Gabriel García Márquez: a Headstone

12 Nov

Here lies Gabriel García Márquez. Believed by many to be a magician.

Journalist. Writer. Husband. A man who didn’t try. He did.

Here lies Gabriel García Márquez, long arrived from somewhere else. A gypsy in exile. He walked up this land here and here and finally settled here. The inky footsteps are visible like those of Armstrong’s, just not in the dusty terra. But on the page, instead.

Here’s the chin on which he took the hits from Roberto Bolaño, Mario Vargas Llosa, Brian Fawcett, and a few others. Notice its lack of irregularities.

Here’s the illusionist who first died in 2000 and published his farewell poem called “La Marioneta,” which shortly afterwards was determined to be the work of a Mexican ventriloquist.

Here lies the writer who disconnected the telephone and wrote no words in 2005. The showman shaman who decided to cancel all gigs, all trips, all friends.

Here lies Gabo.

After he was born, he lived, and then he died. And after he died, he was dead. Just like everybody else.

Christmas Eve, 1975: Tea with Bacon

4 Nov

Through the drafty window of the very small room, I watch the men in the courtyard struggle to take down the animal. The mud is now frozen in the afternoon cold and no longer a sticky nuisance. It reminds me of dried lava fields in Maui, only I have never been to Maui. But I know what those fields look like.

The men can find footholds in the scarred stiff earth, but so can the animal. It’s an equal struggle for quite a long time. It’s valiant. The fight for life always is, no matter if from man or beast. Two younger men are working to grab each pair of spasmodic legs. The third—a short, sunburned soldier with hands made from leather—has the pig by his neck in a headlock. This is my grandfather. He is wearing cuffed suit trousers that are splattered with dried mud and a flannel shirt. Off to the side, two old peasants are nonplussed with the scrap. They roll the dice and move their men on those triangular points, occasionally bumping one another up onto the bar. Grandfather once tried to explain backgammon to me.

(Once, he lost his temper and took a short, thick tree branch to the back of his cow. He wailed on the poor animal who didn’t understand the beating. I had never seen so much rage in a man other than my father.)

(Once, a cow stepped on my foot by mistake. It was the gentlest accident I’d ever known. It’s as if she wore plush slippers on her hooves. But I was three and began to wail from fright. The animal understood and immediately stepped back. I cried for nothing…I cried from being startled and anticipating pain. And the cow understood that as well.)

Up on the bar one of the peasant’s wooden men goes. The other rolls, picks up the piece, and re-enters the board on an open point. There is a flurry of activity in backgammon. And almost no emotion on the players’ faces.

Down goes the pig now. The screams are terrible but only from panic. My grandfather senses the very short opportunity. He removes the blade from the holster threaded by his belt. It goes into the animal’s neck so quietly so smoothly. The pig shrieks now. It’s horrible. I hear him through the window. He sounds like a human being. Like a child. Like a man. Like a woman. Then, all three. And then, like nothing that has ever lived in this world.

I am nauseous so I sit at the table, still by the window. Still watching everything. On the table there is a very small clock that ticks so loudly I imagine someone is hitting a brick wall with a two-by-four slat. Next to that clock is a picture of Jesus, only it’s a picture of an icon of Jesus. The factory across the river sounds end of second shift.

The blood softens the backyard mud. Players roll the dice, move the wooden pieces, bump, roll themselves back in. They  move everything counterclockwise, which to me seems strange. Unorthodox. Behind them, my grandmother is splitting wood. She looks up, looks in at me, surveys the dying beast, its disheveled killers, then raises the axe and comes down hard on the dry lumber.

My little brother walks into the room like a cat. He’s smelling the air. He is still holding his palms over his ears. Is it over, he says. Almost, I say. He steps back suddenly, as if he’s just burned the soles of his feet. It’s all right, I say. He’s not screaming anymore. It’s all right now. I can tell he has been crying: face puffy, eyes red, lips wet. The screams are awful and he is so little and so sensitive. He smells the air and walks around to the hearth. Will you make the fire, he says. Buni will want his tea when he comes in. What kind, I say. The kind with bacon. No, I say. What kind of tea. Mint. Chamomile. I don’t know, my brother says. He walks to the bed and climbs up and stands.

Don’t jump up and down, I say. They’ve hid needles inside the mattress, I lie to him just like they lied to me. He smells the air again like a bear. From where he is standing, on the bed, he can see what the men are doing to the pig. But he does not look. He does not go to the yard. He looks at the picture of the icon of Jesus. And then he looks at me very sadly.

My FBI File

22 Oct

The following information was released to me in 2003 after a pending (3 years) protracted formal request to FBI headquarters, under the U.S. State Department’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

(Censored), Installation Services Division, United States Postal Service Management Academy, 250 Khartoum St. Potomac, MD., advised that on January 28, 1993, he learned from a confidential source whom he declined to identify that Alex M. Pruteanu (AMP), a file clerk with employee number 20687N5, was allegedly writing obscene articles for the City Paper magazine of Washington D.C. and that he was not married to the individual listed as the beneficiary for his Life and Health Benefits Insurance.

(Censored) advised that he reviewed AMP’s Official Personnel file and noted that he listed one (Censored) 5526 Good Luck Road, Lanham, MD. as his wife on a standard form 53, “Designation of Beneficiary, Federal Employee Group Life Insurance Act of 1954,” and on a standard form 1772 “Designation of Beneficiary Unpaid Compensation of Deceased Civilian Employee,” both dated November 1, 1992.

(Censored) advised that on February 20, 1993 between approximately 10:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. he interviewed AMP at the terminal annex, USPS, Kensington, MD. During this interview, AMP acknowledged having written twenty-four articles for the weekly, independent magazine City Paper, all of which are titled “(S)wine–Fiction…sometimes” by AMP (note: intentional use of parentheses, not a typo.). He stated that these articles have appeared in two dozen issues of City Paper and that he is paid by its editorial board for these articles. He explained that his articles are “an inter-mixture of fiction and fact” and are “highly romanticized in order to give the story juice.” He further elaborated that he writes these articles “for sheer joy.” He acknowledged being the author of such articles titled “Gillette to Consumers: Fuck Everything, We’re Doing Five Blades,” and “The Journal of the American Medical Association: 4 Out of 5 Doctors Think the 5th is a Fuckhead.”

(Censored) further advised that AMP admitted to him that he entered into a common-law marriage with (Censored) who calls herself (Censored) (Censored) several years ago. AMP claimed that (Censored) does not want marriage and that (Censored) (Censored) (Censored). He stated that this (Censored) (Censored) (Censored) and who lives “someplace in the Midwest” (Censored) (Censored) (Censored). (Censored) He admitted that she shares his apartment and bed from time to time for limited periods of a few days. She also complained that AMP leaves the seat up when she’s there and doesn’t dry properly the area under his scrotum, thus emanating a constant, strange miasma resembling a combination of cabbage and head cheese.

(Censored) stated that AMP has an extremely poor employment record, fraught with scores of bad reviews, because of excessive absenteeism. He stated according to his record, AMP uses “ill health” as a reason for being absent.

(Censored) stated that he knows nothing at all concerning AMP’s associates (and that it’s highly likely that AMP has no associates at all), reputation, or loyalty to the United States. He stated, however, that based upon AMP’s admitted authorship of the above-mentioned articles and the fact that he is living in a common-law marriage, he would say that AMP’s moral character leaves much to be desired. He stated for this reason, he would not recommend AMP for retention as an employee of the United States Postal Service.

On March 23rd, 1993 (Censored) of New Carrollton, Md. advised (Censored) that his position/title is (Censored) of the apartments at 5234 Crescent Green, College Park, Md. He stated that AMP has resided in the apartment at 5234 Crescent Green for the past three years. He stated he cannot give the exact date that AMP moved to that address, as he has no records of his tenancy.

He stated that AMP is an excellent tenant who never associates with any of his neighbors. He stated that he keeps to himself all of the time he is in residence and never seems to have any visitors. (Censored), however, stated that there is an enormous, sometimes egregious, amount of garbage being generated by AMP, all in the form of empty gin bottles, which AMP has a tendency to leave by the door, outside his unit in several gargantuan cardboard boxes for many days at a time before he physically hauls (in a truck) the refuse to the designated receptacles on the premises of the property. (Censored) further stated that since the garbage mainly consists of empty bottles, there is no offensive odor emanating, and small animals such as mice, rats, cats, opossums, armadillos (?), sloths (??), mole rats (?), and almiqui (???), are not usually attracted to AMP’s refuse unless they’re drunkards ((Censored) proceeded to laugh heartily after that comment for quite a long time, making the situation quite awkward). At times, (Censored) has admitted to having removed several dozen empty bottles from AMP’s garbage, and returned them to the liquor store in order to redeem deposit fees which, according to (Censored), sometimes reached as high as fifteen dollars. (Censored) further advised that as far as he knows, AMP is not married and stated that he has never seen any women in or around his apartment. He stated that he feels that he does not know AMP well enough to comment on his character, associates, reputation, or loyalty to the United States, and stated that he could neither offer nor decline any recommendation of his character for that reason.

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