“The miracle”, Marcelo Birmajer’s new story. Illustration: Hugo Horita
Many times I want to be sure Somerset Maugham to start the story. Not in all stories. But yes to this one. Paradoxically, the first inspiring scene that comes to mind is at the end (and I need the beginning) of her story. footprint in the forest.
In that vignette, Maugham reveals that he identifies with a pair of murderers, a man and a woman: 35 years ago, they killed his wife together. They were able to leave unscathed, without guilt and compensation. And they continued together, as a couple, for the rest of their lives.
Observing the murderers who are now over sixty years old, the great English writer shares with us his amazement: how two peaceful, tired, smiling faces, gently playing bridge, 35 years ago, were committed to a lust, ruthless to kill man?
The light and casual way in which Maugham asks is more elegant and impressive than any attempt I have made to show it. Another paradox is that in the story Gubardo told me, exactly the opposite is happening. A sixty year old face becomes smooth and fresh, perhaps malignant.
It all starts with a post honeymoon. A marriage that lasted thirty-five years decided to celebrate their love, their stay. Gubardo’s face when he tells me his story could be the main character of Maugham’s story, without the threatening aura of past murder.
Only Maugham can explain the difference of one face to another. Lay people like me don’t notice. As Carmen Balcells told me: insight is a writer’s treasure. What is my perspective? That one myopic.
Gubardo described to me, at the outset, the sweetness of that joint decision: the trip to an island in the South Seas. I don’t even know what south seas is. I’ve read the complete works of Maugham and Stevenson, and I still don’t know what the South Seas is.
I also can’t put Jack London’s stories in space, in the snow and with sled dogs. Where do they take place? No idea: my point of view. A) Yes i can’t get anywhere.
Here I am, listening to Gubardo. The only way I resembled the narrator Maugham was that I also met Gubardo and his wife in the sixties. They were married, he told me, at the age of 25. For this trip they had lifelong savings. I arbitrarily put them in Hawaii. Or in Tahiti? I also don’t know where Tahiti is.
One trip by plane and another by boat, both wonderful. Sweetness and discreet sensuality in transfers. Hug and laugh. Moderate alcohol and exchange of memories. A couple in its entirety: conflicts, harassment, misunderstandings and dissatisfaction are left behind. They are ready, as you lay, to fully enjoy.
They also saved this love for the rest of their lives. All those moments, during thirty -five years of togetherness, wasted in quarrels, in busyness, in boredom, now return to a treasure as precious as mature perspective: the possibility of having fun with one ‘ t one as male and female.
They are moderately healthy, they still love each other, they know how to invent mystery with each other.
They live in a paradisiacal hotel, in one of the Hiltons that Conny sent to Don Draper to promote in Crazy Men, steps from the sea. The attention is monarchy. The waiters and waitresses are sharp, kind and sociable. Foods, tropical. Pineapple, mango, unknown fruit, lobster -sized shrimp and fresh lobster. aphrodisiac alcohol.
On one of the excursions, they are taken to an old village, inhabited only by natives, who make a living by hunting and fishing, with almost no power supply; the rest remains the same as centuries ago.
Gubardo and his wife Mariela will spend the night there. There were several other couples: an Asian male and female couple, probably Chinese; two men and another newlywed couple. Some western passerby passes by, sailboats coming and going. The weather is best.
In the evening, a witch appeared in front of Gubardo and Mariela’s comfortable hut. She is a strangely beautiful woman. She is not young and possesses an extemporaneous natural attractiveness. He explained that with a concoction and an appropriate ointment can return them to their 20 years. They will be in their twenties again. Gubardo prefers to reject him, but Mariela wants to try.
Gubardo, in love and protection, offers his wife to do it together. But Mariela answered that Gubardo likes it that way, mature, as she seeks to regain the features and appearance of her twenties. It will be a final honeymoon that can’t be imagined better than they thought. Gubard accepted.
The sorcerer charges them dollars and asks, indicating, if they want him to stay when the miracle takes effect. He looked at Gubardo intently. They both voluntarily replied that he could leave.
Once the witch left, Mariela, in front of Gubardo, mutated herself at the age of 20. Her beauty is dazzling, her straightforwardness is magnetic, its promontories and curves are insane. Gubardo wondered if they hadn’t made a mistake.
But his desires were stronger and he uttered Shakespeare’s immortal words about Cleopatra: “Age cannot erase her, nor does custom weaken the infinite diversity in her. Other women satisfy the appetites they feed; but she, the more she satisfies the hunger, the more she wakes it up ”.
Mariela wants to bathe in the sea, groom herself and get dressed for the occasion: offer Gubardo the perfect night. Gubardo waited for him in the hut and he never returned. will not return.
We went back to the bar in Buenos Aires, just two boys: Gubardo, 65 years old, ten years younger than me. The Tahitian paradise that had just opened disappeared, leaving a trace of impossible textures, colors and aromas.
“Two days without hearing from him,” Gubardo explained. The local police arrested me. I had to pay bail to return to Argentina and even then I was under Interpol surveillance. Mariela appeared a week later, at home, as if nothing had happened.
– How old? I was stunned by the question.
“63,” Gubardo let me know as if there was no stupidity in my question.
“His twenty years,” he thought. He preferred to use them elsewhere, not me.
He stopped where I thought he was going to die, but added: – I met him when I was 25.
“And now…?” I heard the question to myself. As follows ?.
“I want to go back to the place,” no one said convincingly. Only.
Gubardo even ordered whatever he was drinking. He took a deep breath and asked me: – What is the opposite of the word miracle?
It took me a few minutes before I confessed my ignorance.
“If anything, I don’t know about it,” I declared.
“Life,” Gubardo said. Life is the opposite of a miracle.
For some reason, I didn’t dare close his testimony with that sentence. I’m still looking for a less bitter sentence for this ending. But it never crossed my mind. Surely Maugham, paradoxically, with his cynical turtle face, would find the specific phrase.