ON this summer evening, hot and stifling evening, usual in this season of the year, I am sitting in an old rocking chair made of wicker. I am under the shadow of a leafy tree, a male plum tree that looks like an umbrella. I planted it long ago, and took great care of it, till I transformed it in what it is now: a beautiful umbrella. This is my favorite place to meditate, to think, and even to converse; I always do it in a low voice. Perhaps, some may think that I am crazy, but no, I am not crazy. What they do not know that I talk with two ladies who came into my life a long time ago.
This rocking chair is far too noisy. I suppose that all wicker chairs are noisy, and that the creaking can be heard from a long distance. They say I talk to myself, so what? Isn’t it almost normal that most old men talk to themselves? I myself am an old man, an almost seventy years old, with all the usual aches and pains you get when you are old. I live relatively alone; I say relatively because even when my wife lives with me, I feel myself very lonely…very lonely.
I like to converse a lot with Solitude. Oh! I’m sorry for the abrupt introduction of this person. I almost forgot to say that that’s the name of one of the ladies that came into my life some time ago. Solitude is invisible; nobody can see her, but you can feel her presence. Sometimes I think that I am invisible as well. Solitude worries me a little…because it looks like I’m getting used to her. I sincerely believe that Solitude’s presence is addictive. Like I say, I like to talk to her a lot. It is very sad to be surrounded by people, but nevertheless feel yourself lonely. But I don’t complain; Solitude is with me, and I talk to her because she really hears me. How many times have you spoken, believing that you were being heard, and it is not so? It is so easy to realize that you are not being heard, such as when the person you are talking to, turns his head to see something unimportant, or interrupt you with something that has nothing to do with the subject you were talking about, or feigns a yawn, or a stretches his arms, etc., etc. Hearing attentively is a way to show respect, and that is very important.
“Oh, dear Solitude, you know how I appreciate your friendship. You know what? I think I’m addicted to you. Let me tell you something that happened to me– a few days ago my house was overflowing with people, people I have know for many years: relatives and friends. It was a party, and I set myself in a corner of the living room just to observe; that really was my intent. Do you think I did wrong my dear Solitude? Everybody was talking and laughing; some of them were laughing loudly, and some were even shouting. Children were running through all the rooms of the house, laughing happily, and other were crying. The scenario was beautiful, a scenario full of youth and happiness. In a given moment I tried to intervene with a conversation, but nobody heard me; nobody answered me, not even turning a head to see me. In few words, I was ignored. Can you believe that Solitude? I feel that I am slowly disappearing. I feel that I am invisible, like you, my dear Solitude.”
“Oh! My dear Solitude, you know about my woes, my problems, and my joys as well, because I told them to you. You never talked to me, but I have the feeling that you liked my stories, and also felt that you heard me with attention. Do you remember when I told you about my childhood? Yes, I know you remember. I told you that my childhood was…more or less normal; it was not a hundred percent happy because in my house, we were very poor; sometimes, we had something to eat, and sometime we didn’t. You know, dear Solitude, that I started to work when I was just a boy, selling just baked bread house to house very early on those cold mornings. No, those, for sure, were not happy days. Did I tell you that I also worked as a shoeshine, as a gardener, as a brick layer helper, and some other things that I did to survive? Yes, I did tell you. But not everything was unhappiness, my dear Solitude, there were some happy days during my childhood. I will never forget that Christmas day when my father bought me a top, with three colors: blue, white, and red. That day I was immensely happy, and I won’t forget it, even if I live a thousand years.”
“Ay! My dear Solitude, who can reverse time to be young again? You know this clamor floats around the world in all the languages and dialects that exist. My father used to say it, and for sure, my grandfather and my great-grandfather, as well. It is just a dream, (typical of old people) an impossible dream, just an illusion. Yes, yes, don’t laugh at me, Solitude, I know it is an illusion, but is it wrong to dream? I assure you, dear friend, that if I could be young again, I would correct some errors, errors that at my young age, placed me in unsatisfactory situations. The worst error if you will, was the fact that I didn’t become educated when I could do it, even though it would have meant a great sacrifice. Yes, you can! Yes, you can!
“All right, my dear Solitude, let me tell you a little bit about my youth. But, before that, I’d like to write down, the words of a poet that influenced me very much. ‘Youth, divine treasure that goes away never to come back; when I want to cry, I can’t, and sometimes I cry even if I don’t want to…’ You know everything about my adolescence and my youth life, yes, my dear friend? I was always working to survive, like everyone else. Sometimes I think that I used to work so much, that I didn’t have time to look for a girlfriend. Then I laugh at myself, because everybody knows that, there is always time for whatever you want to do. I was too shy. That’s it. Can you believe it, my dear Solitude? I was afraid of girls. I was not like other youngsters who dared to talk to the girls with no hesitations at all. As for me, I was afraid to talk to them, maybe because of my humble condition. I think it was a complex. But I definitely was wrong, because there were a lot of girls in the same humble condition that I was, expecting the man they choose for a husband to be an honest, sincere, and hardworking man.
Such thoughts, and a lot more I tell to this lady that came into my life some time ago. I imagine that Solitude is a very beautiful woman. Like I said, she came to my life, and now I don’t want her to go. What do I call this feeling? Is it love? Am I in love with Solitude? Probably.
Y Even the wind seems to agree with me. It blows smoothly and pleasantly fresh. I hear the creaking of this rocker arm chair, but it doesn’t bother me. What bothers me a lot, is the presence of the other lady; her presence is hateful and repulsive. This lady visits me sporadically; she is not like Solitude. Solitude is in my company always. To tell the truth, I don’t like this lady because she is a busybody. She talks to me in a very bad way. Sometimes I even feel that she shouts at me. Definitely, I don’t like this lady; she is a bad adviser.
The problem is that she always comes when I am very, very sad; depressed I would say. I understand that every old man in this world feels that way sometimes. It is then that the hateful lady comes over to talk to me: “Your situation is awful,” she says. “Your life has no sense at all; you are in a high security prison; there is no way out; the only way is dead, suicide.” I argue with her strongly; “I can’t do that because I am not a coward, never have been!!” But very deep in my mind, and just for a second, a kind of admiration for those that have chosen that way when the situation became unbearable crosses my mind. The ugly lady seems to read my thoughts, and insistently encourages me to do it. She puts before me arguments that appear convincing, she tells me, “A man who has lost his dignity, his honor, a man whom nobody respects, not even in his own house, doesn’t deserve to live in this world.” Then, I tell her: “You are dead wrong ugly lady. I have dignity, honor, and respect. I somewhat invisible, but that is not a good reason to do what you want me to do.
This bothersome lady is like a thick black cloud over my head that crushes me with no mercy. “What do you achieve living like that?!” She yells. Then, in a half mockingly tone on her voice, she tells me; “You’ve fallen in a very deep hole, and you aren’t going to able to come out, so kill yourself.” I answer with an emphatic NO! yelling as well. “I am not a coward!” Then I calm down and refuse to talk to the ugly lady further. I just start thinking: “There are dignified ways to come out from the high security prison, or from that deep hole”. But the stubbornness of this lady has no comparison; she is worse than a mule; she does not hear my arguments, and keeps telling me to hurt myself. Then I get angry, and with energy, get up from that noisy chair and start working in my yard till I get exhausted. That’s a dignified way to get rid of that ugly lady. Oh! I forgot again to tell the lady’s ugly name; her name is as ugly as she is: MELANCHOLY.