Angel: Por lo que veo, no le gusta la literatura sentimental.
Leo: Sí pero no creo que la literatura a la que usted se refiere, se ocupe en lo más mínimo de los sentimientos. No hay dolor, ni desgarro. Sólo rutina, complacencia y sensiblería.
La flor de mi secreto (1995), escrito por Pedro Almodóvar
I am no longer sure what is shaping this narrative anymore. Each morning, I walk to the Pontificia campus without expectation. It feels like being given a blank page every time I step into that glorious building where the language classes are held. I’m often early, a total change from the person whose “lateness” was his “greatness.” I was late because I couldn’t be motivated to care.
It’s funny. Because I am so early to class, I get a chance to breathe it all in without reserve. It’s a validation that this experience is very real. When I was home, I was constantly bemoaning how I felt invisible. That being 46 meant being irrelevant in a culture that pays way too much credence to youth and being young.
But what does it mean to be “young?” Is it the urgency in my walk to school? Perhaps it is the smile I can barely contain when I cross the Plaza Mayor? Or how about the songs I am compelled to sing out loud while I walk the stone streets of Salamanca? I don’t know if any of that has to do with age. But I do know that the awareness of being alive defies categorization. Babies will smile on a moment’s notice. Yet, somewhere along the way, we lose that capacity once our brains capitulate to a myriad of self-made woes, petty concerns and the ridiculous conceit of Perception.
What will he or she think of me? What will my choice of clothes reveal about me? What will my choice of career or lack of success tell the world?
It’s not enough to say “I don’t give a shit.” Because, deep down, I still do care a bit. But that all-consuming feeling of not being “enough” is waning. I am starting to figure out that I am enough…for me. That puts me in direct contact with the bigger achievement still to come: to love myself again. Yeah, I didn’t love myself for a long time. I stopped knowing who I was anymore.
We take on so many roles throughout our lifetime. I am: Son. Brother. Friend. Lover. Ex-Lover. Ex-Friend. We shift into these roles without much rehearsal, carrying book in hand to make sure our daily persona is the one we think people expect us to be for them. It is exhausting pretending for so many of you. It’s worse than any theatrical schedule of eight shows a week. The Jorge Show is constant. And for the first time, within the lines of this one-off blog from abroad, the show has never felt more present or honest. It is no show, folks. It is reality.
It says something that I am not missing home much. That is not to say I don’t care about the valued network of support I have in California. I think about my family and friends constantly. They’re the reason why I didn’t punk out on this adventure. Lord knows, I thought about it. I didn’t want to feel invisible here, too. But that didn’t happen. I was found instead.
I am not going to lie. An element of running away from home to join the circus exists in all of this. Whatever grade I earn in these classes has no bearing on me. I’m not seeking a diploma. I have nothing to lose if I fail to comprehend el subjuntivo, indicativo, condicional or pluscuamperfecto. ¡Me vale tío! I hate rules. It´s the abstract that compels me. The analysis of ideas and interpretation of text is what I find incredibly gratifying. (Although, I am painfully aware of the reality that rules and structure will ensure the penning of my next narrative will be a bilingual one. Grammar, I swear I´ll love you.)
It is fitting we´ve encountered a series of storms during a very temperate week. It´s been quite cool in Salamanca, a direct change from the usual July heat say the locals. I can´t help find the beauty in the rain being from a drought ravaged state. (I didn’t care for the hail that tagged along for the ride.) But, with what I am experiencing in these courses, the rain has become a symbol of rebirth, renovation, even destruction! These walls are a crumbling down, yo!
This reawakening, inspired by language, has its roots in my literature class. It probably has more bearing on what I want to write on the daily. The delicacy of time, which is moving so fast, parallels the subtleties in words to create an emotional connection. Everything matters. It is fitting that Spanish is a romance language because it is truly seductive.
The enthusiasm with which Maria Jose expresses her love of words and writing is infectious. I find myself leaning forward, as if I can’t wait for her to turn the page and reveal what’s next. Today, she delineated the evolution of ideology in art that led to the Golden Age. The protagonist in question was no longer God but Man. Man wanted to be famous, immortal, a symbol that would last throughout the ages. If before Man copied text as art, Man was now the central figure in art. And Man now wanted to be known, to be visible.
I don’t know if anyone saw the 5K light fixture that went off over my head, but it sure as hell made me go blind. We create to exist. Nothing is nobler in this world. The more culture we seek, the better we will become. It is our appreciation for the beauty we document in all forms of art that unites with the eternal. Granted, it is also apparent – then and now — that the monetary rewards carried by fame can be a destructive force. But that is not why I want to create anew. It isn’t to be known. And I don’t care if it appears overly sentimental, either. Because I was tired of focusing on a life of routine and complacency, just like conflicted romance novelist Leo says to newspaper editor Angel in the quote from “The Flower of My Secret” that opens this entry.
No, I want to fulfill that cycle of achievement that comes with writing something honest and true. To start that cycle again and again with each blank page, to form and realize a concept or idea commenting on the world around us. I want to leave a record of who we are, who we want to be and what we can become if given the chance. It is on par with practicing the most devout form of faith, this worship of words.
Is it too grand to say that this is my Golden Age? Oh, but it is.
Thursday, July 3 @ Manoli’s house in Salamanca, Spain.
** By the way, as I end my first week of instruction tomorrow, I will be crossing what will be forever known to me as La Plaza MediaJor. Gracias, Ginny Dixon por el detalle.