You enter the house and although you do not perceive it, as happens with the perfume to which you have become accustomed years ago, a symphony of smells penetrates your unconscious and makes you feel that you have arrived at the refuge. It is the trace that our daily life leaves in the air. You enter the house, after a long day of work, and you say his name in the corridor. He is not here, but his spirit is present in every corner he often occupies. In the kitchen is a handwritten note from him, perhaps adorned with a collage hurried on. I laugh because it is a shared, recurring humor. I keep the paper in a box where I accumulate, out of habit, all the notes that he has left me over the years.
I remember that time, the first, the time of uncertainty. The uncertainty was exciting, it stimulated passion. Passion is also multiplied by fear of loss. And I remember opening the pages of his diary a crack to sneak a page. He in turn rummaged through my papers to discover some secret poem among the absurd scripts on TV. We were spies from each other’s past. I dared to ask and felt restlessness and apprehension when other names came up in his narration. He preferred not to know, he protected himself from retrospective jealousy, so by dint of not telling episodes of a turbulent past before us I have ended up forgetting them. I speak as of a remote time, because I know that 30 years have passed, but it always seems to me that I live in a recent love: the uncertainty of then has vanished, but not so the joy of the daily return to our world.
He wrote once, I don’t remember where, that sometimes he had seen me by surprise in the street and that for a few seconds he had thought that he could fall in love with that woman. I think of our first meeting as a miraculous event: the girl from the radio crosses a street in Granada and goes to the appointment with the already famous young novelist. It might as well not have happened. But what is not the result of chance is this moment that I enjoy now, just arrived at my house, sitting on the sofa, waiting for him to have dinner, to have a glass of wine, to resume “that long conversation over the years” that is the love, according to Ciryl Conolly. Love, and so it can be named without missing the truth, has come out strengthened, because after the awareness of the luck that this fortuitous encounter gave us, we worked on it from the beginning, since the passion had to be measured with the fact of that we both had children and that we would not get ahead without his approval.
There is a mystique around artistic works. It seems that if you have a sincere vocation it is necessary to give yourself to it body and soul, that whoever joins you will have to understand that the work, with capital letters, will always come first, sacrificing common time for it. There will be no domestic obligations falling on the artist, nor too much responsibility towards the children. He will also be exempt from all guilt; he will be favored with the right to concern himself only with what he has in hand: he is a self above others. And he will be granted a neighbor who encourages that selfishness because a religious character is attributed to that vocation. The artist will be forgiven for the collateral victims.
It would not have been strange, then, that when I met that man who had already obtained literary recognition, I would have become that kind of lover, secretary, assistant, who lives in the shadow of the creator. She is a figure that is still viewed with sympathy, that vanishes when the artist dies, and that when she dies, a tender obituary is dedicated to her, valuing her tenacious and discreet high school role that encouraged great literature. I was not that model of a woman, nor was he demanding that type of assistance, and we also had to work hard so that this great passion that chance gave us would not be buried by domestic obligations and shared children. There was a kind of unspoken deal whereby the disappointments of our public exposure would not cross our doorstep.
Our secret is knowing that the road was paved with generosity, concessions and resignations
Now I breathe in the aroma of my refuge and I find that my fortune is that joy or consolation that I always feel when I enter the house. I know that many people attribute love only to luck, but our secret lies in knowing that the road was paved with generosity, concessions and renunciations, that our vocation to love was always as strong as that of writing a good book. It is not easy for two people who prioritize the private to the public to meet. During confinement, we prolonged our after-meals, we walked over memories, we had time to recreate them, sometimes those conversations were reflected in pages that promised to become a book. The refuge was already a cave where an Adam and an Eve, mature and perplexed, protected each other from the hostility of a world in a fragile balance.
“I want life always assim with você perto de mim/ I tied or turned off the old man” (“I want life always like this, with you close to me / until the old flame goes out”), Tom Jobim sings in Hunchback. For that old flame to continue lighting, it must be protected from air currents. I don’t know if living a great love is more difficult in this present. I am convinced that this is a universal wish. Maintaining it is almost a job of exquisite gardening, you have to pamper the environment so that it is harmonious, balanced. This house is the habitat of a love, and so we take care of it. James Joyce’s son, Giorgio, said that he would have preferred his father to be a butcher. I hope that ours never think like that, that they have learned something from the attention that we have dedicated to preserving the treasure of intimacy, of love.
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