The Older Man (HME), twice as old as his Young Virtual Friend (JAV), talked to anyone else about those issues… or, perhaps, no one stopped balls at him!
—I don’t even treat them with the members of my family, always busy, therefore, without time to cross words, except for one or another favor… which I do quickly and as best as possible to return to my writing desk —HME snorted on the other side of the cell phone
I used to chat with JAV via WhatsApp, usually on Saturdays after half past seven at night. He was one of his few acquaintances in the world of arts. I believed that this young man had potential and projection in that complex Sargasso Sea. For this reason, perhaps, he was one of the few to whom he answered calls or messages.
—It seems to me that he doesn’t talk about these topics with his ex-work colleagues either.
-No. Neither of these rigs nor of any. The majority take refuge, those who are still alive, in the dispersed oblivion and the unappealable indifference that the capital sentence earns when one reaches old age… worse for those who fell short in weeks of contributions or that the insurer recast or invalidated them. Those are more fucked up than anyone. I know that several of them are still informal looking for the daily snack…
—Excuse me —interrupted JAV to clarify the matter—, I imagine that you mean retirement…
“Ha, Retirement!” he growled. This is another of the many social euphemisms used for those who, after giving their lives to the system, whatever the regime where they have had to wrinkle their youth, cease to be, not only productive for that entelechy of the Economy, but onerous… A load that no one wants to carry! In addition to being difficult, I admit it!
“Sure, I understand. Retirement is the definition that…
“Don’t worry, JAV,” she replied without letting him finish. Name coined this and universally accepted for such a situation, without ceasing to be euphemistic. A concept that, as consecrated by the RAE, is a soft or decent manifestation of ideas whose straight and frank expression would be harsh or rude… to say what it is. All the more reason, what it means, implies and hurts to listen blindly.
On topics like this, and others, HME used to chat remotely with JAV. He thought that, perhaps, he would also do it, if the opportunity presented itself, but as a professor, with some of the students that, for more than thirty years, he guided in university classrooms.
Do you think they remember you? JAV asked.
—Suddenly… but not all! There will be no shortage of those who remember that he spent many weekends reading and doing the jobs that were never missing on my behalf. As well as others who obtained notes that they did not expect, complained, considered unfair and even threatened me. Some, I imagine, as soon as they saw in the report that they passed the subject, it was deleted, not only what they saw in class, but also my name, gestures, scolding, advice and inevitable roll calls.
—Have you wondered… what will become of them?
—Over there they will be overwhelmed in their places spending their lives under suffocating pressures that, thanks… or because of my academic orientations, many of those crazy boys sought and a good number fell into such paid slavery. Where, as it happened to me, they will only come out when they are old, if they reach this harsh and unfair stage of human existence. Which is when, my Young Virtual Friend, like the lion when he is driven away from the herd by losing his ability and muscles to provide security and defend himself, he only waits for the hyenas to surround him and devour him… and the faster it happens, the less he suffers and the anguish.
“How many students did you have?”
“I did that calculation recently.
—The number of my former students exceeded twenty-five thousand, wrongly counted… perhaps close to thirty thousand, if we include remedial courses, thesis supervision, extracurricular counseling, and other loads that a university professor has to do outside the classroom.
-Awesome! You should be proud of that achievement.
I don’t know if proud. That time I felt guilty for the job and professional impasse to which I directed them and they, or at least the majority, perhaps the most diligent and trusting, followed my moldy advice to the letter. How can you not believe the distinguished professor that burning your eyelashes to obtain degrees is the best way to achieve success and happiness?!
With some sarcasm, he also used to remember and share with his young virtual companion that, in addition to medals and instincts, including an award from the Presidency of the Republic, at one of those universities they awarded him an emeritus professor plaque, as well as a review with the finery of his professional and teaching career in a voluminous institutional book.
—Commemorative tome that I keep somewhere… I’m not sure where I put it the last time I dusted it off.
It was evident that HME’s memories were beginning to fade, almost in tandem with the accelerated loss of vision and hearing; in concomitance with the relentless advance of the effects accumulated in his body, product of, among other things, those three exquisite and refined white powders that he consumed all his life.
—Universal diet, JAV, which, along with many other massive ‘nutrients’, lethal in the medium and long term, despite being fatal to health, its powerful industries prevent its formal ban, while the media hunts for nutritional guidelines , enthroned them as ambrosia for the gods in the fickle and ignorant mind of the consumer.
A sum of ailments that consumed him slowly and gradually, with one or two pills, drops and palliative spoonfuls for each diagnosis, a month at the expense of the pharmaceutical companies, in addition to the little cough that he gave him every time he spoke at length.
—Boy, I wore out my throat and my life giving classes at night, on the one hand, as well as watching the treasury with a club so that the masters of the State would not pocket everything and at least leave the institutional operation —he shared that time with his fellow.
For this reason, because of his voice that faded when he talked to JAV or during the few interviews he gave, he drenched his words with well-diluted water mixed with a thousand bees.
—Because of the pre-diabetes thing… a gift accumulated in my viscera, JAV, the product of ingesting one of those ultra-processed white powders as a child, the one that came out of the sugarcane mill. As delicious, addictive and perverse as that other that gives flavor to food, perhaps because it is extracted from the waters of the sea or from the earth’s crust, as well as a better seasoning for wheat and other vegetables. This, the third of the exquisite poisons.
Ailments and situations that JAV, perhaps, began to notice, without ever going into the subject in depth. He learned that when HME was asked questions that made him uncomfortable or about which he never let go, he resorted to the thunderous silence, his best escape. At times he diverted the conversation with mastery and elegance towards other mountains.
During his frequent virtual chats, JAV began to notice that his virtual literary friend was sometimes afflicted with sudden forgetfulness, especially regarding recent situations or phrases that he left halfway through and suddenly picked up again later. Even, that even in the following virtual gatherings he remembered.
—Excuse me, boy, for this long latency that accompanies me now more than before and insists on staying by my side more than I want or need —HME would say to him when this happened.
Don’t worry, it happens to all of us.
—You were telling me that there is someone out there who would be worth listening to about the exploits of his life…
—Yes, you are the one to turn that story into a great novel. Maybe number 23… or 24?
—If we remove the adjective, yes… it would be number 24.
—I told that person that you are the one to write it… in your style, of course, and if you like.
—Thank you, JAV, for having that detail with me again. Which I thank you for. Look, the first time you suggested another person to me for the same thing, so that I could listen to her and write her story, it was more than impressive and interesting. Although, to make it more active, I put mine. That’s why I took it on and, well, there I have the finished work, unpublished… until the time comes for it to be published.
-Yes, I understand. In the end that person breached part of the agreement… That’s why I imagine he has it saved.
—JAV, something similar happened to me with another assignment like that, in another country, in similar conditions. The source person, when we finally interacted, didn’t like my skinny face or my rules. So, he gave up. I never finished that work… it was left to see. Different from the first one you recommended.
—I hope soon to read that novel related to the first person I suggested. It must be interesting, right?
—It is a novel that, despite having some hints of reality, is social fiction. Therefore, any resemblance to reality…
“That’s clear, sir: it’s just a coincidence!”
-That’s how it is. It is possible that someone catches glimpses of reality or wants to claim something within the pages of this one in particular or any of the others in general. This or that other that someone wields in relation to my works, would only be the product of their Macondian creativity, of their subcontinental imagination. Chimeras, mere chimeras.
-I agree with you.
—In all my works, but especially in the one that I finished a year ago, unpublished until its time, as well as the one I am writing for reference purposes, inspired by your great and unrepeatable planetary artistic project, friend of letters, the genius is the brush of literary transfiguration and the only creator responsible for the magic present from the beginning to the end. That, this and all my novels: written or in development, they are going because they are going, whatever it is, my Young Virtual Friend! In time they will be published yes or yes. Whether or not those who feel they inspired them agree or disagree, that they belong to them, that they gave the idea, that they believe they are part of the cast or whatever. They are novels of my exclusive authorship.
—It’s clear to me since before I suggested that first project to you. Those are his rules, not only the ones he has, but also the ones he expresses with whoever, before, during and after each work, call it referential, vocal, fictional or whatever. I am also clear about his concept of literary transfiguration.
—With this, the literary transfiguration, as you know, of course, although it is true that I take an occasional place, landscape, social circumstance or characteristics of people from the real world, at the moment of taking them to the script, I blur everything and I turn into scenarios, times and universal characters. That is to say, that they can come to exist here, there, wherever and that the reader, by letting them into his soul, will give them his own interpretation, personification, location… context!, according to his conceptions or interests.
“This is part of his magic. That is why I propose the story of this other person who, it seems to me, has interesting aspects, like for a great novel.
—In general, Young Friend, each human being embodies one, several or many stories worthy of being captured in ecumenical letters. In fact, life is a fictionalized carnival. What happens is that there are few who are willing to capture them without waiting or charging denarios in return… Like, sad truth!, also: few readers are available. Every day they are less!
—That’s why, JAV, when I listen to or read what someone shares with me, as the first person you recommended to me did, even if I don’t have the ups and downs that make the story interesting, with the literary transfiguration that I usually use, because it’s inconsequential No matter what information reaches me, it is my responsibility to put the chili, the salt, the cusp, the abyss, the mischief or the hook that hooks the reader.
-I know. So what do I say to this other person?
—First, what I just substantiated. Are the rules! Second, if you agree and accept, that once I have the material that you provide me without any commitment: written messages, audios, videos, photos, notes… I will evaluate it and, if that is the case, if it passes this filter, I may mix it with other stories. If I like the resulting mixture and it is impressive, I put together a script with a schedule and, depending on the shift, I start writing it. At this moment there are two ahead, in addition to the planetary project in which we are committed, with which we will continue until the middle of next year, that is, about fifteen more months. However, depending on the story, he could skip the turn… If the jingle in my head or one of the other three chipped wyrms inside my body doesn’t speed up its hellish shriek or lethal rattle during one of these cold tropical dawns . You know it, my dear JAV, chosen biographer and literary legatee!
—Thank you! It’s an undeserved honor… I’m telling you, I don’t know if I’m the most suitable person for any of those tasks. Above all, that of this second commission, which until today manifests itself to me with open clarity.
—This was the only reason why I accepted you as a virtual friend a few years ago in my merged and otherwise lonely life. You know this, and please excuse my frankness and foundling interest. It was because of that potential as a planetary cultural manager that I glimpsed in you, that I opened the doors of my Tropical Literary Hideout and my hidden passion: writing! Therefore, from the beginning of our virtual friendship I told you that you would be my biographer. Although I admit it: yes, I did it in a sneaky way! Therefore, I understand that you have never wanted to say a word about it and I would not be surprised or upset if you never did.
—Every time you said it, I confess it… I tell you! I didn’t dislike the idea nor did I consider it preposterous. Although, excuse me, I wouldn’t dare commit myself. Less, now, that it is to think about it and rethink it with that of being his chosen literary legatee. That, although it is true, I tell you!, I think I understand, not only the concept, but also its compromising scope. Also, the responsibility that these assignments imply overwhelms and scares me, really!
—Look, JAV, I will understand and accept without ever reproaching you if, for whatever reason, you never accept my requests. It is part of your free will, it was not missing!
-Question that I thank you…
“Believe me, I’ll understand you.” If you never do it, for whatever reason, it doesn’t matter! We will continue to be literary friends for the rest of our lives. Even beyond the goodbyes of oblivion.
—My sincere friendship is guaranteed forever, no matter what.
—However, JAV, it is important that I tell you, although I know you know it, that you are the only close literary friend I have, even if it is virtual, with the ability and willingness to do these errands for me. You are the only person in the world who knows, more than anyone!, of my imperfect and incorrigible existence and works. Perhaps the only one, among the few friends I have and with whom I communicate and accept calls, who can be interested in this spongy field of letters. As you verified on the Internet when you searched for a reference of mine to include me in that interesting virtual encyclopedia. I told you not to search because you wouldn’t find anything about me, much less on behalf of renowned critics… or anyone. What did you find?
—You are prudent, JAV. You found nothing! As it is, friend, if you don’t do it, if you don’t take care of my literary legacy, who else would? Who in a few dozen years would speak and write knowingly about that unknown South American novelist who at the beginning of the 21st century painted with phrases the nostalgia of a society on its way to catastrophe? Unknown author who only wanted to be read for payment and prize, because that’s what he wrote for and even had an initiative to donate his books in all the libraries on the planet.
—If it’s not you, my dear Young Virtual Friend, tell me: who would take care of this deluded boss?
“Maybe your children or grandchildren!”
—Look, JAV, with my children I made the same mistake of good will that with my students.
-How is that?
-Simple. I repeated to some and to others and instilled in the head the same hackneyed discourse and I directed them along that well-worn path…
—That only study, titles and stable work guaranteed happiness and success.
—As I told you before in relation to my students, JAV, my children listened to me and followed the example I gave them. Yes, they are all brilliant professionals, postgraduates, with big jobs and above-average pay.
—Although they never say it, because they may not even assimilate it, they lack that for which I did not give them advice or show them the way.
—Be happy!, JAV. Live life on time before they are late… as it happened to me.
—Now they work for others, in multinationals, which is why they are part of that amorphous productive industrial army whose soldiers don’t even have time to enjoy victories, that is, what they have won in other people’s battles. Less now that, due to the incubated pandemic, they transferred their trenches from labor slavery to the privacy of their homes. Yes, friend, your workdays are mixed with your twenty-four-hour rented stock. In addition, taking charge of the direct functional costs that were previously borne by the company. This, my dear JAV, without counting the loss of privacy and intimacy that business work took away from family activities. So I don’t blame them if they never have time for this old curmudgeon. Less, if they never read my scribbles. According to them, although they never tell me, after retiring! I dedicated myself to the unprofitable work of the scribe to occupy myself and not want to do anything else, as well as deny that I am unemployed… a useless and stubborn old man!
—I understand, but… I tell you, you must also assimilate that your children live in new times, other scenarios, opportunities, technologies… the Internet!
—Yes, they make their debut daily in the arena of the Roman Circus, friend, which is now interactive… As for my grandchildren, they are still at an age that makes it impossible for them to elucidate, much less assume, the heart of this matter. Perhaps your fresh minds will catch something of the message that I reiterate to you from time to time…
The Oldest Man paused. The Young Virtual Friend, on the other side of the cell phone and more than a thousand two hundred and fifty kilometers away, heard him sigh… maybe cry!, he supposed. After spending twenty or thirty eternal seconds in stunned silence, he considered it prudent to intervene.
—You mean, friend, when you tell your grandchildren that in the computer’s memory you keep your grandfather’s treasures.
—My grandchildren, when they grow up, perhaps they will understand what I mean by this phrase and assimilate it. By then, or sooner, if possible, hopefully you’ll be there to help them unearth the huaca… even if you’ve risen up, as everything seems to happen, and soon! Prevent height and praise from changing you and preventing you from continuing to call on Saturday evenings.
“I’ll try to do everything in my power regarding your errands…”
—I hope, boy, that you at least manage to design the nose of the effigy with what has been discussed in these virtual chats, with the material that you have obtained, when not built, with those scattered spikes that are out there and with my submissions for the article from that encyclopedia… Yes, for my appearance in the arenas of the new interactive Coliseum where you say that my imperfect and incorrigible sentences should debut… For everything, possible or not, thank you!