The European Couple

The European couple drag their suitcases along the road, clinging to their backpacks. They’re tall and thin, much like the yellowing trees beside them. Not a single smile is drawn on their faces.

The European couple cross the bridge on their bicycles, on their way to who knows where—the library, most probably.

The European couple sit on a bench outside the library. I can see them from the window as my fingers feed words into a white keyboard. I’m hungry. The girl wears a small dishwater blond bun on top of her head. Or maybe that’s the guy. Or both. They look alike, except that he is much taller than her, and scruffy blondish hairs cover his face in patches.

The European couple pass me by at the library entrance. The guy smells like summer chased him with water and soap but he was faster. I wonder how the girl can cope with that. She wears a long skirt and rather short stockings. They’re holding hands. They move their lips, but I can’t hear their voices; I don’t know what language they speak, where they come from. I don’t know why they’re here, or how long they’ll stay. I don’t even know if they really are European.

For some strange reason, I’ve been running into this pair of unknown people almost every day for the past few months. Meeting them, watching them for a brief moment before getting lost in the crowd is encountering the dramatization of a wish of mine for the future. A pair of bikes, a pair of interlinked hands. A familiar face at the other side of the window, glancing at me, waiting for me to look up and say hello. The discovery of far-off lands in company.

But it is their life I’m witnessing, not mine. As I realize this, my eyes lose grasp of their presence. It won’t be hard for them to vanish from my mind once again—the usual elements of a landscape are so easily forgotten!

Looking away, I’m bound to resume my activities in this world of odds, of lonely prime numbers.

Santa Rosa de Lima

Among the countless saints in the Catholic calendar, Santa Rosa de Lima (Saint Rose of Lima) is a truly frightening example of extreme penance. Her insatiable urge for mortification led her to wear a metal spiked crown concealed by roses and an iron chain around her waist. As if this weren’t enough, she built a bed of broken glass, stone, potsherds, and thorns, where she would lay when she could no longer stand. “She admitted that the thought of lying down on it made her tremble with dread” (Wikipedia).

There is absolutely no point of comparison between a pious woman who spends about fourteen years in extreme voluntary pain and a somewhat cowardly student who stares at her gigantic violaceous toe in utmost fear of having a broken bone. She even gets it X-rayed to discard major injuries. Nevertheless, despite the unimportance of her wounds, she tends to feel her stomach tumble with fear at the mere thought of having to ride her new bicycle again. Another bruise to add to the collection? Another opportunity to watch T-cells in action, live?

I learned today that Bob Marley died of a broken toe. Okay, it was cancer, but the origin was an untreated wound on his hallux (big toe). I heard this from my sempai (one of those European-looking Colombians—can’t decide whether he’s good-looking or not) while waiting to be called at the bank, of all places. Well, history states that Bob Marley got a melanoma from a soccer wound, but his religion didn’t let him have the toe amputated (a man shall not be dismantled, is the idea), so the cancer metastasized to his brain, lungs, liver, and stomach. The sempai didn’t tell me all that, of course; he just talked an untreated soccer wound which turned into cancer and killed him because he wouldn’t get it amputated. The rest is Wikipedia.

The process of learning how to ride a bike is not limited to the numerous tries that lead to finally maintaining once’s balance on a mechanism which has not been fully explained by physicians. There’s also the gaining of confidence on a slim vehicle that looks like it will collapse at once and could never hold someone straight up, let alone carry them to places, so how the heck it’s supposed to take me safe and sound uphill and downhill is beyond me (and many other, much more educated people). And yet, I must trust it! No matter how many times I fall, crash, or scratch, I simply cannot give up. The pain will go away eventually, but the bike will still be there next morning, quietly standing in front of the dorm, waiting to be unleashed. Untamed beast with double suspension, I can’t help but free you, and together we glide into the dangerous world of reckless riders and semi-destroyed paved roads.

I decided not to ride my bike today… and I missed it. I’m sure Santa Rosa wouldn’t have thought the same of her bed.