Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta honor. Mostrar todas las entradas
Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta honor. Mostrar todas las entradas

viernes, 29 de enero de 2016

The other son

   Lady Rosamund was seated in one of the top balconies, just in front of the stage. She was tired, as half of the show had already passed. At age seventy-five, she was too tired to watch a whole opera, even if it was her dear Anthony that did the music. Only for him she had walked out of her house, she would never do that for anyone else. The last time she had been really out was the time of her husband’s death, over ten years ago. Actually, it had been that moment in her life that made her decide to stay at home and just take care of things there.

 After all, she had many things to do still, for a woman her age and status. Her husband had left their son John the biggest company called Alesia, which imported tobacco from the Americas. Her son was living there, in a plantation in Cuba where he got to manage the business first hand. Lady Rosamund had received the management of other parts of the enterprise and smaller business around town such as a grocery store and two stalls in the market. She was in charge of asking for that rent and talking to her tenants, making sure everything was ok.

 She had been happy for a while, so she didn’t really mind staying at home and getting things done from there. Moomoo the dog would keep her company and she had a whole garden to take care of, as she had decided not to pay a gardener anymore as she felt she could do a much better job. That turned out to be not exactly true, but she didn’t care. She liked all of those mornings, when the sun wasn’t too bright, when she would sing to her roses and tulips and just be there by herself.

 Her daughter Josephine visited her every other day and read her the letters that John sent from the other side of the world. They learned that way that he had gotten married and that he was also expecting his first child. Josephine had two of her own already, which she sometimes brought to her mother but not every time because she saw how rowdy they would get and how old her mother was getting. She didn’t want her to feel ill so she decided not to do it too often.

 It was almost always a subject of them to talk about Anthony. He was always somewhere in Europe or even elsewhere, taking his music to every kind of people. They also read his letters and they both loved that because he had always had the best sense of humor. He could transform even the direst of circumstances into the funniest event he had ever witnessed. They would laugh reading the letters and, when he visited, they would ask him to tell the anecdotes himself and they certainly didn’t change at all from the written versions. Anthony was not blood but he was more than family, something that couldn’t be explained.

  In her youth, recently married, Lady Rosamund convinced her husband to adopt a kid from the streets. As a young bride, she was almost forced to do charity work, a thing many of the ladies where doing to look good in the public eye. But Rosamund had learned to like it, going to many of the hospices around town and reading to the sick or giving away old clothes to the needy. The children especially touched her because she felt they were all innocent of the lives they had been forced to live in. She cried often when she saw them dying of hunger or begging in the streets.

 One day, she started working in the darkest of allies with other women, tending to the women that not even the church recognized as part of the community. Those women sold their bodies and Rosamund never found one that had to do it because she liked it. They all needed money to survive, they needed to live day by day, paying high prices for smelly rooms in awful places and often raising children that way. It wasn’t the life a child should have.

 It was one of those days that she met Alice. Her face was very slim, her cheekbones very prominent due to the lack of food. Her skin had lost all natural silkiness and looked almost green in color. Rosamund was almost certain that women was not much older than her but from her face it was difficult to see that as she looked almost ancient in that alley. She had been beaten by her clients multiple times and hadn’t enjoyed a warm meal for many nights. So when the ladies invited her to a soup kitchen they had arranged for the people of the streets, she went gladly.

 Alice ate very fast; almost as if she was afraid the bread and the soup would run out in any second. When she finished, a man guarding the door detained her as she was trying to smuggle out two pieces of bread. The man shamed her in front of everyone and stepped on the bread, Alice crying in horror. Her noise was heard by the ladies who came at once and saw what had happened. They expelled the man from the premises and asked Alice why she was taking food outside the dining hall. And she explained she had a son, a baby that was very ill because she had nothing to give him to eat.

 Rosamund was shocked when she saw the baby, as green as his mother, not doing one sound. She felt sick and sad and decided to help Alice. She would try to get them both food every night and she did do that, even when she couldn’t be there in person. Alice thanked her for her support and then she had an idea that she had to confess when it was obvious she looked too much at the rich and beautiful woman. She asked Rosamund to take her baby as her son and give her the opportunities she could never give him. She knew the lady loved the baby, the way she played with him and looked at his little face.

 Although her first thought was to say “No”, Rosamund knew that Alice was right. That baby was going to die soon if he didn’t get the help he needed. So she decided to ask her husband and the answer was a resounding “No”. He opposed the idea because he wanted their first son to be theirs and not and adopted kid from somewhere. She thought he was cruel and vile for not thinking about others, about the possible life that they could be saving if they took that baby in. Rosamund had to convince him for several days, even going to the length of seducing him and having intercourse with him.

 She thought it was a message from God when she learned from her doctor that she was pregnant. She told her husband and begged, once again, to take in the baby. They could hide him until after their own son was born and then reveal him as a twin or a cousin or whatever. She just wanted that kid to have a chance. Her husband, already in love with their first child, finally accepted the proposal.

 The separation of Anthony and her mother was fast but tragic: only a kiss in the forehead and some hushed words as he slept. Then Alice gave him to Rosamund and she left, not before giving her some money to try to make her life better, even if she wouldn’t have her son with her. She didn’t wanted the money at first, but the young woman, whose belly was beginning to grow, convinced her to do the best for herself and just invest that money in getting out of the streets. Sadly, that never happened. Rosamund would learn years later that Alice was victim of a crime in one of those dark allies and had died alone.

 The babies grew at the same pace, Anthony always a bit bigger but weaker. As he didn’t move much when he was a kid, she decided to relate him to music, even hiring a piano teacher for both of her children. But John would rather play in the garden or in the park, with other kids. By the time Josephine was born, Anthony was already admired by the men in the Academy of Music. In a matter of a few years he became a sensation, even writing his own material. Rosamund would always go and see him play and kiss him dearly in the forehead, as Alice had done.

 In time, she told him the truth and he just loved her more because of that. Inspired by the rough streets where he had been born and by the tragic story of his birth mother, he wrote of the best and most passionate operas that have ever been written. It was that piece that Rosamund hear from the balcony, very tired but still proud of the son who wasn’t her son and of his strength of character. It was the best way to honor both his mothers and the proof that all life is precious.

viernes, 8 de enero de 2016


   The place was full of steam and very humid. The columns that divided one part of the baths from the others appeared to be sweating, as everyone else in that place. There were mostly men, as the women baths were located separately but some women came in, naked of course, and served the high-ranking men. Prostitution was forbidden in the baths but business in that field was done there anyway and the act would be performed somewhere else, so that way the owner of the baths wouldn’t have any problem with the authorities.

 Many military loved the baths; especially after the long campaigns the emperor sent them too. The ones that came back, successful or not, were considered better than normal men so they received every single kind of gift and appreciation possible by the general public. For example, there was this general in one of the pools, enjoying the hot water, but also caressing a young man he had taken an interest for and eating with that boy many tropical fruits that were only accessible to the most important people in the empire.

 The fruits were served cut and ripe in a large plate. This was all done by men as women were believed not to be “good enough” to serve such powerful and important people. Women were always entertainment or responsibility, never anything else. Some of them resented that and claimed that women should also be treated like gods and so on, but the response was always that women did not go to war, so they had no idea what real sacrifice was or how loyalties and strategy worked.

 The baths were a men’s world.

 The hand of the general went up and down the young men’s leg and the only thing he could do was to smile. His family had been the one to send him against his will to the baths. He didn’t wanted to be there but had to as the general promised a very large sum to his family in exchange for his company. This meant that the poor boy had to be around the general every single day, at every time and everywhere until the older men just decided he liked someone else or until he verbally declared the boy was not suitable anymore.

 The boy knew it was cruel to think that way but he wanted another boy to appear soon and be more of the liking of the general. He didn’t cared what happened to that other boy, he just wanted to be replaced in order to go home and become a scientist as his parents had once promised him. He had only attended a few lessons with a known master of the city when he was picked up by the general in a crowded street. He had gotten lost going to class and that had been his downfall.     
 But not all were anxious to be rejected. In another pool, a younger man was been honored with the most delicious wine and a nice ration of roasted boar. He was the young son of a general that had become an official too in Northern Africa. He had combatted a tribe there that had tried to liberate some slaves. The man had won, making his father and the empire very proud of him. So he had chosen a boy too to accompany him but the difference was they had agreed on all of it before.

 The boy was not from Rome. He wasn’t a kid with a family or with any prospects. No one really knew this, but he had been one of the many people captured in Africa to become slaves. His skin was dark but not as dark as to draw looks from everyone he encountered. He was beautiful and that was an advantage in a society were beauty was so important. The young military had seen that and liberated him with the condition that he should remain on his side as long as he desired.

 Strangely but not uncommon in these exchanges, the two men formed a very tight and deep relationship. They travelled together from those far lands to the capital and in the process got to know each other and taught one another things about themselves and about their worlds. The father of the young military man was not thrilled by his company but decided not to do anything about it because he was too proud at the moment to spoil his boy’s happiness. But he felt something had to be done in the long run.

 In the baths, the boy and the young military were side by side, holding hands and telling stories to the group that was around them. Everyone listened and laughed and sobbed in the right moments, asking questions and being curious in the most charming way possible. Of course, many of them were spies and others were poor trying to infiltrate the higher levels of society. But no one really cared because even there, with everyone naked in hot steamy water, people were still not fully themselves; they still hid some of their secrets and real feelings.

 No one would ever see any of those men do more with the boy than touching. That was all that was permitted in the bathhouse, by law. It was in their homes, their private dwellings, were every lie was shed and only the truth remained with all these gods that dressed like soldiers. And they did believe they were gods, or almost at least. They knew that they were better than others, smarter and much more valiant. They didn’t have the necessity to do anything else than be. That way people honored them everywhere they went and applauded their every thought, word or act, just because of they were. And their companions, boys or girls or women or other military men, were glad to be there to see it all.

 But not everyone was happy. In another pool, three military men cared only for the warm water and the food. They had no one tending to their needs or asking them to tell stories. That was because they had yelled away anyone who got close to them from the first day they had came back from the field. These men were a group that battled barbarians in the northern borders and had been together for many years. They knew each other from their first training and, although one could not see it, they were glad to be together and alive.

 However, there was no real happiness as many of their men had been killed by the savages. It has to be understood that in that group there was a head, a men with grey eyes called Decimus, but every decision was agreed on by every single member of the group. When they left the capital, they were seven men from the best families in the empire, ready to do what was needed to defend their land. But in the process of defending that land, four had died in the hands of the enemy. Their deaths had been atrocious and laid inside the brains of the three many that steam tried to relax.

 The women that brought the fruit often let some skin be seen by the men so they would initiate business with them. But the group of three man didn’t care at all about breasts or legs or anything else than their troubled memories. They weren’t seeking young boys like the others and had no mind to be thinking in romance or sexual pleasure. They just wanted to be left alone with their sore bodies and their ghosts, who were all there with them, reminding them of every single moment of the battle, again and again and again.

 They had refused real medical attention and also the presence of healers that would care for their wounds right there in the bathhouse. They just didn’t want to talk to anyone. They were voluntarily sinking in their own nightmares, feeling that they did not deserve a better luck that their friends that had died in battle. They felt that real justice by the Gods would have been to kill them all on the field, leaving all with the honor of having defended the empire and all that it stood for.

 Yet, they were soaking in a bathhouse, feeling the pain of something that would never happen. The pain was stronger because the bond between those seven men was too strong. It was friendship but it was also love that linked one to the other. Forever they would feel the presence of the others and the ominous feeling that something else should have happened and that their lives should have ended in a different way.

 The steam of the bathhouse had that peculiarity, of making everything possible and impossible at the same time.

sábado, 20 de septiembre de 2014

The Summit

They were almost there. Raul, the guide, had said it was only a hundred meters or so to the tallest point. Or so they thought he had said. Hearing wasn't an easy task, as the wind blew stronger in the altitudes Breathing was also difficult and the freezing cold made it even harder.

It was the first time any of them, except Raul, had attempted to hike such a tall mountain. It had been called Ritacuba Blanco and the name was fitting: the place was covered in a think layer of snow, that confused every sense and the mind.

Again, Raul, who was the first in the line to the top, yelled something but this time no one heard him. The wind appeared to be muting all of the members of the team on purpose, although that was obviously preposterous.

They walked another fifty meters and then they understood what Raul had said. Laura, the scientist from Pasto, fell in a crevasse and pulled everyone else into it. Luckily, Raul and Juan had their tools ready and held strongly on the white floor. Fast, the others helped Laura getting out and avoided the crevasse. Franco put a red flag by the gap on the floor, pierced the snow with all his strength.

They continued for a few minutes until they made it to the top. Raul warned them, breathing with difficulty, that they could only stay for a few minutes. As they had no oxygen tanks, staying more than necessary could mean dying there or on the way down.

There were six explorers, seven with Raul. They all sat on some rocks that overlooked the cliff, on which the tallest point was located.

Juan, as experienced as he was, took just one moment to see the scenery and then went back to Raul and started talking about the descent. It wasn't that he took it all for granted, not at all. Juan was just thinking of so many things at same time and seeing mountains from the top of another mountain didn't do anything for him. He had a wife and a baby girl to think of. At the cost of loosing what he loved most, he had to choose either a well paid job or loosing them both.

Laura, however, sat on a rock and filled her lungs with the purest air she might ever breath. It was true that oxygen was scarce, was somehow it felt cleaner and better than anything else. She loved how the mountains looked and how beautiful the world looked like this, just peaceful. It was different of what she had known her whole life, and the fact that this beautiful place existed not that far from home, was overwhelming to her.

Luis, an mature hiker with a thick beard, inhaled too but many more times, as if he defied the world. Only Raul knew that Luis was dying of cancer in the blood and this journey was a way of saying to life "you can't beat me up". The mountains and what he saw weren't as beautiful to him as the fact of having being able to do it all on his own, this last few months. He was going to die, true. But he wanted to imprint his mark on the world.

Veronica, a geology student, had come with a camera and started taking pictures as soon as they had reached the summit. She was a cheerful photographer, having documented her life and her family's life in huge amounts of pictures. Digital or analog, she didn't care. She only cared about keeping memories alive forever and this was her way of doing so. She had lost her father recently, and he had promised to go hiking with him. She wanted to take the most beautiful pictures to honor her father's memory.

Marcos and Tomás thought of each other as brothers. They admired the view, never kneeling or crouching or sitting but standing up to it, taking it all in as if it was a gift that one couldn't just let pass by. Both men, still young but already working through life, had decided to take this trip to defy their bodies and test, once more, the limits of their friendship. Marcos and Tomás were not real brothers, not relatives by blood. They had lived together from a young age as orphans, on the streets and under the care of others. But they never let each other go.

The six visitors came to the mountain, each one with a kind of mission. Some of them were successful, others not so much. But what was valuable wasn't the physical prowess as such. It was the fact that they had decided to take a challenge in order to honor something, to be true to themselves.

As they returned to the base camp, near a beautiful blue lake, their lives seemed to have improved, at least a little, even for a tiny space of time. They had learned no one defies a mountain out of courage or for the need of glory. All who do it, do it just for the urge, the need to define who they are.