Alfonso stops by the door of the quick-stop, he stops because of the reflection in the glass of the door. His long, white, gray hair, and his long, singeing beard.
- Who am I?
A question with no answer. The golden, cracked skin, dry lips, characteristics that do not correspond to any glimmer of unity inside the observer.
- Dry lips…
The sentence reminds him of something he cannot remember, a faceless nostalgia and a breeze of anguish. He enters the store without answering the question and walks through the aisles full of candy, full of sweet jellybean vapors, and vibrant colors that fill him with wistfulness. Walking down the aisle at the end, Alfonso finds himself facing the row of refrigerators, he stares at a bottle of mineral water for some time, the shape of the bottle reminds him of something he cannot realize, a diffuse memory that leads him to open the door and take the bottle in his hands. The cold escaping from the refrigerator’s interior relaxes him, and it leads him to take a deep breath. The woman at the cash register has been looking at him for a while and takes this opportunity to make her move. Alfonso expected this but he downplays the issue, preferring to open the bottle and take a big sip of water.
- Hey, what are you doing!
Alfonso stops, the woman approaches him, and brings a red blanket, one that she had kept for the cold, she uses it to cover the body of the old naked man she has found in the corridor of the refrigerators. Alfonso thanks her, but she has not finished, she asks him to pay for the water before consuming it. Alfonso listens carefully and then puts his hands in his pockets, but he has no pants. The woman gets angry and asks him to leave the store, to take the water away but not to continue to mess the floor with sand, points to Alfonso’s dirty feet, feet with which he has painted a trail of sand everywhere he has stepped. Alfonso walks towards the exit, and passes by the woman’s side, she backs up when she sees the depth of his eyes, where she finds the glow of the stars. Alfonso is happy to see her, he remembers her from before, and although he doesn’t know when, he bids her farewell with reverence.
As he walks through the door of the quick-stop, Alfonso sees the next object that catches his eye, an empty gas can, next to the gas pump hose. With eyes full of tears, a smile on his face, and arms raised to the sky in an attempt to embrace the sun, Alfonso celebrates the discovery. He doesn’t know why, he doesn’t remember, but that canister fills his heart with joy, an intense joy that drives him to run to the pump to get it and insert the nozzle of the pump inside of it. Alfonso presses the trigger and the gasoline pours inside. And just then, the bathroom door at the side of the quick-stop hits the frame, announcing the arrival of a man on the scene. It’s a burly guy wearing a trucker’s cap on his head.
- Hey! Hey, you! Are you going to pay for that?
Surprised by the statement, but even more surprised to see the face of the person who is questioning him, Alfonso kicks on the floor with joy. He thanks the heavens for Pedro, who continues to approach Alfonso and fails to understand anything of what is happening.
- Did I miss anything? You’re going to pay, right?
Alfonso panics, he grabs the canister with both hands and runs out of the place, releasing the nozzle, which continues to expel gasoline and spills it on the floor. Alfonso hugs the canister tightly as he runs away from the station and into the road and the desert. Pedro runs in pursuit but stops at the pump to stop the gasoline from pouring onto the ground uncontrollably. This gives enough time for Alfonso to reach a considerable distance, insurmountable assumes Pedro, in the midst of the embracing heat of noon, so he desists to go in pursuit of that naked old man with a canister.
Alfonso keeps running non-stop, he doesn’t give himself time to look back for even one moment. He doesn’t run because he is being chased, he runs because he knows he still has time, although he doesn’t remember what for. And he runs until his legs ask for a break, until the sun lies down on the horizon once again. It is then that his guts rumble.
- This is the joy of life.
When was the last time he ate? Blind confidence leads him to go into the dunes of the desert and to wait in silence. And then, between the lines described in the sand, a circular movement, like a whip drawing outlines on the ground, revealing the movement of a snake emerging from the depths. Alfonso observes it and without even thinking about it, he throws himself towards it, hunger drives him, instinct drives him, and love for the imperishable time drives him to pursue it a long way, leaving the canister behind.
- Because, what will become of the can without someone to carry it?
Alfonso manages to find the snake, grabs it by the tail, and strongly whips it against the ground until life escapes from it. When the killing is over, He says goodbye to the snake, thanks the universe for providing it, takes off his red cloak, and places it on the ground, to deposit the snake’s body there. A furtive look at the canister, arranged on the side of the road, reveals that the object in question is not in its position; a young man has taken it and is carrying it. Alfonso covers the cloth in the sand and gets up as fast as his old body can move, he hurries to hunt down the intruder, catches him, and throws himself at him, managing to knock him down without much difficulty. The canister returns to his hands and Alfonso stays looking at this young man for a while.
The young man spends the afternoon begging Alfonso to lend him the gasoline, he needs it to rescue a woman stranded in the middle of the desert. Words that unleash a series of diffuse, unconnected, but strangely familiar memories in Alfonso. One specific word echoes in his memory.
Alfonso remembers meeting someone with that name, a powerful feeling brings him back to the desert sands but also to the deceitfulness of its surroundings. He prefers not to say anything, he is not sure of these memories, of the story that they link, and for sure that saying things without being sure is a bad idea, he thinks to himself.
Night falls on Alfonso and on the young man, a fire is lit in the dark, and the flames dance to the rhythm of the night winds. Millions of years still unprocessed in his mind, Alfonso does not manage to stay long in the present and with the young man. Even so, he makes the greatest effort to pay attention to the words he speaks, an interrogation about matters whose answer he does not possess. Questions about origins, about destinies, but Alfonso does not manage to position himself in the arrow of time, he prefers not to say more, loses interest in the conversation, and soon falls into a deep sleep.
- The space is occupied, how to enter?
Among the veils of dreams, a car appears in the middle of the road, a woman opens up whole, her skin falls on the passenger seat, a flower emerges, a thorny rose, the stems grow and the thorns occupy the cabin of the vehicle.
Alfonso opens his eyes in fear, the young man takes the canister, tries to snatch it from his hands, and forces him to stand up and fight, but why fight?
- Better to let go.
Alfonso reflects as he lets go of the canister, his body now moves thanks to the strength of the young man, the thrust pushes him towards the flames with the canister following him. The touch of the fire and the explosion, as intense as sunlight, envelops him in flames. Alfonso bears the pain in silence, lets himself be burned, and embraces the flames like old friends who come to guide him, angels who come down from the sky to illuminate the path. The fire is extinguished after a while, Alfonso’s body stiff, his eyes lost in the blink of the stars that receive him once more and beyond, beyond the most extensive and darkest depth, he knows that everything will start again.
The first rays of the sun timidly illuminate the contour of the desert and tickle Alfonso’s charred fingers. He agonizes, it is difficult for him to breathe, every breath burns him inside, every exhalation as if it were nails in his chest. He remains still, almost does not feel anything, does not feel the movement of the sand around him, does not feel those beings that return to the surface hungry, in search of food, and that find him lying down, helpless. There will be two, then three, and soon more than twenty snakes sliding through the sand toward the burnt body. The feast begins. Teeth like fine needles tearing the flesh until they are satiated. The snakes finish eating the flesh and return to the sand. Later, a couple of vultures circles the sky over the charred body, taking their time before descending. A peck and another piece of meat get separated from the bone. The vultures devour every muscle with surgical precision, including the eyes and guts. Then, they return to the skies and get lost on the horizon. After a while, a family of beetles makes its way through the sand, reaches the immobile body, and take their share. The days pass and only bones remain.
And Alfonso? Where is he? Alfonso is in the snakes that roam the desert, he is in the vultures that sail the skies, and he is in the beetles that bury themselves in the earth. But Alfonso wants to free himself, the desire to return to that place that he hardly remembers anymore, that place that keeps calling him, persists like the light of the stars. With great effort he manages to free himself from the flesh that imprisons him, helped by the fact that it almost disintegrates in the stomach of the beings that fed on him. One last effort and his soul separates entirely from the material, then he falls, falls as he has fallen before, as the stars collapse and separate in spite of all efforts to endure. But Alfonso does not want to be part of the history of the universe; his desire is to return to his memories, to retain them. And every time the galaxies collapse and everything begins again, he returns, countless times and under a thousand forms. In the beginning, it is difficult for him, he can only be a geometrical figure, he is a triangle embedded in a grain of sand, he is a cube, traveling in a beam of light, between the reflections of the dunes and the sun. A car passes by the road, thundering music throws waves through the air, changing the nature of all things, even of himself and now Alfonso is part of a song, a specific strophe “stay with her”, “stay with her” is repeated like a mantra throughout the song and someone listens, but the sound waves last as long as a blink of an eye and that is not enough for Alfonso. Again at the end of the universe and back again. This time as a drop of rain that falls in spring at the beginning of his life and then is taken, encapsulated in a bottle of water. The same drop that slips gracefully through a woman’s lips and manages to calm her nervousness in a tense situation, Alfonso remembers the happiness, but he wants more, he is not satisfied. This time he is a fly that is born on the putrid flesh of a corpse, as soon as his eyes meet the rays of the sun, his adventure through the air begins. He flaps his wings in search of an aroma that he can barely perceive, which is only an illusion at the beginning, but which, with each movement, grows in intensity. After having lost half of his life on the journey, the fly finds the origin of the aroma that drives him forward. The turbulence of the wind prevents him from advancing, it moves him in all directions. But the fly does not let himself be intimidated; he has been a man, has taken a life, has been robbed of his life, and has traveled this existence countless times, the wind is not a rival, it is himself in another age. This is how he lets himself go and soon finds himself in the cabin of a car, amazed by the man and the woman who now talk and laugh inside. He approaches the man and, with all his strength, shouts at him not to waste time, that destiny can be cruel in the same way that men are or have been. But the man does not listen; the fly flies through the air once more and goes around both looking for some solution. He does not find it; tired he stops at the mouth of the bottle, where he recognizes himself in the form of a drop of rain. Distraction prevents him from seeing the woman’s hand until it is too late, life is lost again. Again the end of the universe and the man returns as an animal, a fox that ventures into the desert dunes, that hunts snakes and faces vultures, that fights to stay alive long enough. Until a thundering sound changes the nature of things, “stay with me” is repeated and the fox knows that the time has come. One look is enough to change the life of the man who until then was walking the dark spaces of his own consciousness and then the epiphany, be an idea. The universe collapses and begins again, this time Alfonso is born from the vision of man, a set of synapses, of electrochemical impulses that form the powerful image of the majestic fox in the middle of the desert sands, a sticky idea that later translates into words that travel through the air and enter her ears.
- I’ll take care of it, don’t worry.
Amelia settles into the seat and closes her eyes, she falls into a deep sleep. It is a calm dream, like the belly of a whale, warm and protective. Through the thick mist of her restful consciousness appears the image of a man walking along the road. It is Alfonso returning with the can of gasoline in his hands. Amelia watches him from the window and smiles, their eyes meet and they recognize each other as if only minutes had passed since they last saw each other.
- Maybe it was just a minute.
Alfonso arrives at the car and tells Amelia that he has found the can lying on the side of the road, which has been nothing short of a miracle. She stretches to get rid of her laziness and gets out to stretch her legs for a while. Alfonso fills the car pond with fuel, stares at Amelia, and can’t help but smile.
- Something has ended.
Alfonso keeps his smile as he returns to the car.
- Shall we go? Amelia asks cheerfully.
Alfonso nods, he turns the key in the ignition, and the engine starts. The car advances towards the horizon and beyond, there, where the desert ends.