On the Death of Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Solamente la vida

I am writing a song now that I do not know how to write. The music came in the case with my new ukulele. Honestly, I picked it up and started playing the song. I was clumsy and ignorant. It took a long time to learn how to play it, but somehow in the middle of this process, I became aware that I was having a conversation at a table with a small man in a white suit. It was al fresco, there were palm trees. There were gypsies in the conversation.

I felt all at once that I had everything and nothing to tell him. In the track of my mind, long stretches of highway rolled past, love and sorrow, the faces of people who had patiently accepted me and taught me who I am. I saw the mirrors that insisted that although they told the truth, my eyes had so much to learn about seeing it. He had told so much, seen so much, understood so much. When he spoke, I hardly heard the words for all of the journeys I took between them. Then I had the sad thought about what is lost when someone dies — the unexplainable composite of self, polished by time, romanced by hope, crushed by misfortune, informed by everything. All of this is lost when a person dies. I felt him reading my thoughts and I knew that he preferred to speak of life. For he had taken the time in his life to put so much of it down for the entire world to be enriched by. Immediately he said, “I discovered to my joy, that it is life, not death, that has no limits.” “…human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.”

We sat with birth, life,and beauty at the table – he in his white suit, me in my daily black.

“May I quote someone?” I asked.

“Por favor.”

“Death is the mother of beauty.”

“Wallace Stevens.”

“Yes. Death affixes us to time and place, as if we could escape it in life. Have you experienced so much that you have escaped your attachment to things, to people, to ideas, to place and time?”

“I died but my words didn’t. But, even they are unfaithful. They mean something different to you than I could have ever possibly intended. I am at once reduced and enriched by you. My hope is that there is something universal, above and beyond both of us, that will allow you to recognize my crazy aunt, that the palm tree in the courtyard of my grandfather’s house will be familiar shade. But, these are my attachments. There is your answer. It has never been my intention to escape anything. It’s just the opposite.”

“Thank You for explaining that.”

“Young man in black, pick up the ukulele,” he said, putting his fatherly hand lightly on my shoulder, “that melody is what brought me here in the first place. But those words…”

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A Ukelele, a Book, and a Vase of White Roses on Top of a Small White Round Table