Painting by Estela Currao – www.estelacurrao.net
I write to you now in the guise of the wanderer, having been so many places.
In 1986, I took refuge in the monastery at the top of the mountain where the monks wore golden robes and goats roamed the corridors. It was a silent time where no words were spoken for fear of upsetting the fragile balance struck between the wind that buffeted the stone walls and the trees that held it hostage. Were the wrong word to be spoken the monks feared that their delicate world would be overrun by the gnarled cypresses or pushed from the precipice by the wind.
When I left, they were still hanging in the balance. I left without a word.
It was several years later when I found myself standing in a glade. I had been years in the dark wood to get there and I knew that ahead of me lay more dark years. I lay my things down and rested in the sun which for a long, long time had only been an occasional, remote gleam in the forest canopy.
I lay there feeling the sun on my limbs and on my face. I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I remember I was standing on a narrow, cobblestoned street. At the end of the street, a blind man came toward me tapping his cane on the uneven stones. I stood there watching him as he approached me, picking his wobbly way down the street. He moved very slowly and I did not move at all. I waited.
When at last he was upon me, I took a step to the side so that he could pass, but he stopped. He propped his cane against his side, pulled a handkerchief from his back pocket and began to wipe his glasses. At the time, this did not seem incongruous to me. When he was satisfied that his glasses were clean, he fastened them around his ears then carefully folded his handkerchief in a perfect square.
“Come,” he said, taking my arm.
Strangely, it was he who guided me. We walked several blocks through those narrow streets. Several times he stopped, but he did not seem tired. He just leaned on my arm and stood there very alert, as if he were trying to scent something on the air or hear something far away. We turned into a street that was narrower than the others. About halfway down that block we stopped before a wooden door. After a while, I made as if to knock but he restrained my arm with a gentle tug. Eventually, the door opened softly, as if a gust of wind had blown against it.
Behind the door lay a stairway. He gestured for me to go first because it was too narrow for the two of us. I went up the stairs and I heard him shuffling behind me. When I got to the top of the stairs, I found myself in the glade again. I turned to ask him how this was so and all the other questions I had not asked him so far, but he was gone.
I was back where I had started, but now I knew the way.