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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Carnival in Avenida España, 1968

(I'd written this a long time ago, in Spanish, and had put it up in this blog in that original Spanish text. It did take me a while to translate it into English, I know...)

Carnival time on Avenida España. A maelstrom of people. I, lost in the crowd, clinging to the possible presence somewhere of a friend. Or, well, don't even know whether it was really a friend or, in any case, to what extent I was his friend. I now feel that I may have betrayed him in some obscure way (but that may perhaps go into another story) and that I furthermore didn't have a clear idea of what that meant, that being a friend. I was just convinced that I was on my own, that the world was hostile and that I, by my very constitution, was quite incapable of dealing with it. I recall some ex-class mate from the Ezpelosin secondary school, atop one of the floats, raising his arm up in the air, bottle of rum in hand (well, I think it _was_ a rum bottle). All this took place some forty years ago and it is difficult to recall exactly what I actually saw or heard or felt, only the impressions they left me with, which seem to endure more than the perceptions themselves or what my mind processed of them at the time.

I searched for her in the crowd, knowing with all certainty that she could not be there, that she couldn't possibly be there -a certainty not based in any foundation of knowledge or fact, other than the statistical improbability of her being there at all. My friends were all shouting, they passed comment about the girls on the floats, comments without any double entendre because the only entendre they had was sexual, which I used to find, at that age, both exciting and alarming, compelling and repugnant at the time.

Who knows what may have become of those carnivals in Catia, they surely must have ceased to be when I stopped attending them. Not like the cat in Shrödinger's box, but rather in the sense that my stopping going there was a reflection of their terminal decadence; I was one of many, taken wherever the flow took me, in spite of how apart and different I felt to everyone else, unique and lonely and uniquely unhappy -and yet. I wasn't any different when it came to the fundamentals, only shyer and perhaps weaker.

Fights broke out in street corners, ending up in the police charging with truncheons through the crowd. I wanted to go to the other end of Ave. España, gripped by the odd superstitious feeling that 'she' would be there, or because someone had whispered that 'something interesting' (unspecified) would be happening there -in my imagination, or because somebody had said this, a float with girls scantily dressed, although of course you never saw such a thing in Catia. So I would avoid the packed main road by taking a detour through the side-streets, through Calle Colombia, also full of people, or even Calle Peru a few blocks away -and now I hesitate when trying to recall the names of those roads that it's been so long since I trod... I see the streets in the satellite maps on Google Maps, I can look so close that I can see the parked cars in the photos, I recall so many bits of my life of those days lived on those streets I've seen on my computer screen and yet I cannot recall their names... as if time and space split and twisted with folds and seams that I had never been conscious of but which I could have seen had I been aware of them and as if they showed me with a clarity that inspires a sort of primeval terror, that ghostly past, those insignificant parts of my life which nonetheless assault me with meanings which I did not, could not have envisaged at the time. If , that is, this process unfolds and develops in this way and not the other way round with some chemical reaction inside me or the result of the heavy cold I've had for the last five days, giving rise to that surge in me of those portions of memory that had laid buried for so, so many years.

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