The Five Seasons of Love

Excerpt of Chapter 1, Adventures of Solitude, of the novel The Five Seasons of Love, by JoĆ£o Almino

(Translated by Elizabeth A. Jackson)

Unlike Funes, the Memoirist, the Borges character who forgot nothing and remembered everything, I am going to cross my River Lethe to forget everything, to have the freedom to think and write spontaneously, guided only by desire. I will put aside the future, so that I don’t construct illusions or predict disasters, which, rather than avoiding them , may even accelerate them. I want to capture the moment, to start from zero. Without any baggage from the past. Without history, without direction. I want to erase myself. To immobilize myself. To condense my life into an instant, to live entirely in it, of it, just like my dog Rodolfo, here at my feet. The instantaneous present. A moment prolonged, like a blurred picture or like frame after frame of a film that doesn’t stop rolling. Zero, the moment in which I write, one step from the abyss and from paradise. With me it often happens: I see one thing as both the promise of heaven or hell. In the blink of an eye, what is light becomes dark. Everything here depends on a moment, hangs by a thread, that can be anything from the tenuous line that separates life from death to my mood or some insignificant nothing.

I am going to lean on the revelation that I haveā€”I think ultimately that this is what it’s about, a revelationā€”to take the great leap. Sometimes it’s better to have the courage to start over, to discard. Even loves. I am not one to keep things that torment me. That’s why I need to rid myself of Eduardo once and for all. If I can manage to restart from zero, I am also fulfilling the promise made at that gathering thirty years ago. And the other useless? Will they make a similar effort at spiritual renewal?

The smoke from the cigarette rises from the ashtray like a chimney. Rodolfo looks at me out of the corner of his eye, surely suspecting that I have gone soft in the head. He lowers his head onto his paws, furrows his brow and lets his sad look become lost in the infinite, a more concrete infinite than mine and on a level with the floor.

I say that all of this “happens” now and not “happened” one day, because I want to describe this instantaneous presence that is always in motion and is defined by it, leaving the endless blotchy stains that I mentioned; I want to show the inside of the moment. The instantaneous present tense of things past. After all, the past is only the trail of an instant, at any instant.

So? In this instant I think that I will live aimlessly, simply traveling within myself. The important thing in life is not just to reach a goal, to arrive at a place, but to enjoy every moment. Because the world doesn’t stop spinning, the nature of the journey is more important than its destination. My fears and projects have nothing to do with objective reality, because I’m bewildered and I’ve already lost all sense of objectivity. I have no interest in knowing what is real beyond the perception of an instant, that catches a look of surprise or pain, a furrow in my brow, my right shoulder contorted, my body unbalanced, fright raising my left hand, while, as in a painting by Caravaggio, my right hand hovers tensely above the boughs and fruits strewn on the table, my middle finger pointing down, from its tip hanging a greedy lizard that bites me. To the side, the water jar in the painting’s right hand corner is quiet and translucent, drops visible on its surface. It contains a camellia and its stem, sister of the one I wear in my hair.

Looking at the sheets of still blank paper, I feel that truths are deposited in larvae of words, awaiting even the most banal and unexpected situations, that can bring them together to give them substance and meaning.

After many shaky nights, in which my state of health only deteriorates, I make a startling discovery. The idea comes to me when I think about the relief of not having to read so much disturbing news ever since Berenice stopped buying newspapers. My new task will certainly give me pleasure for months on end. It’s not only newspapers that I don’t need. I make the decision to sort the mountain of books, letters and other papers accumulated throughout my life, with the intention of transforming them, as if I were a mill, into a floury mixture of words, that I will then putā€”all of itā€”into the same sack. Just having this idea makes me feel light and satisfied and I can finally continue with my narrative. I turn on the stereo, and listen to the lively CD that Jeremias gave me as a gift and I even dance alone, like a crazy woman, to celebrate an I don’t quite know what that unblocks my mind and my soul. Fortunately, only Rodolfo witnesses this state of exaltation, and he even enjoys watching my movements.

Not that I had a brilliant idea or even invented something, I know. Ever since the Sumerians five thousand years ago, invented their writing to record messages, register facts and thoughts in a permanent wayā€¦ Ever since, the Semites, almost four thousand years ago, created their alphabet, the father of almost all of the world’s alphabetical systems, writing can be erased, transformed and lost. Ever since language came into existence sixty thousand years ago, tongues have been able to eat tongues and also to preserve the moment forever.

The method will be as follows: I will replace the absence of the papers that I tear up, with new words that I will be writing on blank sheets of paper. This way, I will leave a pain on one sheet, a joy on another, on another grief and sadness. From the books it will be enough to extract what was retained in my memory. I want to free what weighs it down.

In fact, memory is a filing cabinet with closed drawers. Some of the keys to the drawers are made of people, objects, things around us, letters, photographs, and books. Each letter, each one of them, opens an enormous drawer of memories, that would perhaps stay closed forever if the letter were not there, physically exhibiting its sentences. By destroying each letter, I will be opening one of these drawers, thereby multiplying the possibilities of the writing of my farewell narrative that I intend to continue composing little by little, a paragraph here, another there.

To become naked and light, free myself of the papers, be reborn free of the weight of the past, is all that I want. With faded ideas it is difficult to avenge myself on sleeping words. Nevertheless, the papers are going to scream, to weep as they are torn, restoring life to the ideas and sentiments stored in them. From now on, my instructions are: nothing kept, nothing saved. The moment to dispose of everything I have been accumulating has arrived. And also the moment to free words from their blocksā€”of graniteā€”made from the emotions that time has silenced. Let them emerge, like sharpened knives, sculpting the spirit of the instant. I want to live as in a hypertext that never stops constructing itself, in which writing is a continuous and unending dialogue with the mind or a counterpoint for life. I want to erase all of the books, to allow the natural book to shine, alone: the one they believed in the Yucatan, that was not written by anyone, that turns its own pages, opening each day to a different one, and because it’s alive, bleeds when they try to turn its pages. My interior revolution depends on the courage to continue composing the text, always in the present, while I dispose of accumulated papers. The absent papers will increase my freedom space.

Seeing my cleanup, Berenice complains:

  • –Please forgive me, Miss Ana, but it’s crazy to get rid of your papers.
  • –You may throw them in the trash, Berenice.
  • –You are making a mistake, mark my words.
  • –Then leave them all there in a pile. I’ll decide later.

It’s better to make an enormous pile of paper anyway. For example, I can temporarily put in a pile in one corner everything that has to do with love. Despite having mistreated me so badly, love deserves my consideration after all because it contains all virtue. The love pile will perhaps make me see differently than what life has taught me, or simply confirm in the end that I can’t have the impossible, that is, the other who measures up to my dream.

I am going to clear shelves, empty the house, beginning with the room to be rented perhaps to Norberto himself. The papers that bother me are so much a part of my life that the only way to discard them is to transform them into the flour of words I mentioned, sparse dense flour, pounded until it becomes a stone book, that is, a book of life, that is as simple and mysterious as a stone.

It will be my version of the Livre Absolu that MallarmĆ© tried to write at the end of his life and finally destroyed before he died. Or perhaps the one quoted in the short story “La biblioteca de Babel” by Borges, that completely encompasses all other books. Writing it should help to free me from the books in my library and from the accumulated papersā€”letters, notes, poems, pages and pages of diaries and other writings. It will be my museum of everything, dumpster or file cabinet.

I’ll begin the struggle, then. And from the start this is my odyssey of many waves and currents, in which I face winds and storms in an infinite sea, a sea of many encounters, where I travel alone. Alone with my papers and my pen.