The Irresistible Charm of Insanity
Ricardo Kelmer – Novel – Miragem Editorial 2019
Translation: Luciano Espírito Santo
Luca is a musician who likes to have control of everything in his life. He becomes involved with Isadora, a Taoist wanderer who believes he is the reincarnation of her master and lover from the 16th century. He will embark on a strange and adventurous journey that blurs the boundaries of sanity and madness, dream and reality, only to find that he has to figure out his true identity before he deserves the woman he loves.
In this unusual love story that takes place simultaneously in Spain in the 16th century and Brazil in the 21st century, flashes of déjà-vu (the feeling that you have witnessed or experienced a situation previously) are time portals through which we come in contact with past lives.
Blues, sex and double shots of whiskey. Dreams, mystical experiences, and secret societies. Funny and exciting, The Irresistible Charm of Insanity explores the intriguing possibilities of time, space, life and whatever it is that we may call “self.”
> In portuguese – blog
> In spanish – blog (soon)
Luca stared at the strange figure standing in front of him.
“An old friend, don’t you remember me?”
The voice sounded familiar.
“This cave… I’ve been here before…”
He looked around trying to recognize the place.
“How are things going?”
“Pretty bad”, he answered, with a deep sigh. He was very tired.
“I see you don’t want to go back out there. But you have to.”
“Is this real? Or am I dreaming?”
“What isn’t real, Vehdvar?”
Vehdvar… He knew that name.
“I remember… you are…”
He fixed his gaze and saw the huge cobra, its brownish skin and glistening, geometrically perfect scales. The serpent raised part of its body and filled its lungs, inflating its neck. Then it opened its mouth and flashed its sharp fangs. He wasn’t afraid.
“Naja Hannah, King Cobra…”, he whispered, recalling ancient words.
“Well, well, well! Only the old serpent could cheer you up…” It slithered its way to the rock and coiled around its own body to be next to him.
“I’m a failure, Ihlish.”
“What about Isadora?”
“Isadora is crazy.”
“Love and hate… After so many centuries, they still won’t go apart.”
“Let me die in peace, Ihlish.”
“The lady in white really cast a spell on you, didn’t she? But before you run to her arms, look at this.”
He turned to the dark lake and saw ripples in the water. Little by little, a scene began to form on the surface… From a ship’s quarterdeck, a man watched the ocean. Luca immediately knew his name: Enrique. He had aged, his hair completely gray… Luca felt something strange, like seeing a very dear person again after a long time. But it was so much more than that, he felt an affinity, a strong complicity that he couldn’t explain.
He had the instant knowledge that Enrique was at the end of his life and many years had passed since his departure from a port in Barcelona, in a misty morning, to never return. He knew many more things about his life: the Society of Jesus, the Order of the Guardian, the secret missions, the danger of the Inquisition… His work as a missionary had taken him to distant lands and put him into contact with different cultures. Most of his life had been spent on board ships, roaming through the seas. The Catalan sailors used to call him chamador de vientos because he knew how to chant and wave his hat to bring the winds they needed, and he was sought by people who wanted his blessing and protection of their vessels with sprigs of rosemary on Saint Elmo’s day. He had a sad look on his face, and people used to say it was because of an old love affair. When asked about it, he would recite the verses of March, the Catalan poet: Com se farâ que visca sens dolor tenint perdut lo bé que posseya?
The night, the Chinese sea, the tempest… Enrique was aboard the ship that rocked through giant waves. Earlier that night, a sailor had spotted the tragic caravel of the dead, the translucent vessel that carried the souls of missing persons, and this dreadful omen had stricken their hearts with the worst fears. Now, the sudden storm, the waves washing the deck, everything being violently tossed from side to side. They would have to abandon the ship.
The crew kept throwing lifeboats overboard, but the terror and chaos made the task all the more difficult. At one point, Enrique lost his balance and hit his face against the mast, opening a wound on his right side that soon started to bleed. He was almost knocked out, staggered for a second, and fell in the freezing water. Struggling desperately to emerge and breathe, there was nothing he could do against the masses of water that made him swallow even more water. His body started to freeze and his strength slipped away… When a lifeboat was approaching to rescue him, he drowned. And he disappeared.
Luca cried, still gazing at the dark lake waters. He knew that Enrique had given up when he could have struggled some more to save his life. He also knew that his final thought was on Catarina, the woman he had never forgotten after abandoning her at the port in Barcelona.
“So Isadora was right?”, Luca whispered, touching the scar on his face. “I was actually Enrique?”
“As much as anyone else”, the serpent answered.
“What do you mean?”
“Enrique’s life, like any other life including yours, can be accessed by anyone since all lives are interwoven in a deeper level through lived experiences, in one single life, one single self.”
“So there is no…”
“… reincarnation. It’s an illusion of the ego, which relates to the other life and assumes it is a memory because the ego exists in the linear time, where past, present and future happen sequentially.”
“And don’t they really?”
“Only to the ego. You and Enrique share a profound identification and your experiences intertwine through the centuries because, to the higher self, time is a network where past, present and future intersect at all points.
“So, all times occur…”
“… simultaneously. And all selves are all the others. That’s why any given life can be influenced by someone else’s life at any given time.”
“In that case, the past can be…”
“… changed. The same applies to present and future, since everything is always happening…”
“But only a profound change of the self can change time. Because, in all actuality, time is within…”
“… the self.”
The serpent moved…
“Everything happens in the mind, Vehdvar.”
… it crawled towards the lake…
“Change yourself and everything will change.”
… and it vanished again in the dark waters.
* * *
A beautiful woman in a white dress. She stood right in front of him and had an alluring look on her face…
“Must be a very beautiful woman to entice you like that…”
That voice… Luca turned around. He saw Isadora.
“What are you doing in my dream?”
“This is our dream.”
“Then it’s a nightmare.”
“I’m here to pick you up. Come on.”
“It’s too late, Isadora.”
“I’m tired, Isadora.”
“You have to try, Luca. You can’t give up.”
“I can and I have.”
“Try just a little more, please…”
He took a step forward towards the woman in white. It was her lap that he needed, her comprehension. He was tired of fighting, fighting life, fighting himself, fighting everything. He just wanted to fade out and never have to wake up again. Nothing else.
“Don’t look at her, Luca”, Isadora said. “Look at me.”
But he had made up his mind.
“Luca, do you hear me?”
He didn’t answer. He moved forward.
“Then I’m going with you.”
He turned to her, surprised.
“You wouldn’t do that.”
“I’m doing it.”
He felt Isadora’s firm grasp on his hand. Then the abyss materialized next to him. A dark, deep abyss whispering his name. If he were to jump into the darkness, he would forever lose control of his own life and everything, and become a helpless idiot in slavery to love. He would no longer be accepted in the Order, he would be kicked out from the band, the Inquisition would burn him at the stake, it would be the end…
The woman in white and his final resting, his never having to wake up again. The dark abyss and his surrendering of control. The two things were calling out his name…
“We are together, Luca…”, Isadora whispered.
And before she could say anything else, he jumped.
The first thing he saw was a dim, colorful light. He didn’t know where or when he was, but the colors brought him a vague joy, one that came from far, very far…
In another instant, he thought he had sensed a female presence, sweet and caring. He tried to speak, but it required so much effort that he passed out.
He finally opened his eyes. After a short while of confusion, he understood he was lying down face up with a white bed sheet covering his body… He was lying on a bed… in a hospital room… with an intravenous line attached to his arm… The half-opened window in front of him allowed the daylight to come in. Next to him, his mother napped on a chair.
“Mom, what day is today?”, he asked. Gloria almost fell off the chair, awakening from a shock.
She hugged him with great emotion. Luca tried to remember what might have happened to him. But nothing would come to his mind.
“My son, I’m so glad you…”
“Tell me, mom, what happened?”
“You had an accident, my son”, she answered, wiping a tear from her face. “But don’t think about it now.”
“Accident?…” He couldn’t remember any accident. “When?”
“You were in a coma for a month.”
He tried hard to remember anything at all, but he couldn’t. He insisted he wanted to know about the accident. His mother explained it: a car had crossed his way, a most violent crash, he was very lucky to be alive.
“I was alone?”
“Son, you’re very weak, you need to rest…”
She didn’t need to answer. He suddenly remembered Bebel, the weekend on the beach, her face, her sweet smile… Tears rolled down his face. He couldn’t speak anymore and fell asleep sobbing.
* * *
On the next day, he remembered other images… A Spanish woman named Catarina… a Portuguese Jesuit… Travels by ship… Everything was a mix of dream and reality, but the images touched him deeply. He felt like many things had happened to him while he was in the coma… Then he slept again.
The next time he woke up, he felt much better. Gloria confirmed the immediate deaths of Bebel and the baby in the accident, and explained that he had been rescued from the accident severely injured and later acquired pneumonia in the hospital, which threatened his life for several days, disheartening everyone, even the doctors. However, he had recovered suddenly, to great surprise.
“The boys from your band brought this cloth as a gift”, Celina told him, happy for having her brother back.
“I hung it on the window to shut off some of the light”, Gloria said. “One day, you opened your eyes, you saw the cloth and smiled. Then you fell asleep again. On that day, I knew you would be back.”
He looked at the cloth and recognized it. It was an old painting with the “Bluz Neon” words written in multiple colors and the five silhouettes of the band members playing. He missed his friends and wondered how they were doing. But there was something else on his mind.
“Does anyone know about Isadora?”, he asked, and had a shiver: maybe she was still waiting for him in that port?
No, nobody had heard from her, so Gloria had no information. Neither did Celina. He felt the sadness taking over his soul. Isadora… Where was she?
“Are you feeling well, brother?”, Celina asked.
“Yes. But I’d like to be alone for a while.”
“Are you sure?”
“Okay. If you need anything, just call me.”
Celina gave him a hug and left with their mother, closing the door behind.
Luca turned on his side and made himself more comfortable on the bed. And closed his eyes. So was it all true? So Isadora was right? Had he been Enrique, the Portuguese sorcerer, Catarina’s master and lover? What an incredible thing… He hadn’t just remembered it, he had relived everything! Somehow, his soul went back to the 16th century during those weeks he had been in a coma and lived as Enrique. And lived all those emotions, feelings, fears, everything again…
“That’s amazing…”, he kept telling himself, ever more impressed. He finally understood that whole story about remembering another life. And how could he explain it? How? It felt just as real as remembering something that had happened a few years earlier. The clothing, the houses, speaking Portuguese, Spanish and Catalan… How could he feel and know so clearly something that he’d never truly lived? How? What about the contact with Catarina’s skin and her smell?…
Yes, he had been Enrique, a Portuguese man who lived disguised as a missionary of the Society of Jesus so he could be an apprentice in a secret order, the Order of the Guardian. An adventurer with multiple identities who lead his life with caution, secrecy and dissimulation. A religious conspirer and hardcore nationalist. An educated man, devoted to protecting the knowledge of his secret society at any cost, which had turned him into a silent enemy of the Catholic Inquisition. A man divided between his virtues and his vices, taking risks and experimenting with the mysteries. Also, a man who ran away from the most crucial confrontation of his life: his love for Catarina. For he flat out refused to give up the security afforded to him by the Society.
And he would carry the guilt of bailing out like an open wound for the rest of his life. And it was the reason why he had chosen to die in those frozen waters while he still had one last chance to live.
“Or was there another explanation?”, Luca thought, with the vague memory of a dream in which he seemed to figure out that… there was another possible explanation for the phenomenon of remembering another life. Yes, there seemed to be another explanation… Something to do with the self, the notion of individuality, something like that… He tried to remember it, but he couldn’t. Well, if there was another way of understanding what was going on with him, maybe he would find out about it later. Meanwhile, he only knew that he had somehow been in another time. And Isadora was there, too.
“Catarina, my love…”, Luca whispered, looking through the window into the distance. “I’m back.”
* * *
On his last night in the hospital, one week after waking up from the coma, it took a long time for Luca to fall asleep, still fixated on the recollections of Enrique’s life. The noisy carriages, the dust in his eyes, the smell of the breweries in Munich, the taste of pepper, ginger and cinnamon brought from India by ships as novel items… Shutting his eyes was all it took for him to experience it all again with great intensity.
Then he felt something like an idea that seemed to try to encroach… Drawing near… A strange idea coming from somewhere in the remotest outskirts of his mind… Then it came like a comet blazing through the heavens of thought and it seemed to light up the entire room: he was picking up from where Enrique had stopped. Yes, he was! The descent into the cave now would require that he confront the fear of losing control of his life. That was the next challenge that Enrique had sidestepped: to surrender control.
Luca marveled at the clarity of the newfound realization and took a deep breath, trying to contain his excitement. He finally understood that maybe Taoism had been presented to him through Isadora so he could reach the knowledge that had escaped Enrique. It seemed that a plan had been laid out for him. Was everything predetermined? By life itself?
Things were already out of control before the accident, and he was the only one who couldn’t tell. The setbacks, the minor incidents, the recurring illnesses, the conflicts with the band, the bad working environment, the loss of his car, Isadora’s departure and, finally, Bebel’s pregnancy. Life couldn’t have been more explicit. Still, he had failed to understand.
After thinking long and hard and identifying similarities between what had happened to Enrique and to himself, Luca slept with a smile on his face, feeling like being born again. On that same night, he dreamed about Isadora. A clear, powerful dream. He met her somewhere on the beach and she looked even more beautiful than usual.
“Where are you coming from, Isadora?”
“From four minutes into the future.”
“No”, he corrected her. “It’s been four hundred years.”
“We need to synchronize our watches, Luca.”
* * *
The bus began to move and Luca looked out the window. At the bus station, Junior, Ranieri, Balu and Ninon were waving goodbye and toasting with glasses and a bottle of whisky. Junior played one of the band’s songs on the guitar. He waved, too, with a swig of emotion stuck in his throat.
He got comfortable in his seat and took a deep breath. The city passed by slowly on the window and seemed to bid him farewell on every corner. A sudden fear sent shivers along his spine, fear for leaving everything behind and going down a path that he didn’t know where it lead. Like jumping into the abyss…
He opened the backpack and took the seashell he had been given by Isadora on the shores of Uruaú Lake, found a few days prior in a drawer after having forgotten about it entirely. He put the shell up against his ear and was lulled by the sound of the ocean…
Two months earlier, he had left the hospital with visible weight loss and multiple scars on his body, still quite debilitated. In a few days, he quit the band and the job, vacated the apartment, sold a few things and paid the restaurant bill. Then he bought the bus ticket. Gloria didn’t like that idea at all. Celina was afraid the impact from the accident might have affected her brother’s judgment. His band buddies couldn’t understand why he was giving up on a dream when he was so close to accomplishing it. But everything was clear to him, very clear.
He woke up in the middle of the night thinking of Bebel. He felt her presence and her glance, and could almost visualize her sweet face and candid smile. He remembered the loving and caring nights and her welcoming body. He remembered how hard she worked at the bar, her dreams of returning to college, the money she’d lent him… which he’d never paid back. He remembered her subtle disapproval of his self-destructive behavior. And he remembered how he even had wished he were Enrique just so he could get rid of her pregnancy. He wondered whether he could be somehow responsible for her death.
He reached for his pocket and took a picture that had been recovered from Bebel’s camera and her sister had given to him. In the picture, he hugged Bebel on the beach house terrace with the sunset in the background. What exactly had the meaning of that woman in his life been during those months? If she hadn’t been driving, would he have been supposed to die instead? Was it possible somehow that she had sacrificed her life to save his? Would he ever have the answers to those questions?
But Bebel was gone. And not even once did he ever tell her about how much he really loved her, how important she was for him, how beautiful she was. He had been so immersed in his own problems, so insulated in his self-absorption and his insane struggle against life… He hadn’t been worthy of her. And on the same day when he finally accepted the child they would have, she went away. They went away. Forever.
Deeply moved, he grabbed pen and paper and wrote on it, getting those feelings out of his chest:
Oh, this strange taste
Of the love that could’ve been
But never was
And it’s now forever over
The love that couldn’t grow
But still pretends to be
When I look over my shoulder
Luca thanked for the applause, got up from the stool and turned off the sound. He put his guitar in the case and climbed down from the small wooden platform that served as a stage. Charles approached him.
“You were awesome tonight!”, Charles praised, hugging him. “You really made the audience go nuts!”
“I’m even thinking about giving you a raise.”
“No objection on my part.”
“You deserve it, kiddo. Now, take a seat because a moqueca is coming your way, just the way you like it.”
Luca sat at the table and pandiculated. The bar was packed, like on every weekend. Looking at the other tables, he recognized local residents of Pipa Beach who were regulars at the bar and spotted some new faces of Brazilian and foreign tourists. Charles was an ex-hippie in his sixties and owned the place. Solange, his wife, was his partner in the business. They had liked Luca’s musical style and hired him to play at their bar regularly.
Luca opened a bottle of water and drank it, quenching his thirst. “Nine months”, he thought. On the next day, it would be exactly nine months since he had recovered from the coma, and seven months since he had come to Tibau do Sul once again. Just him, two backpacks and the guitar. An irresistible impulse had brought him here. Deep down, he knew that this was the place where he should start over.
It was strange to revisit the place, those trees, the river, the birds singing in the morning… But he felt good, he felt at home. Once again, he took shelter in Ms. Zezé’s camping ground, and she remembered him very well. On the second week, however, she offered him to move into the hostel: he would give computer and guitar lessons to her two kids in exchange for the room, how about that? The room was small but it had a closet, a small desk, a fan, a window with curtains and a bathroom. Breakfast included. Luca didn’t think twice: they had a deal.
On the first morning in his new room, he got up and went to the bathroom. As he passed by the mirror, he stopped and looked at himself for a while. There was something strange about the look on his face… He looked harder, trying to find an answer. Yes, something was different, but he couldn’t quite tell what it was. He still had the same impression over the following days. There was definitely something strange, damn it! But what was it? He kept trying, but he couldn’t find it. Eventually, he gave up.
It was Ms. Zezé, always so caring, who had suggested that he look for a job in Pipa Beach. He did, he met Charles and Solange, and came back to the hostel with a job on that same day. Simple as that. He had now a regular job, a job he enjoyed, where he could play his favorite songs, including his own original works. And – what a relief! – he didn’t have to worry about rent and tenant meetings anymore. Or gas prices. And he could swim in the ocean every day.
Seven months on his own. At first, his seclusion was filled with persistent memories that would invariably bring him painful realizations. He had been going around wearing an old, rusty armor for a long time, he understood that very well now. An armor made of old ideas about life. Although it had protected him from certain dangers, it had also been preventing him from moving. And the masks, there were masks, too, those had been dropped one after another and revealed his true self with its many flaws. And there were the demons, many of them, leaping out of his closet at every moment, forcing him to recognize and confront them.
How could he have been wrong so many times, and insisted so much on going down a path that took him away from himself?
There had been days when he would desperately look for someone to talk, out of fear of his own thoughts. If it wasn’t for the company of Ms. Zezé and the classes with her kids, he might have lost his mind. He might have been committed to a mental hospital. But the long night was behind him.
“Here comes the moqueca, nice and hot!”
That was Charles coming back to his table, carrying some smoking hot earthenware.
“Did you know, tomorrow it will be nine months since I pulled through from the coma”, Luca mentioned while helping himself.
“Nine months? That means you will be born tomorrow, kiddo. Let’s have a beer to celebrate!”
* * *
His job at the Papirar Bar was really great and he got to meet many people and make good professional contacts every weekend. Thanks to one of those contacts, he would go to Natal and play in a concert hall once a month. He was making more than enough money to cover his expenses, so he soon could afford a new acoustic guitar and an imported speaker, something he had never had when he played with the band.
He was now living a simple, healthy life. He drank less, slept more and ate better. He had been swimming every day and had time to read many books. He kept in touch with his family and friends over the Internet, using Ms. Zezé’s computer. He’d soon get his own, but he could easily live without one for the time being. He had also been writing many songs, experimenting with other rhythms besides blues.
He didn’t know how long he was going to stay in Tibau do Sul and he didn’t know where he would go from there. He didn’t know what would be happening next, he didn’t know anything. He also didn’t know about anything before the accident, that much is true, but now he would no longer worry about any of that. He only knew to be doing what should be done, and that carefree conviction made him feel freer than ever.
As for women, his job at the bar allowed him to meet many, and he even went to bed with a few. But they would always return to their cities the next day and he would go on by himself.
He was alone, yes, but there was a certain woman who was always on his mind…
“Isadora, crazy woman, where are you now?”, he wondered every morning while walking on the beach. Maybe he was worthy of her by now, unlike Enrique in that distant morning at the port in Barcelona. Unlike himself, Luca, some time ago. Maybe he finally deserved her now. Or maybe he had squandered all the opportunities.
One day, he was absent-mindedly flicking through the pages of a magazine and saw the picture of a cobra… and suddenly he remembered. He remembered a strange dream… It felt like a long time ago… A mysterious dream, of an ancient, sacred, numinous atmosphere… The serpent was telling him about the nature of the self, the time, simultaneous lives…
“That’s it!”, he exclaimed, taken with sudden euphoria. That was the dream he had been trying to remember since he came back from the coma. And, thus, in the days that followed, the memory of that strange dream occupied his mind. The serpent, the confusing ideas about life and time… Those were far from orthodox ideas, of course, but they were provocative and he sensed that they were hiding profound and revealing things. Maybe one day they would make more sense.
* * *
Late afternoon plan: tripping by the sunset. Whenever he could, Luca would walk down the river bank to watch the sunset, feel the breeze on his face and enjoy the scent of the sea. And play music for the fresh water dolphins. As soon as he sat down by the river and played the first chords on the guitar, they came to the surface with their gray bodies, smooth rostrums, and smiling faces. They would come close and be attentive, and listen… Once in a while, one of them would suddenly jump out of the water, its agile body shining with the sunset light. Luca laughed happily: that was their funny way of applauding his art and saying that yes, freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.
Playing for the dolphins gave him a wonderful feeling of being connected to Nature, a heartwarming sense of security, certainly the same kind of security that babies feel in their mother’s arms, he thought. It was, however, that same tremendous and mysterious Nature that had scared him so deeply on that particular morning at Uruaú Lake.
All alone, sitting by the river, he played his favorite songs and remembered… He remembered Gloria, who telephoned him frequently to know if her son was eating adequately and when he would return. He remembered the band, the fun they had rehearsing, the unforgettable performances. Since he left the band, Junior had become Bluz Neon’s new singer and Soninha’s boyfriend. But the couple quarreled so often it disrupted the work and divided the band. As a result, they didn’t record their CD and eventually disbanded. Junior and Soninha also broke up and now he tried to put a disco music band together while Soninha was dating Ranieri, the bass player.
Luca laughed, having fun at the memories and all kinds of trouble his buddies would get themselves into. Fate had determined that he would part ways with his friends, yes, but he confidently welcomed fate with open arms now, and being alive was suddenly a formidable and exciting thing. Months earlier, he had been floundering in the events as if trying desperately not to drown in water. He tried to take the helm of life as if it were even possible, unaware that all he had to do was to go along with its flow, the way he did now, like the boys who bodysurfed the waves in Tibau do Sul and thus tamed them rather than competing against them.
He looked back now and was amazed at how long he had roamed around blind and lost. He felt like he had escaped from hell, a kind of hell where he was rather burned by his fear of surrendering to life.
* * *
One morning, Luca woke up and went straight to the bathroom, as usual. Before coming out, he stopped by the sink to wash, looked in the mirror and saw his face. In an instant, he finally understood why he had thought that there was something strange about his reflection in the mirror every day. And laughed hard about it. His image in this mirror was whole, intact, quite different from the split image he had grown accustomed to seeing in the cracked mirror of his old apartment.
Luca touched the surface of the mirror as if caressing his own face. He was unfamiliar with seeing himself that way, whole, in one piece, looking like another person. He felt a sudden affection for that person in the mirror who stared at him, some kind of fondness made of understanding, compassion, love and forgiveness. Yes, that was him, of course, but at the same time, it was someone else, some other Luca…
Suddenly, he realized he was not outside the mirror – he was the one in the mirror. He was inside the mirror, staring at Luca on the outside. Then he understood that he, the one in the mirror, had always been there, looking every day at Luca on the outside and lamenting the fact that he didn’t really see him, that he could only see a fragmented Luca, broken in pieces, shattered in his own contradictions. He, the one inside the mirror, had always been the Luca who lived in that future time, that time of reunion with himself, the one who had tried every day to make Luca on the outside wake up from the dream and realize that he could interrupt the self-destruction cycle in which he had been stuck. The surface of the mirror was, every day, like a fine membrane separating two realities: in one, Luca died; in the other, he was born again and awaited himself.
Luca became aware that he was still looking at the mirror and laughed, without knowing why. He felt silly staring at himself as if he’d never seen himself before, and the more he thought about it, the sillier he felt and the funnier it all became. He soon was laughing himself to tears and then laughter turned into tears of joy, an unusual joy driven by the sudden conviction that yes, one really must die to reunite with oneself.
* * *
One day, chatting with Charles and Solange, Luca was told that they had I Ching cards. He immediately remembered that one time in the kitchen of his apartment in Fortaleza when Isadora consulted the oracle for him and wrote down the result in his appointment book.
He borrowed the book from them and looked the Receptive hexagram up. He read it and was shocked.
“In the fall, when the first frost falls, the power of darkness and cold begins to manifest. After the first clues, the signs of death will gradually multiply until the arrival of harsh winter and its ice. The same happens in life. Decadence appears, first hinted at by small signs, only to pile up until the advent of the final dissolution.”
He kept staring at those words, surprised at how they related to his own life. It was so obvious now! Darkness, cold, rigidity, decadence… the first clues… the signs of death… There couldn’t be more accurate words to summarize what had happened to him. And he had quite simply missed the message. How could he be so blind?
During weeks, he mulled over that message from the I Ching and its relation to the ideas about the concept of time that he had been entertaining lately. What would have happened, he wondered, if he had understood that message the first time he saw it? It certainly would have changed his future and, as a result, the painful future he lived subsequently would not have existed. However, it existed and it happened. So if he had understood the message, that would have altered a future that already happened, it would have changed what was now in the past.
“Wow… It’s possible to change the future”, Luca concluded, astonished at his finding. “And the past.”
* * *
On that cloudy morning there weren’t many seagulls frolicking in the skies of Tibau do Sul. Under a hut in a bar on the edge of the sea cliff, Luca breathed the sea breeze and watched an anchored boat… Nine months. On that day, exactly nine months had passed since he had woken from the coma. Luca laughed, remembering the night before at Papirar, when Charles told him that he was being born…
It was in this moment, like an urge, that the song wanted to come out. It didn’t just want to come out, it really had to. He grabbed his guitar quickly and… the song came out, slipping through his fingers and out of his mouth as if it had been ready somewhere inside him.
The wind in my hair
The dust on the road
In this inn I shall spend the night
Tomorrow, begin anew
Life is a dubious ride
But always takes me
Where I need to go
“Beautiful song… Is it new?”
“It just came out”, he answered, interrupting the music.
She sat next to him, looking at the vast ocean ahead, the waves, the anchored boat… He turned slowly and looked at one side of her face: she looked so beautiful… Even more than in his dreams.
“Is this a dream?”, he asked.
The smell of her hair made him feel light…
“And what is not a dream, Luca?”
“Where are you coming from?”
“From Ms. Zezé’s hostel. She told me I would find you here.”
Luca laughed. A seagull flew by very near.
“You look beautiful.”
“And you look great… you look healthy.”
“How was your trip?”
“It was amazing, I spent a whole year travelling. Now I want to take a break.”
“In São Paulo?”
She smiled, with her gaze fixed upon the sea. He smiled, too.
“By the way, have you found a definition for the Tao?”
“Oh…”, she laughed, remembering an old conversation. “Yes, I’ve finally found it.”
“Really? Then, tell me.”
“The Tao is what it is while it isn’t what it isn’t.”
They laughed and suddenly it felt like they were still talking at Ms. Zezé’s restaurant in that rainy afternoon.
“I had a car accident, did you know?”
He told her about the car crash, his coma and recovery. Isadora listened with amazement. He also told her about Bebel.
“I failed, Isadora… I didn’t know how to take care of her.”
“You did what you could”, she comforted him, drying her own tears.
Luca took her in his arms and suddenly they had never been separated at all. Suddenly, no more than a year had passed since the last time they had been together. Suddenly, life regained its course naturally, flowing the way it should like a river running to the sea.
“Why did you come back here, Luca?”
He took a seashell out of his pocket.
“It whispered to me that I needed to fulfill my mission.”
“Going back to you.”
She smiled and he continued:
“Like I should’ve done four hundred years ago.”
She looked at him, surprised.
“So did you… remember?”
“I can’t believe it! Tell me, I want to know about it.”
“It happened when I was in a coma. But I don’t think ‘remember’ is the right word.”
“Well… I’ve been thinking about time, the notion of the self… Maybe I was not Enrique.”
“Why is that?”
“Maybe everybody has been Enrique. And maybe that time is still happening. It’s an alternative to the theory of reincarnation, something even more profound and a lot crazier.”
“Hum… The multi-dimensionality of existence.”
“What a coincidence, Luca… I read something about it recently and I was very curious. I think we have a million things to talk about.”
“Yes. But for the time being, I just want you to forgive me. Do you forgive me?”
“For running away.”
“Only if you forgive me for leaving you in such a difficult time.”
They both laughed. None of that mattered anymore.
“You set me free, Isadora. And I didn’t even know how stuck I was.”
“I was so afraid thinking that I had lost you forever, Luca… But I knew you were living at your own pace and I had to trust life.”
Isadora’s eyes… He saw that insanity was still there, beautiful and charming, a hazelnut abyss whispering his name. But he wasn’t afraid of it anymore.
“I think we can synchronize our watches now, Isadora.”
He pulled her into his arms and kissed her. And it felt as if Isadora’s taste had never left his mouth. And for the duration of an instant, time stopped long enough for past, present and future to align to the exact rhythm of their heartbeats.
He opened his eyes. She was staring at him with an expression of astonishment.
“Isadora… I have lived this before…”
They exchanged a vague look as if they were not there, as if trying to find something lost in the memory of time.
“Me too, Luca…”
“But… we both at the same time?”
“Is that possible?”
“We already lived… this before…”
He hugged her for a long time, cuddling, deeply absorbed in the feeling of having lived that moment before… He closed his eyes and tried to remember when he had experienced that same situation, but all that came to his mind was the idea of spinning, spinning… As if in a circle, spinning, always coming back to the same place… spinning around in a circle, always coming back to the same spot, continuously…
The same spot, yes, but in another level – he understood suddenly. Another level! Because in reality, he was not in a circle, but in a spiral. Yes, a spiral where time is always spinning and returning to the same spot to be again, yes, to be again eternally… but in another level, in another way. Another way!
“What happened?”, she asked.
“I don’t know, I felt dizzy…”
“You haven’t been yourself lately.”
He pulled her by the hand and started running.
“Let’s get out of here… Quick!”
“Come. This way.”
“Are you mad?”
“I should’ve gotten mad a long time ago.”
“What about the trip?”
“I’m not going anymore.”
“Quiet. It’s a secret.”
He kept pulling her by the hand, running in the mist around the quay.
“But… Why did you change your mind?”
“Because my place is by your side.”
“But.. we were supposed to reunite soon.”
“No, we weren’t.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ll explain that later. Come on, hurry.”
“What about the Society?”
“To hell with the Society!”
“No way!” She stopped dead in her tracks and released his hand. “Explain this change of heart right now.”
He stopped further ahead, panting, and came back. He clutched at her shoulders and spoke very quietly:
“There is a safer way for us to go to Brazil. But I’ll explain that later, I don’t want them to see me…”
“No, Enrique! I won’t move until you explain it!”
He took a deep breath. He looked around, worried that he might be seen there. Further back, under the fine mist, the ship was still anchored in the harbor, swaying with the waves, the sailors hoisting the sails. Soon, they would acknowledge his absence.
“I don’t know, Catarina… Something happened in that moment… All of a sudden, I…”
While he tried to find the right words, she looked him in the eyes firmly and suddenly she had memories of a strange time that never existed, a time of grief, madness and seclusion… A time where life was permanently twisting around itself without leaving the same spot, repeating itself a thousand times like the sad songs the women of her village used to sing when she was a little girl, songs about a woman who waits for her love, a beautiful love that got lost in time…
“Suddenly, I saw myself… No, I remembered myself…”, he continued, trying to find the right words. “I was lost… we were separated… I don’t know how to explain this.”
“Are we together now?”, she asked. “That’s all I need to know.”
“Yes, my love… We are together.”
He pulled her close and they kissed. And that kiss had a different taste, an irresistible taste of a first time. Then they held hands and ran until they disappeared at the end of the road. A new life was waiting for them in a new land. In a new time.