It is impossible to know precisely if the improbable situation that Hortensia del Perpetuo Socorro Sánchez García experienced in Santafé during that forced vacation period would have been the same or at least similar in any other part of the world. As it happened to her that time where her overwhelmed mind and ‘tired steps of fighting for nothing’ took her, how in private she reproached herself and lashed out at her soul.
—Dr. Sánchez —said the head of Human Resources of the International Logistics Agency (ALI) where she had worked for more than twenty years—, by orders of the board of directors and the general president, you cannot continue deferring and accumulating vacations. He recently completed a new term. With this, you far exceeded the limit allowed by law, the internal work regulations of this company and the endurance capacity of any person… including yours, doctor.
—That’s right, another year of work, Gladys, then?
—He has to go out for at least three weeks, I wish it would be four or six. In this way, doctor, if you take all three, the accumulated ones will decrease to twelve, including those for this new period. The following year he must do the same and so on until he catches up.
Each year he used to ask for only a few days off, never more than three. Sometimes he would come back on the second day.
“I do it for work responsibility,” he argued. I can’t just leave things lying like that. No one does the job the way it should be. Then, when he returns… to repair the damages that he would have avoided by being in charge, as always.
When he got sick, he avoided going to the doctor. She said that the best remedy was to be busy and never give importance to the dolamas. Much less would she visit a psychologist and not even think about psychiatry, although she knew that something inside of her had been biting her ferociously every day.
—This time and from now on it’s your turn, doctor. Go out, travel, hopefully far away and have fun in some interesting country… don’t forget to bring back memories from there.
Gladys thought about it and would have wanted to tell her to take the opportunity to suddenly find a partner or ‘throw a canita in the air’. But he abstained. In the company they knew that this was a more than forbidden topic in his presence. For Dr. Sánchez García, love, getting married, having a family, much less getting involved in passing adventures, was ruled out from a young age. Apparently, when in college he had an unfortunate love affair that would mark his life. From that time he chose to take refuge in the studio, at first, then completely at work. In these he was outstanding, successful and insanely responsible.
He even stopped his relationship and contact with his parents and siblings. None of them understood or supported her when her boyfriend Misael González Michelsen, the youngest son of one of the wealthiest families in his country, to surprise her and publicly commit her, proposed marriage in all the media and networks within her reach. She rejected him out of hand.
Misael fell in love with Hortensia, not only because of her beauty, statuesque body and contagious joviality. He would have approached and conquered her, the haughty and attractive director still had it in her mind, because of her talent and how diligent she was in everything; in addition to the complicit support that she gave him during a good part of his degree by doing his student homework. Everyone knew of his repeated absence from classes without any teacher or principal saying anything to him as he was the cuba of the eponymous González Michelsen family. Also, that it was Hortensia who did and delivered her homework. He and the academy were not very compatible. A question that did not matter to the dolphin, or to anyone else, in that society of lies.
In Misael it was more the indiscipline and the stink of his family’s power than the lack of attitudes for study or work. He knew who he was and how much fortune surrounded him and would surround him, one could say forever.
“Hortensia,” he told her one day, “with the family patrimony that corresponds to me, I can live four and even five more lives in opulence without lifting a single finger.” So, what can I care about the study and the concerns that most of the miserable and servile people of this subcontinental country carry on their backs?
—Misael, a busy mind prevents a man from going off the rails in life, no matter how much money he has. The idle mind corrupts the soul. Healthy occupations drain anxieties and bad intentions, as well as the ranges of hurting them more and taking away even what they don’t have or can get tomorrow for those with nothing, which is the majority in this country.
—That applies to the empties… not to the González Michelsen who have everything and much more, so there is nothing that we cannot buy, have or change at will, including the law and customs so that they always turn to our favor.
—Someday I heard my father: “Pets and humans have in common, especially, that they are faithful and gentle as long as there is a master who fills their crop; when another one appears with better or more fragrant morsels, they usually go after it”.
—In my case, I am the master and with my wealth I will forever have pets that are more than submissive, even if they are cunning. If they want to continue having a full belly, their own and that of their families, they should not bark at the owner, even if he steps on their neck or hurts them.
Dating things went relatively well at first, except in two aspects that Hortensia never shared, not even with her parents, brothers and cousins, who were crosses when she told them that her marriage request was rejected, therefore, that she broke off relations with Misael and his entire wealthy family, whom he never wanted to hear from again. Since then, he decided to avoid and reject any attempt related to affective purposes.
He broke up with that promising emporium dolphin, not only because in private he was perversely ambiguous and increasingly complicated and intolerable, in addition to not sharing his social philosophy, much less his economic conception. She made the decision by corroborating her initial suspicion that her role as wife would be secondary, inconsequential, ultimately unfortunate and even tragic.
Misael and his family loved her for her gifts, not so much the physical ones, but for her professional and managerial skills and potential. It became clear to him that they would use it to consolidate the businesses of the González Michelsen, in full expansion thanks to the widespread, at that time, free market as a subcontinental country existed and had resources that were easy to manage and extract at very little cost, therefore, with greedy, indelicate and inequitable rulers, politicians and businessmen.
Hortensia understood that she would be discarded after being squeezed. It was the safest. That powerful family had history about it; at least from the great-grandfather, great-uncles, cousins and even Misael’s older brothers. None of the wives of these patriarchs and their descendants, almost all matching his profile, ended up well, much less at the side of their respective conjugal partner. Three of them went to mental prisons. Another disappeared and no one, apparently, cared, let alone looked for her. They were all left destitute, without even the patrimony from before the lavish marriage.
When the time came, when the aging wife was no longer a useful or profitable piece of business, her respective husband, powerful and cocky, would show up with some pretty young college girl or recent honors graduate. Consequently, in the face of obvious marital claims, not only threats and demands for divorce came. Then, he stopped being part of the family and was on the payroll. Even their respective sons, stuffed with power, cared little about the fate of their disgraced mother and to whom the González Michelsen and their horde of media used to mount a few gruesome and shameless stories that stained their existence forever.
The González Michelsen family controlled everything in that bewildered country. His manufactured image before the common people was of prestige, power and goodness. Characteristic, the latter, mediatically made up as a national sepulcher. Hortensia would come to corroborate her suspicions with a distant cousin of the missing wife of one of them. She approached him and warned him, precisely when the news of the request for commitment from the Cuba of that emporium to Magister Sánchez García, graduated with highest honors on each occasion, was spread in the media.
The destination that Hortensia chose to go on vacation was because she once heard from a subordinate that he had a wonderful time there. In particular, in your hectic megacity. Even better, in the southern sector where everything was nearby, including an exceptional park.
He bought tickets, made reservations at a hotel on Santafé Avenue. He found out on Google everything he thought he needed to know: interesting places, possible risks, restaurants, types of food, ways to get around safely, hours, customs, and terminology to communicate with the locals and avoid having awkward moments.
To the question: What clothes to wear? The platform responded: “Due to its pleasant weather almost year-round in most of the country, it is best to wear comfortable cotton clothing, cool t-shirts and pants. Remember to wear a swimsuit and flip flops if you are going to visit coastal areas.” On other pages they suggested white or cream-colored clothing. Also, sunscreen, dark glasses, sandals, slippers or flip-flops, depending on the activities to be carried out.
“I’ll walk where I see I can and I’ll ask for Uber for tours of the city,” he said to himself when he checked that all the documentation was in order: passport, flight tickets, hotel reservation, previous migration records, and bank cards.
During her career as a professional in International Business, her master’s degree in Global Economies and another one in Integral Logistics, later, when she joined the ALI and until reaching the position she had held for ten years as General Director of Import and Export Operations, she studied, he investigated and worked from sunrise to sunset. She understood or wanted to believe that in this way, always keeping herself busy, the one who would manage her life would be her brain, not her heart, which she distrusted, but tried to keep at bay with her evasive and blunt attitude about it and worked to the maximum.
She knew that this made her sick, especially with unspeakable affective nostalgia. But she made herself strong and projected outwards that nothing and no one affected her.
Because of such a conception of life, perhaps since he broke up with Misael, he avoided dealing with anyone other than what was pertinent. He was useless to his subordinates, fellow managers, clients and acquaintances, he had no friends and his entire family stopped talking to him for not accepting the marriage proposal, including aspects different from those established in his always very busy schedule in their conversations. Even more so, if these were related to ‘gossip’, as he described everything inherent to politics, religion, sports, show business and other unproductive things; even more so love affairs. Just thinking about these made her unbalanced.
Since when he was promoted to the general directorate, he did not even allow in his conversations the issues that were heating up the news in those days: environment! Although, from the essence of her job, she knew it, the business operations she ran in one way or another had to do with the exacerbation of the orbital weather situation.
—Mr. General Director —he told his immediate boss when something about it was said to him about taking into account the limitations and conditions that some environmental organizations were imposing in various parts—, if the ALI stops at trifles, the businesses that always Clients from this and a large number of countries around the world have commissioned them, the competition will gladly do so, which is not little, without their managers considering or thinking about the carbon footprint, the melting of the Arctic, the wave of heat in Europe or incendiary droughts in California, Australia and many more places when summer comes. This company fulfills and will always fulfill its mission within the norm: Facilitate and expedite the client’s international business. For this, especially, Dr. Pinilla, they hired me and I have fulfilled it to the letter.
Perhaps for this last unconfessed environmental reason, since when she was appointed director, she moved her home near the main headquarters located in the free zone of the cold capital of her subcontinental country. Probably also the reason for selling his car and returning the truck assigned to him by the company. He decided to follow the mayor’s suggestion to get around on foot or by bicycle. When it rained or he had to go far, he asked for the ecological Uber service.
When the pandemic arrived and most of the employees in the administrative and managerial area were sent home to attend to their obligations from there, Hortensia preferred to remain in her office. After all, since ALI was a company related to the logistics chain, it was exempt from the government restriction that stopped a large part of the national and world economy.
Not only the ALI, a good number of companies around the world found a fortune in teleworking by saving a large part of their fixed operating costs, now legally and artificially transferred to employees with an addendum attached to the employment contract. These, or the majority, were ‘sold’ the idea of autonomy, freedom and more time in their respective homes. From then on, they were converted into makeshift and uncomfortable offices that stole not only the spaces, but also the tranquility and peace of the home. Also, a logical consequence, increased service fees, new expenses, friction and family quarrels. Among other good reasons, because dining rooms, bedrooms, living rooms and even kitchens became, rather than, inherently and elementary, for the sacred generation of labor income.
After the pandemic and in the face of the decrease in business costs and the increase in the profitability and profits of the firms, in addition to the silence of labor survival of the world army of employees and their affected families, teleworking became an obligatory constant.
—’The worst consequence left by the incubated virus, the one that enriched the richest, while impoverishing and subjugating the rest of the world forever’ —I used to think about it.
Hortensia del Perpetuo Socorro envisioned these and other implications of teleworking. But neither was he opposed to it as long as those who had to suffer it were his subordinates. He even celebrated that since then the Central General Directorate and many other dependencies remained almost empty; in addition to the countless offices for rent that they handed over to their embarrassed owners. He improved his work environment without so many uncomfortable people: employees and clients, now connected at all hours of the day and night, thanks to the global web of communications that depersonified meetings and administrative work management. He loved not having to intercede in person but with some ten, almost all managers, who also did not want to take advantage of the benefits of teleworking, nor was it imposed on them. They were the bosses.
The process of entering the airport immersed in the megacity that he chose to spend little more than one of the three weeks of forced vacation was not pleasant. Impasse that was presented to her, despite having all the documents in order and being accredited as a director of a multinational dedicated to international trade. Apparently, they never told her the reasons, but they took her longer than she would have liked, perhaps because the reason for the trip was tourism, in addition to traveling alone. The migration authorities took extreme care with tourists from the center and south of the continent. For these they even had a special room where they practiced the ominous selection process.
“This is due, ma’am,” the driver who sent the hotel to pick her up told her three hours after landing, once they left the airport and got into a late-model Suburban van, “because of the number of people who come from there, when It is not to stay illegal, they do it to try to reach the north. In any case, on behalf of my country, I not only apologize, but I welcome you. Here he will pass it from father and mother.
Hortensia heard several times that similar and worse cases, with unjustified repatriations, used to happen almost daily some tourists from most of the subcontinental countries. He never imagined being close to being one of them. It gave him chills when the friendly driver commented:
—In general, once the migra take their eye on someone, especially people who are alone or who have one or another particular characteristic, if they spend more than eight minutes in the registration process without their passport being visaed. , is a candidate for forced return… and without any explanation. They don’t even let the person call or use their cell phone.
The process with her took much longer than that time because, as far as she understood, they were confirming the reservation at the hotel, where apparently they did not answer. He felt that his sphincters almost failed him when the driver told him that during all that time they did not allow the use of cell phones.
—Horacio Ternera, ma’am, at your service. No more send.
“Thank you, Horatio. Something similar happened to me. When trying to call the hotel, while the employee who attended me stood up with my papers in her hand and went to an office, another one who was attentive immediately approached me and told me that the use of cell phones was prohibited there. Put it away immediately, he ordered me.
“Oh my gosh!”
—I was there for a long time until the other official returned and asked me if my return flight was for the 20th of the following month, having told her and shown the ticket three times where it appears that the return date is for the 5th.
“He got it cheap, ma’am,” the driver added, steering the truck toward its distant destination. In general, once the person from the migra gets up from his seat with the traveler’s papers, bound for the office that says… the die is cast. Hence what follows, from what I have been told, is Calvary itself that ends in crucifixion for the traveler.
—Well, in my case… I don’t know what happened.
—It is probable, ma’am, that the call I made was of some use once the first travelers on your flight left and you, being a VIP, took longer than normal.
“What call? Where?”
—To the hotel, ma’am, you are an illustrious guest. I had precise instructions in this regard in case of delay in leaving. Surely, from there they called the chancellery and… issue resolved.
The air conditioning, the tinted windows and the comfort inside the luxurious truck lessened the impact of the inclement sun and the outside temperature. It is close to 32 °C, like never before in that megalopolis with viaducts of two, three and even four levels. Some of these cross the extended city in all directions. Beneath one of these gigantic, intricate masses of concrete, the truck was passing at that moment, adjusting itself to the slow sway of the complex and hazardous traffic that Horacio knew and knew how to avoid… or endure when his alternatives ran out.
—It seems that outside the suffocation does not let up. Also, wherever you look and reach the visa… not a cloud can be seen.
—In this city there is smog everywhere, especially up there, which is why the heat hits harder here than anywhere else. They say in the news, ma’am, that this constantly rising temperature will be normal from now on, especially in summer. Global warming stuff, according to those who know about it. We will fry ourselves in our own butter, as they say in my town.
—I hope that where we’re going… it’s a bit cooler, from what I found out on the Internet.
-Very little. Suddenly a little more breeze, but the heat, as you say, for much of the day is almost the same. Just look, madam, that over there even the trees scream from the heat and the passers-by clamor for their elusive shadow…
“What trees?” Hortensia interrupted.
—Well, those who have been planting for about twenty-five years when some very rich investors decided to turn the old municipal dump into the area with the highest residential and corporate value in the city… as it is today. There, the square meter is the most expensive in the country and only rich people live there, corporations from many countries and classy tourists like you. Fortunately for people like me, because of the job offer that all this generates.
—It’s good to know that there are trees… I imagine on the platforms.
—Everywhere: in the boulevards, in the roundabouts, even better, in its immense park where there are paths like the one through the oaks… that, although barely growing, each one even has stories or hides under their incipient shoots.
“Good to know… what stories are you referring to?”
—That park, in general, is visited daily by three types of people, apart from the workers who take care of it and maintain it and those of various restaurants, construction companies and other businesses that exist… most of them are witnesses of what is there it happens daily.
—Let’s see, I’m listening, my curiosity was piqued. He said three types of people… what’s going on over there?
—According to the Waze, we are less than twenty minutes from the destination, so I will hurry to tell you something.
—That immense park stringer, with lakes, fountains, water paths for oxygenation, framed by skyscrapers with unconventional shapes, which are more whimsical, is especially visited by tourists. I imagine that you have it on your agenda to go for a walk, especially in the afternoon and better at dusk. Also, you can eat in its first-class restaurants or play sports. If you don’t have it included, I recommend it. The second group of people are locals who do the same thing as tourists, plus the obligatory walk with the dog. This is because most of them live alone or with a partner, but without children, so pets are a fundamental part of the family. After the pandemic and the arrival of teleworking, the dog is the perfect excuse to go out and stretch your legs.
—In most big cities there are places like the one you describe and people with similar roles and situations, including pets.
“Yes, almost all the tourists I transport say the same thing.” But what is unique about the park is in the third group of clients.
“What are… who?”
—All those who have scrapes in their hearts, doubts in their affective feelings, intentions to love, find a partner, need advice or conflicting ideas, whether they are residents of the area or from other parts of the city, also employees and lately tourists.
—I understand… that is to say: in love!
—I don’t know if that adjective is the one that best describes the situation, ma’am.
“What do you mean?”
—The park, in each case and in a different way, looks for a way to communicate with the individual who needs to hear their voice, even if they don’t ask for it or look for it. Then, the park tells him, according to the scratch that he has in his heart or in his mind, the path to follow… but few pay attention to it, so after a while… purrundún!, I take it for a buzzard.
—Excuse me, Horacio, it sounds like magical realism that the park seeks a way to communicate with its visitors, especially those who have scratches on their hearts or minds, as you say. How does it do it and what evidence is there about it?
—Ma’am, people who pass by almost never mention it, except when they drink their mezcal glasses or leave it in their farewell letters.
—I understand, but I insist: it is still magical realism!
—Magical realism or not, in my case, that I am part of the evidence, ma’am, it happened to me with Lupe. Chinita that I brought from town and here, when her wings grew… she flew and flew, like ‘La calandria’. I had my doubts, so on one of my free afternoons I went to the park and under a young oak tree I heard that someone told me to take better care of what I had at home…
-So what happened?!
—Well, come on, what was I going to listen to him! A little while later, the bandit took off with a trailer driver who offered to take her to the other side of the border… She’s in prison there because that guy gave her a package that the migra took from her.
“I’m sorry, Horace! I understand that of the scratches, as characterized by those of the third group of visitors to the park…
—Don’t worry, the scratch is already wearing off. But this third group is not completely defined there.
—Since it is so big and long, some solitary people go to meditate, others to ask for help or to confess to the sad silence what they suddenly think of doing. Couples date or go frolic under their growing trees. They say that when they are there, some voice or sign tells them what will become of them and which path they should take. Almost no one pays attention to it, nor do the disparate lovers who meet in their restaurants, especially on Sunday evenings… even when the tragic announcement presents credentials. Look, ma’am, after this pay booth we find the shopping center and from there to the hotel tower is a matter of three or four minutes. This group also includes single people who do not dare to tell their story or ask anyone for advice, even if their hearts cry out through their eyes. In general, always under the fragile shade of some tree, especially those located next to and next to the Paseo de los Encinos, one and the other hear or see the path that they have to follow or avoid… but that few follow or avoid. On the contrary, they get more stubborn. Madam, there is no worse stubborn than the one who, knowing where he should or should not take, takes the opposite and then laments over the broken corotos.
“Incredible stories, Horacio, he dispatched me in no time!” Please, so as not to stay with the thorn… what do you mean when you talk about disparate lovers?
—They are those relationships that are prohibited and in which there are large differences in age and economic status between those involved. It happens, especially, between a wealthy and old man with a pretty, low-income young woman, usually an employee of his or his subordinates where they work. It also usually happens, but, on the contrary: old woman covered with a pretty boy, poor or a playboy. I know of several cases in which the oaks in the park announced with voices, winds and even shadows, especially to the old men in love, more stubborn and foolish when they were in these, that this relationship would destroy them, not only them, but also, inexorably. , to their families. As indeed happens shortly after. We arrive, it is in this cream-colored tower, with an orange center! The bellboy is waiting for you at the entrance. Don’t forget, behind this building there is a roundabout. On the other side of the avenue you will find, on both sides, excellent restaurants with all kinds of food and… one block further on, the north entrance of the park.
Due to the fatigue caused by the flight and the impasse at the airport with its delay when passing through the migration filter, that mid-afternoon Hortensia decided, once alone in her comfortable room with wonderful views, it was on the 32nd floor, to have a shower and then recline in an easy chair located in the room next to the bedroom. From there he looked towards the well-planned avenue, with buildings, as Horacio told him, on either side and with whimsical shapes. The evening sun was on the side. Outside the temperature was high, while in the blue sky, with a gray haze visible in the distance, the absence of clouds was impressive and punished the retina.
He checked on his cell phone and was surprised to see the temperature report: 34 °C, with an invariable forecast until 7:00 p.m., when it would begin to drop somewhat. The information he had on the climate of that megacity, as he found out on Google when he decided to make the trip and for that season that included the summer solstice, was on average 25 °C for most of the day and cool at night. Then, he remembered Horacio’s words about it:
—This hot flash is due to heat stroke. Worse is further north where these days he reached forty. They say that in July things will get uglier. Perhaps, because, according to some, that over there they cut down all the forests to plant avocado, agave and maguey… that’s what they say!
Hortensia decided to lie down and avoid going out into the street. At that hour there were few passers-by visible from the window. These were in a hurry avoiding the inclement sunbeam and the suffocation. Most wore umbrellas, caps or caps. Minutes later it was deep. Only the roar of a runaway motorbike somewhere woke her up. It was after six in the evening. However, it seemed that the Sun did not let up and neither did the outside heat. The gray mist seemed closer and denser. The absence of clouds in the sky gave him a strange feeling that, at that moment, he couldn’t tell if it was fear, omen, or sadness.
He remembered that Horacio told him that, nearby, after the avenue, he would find restaurants. It was decided: I would go, meet and eat. I was hungry. It was changed. Fresh clothes, dark glasses and a kettle were put on. It seemed curious to him to use them at that hour. In her city, with only 375 meters higher above sea level in relation to this one, at that time dusk began and she would have to go out warmly, without glasses or a head covering.
Side by side of the beautiful and planned avenue he found luxurious restaurants with menus for all tastes; also, high-end commercial establishments. Both located in the first and second levels of each building. These towering moles looked like works of architectural art on permanent display. He was curious that some exhibited in their bays monuments, paintings, portraits and other plastic expressions ‘nostalgic and prone to despair’, he thought. Especially, for those three dismembered giant cement hands, as if desperately wanting to reach for something lost that at the time they could not hold… or have! Or for those incomplete cubic faces with looks hidden in impossible oblivion. Even more so because of that painting on the second floor of a face in frenzy that, seeing it from afar through the red metallic frame located in front of the next skyscraper, gave Hortensia the feeling of being behind bars of anguish in the middle of the street. .
During that first detour that he made for four or five blocks, back and forth, getting to know and taking photos, he looked for the shade of the buildings and the trees. There the temperature was below the 27 or 29 °C indicated by the cell phone.
—’Runaway climate like angry that punishes crazy humanity for its environmental sins,’ —he thought.
I had decided to go to the park. A stomach growl warned her that since the sandwich and coffee she had before boarding the flight that morning she hadn’t eaten, not even on the plane. She was standing in front of an attractive restaurant where her manager, Eloy, as he told her his name was, very attentive, invited her to continue.
“Welcome to Giornale. We have an international menu that will satisfy not only your palate and appetite, but here peace of mind will come to you after a while.
She decided to enter driven by the hunger that harassed her and trapped by Eloy’s kindness, the impeccableness of the place and an advertising coffee cup almost three meters high located at the entrance. This one had a suggestive message: “Have you smiled today yet?” He entered and requested the recommended of the day.
“No spiciness, please.”
As he was served and brought he reviewed the menu. It seemed to him that this place would be the right one to have breakfast and dinner every day. Also, the prices were fair. Not only this, the restaurant was on the way to the park, where, without fully explaining it to him until now, he wanted to spend a large part of his break in that city. At that moment he decided that he would not go anywhere else.
—’He comes to rest, to have a good time and this area seems the right one to me,’ he thought and justified himself.
He took photos of the place, got along with the waiter, the administrator and the meter. Pleased with the foreign diner, who, in addition to being attractive and affable, was generous. Included a 30% tip. He paid, said goodbye and headed, taking photos of everything he saw interesting, towards where the administrator indicated that the north entrance of the park was.
When he reached the huge north entrance, in addition to photos, he took a deep breath and sighed. The view, where directed, subjugated, especially the sensitive of the soul, less and less in the world.
—’If they told me or someone described this place to me… I wouldn’t believe it,’ she said to herself and sighed again, without stopping to take photos, taking advantage of the late afternoon light, which had gone gloomy like a hot dusk.
It was 7:30 pm, he noted it on his watch.
He walked through the park one way to the south entrance and went back in search of the north. She was fatigued, not only because of the hustle and bustle of the trip, but also because of the immigration impasse, especially because of the heat wave that refused to let up. His clothes were soaked and he wanted to go back to the hotel to shower and go to bed. At that moment, he observed that a cafeteria was left in a nearby building. It was Le Pain Quotidien. He made up his mind and entered the elegant establishment located in the commercial roundabout. The waiter who served her, named Alan, because of the sign on his chest, offered her fresh Jamaican water with red fruits and chia to quench thirst and fatigue.
“Ma’am, this drink, as well as being exquisite,” the young waiter told her when he took it away, “will not only quench your thirst caused by this heat stroke that plagues us these days, but also, and since I saw you coming from the park, It usually calms the nerves of all those who, for some reason, come to hear the cry of the oaks and magnolias in bloom, condemned to give shelter with their shade to whoever passes through their paths and needs it, even if they don’t ask for it. Almost always without thanks or recognition.
The waiter withdrew and Hortensia, drinking slowly, remained pensive and reflecting on the curious comment. He soon forgot…or ignored it. When he finished enjoying the soda, he asked for the bill, canceled and headed towards the hotel, diagonally to that cafeteria.
At 9:17 pm, after a refreshing shower and putting on light clothes to sleep in, she decided to review the photos she took with her cell phone on her tablet. Each one seemed to tell a story.
“Stories that have nothing to do with me,” he told himself.
Stories of that megacity, especially of the very modern and cosmopolitan corporate zone and that, according to the news headlines that reached his cell phone, this and the entire region was affected by an intense heat wave never experienced.
—’Stories that perhaps I will tell no one and that once I return to the ALI and take refuge again in my work, my accomplice and code-chainer in life!, perhaps I will forget or from time to time I will remember.’
That was what I thought as the photos scrolled on the screen, until when number 7 appeared.
I didn’t remember taking it. She was sure it wasn’t her.
“Maybe I inadvertently touched the button when the focus was on the floor,” he said to himself to try, rather than to explain, to reassure himself.
The photo was dramatically sharp, showing the granite flooring of one of the park’s trails. In this, next to her shadow, which was her shadow because he recognized her silhouette, the part of the wardrobe and the sandals she was wearing, in addition to knowing that this was her foot and nail, almost attached to hers there was another shadow. It seemed to be that of a man walking beside her, shoulder to shoulder, as if in friendly conversation.
-Impossible! This went dark brown,” he almost screamed to make sure it wasn’t a dream.
So, he closed the tablet, took a soft drink from the fridge, drank it slowly, turned off the light and went to bed. The dream escaped because his mind was haunted. I was trying to find a logical explanation. When it was impossible, exhausted, almost at dawn and after deciding that that day she would return to the same place where it possibly happened, she managed to close her eyes.
Before nine in the morning, in a sweatshirt, tennis shoes and a cap, after having breakfast at Giornale, he returned to the park, as he did during the next six days of his stay in Santafé, morning, afternoon and night, before returning to his country. He took as many photos as he could. She was attentive to avoid inadvertent photos. This time, as well as in the following six days, in that and other places, under the shade of some incipient oak, a romantic voice that never knew where it came from, or didn’t care to know, always told him:
—The remedy for your lovesickness is in your heart. Allow the person who appears on the path of the premonition to enter. Otherwise, sadness will completely infect your reason.
After each tour, she went through Le Pain Quotidien where Alan, seeing her approach, served her fresh hibiscus water with chia. From there, she quickly went to the bedroom on the 32nd floor of her hotel to review the photos taken. Always in number 7 and following, the two human silhouettes appeared, getting closer and closer and next to the shadow of the oak.
One day before his return to the country, after returning from the park and passing by Alan’s, the sky finally had the caress of the clouds and the cool air was noticeable. He went out onto the avenue and took the last photo of that architectural gallery.
“It must be a sign of change,” he said to himself, heading for his hotel.
Once in the solitude of his shelter, from where he captured almost all of his views, he sat on the sofa and reviewed the photos of that day. Especially the ones she never took, but they were there. It caused her anguish to notice, or to want to notice, that in some of these the human shadows seemed to be degrading, as if the bodies of their chimerical projections were gradually fading away in a farewell of anguish that she did not know if she wanted to propitiate, avoid… or , perhaps, as always, ignore; despite the fatality that this implied, according to Horacio, Eloy and Alan. The only ones with whom he spoke about this matter during that week of obligatory magical rest in Santafé.