around everywhere with me.
None of us wanted to ask the key question, but I imagine that we were all wondering what we were going to do there and, more specifically, how we were going to return. The first day he explained it to us, he enumerated exactly the steps we had to follow, although on that day, I thought that I was immersed deep within the madness of a disturbed person. Today, I remember his words so clearly. We have already put so much trust in this man to stop now when the decision to make the jump had already been taken. But, what’s the purpose of all of this? I deliberately ask myself this question constantly in order not to forget that everything I’m doing has an explanation and makes sense. Otherwise, I imagine that I would truly go mad or simply, would not do it.
While we were organising ourselves, Elsa took me aside and, in a low voice, said:
“I’m going to tell him soon. I want to do it before the jump.”
I stood there simply looking at her, not knowing what to say. I was surprised to see that there was someone in the group who was more interested in something else other than the ‘jump’. Well, love is love. At this moment, I wasn’t going to allow myself to be distracted from what we were about to do, but I nodded and smiled, just before Samuel asked me if I was going to eat the croissant that was left over at breakfast.
I noticed that Elsa tried to keep as close to David as she could, and I wondered whether he was aware of what was happening. From his expression, he appeared to be more naive that I had thought.
When we were ready to leave his home, Nicola stopped us for a moment, wished us luck and told us precisely what I had been thinking about a few seconds earlier.
“Don’t ever forget why you are doing this,” he said gravely.
Then, he handed each of us a small figurine which fitted in our trouser pocket. It was a small replica of the head, or rather, the head with the two faces of the god Janus. As he gave it to us, he told us:
“I don’t expect you to have any problems. But, if something happens, this will be your last resort. Show this figurine.” He stopped for a moment and then continued, “And say that the Watchman of Balance gave it to you.”
He was quiet for a moment and, putting his hands together, he closed his eyes. He seemed to be praying and of course, no one interrupted him. Then, he opened his eyes and gave us each a kiss on the forehead. Suddenly, he remembered that he needed to say something.
“I almost forgot,” he said, as he looked at each of us seriously, “Never draw the Disequilibriums sign in front of anyone.”
“Why?” David asked him immediately.
“Remember you are going to try to re-establish balance by travelling there where it was all designed.” He fell silent, turned his head to look at the statuette of Janus on the table at the entrance. Why would he be looking at it? I remember wondering about it at that moment. “It’s the only thing you need to know.”
With that response, no one said anything more. So, we headed for the door to leave. But at that moment, I could stand it no more. I turned towards him. Erik was holding the door open, but seeing that I had turned around, he closed the door again. Elsa, David and Samuel were already going down the stairs.
“Do you know anything about my father?” I asked him directly.
The reaction I saw on his face worried me. It was a mixture of seriousness, surprise and something else that I could not identify. His expression reminded me very much of the expression on the face of the guide at the museum when I asked her last week why the Cardus and Decumanus in the city were tilted. Then he relaxed, approached me and took my right hand in his hands. He put his fingers on mine as if to press them a little until he stopped on the ring on my middle finger.
“Who gave you this ring?”
I could not believe he was asking this question. Is it possible that he was asking me something that he already knew the answer for?
“My father,” I answered.
“May it always remind you of him,” he responded, releasing my fingers.
“But do you know where he is?” I asked again and I think I must have looked anxious.
He was quiet for a moment and then he looked at me with tenderness.
“Isn’t he with you?” He said, looking down at my ring.
“No,” I answered.
“Then, I suggest that you focus on those who are with you,” he remarked and bade me farewell with his hands.
From the time we left his house to the time we arrive at the Plaza de la Magdalena, I have been thinking about his last words. I suppose he’s right and that’s when I begin to feel guilty for not being kinder to my mother and not going back to talk to her. Suddenly, David shouts:
“Look! It’s starting! There’s very little time left!”
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Writer: Glen Lapson © 2016
English translator: Rose Cartledge
Publisher: Fundacion ECUUP
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