The Cloudburst That Won't Stop
He had just passed away.
We were marching at a comfortable pace, squeaking steps of rubber that faded out beneath the city noises, like the sobbing of a child looking for her mother among the faceless crowd—desperate, helpless.
We took the oblique route from 'El Helicoide'—the police university—to the 'Los Próceres' drive. The housewives from Victoria Avenue mocked us from their balconies with their right pupil, yet they tried to hide a left eye that was brimming with tears.
Penthesileia marched beside me, telling me about the plans for her marriage in two months time, her desire placed on the 'La Guaira' beach where the man she will always love lives. When we crossed under the willows of the 'Las Tres Gracias' roundabout—the people university—we were approached by Rosario, the secretary to the Dean office, her cheeks shiny with sweat and recent weeping.
"What have you guys heard? About how he came to die?"
I shook my head, and Penthesileia did the same thing with a childlike pout. Unlike my anarchic and anti-personalist ambiguity, Penthesileia had loved him in a sincere and simple manner, as you do a father. Almost all who were in the funeral march to the 'Círculo Militar' to say farewell at his wake had felt him intensely: either with fervent admiration, or with profound resentment.
A few, like me, were always secretly happy for the physicians to the poor and the good intentions, although we felt uncomfortable with his forced charisma and his farmhand jokes, as with the great many injustices that surrounded him like a swarm of spite and irrationality.
Yet, still, we were there, walking in the thick row of moans and whispers, of thoughtful people and several mourners honestly seized by a paroxysm of overwhelming, abysmal grief, respectfully abiding the pain of his children, and increasingly troubled by the growing uncertainty.
"What do you think will happen now, Leia?", I asked her, using her friendly nickname to see if I could boost her spirits and draw one of her mischievous and overly-familiar childish laughs. But Penthesileia was still sad after Rosario's question.
The sun was ripping invisible snakes from the mirror fountains as we awaited our turn to arrive to the site, and I entertained the while desiring the sharp aboriginal angles and the mystical elegance of Paprika, a supervisor from the Admissions office who was aware of my attraction towards her as a woman and gently refused the demands of my romance-thirsty eyes.
My hopeless platonism amused Penthesileia, and I was glad to see her laugh again since the morning. It was already past lunchtime.
"Why don't you just confess?"
I told her cowardly that I was ashamed to do so, and she laughed again, cruelly.
"What's the worst could happen?", Penthesileia kept piquing me with sarcasm.
I then leaned against the marble edge of the fountain, and Paprika raised her beautiful face, the apples of her cheeks rosy with the meridian scorching sun, and she looked into my eyes with a perfect Incan princess smile. I felt my lungs flood with red loving fire, and, drunk with audacity, I took the first step towards her.
Just then, a sad clarion cried in the distant yard of the Military Academy, and the line resumed movement. I was not able to talk to Paprika, for she never smiled at me again.
We were now pushing forward at a regular pace, but the long rows of people that had camped since the weekend scattered us with kicks and blows: they did not care for our public servant hierarchy. In the midst of the following chaos, I couldn't find Rosario, Paprika, or even Penthesileia, anymore.
I don't know why I felt then that my need to say goodbye was authentic. It was impossible, though. We should have foreseen it.
I walked to 'La Bandera' station to take the subway back home. On the way there, I remembered the passing of my own father five years before and started crying, suddenly drowned in a hollow loneliness made of black smoke. I remembered how I had begged my own father to, please, survive, begged him to continue safeguarding our family with his heart for a shield.
I felt even more commiseration for the deceased and his children, both the real ones and the metaphorical, and realized his death had begun at the close of his last campaign, when the devotion of thousands got him drunk with love and made him bathe, still sick and frail, in the torrential embrace of a cloudburst that seemed to never have stopped raining.