jueves, 30 de abril de 2015

More than love

   Crabs invaded the beach. They were many, turning the shore into a large red stain. It was strange, but they seemed to stop just before entering the water, as if they knew there were dangers beyond the foam line of the waves. Anyway, they walked in and swam into the bottom of the bay without much further hesitation. Every single one of those animals did the same thing as they stepped out of their homes in the inner side of the island, after having eaten all they could there. It was a sight to be seen and two humans were actually looking at it.

 Behind some bushes, Christina and Neil were observing with fascination the event. They were just there for their holidays but had wanted to see the mass entry of the crabs into the oceans, as many biologists said it was one of the most beautiful events in nature. They were biologists themselves but worked mostly in labs so they didn’t have the chance to see much of the animal’s natural behavior.

 Christina was the first one to stand up when it was all done, when every single one of the crabs had gone into the water. The beach was now deserted; only some leaves and branches soiling its pristine white color. She helped her husband up and took his hand as they walked in silence along the beach. The waves brought a nice unique sound to the scene that included a sunset and a nice afternoon breeze.

 They stopped walking near the middle of the sand strip and sat down on the sand. The couple saw each other’s eyes and kissed, then hugged watching the sun disappearing on the horizon. They were happy to be there, finally resting and building a relationship that had always been put on hold because of their work.

 On one hand, Christina worked in a cosmetics lab creating new lipsticks based on animals and plant life. Of course, she was against the killing of animals, so the company had agreed they would only buy the ones that were already going to be used for other purposes, such as fish. They used the scales and bones for the lab but the meat was packed and put into freezers for people to boy them in supermarkets.

 Christina was not thrilled with her job. Her dream, ever since she was a little girl, had been to work in a zoo and care for many types of animals there. But after several interviews, trips and trials, she had not been selected in any zoo, no matter how small or wealthy. She just wasn’t needed anywhere until she found this cosmetic company and decided to work there for the money. They had recently stopped makeup trials with animals and she was happy about it as she had always been an advocate of animals rights.

 Funny enough, that was the way she met Neil. He was a veterinarian in a small town and had come to the city for one of the many rallies that were held in order to get the government to make laws punishing openly acts of violence against animals, including many events that were considered “tradition” by many. The first time Christina saw him, she honestly didn’t think much of him. She always said it was because she was very focused on the rally but Neil thought it was because she just didn’t like him right away.

 In a meeting for another rally, they were seated one next to the other and started talking casually about their pets. Being a veterinarian, Neil owned a farm and had lots of animals, inherited to him by his father who had recently passed away. Christina thought that was amazing, as she has always wanted to be around lots of different animals. She told him about her dream of becoming a zookeeper but how it was such a pointless fantasy for her, as she was never deemed “zoo material”.

 Neil laughed at this and told her that he had always wanted to be a marine biologist but that his father really wanted someone to keep the farm going and he was his only son. For some reason, his parents had never wanted to have more children and now the responsibility of the farm had just been passed onto him. His dream of becoming a marine biologist died quickly but, seeing Christina’s face, he said he had fallen in love with life at the farm and with the animals and people he interacted with.

 That day, they exchanged numbers and texted each other constantly. They didn’t date or anything. They just chatted about their passion for life and whatever was happening on their lives. This way of doing things lasted for one whole year. She always mentioned Neil to her friends but they didn’t believe he existed and the same happened with Neil. Many people that knew him thought he had invented Christina because he didn’t have any romantic prospects around him, even if many girls came up to him and asked him for a date or a kiss.

 Their texting relationship was cut short when Neil announced he had been granted a scholarship to go and study in China. They had a very interesting program where he could learn a lot to keep helping farmers so he had decided to go. Christina was very sad by this but he assured her they would continue to text and so on, and it was true. One of the first things he did when arriving in Beijing, was getting a new phone and a data plan to chat with Christina every day.

 One more year passed during which they both dated other people. Neil met Li Fa, a beautiful young woman that worked with horses in a farm owned by the university where he was studying. They dated and had a strong romantic and sexual relationship over the course of many months, practically until the day he had to come back home. Li Fa assured Neil that she really liked him but that she understood he had to go back and that, in any case, she would always be there for him. They stayed friends for the rest of their lives.

 Christina dated two men, both very different guys in every single aspect of their being. Mark, the first one, was the gym kind. He loved himself a lot, which was good until it became annoying. Christina thought the relationship would only be about sex but, who would’ve known, the guy was a romantic and the few times he wasn’t training (God knows what for) or looking at himself in the mirror, he would buy her beautiful flowers, and cards and chocolates of every flavor.

 To be honest, Christina never knew what he did for a living and she didn’t care much about it. Things ended because he wanted much more from her that she could give and she was a very career oriented woman. Having a boyfriend or anything like that was extremely high maintenance at the moment and she wasn’t into that.

 The second one was Joe. Despite his name, he was a skinny guy whom she met on a cosmetics conference she had been sent to. They hit it off and dated for a couple months until she decided to end it. Not only it was becoming annoying that he only spoke about work, which he loved to do very often, but also she had noticed that he wasn’t as interested in her as he pretended to be. At the end, she just told him to get real and be who he was. Months later, she saw him kissing another guy on a street. Good for him.

 When Neil came back, he decided to visit Christina and they had the best weekend to very good friends could have: they ate a lot, they went to a party, drank a lot of alcohol, then spoke about every single subject they could think of and, most importantly, they made each other laugh constantly. It was obvious for them something had awoken at the moment. Neil went back to his farm and Christina to her work, but what had begun had no way to stop. He would come back to the city every weekend to visit her and in a few months he asked her to marry him. She didn’t even say the word; she just kissed and hugged him.

 The holiday in Hawaii was meant to celebrate their first year together and it was a success. They had walked together on a volcano slope; they had swum with the marine life and where now looking at the most beautiful sunset any of them had seen. They held hands watching the orange sun casting the last shadows of the day on their faces. When it was gone, they decided to go back to the hotel and just spent time there, talking, as they loved to do and eating to because they were both food lovers.

 Christina and Neil were just in love, as people say. But they felt it was a lot more than just that. They felt connected, like actual partners in life and not just linked by romance or sex. They loved the term “twin souls” as it was not something uniquely romantic, also deeply social and emotional.  But no matter how people called it, they sure liked it a lot.

miércoles, 29 de abril de 2015

Por amor al arte

   Todos los alumnos usaban sus carboncillos con habilidad y rapidez. Miraban por un lado del caballete por unos segundos y luego volvían a su dibujo, ya retocando los últimos detalles. Eran unos quince alumnos, entre chicos y chicas, todos distribuidos en un gran círculo alrededor de un cubo blanco. Encima de esa estructura estaba un joven de pie, mayor que los alumnos pero igual joven, totalmente desnudo. Imitaba la pose del gran David de Miguel Ángel. Era increíble ver la similitud en los cuerpos, incluso en el cabello, y la habilidad casi anormal de quedarse quieto por tanto tiempo.

 La profesora de la clase daba vueltas por todo el salón, mientras los alumnos tenían solo cinco minutos para terminar. Algunos estaban visiblemente atrasados, dibujando con tal rapidez que parecía estar a punto de rasgar el gran bloc de hojas en el que pintaban. De hecho, un par miraban con desespero a un lado y otro, viendo como sus hojas estaban en efecto rasgadas y como las hojas inferiores se veían igual. Otros, pocos, veían con suficiencia a su alrededor ya dando retoques casi innecesarios a sus dibujos. Habían trabajado duro y lo tenían todo a punto.

 El modelo los veía de reojo pero casi todo el tiempo miró hacia una ventana, por donde pasaban las palomas que se posaban todas las tardes en la plazoleta exterior de la facultad de artes. Él recordaba con cariño su tiempo en la universidad pero no había estudiado nada relacionado con el arte, aunque había querido. Su padre era un abogado conocido y respetado en el país y le había insistido, desde pequeño, en que debía compartir su mismo destino y así seguir un cierto legado familiar.

 Él no quería nada que ver con eso pero igual hizo la carrera de cuatro años y encontró trabajo en una firma de abogados, recomendado por su padre. Pero hacía tan solo unos meses había vivido una experiencia cercana a la muerte y había decidido cambiar varias cosas en su vida. El coche en el que viajaba por carretera, de vuelta de una conferencia relacionada al trabajo, dio un giro inesperado al evitar un camión que venía directo hacia ellos. El automóvil dio varias vueltas y cayó en una zanja. Eso fue suficiente para él. El día siguiente, apenas al salir del hospital, renunció a su trabajo y le terminó de pagar a su padre lo que había gastado en su carrera.

 Sutilmente movió la cabeza. Se le habían humedecido los ojos pero respiró y trató de no desfallecer en los últimos minutos. No era la primera vez que posaba desnudo en los últimos meses. Se lo había sugerido una amiga y él se había lanzado a ello por cambiar de cosas por hacer. Ya había conseguido otro trabajo más estable y todo era para estudiar lo que él quería pero este trabajo del desnudo lo hacía sentirse libre, lo hacía sentirse honesto y vivo.

 Uno del os alumnos, un joven llamado Aníbal, estaba terminando con soltura su dibujo. La verdad era que hacía varios minutos que había terminado y solo se había dedicado a tratar de mejorar un poco el dibujo, haciéndolo más realista y único. Desde pequeño había tenido cierta facilidad para el dibujo y estudiar bellas artes había sido lo natural para él. Sus padres lo habían apoyado con varios cursos y viajes para aprender más del arte, siendo ellos mismos artistas: uno un escritor renombrado y la madre curadora de una de los museos más grandes del país.

 Su dibujo no era el mejor que había hecho. Para él este curso era la base que ya había visto hacía años, así que no se había esforzado demasiado pero sí lo había hecho lo suficientemente bien para resaltar. Algo que le gustaba, desde siempre, era ser aquel del que hablaran más. Le gustaba ser el ejemplo de los demás y que lo pusieran en un pedestal. Su aire de suficiencia era perceptible a todos los demás y solo aquellos que querían estar cerca de alguien con conexiones le hablaban, el resto se mantenía al margen.

 Esto era diferente a Adela, una de las chicas que estaban ocultando las rasgaduras en su papel con más carboncillo. Sudaba bastante a pesar de que la habitación estaba bien ventilada y miraba a sus vecinos inmediatos para ver que tal iban. La verdad era que ella de dibujo no sabía nada. Le gustaba mucho el arte pero más apreciarlo y hablar sobre él. De resto, no sabía mucho ejecutar nada. El dibujo era para ella algo nuevo y todas sus nuevas clases prácticas eran casi para ella una tortura.

 Siempre había sido torpe con los dedos, incluso para cortar una figura de un papel. Hacía bonitas carteleras porque tenía un muy buen sentido de la estética pero de resto no tenía ni idea de cómo hacer nada con ningún tipo de medio. La escultura le parecía especialmente difícil, ya que visualizar se le hacía casi imposible cuando no se tenían muchas bases. Su primera entrega en esa clase había sido una figura un tanto amorfa que el profesor había tomado como una obra futurista, algo que ella había reforzado diciendo todo lo que sabía respecto a ese movimiento.

 Adela estaba sentada justo al lado de Aníbal y trataba de no mirar su dibujo pero era casi imposible, al ver lo idéntico que era al modelo frente a ellos. La pobre chica miraba su dibujo, rudimentario y básico y lo comparaba al realista modelo de su compañero. Miraba también al modelo como suplicando algo pero no tenía ni idea de porque lo hacía. De pronto era porque siempre había habido alguien a su lado ayudándola pero en la carrera estaba sola. Ninguno de sus amigos había estudiado lo mismo y tenía que confesar que se sentía a veces arrepentida de su decisión, pero lo olvidaba pronto al recordar su pasión por el arte.

 Del otro lado del salón estaba Guillermo. Su dibujo era lo mejor que podía hacer para lo que conocía y se sentía muy contento de estar en su primera clase con un modelo en vivo. Le gustaba ver como la luz que entraba por las ventanas superiores, tocaba el cuerpo del modelo y lo convertía en algo más que una persona. Eso era para él el arte: algo que transformaba a los simples seres humanos en algo mucho más allá de lo que siempre vemos, de lo que conocemos y sentimos.

 Guille recordaba su primera visita a un museo y como se había sentido fascinado por los colores y las formas. Nunca había salido del país a conocer obras de arte famosas mundialmente pero había leído de varios artistas, de sus vidas, de sus obras y le encantaba. Veía todo tipo de películas, iba ocasionalmente al teatro y trataba de colaborar a amigos y conocidos en todo lo relacionado con el desarrollo artístico. La verdad era que le encantada todo lo que tenía que ver con lo social y para él el arte conectaba todos los seres humanos, sin importar el dinero o la edad o nada.

 La profesora miraba su reloj y veía como se gastaban los últimos segundos. En ese momento, decidió darles un par de minuto más. Era una tontería, pero era su costumbre con los alumnos primerizos. La vida normalmente no les daba una oportunidad y ella quería darles al menos un poco de esperanza, que tanto faltaba en el mundo del arte moderno. Nadie les iba a dar una oportunidad real con momentos tan duros y difíciles que iban a tener en su futuro. Ella no veía porque complicarles la vida tan rápidamente, para que hacerlo si eso solo los afectaba más allá de las clases y su gusto por el arte.

 Los minutos extra pasaron rápidamente y con tranquilidad la profesora les pidió que dejaran sus dibujos en los caballetes y salieran a almorzar. Lo cierto era que casi todos estaban hambrientos y eso había ayudado también a su preocupación y a que no pudiesen concentrarse por completo.

 Mientras salían, el modelo bajó de su pedestal y saludó a algunos que se despedían con una sonrisa, incluido Guille que lo miraba más que los demás. El modelo no se fijó mucho y se dirigió a su mochila que estaba a un lado del escritorio de la profesora. Se puso una bermuda y una camiseta con habilidad y cuando se dispuso a ponerse los zapatos, se dio cuenta que la profesora miraba con atención los dibujos. No los recogía para verlos después sino que se paseaba como quién iba a un museo.

 Apenas el modelo se puso los zapatos y una chaqueta, se puso la mochila al hombro y se acercó a la mujer. Ella le agradeció su ayuda y le dijo que tenía su paga pero que quería que la acompañara a dar una vuelta por el salón. La pareja observó por varios minutos, escuchando los sonidos del exterior, cada uno del os dibujos. Al modelo le sorprendió ver las diferentes maneras en las que cada alumno lo habían visto. Había estado siempre en la misma pose pero lo había percibido de muchas maneras. Algunos habían hecho un retrato tipo “cómic”, otros habían sido mas ﷽﷽﷽﷽﷽﷽﷽b retrato tipo "ras. Algunos habs del exterior, cada uno del os dibujos. Al modelo le sorprendi habilidad y cuando se ás clásicos y otros más habían agregado cosas que ni siquiera estaban allí.

 Al final del recorrido, la mujer le sonrió y se dirigió a su escritorio. De un cajón sacó un sobre y se lo dio al modelo que lo guardó en su mochila. La mujer le preguntó porque había decidido modelar en los cursos de arte. Él la miró y le dijo con una sonrisa.

-       - Por amor al arte.

martes, 28 de abril de 2015

Rotten Nation

   It was raining. The small plane taxied for several minutes through the airport until it parked in front of a large hangar, owned by the police. This was very uncommon, as the president had a special building were he always arrived at after national or international tours. It was well know but the media and the public, that he had personally being overlooking the destruction of several drug labs in remote areas. So maybe that was the reason why, stepping out of the plane, he only looked forward, towards the small group waiting for him.

 They walked in silence inside the hangar and then went through a door that led into the building behind it. The president’s assistant was in front, going up some stairs, several corridors and finally arriving at a conference room. The president sat down in the chair in one end of the table as the others sat in the remaining seats. Only one seat was empty. Some mumbled trying to find out why its occupant was missing, others said nothing. The president drank some water and waited until his assistant told him something to the ear and then sat down in a chair in the corner, right after closing the door.

 The president stood up and looked at the eyes of every single one of those men: the chief of police and other men of that entity, generals of all of the military branches and also the head of the secret police. On every single one of them rested the defense of the country, the physical power that it had in order to maintain things as they were. The president inhaled and then looked to the empty seat and sat down again.

-       Do you guys know who occupies that seat?

 One of the generals, visibly eager to participate in order to seem important or smart, shoot his hand up. The president looked at him.

-       That’s where General Arroyo normally seats, the head of the aviation.

 The president nodded, without saying a word. He looked at the seat a little more then announced that General Arroyo had been arrested during the raid against the drug cartels. Every single one of the people present, except for the president’s assistant (the only woman in the room), were baffled at the news. They started asking and demanding and saying it was an outrage and how surprised they were and also hurt. The president asked them, with a gesture of the hand, to end the noise.

 Once the room was calm again, he stared directly at the director of the police. The man was a tall, white and pink skinned man. He looked scared as the president looked at him, with his piercing eyes and soft breathing. None of the military men, all experience in combat and enemies, had ever seen that look on a president or any other person. He looked vicious and hateful.

-       General García.
-       Yes, sir? – Answered the director of the police.
-       How many years have you been head of the police?

The man thought that was a weird question to ask but also felt more fear than before. The president had stopped looking at him and that made him feel even uneasier.

-       I have been in the post for almost ten years.
-       Ten years. – Said the president, in a surprisingly grave voice.
-       Yes…
-       Too many?
-       Sorry?

 Everyone present was surprised at this question. Some of the men tried to reply something but weren’t able to find the words.  No one would ever say that unless they wanted to sack someone. But, then again, what reason did the president have? And, would he only be interested in sacking one man?

 This meeting had been ordered by the president on his flight back and most men had narrowly missed his arrival, as it was imminent. Since he had been elected, almost a year ago, he had proven to be quite and unpredictable man. He had won narrowly in a country that normally hated the likes of men like him but somehow, it had happened. Of course, there had been recounts and lawsuits but nothing had moved him from remaining in power. He had powerful enemies, namely the men that had been in power before, as he was not the typical president.

 Not only he was on the left side of the spectrum, a “soft” left in his words, but also he was interested in preserving culture and encourage the inner growth of the people. Some even said that was precisely why he won: the ones always outside had chosen him in the bigger cities and that had been enough. The military and all public forces had been scared of him but he had went on with the recurrent struggle against the cartels just as the others did so they had all relaxed, to this day.

-       I said, have they been too many?
-       I… I don’t know sir.
-       I think it’s time to clean up, wouldn’t you say misters?

 He said that looking at everyone in the table, and with an annoying smirk on his face. He then turned to his assistant who instantly produced a folder with several sheets of papers. They went through them and took out only six papers. The woman put away the folder and went back to her chair. The president held the sheets on his hand, looking at the men again.

-       Any idea of what that is?

 The same man that had raised his hand before, raised it again:

-       Our resignation letters?

 The president then laughed. It was an obviously fake laugh but it went for so long than people didn’t know how to respond. Some of them smiled and others just trembled in their spots.

-       Not exactly. In here, I have several names, including General Arroyo’s one. All the people listed here have been tracked down by the secret police and we have enough proof to put them in jail. There are some as high profile as the general and others not so much. I need you… Well, I demand of you to clean up your mess.

 He put the papers in front of him, in a way that anyone could have taken them but no one did. They were visibly bothered by what was happening but did not dare to say a word.

-       Any comments, gentlemen?

 The oldest one of the bunch, a general of the navy, looked straight at the president and pointed at him, his hand shaking like mad.

-       You have no right to do that.
-       Excuse me?
-       You cannot tell us what to do, not like this! We’re not children!

 The old men had stood up and raised his voice. The assistant instantly looked to the door, worried people might hear on the other side.

-       We are older than you, more experienced and you should take our advice instead of telling us how to run our entities.

 The president then stood up and smiled weirdly again. It was very unpleasant.

-       First, I have to ask not to raise your voice. Second, what do you mean with “your entities”?
-       I mean we have maintained…
-       Exactly – Said the president, interrupting him. – You have kept them going but those entities belong to the State, to the people. You all took an oath to protect them and you work for me and I for them. Do you understand that?

 The old man sat back down. Everyone was looking at the president as if he had gone insane but he kept his smirk on his face and didn’t sit back down.

-       Gentlemen, I repeat, I demand of you to clean up your entities. They are rotten and you should be grateful you’re not the ones to be sacked first. Your entities are supposed to be the ones protecting us and making the example and that is not the case right now. You know what we found out? Do you?

 Again, no one said anything, only scared faces looked at him.

-       Several policemen involved in bribes and corruption, navy officers helping the cartels, aviation officers bringing whores to the compounds. Even my own personal guard has been known to film pornographic films in State property. Do you understand how bad this is?

 Some nodded, some didn’t. They looked to the ground now, exactly like children after having been grounded.

-       The president’s before me let it all happen, let this country rot from the inside out. I’m not going to tolerate that anymore. If you don’t put this entire people under trial, I will. I have proofs. And if you fail to do it fast, I have many candidates for every single one of your posts.
-       But…
-       But what general Márquez? But what?

 But general Márquez, of the air force, had no idea what to say next. He was as intimidated as the other ones. As men of force, they were already thinking of a way to keep their posts and form an opposition but then the president drew attention back to him by coughing.

-       I have a dinner to attend to with the ambassadors residing in the country. But before that I want to warn you: I’m decreasing the amount of money invested in the military and the police and allocating it to education and health. Tell it to your men, the announcement will be done tonight.

 And then the assistant opened the door and the president left, leaving the country changed and the forces of the past in a state of induced coma.