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The International Writers Magazine: A Searching Profile

The Composer
Richard McGarry

La Rêve de Parthénope
Un Opéra en Deux Actes By Mattéo Ranvier
Mis En Scène

Mattéo Ranvier was intently contemplating Ana Lucia Beltrán’s eyes as he stared out of the window of an airbus bound for Paris. Those rapturous and dark eyes, he thought to himself, like burnished amber, yet profoundly sad as if they had been taken hold by some hidden, unspeakable tragedy.

He remembered how her eyes would suddenly catch fire and burn with a white-hot phosphorescence, and then, just as suddenly, go cold and unreadable as if veiled in a deep impenetrable fog. He remembered that her eyes could just never seem to laugh with that spontaneous twinkling frivolity of child’s play. Never in his recollection had he witnessed a singularity of light and warmth from her eyes, only fire and ice and darkness at different times in different places.

Three years in La Candelaria, Colombia had passed as if his journey had coalesced into a series of fleeting moments, as if he no longer possessed an awareness of hours, days and months, as if he could only recognize scatterings of intense pleasure punctuated by a haunting sadness he had seldom experienced in his fifty-three years of life. He had arrived in La Candelaria three years earlier, almost to the day, searching for an incredible story, only to be caught up in real events which not even he could fully imagine, and which became strangely ghost-like.

Sighing from the weight of his mental baggage, Mattéo reclined his coach seat, put on the set of Senheiser headphones he always carried with him on long trips, and adjusted the music channels until he found the classical setting. He was aware that the odor inside the airbus, a peculiar mixture of sweat, not-so-expensive French perfume, and pre-cooked food warming in the galleys, was making him vaguely nauseous, so he appreciated the musical diversion. In the course of one of Mozart’s Divertimenti, he reached into his backpack and retrieved a small black notebook and pencil and began to fluidly pen words which were to become lyrics to a song.
I close my eyes to the burning sunlight,

And my mind tries to wrap you around itself
As if I could capture white-hot embers and
Swaddle them for now, for later, forever.
I stand in the glare behind my eyes, chalice in hand, waiting…

Background music always provided Mattéo the impetus he needed to write. The genre mattered little, Mozart worked just as well as Molly Hatchet. Music was his mental generator…

And yet, on this particular day, in this particular sunlight,
I catch only your fleeting shape as if I am watching a movie.
You are running to catch the last train at midnight to somewhere
Other than here.

And so he wrote on, detaching himself completely from sounds and smells of the throng aboard the Air France jet, as one alone who had just departed Bogotá and Ana Lucia Beltrán and those eyes he could never quite fathom…

"I must go now," I faintly hear you utter, disappearing,
And somewhere in my brain, in bundles of axons and dendrites
And Nodes of Ranvier, isolated pulses wait to charge onward,
Coalescing into coalescence, waiting for the next burst
Of sunlight, for trains to be delayed or cancelled, for later.
I stand in the glare in front of my eyes, chalice in hand, waiting…

It was the opening strains of Puccini’s Nessun Dorma emanating from the left armrest of seat 23A which caused Mattéo to stop writing and listen…

Tu pure, O Principessa, nella tua fredda stanza
Guardi le stelle che tremano d’amore e di speranza.
As was his custom, he translated the words fluidly, automatically...
And even you, O Princess, in your icy room,
Look at the stars trembling with love and hope.

This is what I would write to Ana Lucia Beltrán if I could, he thought wishing he had the talent to fill Puccini’s shoes if only for a singular moment. His thoughts drifted to the house beside the lake in La Candelaria where Ana Lucia lived in strained solitude with her daughter Lyn and the ghosts of others past and present. Why she had chosen that life remained a mystery to him. Maybe it was the ghosts of the successes and fiascos that haunted her career as an architect and drove her to give it up suddenly, completely, without so much as a glance rearward. Maybe it had been the unrequited love of her best friend Rafael Mendoza, whom she could not completely love nor completely not love at the same time. Mattéo didn’t know and, for the moment, didn’t care. The bottom line was she chose solitude over me, he thought to himself as he listened to the haunting voice of Andrea Bocelli, Ana Lucia Beltrán. He rolled her name over and over silently as if it were a mantra. Ana Lucia Beltrán. The last six months, life together in a miasma of growing silence, sharpening distance. He would have preferred to navigate in a raging storm than in a fog. That sealed his decision to leave, at least for now.

He refocused his attention to Nessun Dorma and the opera, Turandot, mentally tracing the aria score he had learned years ago at Julliard. How fitting, he thought to himself…
Ma il mio mistero è chiuso in me, il nome mio nessun saprà!
No, no, sulla tua bocca lo dirò, quando la luce splenderà!
My secret is hidden within me. No one will know my name. No! No!
I will reveal it upon your lips when the splendor of dawn breaks forth.

Mattéo looked out the window once more at the last rays of rose light in the darkening cerulean sky, and caught the reflection of his face, furrows on his brow deepening, matching the laugh lines around his eyes, bespeaking both joy and sorrow. He turned off the light and fell into a sound sleep as the streak of twin contrails reflected silver in the silent, cold moonlight of the North Atlantic.

The composer peers out of the window at the billowy cotton clouds below. At thirty-five thousand feet on the way to a place he sees in dreams, senses in visions, hoping that the address he found for her will not be a dead end, he has reason to anticipate, to fear. Now on a jet headed for South America, to a place he’s never been before, he peers around, at the children coloring quietly, at young couples caressing, businessmen sleeping or studying charts with figures he cannot quite make out nor is really interested in reading anyway. A brief thought passes through his mind like a small wave at low tide, "Wonder what they are running to or from?" But the wave grows and he wonders what he is running headlong toward. His jaw aches from a combination of having fallen asleep against the hard Airbus bulkhead and an infected molar. He shifts in the narrow coach seat, closes the blind and his eyes and tries to sleep.
Je fixe souvent l’océan et son immensité scintillante
Et je sens que je ne suis rien et pourtant tout.
Maintenant je fixe les ailes argentées et leurs proximités scintillantes
Et je sens que je suis coincé et en même temps étrangement libre.
La Trahison, le meilleur péché, dont l’obscurité
Je ne peux pas échapper. « Viens ici, mon amour, » Parthénope attire,
« Prête attention à ma douce chanson et je te libérerai. »
Et je tombe en tourbillonnant dans le vortex de la sérénité.

It had been a week now since the concert, a gala affair at the Met in New York replete with flashbulbs, red carpet, limos, beautiful people in expensive designer clothes, the works. The composer smiles at his audacity through the pain in his jaw, though no one in the hurtling aluminum tube catches it or cares. He remembers having drinks in his favorite Manhattan bar with an old friend, Andres Mondragón, the two of them partying hardy and getting pretty well shit-faced, and he remembers hearing the wildest, most outrageously unbelievable story he had ever heard: a story of a blue house beside a lake, and the beautiful woman who lives there. His smile widens a bit as he thought about how Andres told the story, wide-eyed, dramatic. He remembers the emotional, deathly serious denouement, serious enough for him to board a plane and try and find the place for himself and write an operetta about it.

And, he thinks, how audacious he had been in the moments leading up to the premiere, skipping the affair altogether, much to the chagrin of most everyone in the New York classical music scene; the spur-of-the-moment handing over of his four complementary VIP-box tickets, the limo, even his suite at the Waldorf to an incredulously wide-eyed tourist family from central Indiana who just happened to be walking down the right street at the right time. "What the hell, I know the story already, and it’s not all that interesting, so you have them and enjoy," he remembers saying to the family who looked as though they had just won the grand showcase on The Price is Right.
Ah, yes indeed, he was living up to the name his band mates had given him years ago, "Le Roi de Spontanéité" (King of Spontaneous). His widened smile makes him think of his jaw which now throbbed, his reverie briefly broken by the need to pop a couple of Vicodins, which he chases with a gulp of a warm, stale Aguila. Soon he is drifting in a downward spiral into the maw of a vortex that seems strangely comforting at the time. He moves, more like sidles, toward a gossamer presence he knows is just a figment of his imagination. But he continues nevertheless, unaware of time, unaware of any sensation of vertigo. He just moves onward.

The bone-jarring roar of the huge twin Rolls-Royce engines in full reverse stirs the composer awake, wide awake. As the flight attendant intones a warm if not stilted welcome to the El Dorado International Airport in Bogotá, the composer realizes that for the first time in a week, his jaw does not hurt and that he feels vaguely elated, albeit nervously elated. Clearing customs with little hassle, he looks past the first throng of young aggressive cabbies to an older man, skin wizened with age, pork-pie hat covering a mane of salt and pepper hair. The composer seems to trust older cabbies although he doesn’t quite know why. Maybe it’s the thought of him in the park, grandchildren in tow, their adoring faces, and then again, maybe not. His brief trance causes him to come perilously close to colliding with the taxista, when a gravelly voice brings him around.

"¿Buenos Días, Señor, you need a taxi?"
"Necesito ir à La Candelaria. ¿Cuanto costa?" The composer replies in a Spanish that is not much to sneeze at, but good enough to make himself understood, and, in turn, understand the basics.
"Which one, Señor, the barrio or the town?" the taxista answers, switching to English.
The composer thinks for a minute. Dammit, never thought to find that out from Andres. "I don’t know. The one with a lake by it, I think."
"That would be the town, Señor. This way." The scrawny taxista picks up the two small valises and hurriedly makes his way through the terminal door toward a temporary parking lot full of bright yellow Toyotas, Nissans and Mitsubishi vans.
"How much?," the composer asks in pursuit. He was taught that it is always wise to negotiate cab fares in most places in the world.
"80,000 pesos," the taxista responds without so much as an aforethought, as if he has a roadmap in his brain of the entire country, and fare to each and every village.
"80,000 pesos, you must be joking!" the composer responds incredulously, needing to press the negotiation.
"All the fares are regulated by the government, Señor." He says with a shrug, which could have been taken as either a "can’t-do-anything-about-it" shrug, or a "if-it were-up-to-me, I’d-charge-you-double-for-such-a-long-trip" shrug, or maybe both.
"Ah, okay, I follow you.," the composer responds, giving up any chance to lower the fare.

But almost as soon as the words leave his mouth, he regrets being there, a stranger in an unfamiliar land with no particular purpose for being there except to follow what or whom, pray tell? A mirage, a diaphanous phantasm most call a dream or a desire, or a ridiculous story; one which hangs by a thread? Why here? Why now?

For a quick instant, bile rises in his throat and burns. Just nerves or maybe the airline "dinner" fare they proudly advertised as "beef bourguignon," but didn’t taste like any bourguignon he had ever tasted, and he should know. Real Boeuf Bourguignon is real food from his real country. He continues his thought. Bogotá? A city like others he’s visited in his extensive travels, a city which seems powerfully familiar from old memories he wanted to forget, but not exotic like some of the places he had been, Katmandu, Pago Pago or even Ouagadougou, but decent enough. For some strange reason all he could think of at that moment was one part of Andres’ story of the woman who lives in the house by the lake, a recollection of the hugs the woman gave to the men in her life, cursory, distant, the pats-on-the-back-like hugs you give to friend after a pleasant dinner party; see-you-later-yeah-later-why-fucking-bother hugs. Every man she met, so Andres tells it, "wanted so badly for her to wrap them in her arms so completely, so intimately, so reassuringly that the hyperconnection between their two bodies and spirits would linger for an hour, a day or maybe a lifetime." Andres had always been a wordsmith and a royal bullshitter. The composer tries vainly to conjure the feeling Andres was getting at, and for a moment comes close to it, reflecting on affairs with other women he had known and briefly loved, but it soon passed. He thinks to himself, Hyperconnection! Where the hell did Andres dream that nonsense from?

But there truly WAS something that brought him here, more than a phantasm, a cord maybe, tied to some unseen anchor. Was it her or the mysterious house by the lake, or was it a stubbornness of spirit that needed to play it out, that needed to persist until either the cord strengthened into tempered steel or until the last fray had given way, whereupon he would tumble into some deep oblivion. Who the hell knows? All he knows for sure is that he is speeding toward someplace called La Candelaria as "Le Roi de Spontanéité," the Prince of Last Minute, having swept up a few personal belongings into a couple small suitcases, hailed a cab to Kennedy, and caught a mid-morning flight with moms and dads and kids and businessmen and who knows what else, other lost souls, a few found souls maybe. And, voila, in a matter of a few short hours he finds himself sitting in the backseat of a bright yellow Corolla wheeling at breakneck speed toward some vague scribbled address on a Post-it-Note. I must be out of my goddamn…..
"¿Where you going, Señor?"
"Señor! ¿Where you want to go? ¿What is the address in La Candelaria?" the taxista repeated.
"Oh, pardon (which came out the French way, Pa’dawn), Avenida Cachao #14, La Candelaria."
"¿Where you from, Señor?"
The composer absently responds in French, "France," (pronounced-frawnts) then recovers in bad Spanish, "Ah, I’m from the south of France, a town called Narbonne."
"¿Why you come to Colombia?"
"¿How you say in Spanish, ‘business’?" The ‘business’ in English, came out more like ‘beeznus.’ The composer had not quite lost his accent, which was definitely not Parisian French, but a French from some place else, one which not many people could tag right away. Having lived in the States and elsewhere, his accent, as far as anyone could make out, was maybe the accent from nowhere. "Beeznus," a convenient answer for something unknown or unknowable. Everything is "beeznus."
"Oh, so you speak English?" Which came out oosooyuaspeekaeengilis.
"A little." A lie. The composer’s English is actually quite good: a skill he picked up living and studying for years in New York.

As the bright yellow Corolla speeds through the verdant foothills with hibiscus and Bougainvillea, the composer sits back and pretends to take in the scenery. Every so often the taxista would point out something of interest, an historical site here, some flora or fauna there, but the composer doesn’t seem very interested in the local sights. The only thing on his mind is whether he is hurtling headlong into an abyss. In three hours, he will know for sure.
Première Acte
"My name Carlos. You?" The taxista asks in English.
"What kind of business you do, Señor Mattéo?"
"Music mainly."

Maybe I should be honest, the composer thinks to himself. Maybe I should confess to this elderly taxista, with whom I will share this small, car-freshener scented space for the next three hours, that I have taken a mistress. The confession would not be so much to the taxista as much as to the Virgin Mary, enshrined on his dash above the radio. Not that I am a religious man, he thinks, in fact, I cannot stomach religion in any form, never have been able to. But it is probably best to cover all the bases, just in case… Oh and my mistress, she is more than my "beeznus." She has quietly, imperceptibly slipped into my life and I into hers and has stripped me of everything. Her demands are so great that I have become her slave, doing everything at all hours of the day or night to please her; caressing her every note with my hands until they bleed; kissing her every measure with my lips until they are dry and parched; entering her every score with my manhood until I am drained and can no longer stand nor breathe.
"You famous?" The taxista asks.
"Hardly, though I have a band and have written a few things that people know," the composer answers.
"Oh, so your band like the Rolling Stones?" Carlos asked jocularly, a smile revealing straight white teeth.
"No, I doubt you have heard of us. French band, alternative music, techno-ambient."
"Oh, I no know that kind. Alternative, you say. Alternative to what?"

O brother, I am stuck with a damn comedian, the composer muses. For the first time since he left the El Dorado airport, he notices that his jaw is beginning to ache again. Not severely, just a slow dull ache that is more annoying and uncomfortable than painful. "Alternative to what," he asked. Pretty good question. Perhaps a bit like my journey, alternative. Alternative to most of my culture, alternative to the status quo, alternative to life, now alternative to my past alternatives.
"Alternative is a type of music. Like rock and jazz only more ethereal and tenuous. It’s beautiful when its played well. It flows like water."

The composer starts out in English then, perhaps absentmindedly, slips up and starts waxing poetically in French, which gives the taxista a bit of a start and causes him to cut the composer off in mid description with a back and forth wave of his hand.
"I no speak French, Señor Mattéo!
"Sorry about that, Carlos," Mattéo said apologizing.
"S’okay, amigo," Carlos continues, "I like music very much. Listen to it all the time in my taxi. Meringue, salsa, bachata. Oh and I like that J-Lo," a quick, bad-boy grin flashing over his tanned wrinkled face.
Sure, the composer thinks cynically, reminds you of your daughter, right? Cynicism is something he has always had a penchant for though he tries his darndest to fight.
"Señor Mattéo, what happen to you? Look’s like you got on the wrong side of a kicking mule." Carlos, changing the subject, is at ease with himself now, passing the time with small talk, wanting to know more about this quiet French rock star with the swollen jaw.
"Long story, but the short of it is, I ran into a door," the composer allows sarcastically.
"Look like the door ran back into you too," the taxista responds tit-for-tat.
For the first time the composer laughs out loud which makes his jaw hurt all the more, forcing him to wince visibly.
"Touché! No, I have a tooth infection. Hurts like hell."
"Teeth, the window to the body, no? I knew a man right here in Bogotá who died from a tooth infection. You need get that looked at, no?"
"Yeah, tell me about it," the composer feigns concern with a tinge of fear.
"So you here about Colombian music? We have many good singers here in this country."
"No, just getting some ideas for a new opera."
"Opera, you say, I no like opera. All those people dressed up in silly costumes, and all that loud singing. Sound like two cats fighting, and both losing."

The composer laughs, stretches and feigns that he wanted to get some sleep, and taxista desists from asking any more questions. Alone with his thoughts, he remembers Andres and the story of the house by the lake.
He had arrived in New York a few days early for the premiere. He needed some time to rest and to be electrified by the city which meant so much to him and so little to him at the same time; a city where he could be at his most creative because he could lose himself in the mass of humanity. And he needed to visit McClary’s on the upper East Side one more time, the bar of all bars, the place where he found solace when he needed it the most. And so he phoned his old friend Andres Mondragón, an old classmate from his Julliard days, who decided to stay put in New York and is now a professor of composition and theory at Julliard. They met at McClary’s, last Tuesday, he recalls, found their favorite table, the one in the corner with a view of the bar and the door, sat down and ordered two rounds of scotch with a beer chaser each, and settled into some alcohol–induced reminiscing.

Along about midnight, after more than a few rounds, Andres locked eyes with the composer and said, "You know, Matti, you’ve really made it, man. Your band is popular, your albums are selling like mad, and people actually go and hear your operas, although I haven’t the slightest idea in hell why." An ironic smile rose on Andres’ face. It looked more like friendly envy than anything else. He continued, "Matti, I’m glad you called me because I have something that’s been eating on me for a long time, and I need to tell someone, and I trust you because we’ve been friends for a long, long time. Here’s the story, Matti. Hell you may be able to use it as an idea for your next piece," Andres said wryly, "Just promise that you’ll keep my name out of it and invite me to the premiere and let me sit in one of those fancy boxes you frequent."
"Sure thing, Andres! I’ll even kick in for dinner as long as it doesn’t cost me an arm and a leg. Maybe we’ll do Mustafa’s down on 34th and you can have the falafel special. That should set me back a whole $6.50."
"Last of the big time spenders, you cheap frog! Anyway, here’s the story. There is a lake in Colombia. You do know where that is, don’t you?," emphasizing the ‘that’.
"Sure, Andres, it’s the capital of South fucking Carolina, there’s always one smart ass in every crowd," needling his friend.
"Yeah right, anyway, it is called Lake Constanza. There is a town which borders its south side, known as La Candelaria. In La Candelaria is a small house which sits aside the lake, a strangely beautiful Mediterranean blue almost azure old colonial structure, clapboard with ornate wrought iron fencing and gates. It is said to have beautiful gardens and fruit trees, although I can’t remember ever having seen it myself. Well, in this house, lives a beautiful woman who rarely shows her face outside."
The composer gets the urge to ask Andres, "Well, if she’s so beautiful why doesn’t she show her face," but he lets the urge pass.
Andres got suddenly quieter, eyes widened. "Only a few people who live in the town have sworn to ever having seen her, but the word on the street is that she is ravenously beautiful and a temptress, a bruja."
"What the hell’s a bruja, Andres? Do two of them make a brouhaha?" The composer laughed, but Andres thought the play on words only mildly funny, and let out a sarcastic "ha, ha, ha."
"Cut the shit Matti. Be serious for once. So, this woman in La Candelaria, her name is Ana Lucia, or something like that, I’m not really sure…and every man she comes in contact with supposedly meets a terrible fate. One drowned, swept away when the lake flooded some years back. One, an old hippy intellectual from back in the days when intellectuals were patriots filled with conviction. Well, this old intellectual shot himself right through the heart. People say right before he killed himself, he recites this long passage from Schopenhauer, some kind of materialist manifesto. His suicide note simply said, ‘¡Si el propósito inmediato y directo de nuestra vida no es el sufrir, nuestra existencia no tiene alguno y es el más inadaptado propósito de este mundo!’ (If the immediate and direct purpose of our life is not suffering, then our existence is the most ill-adapted to its purpose in the world).

A direct quote from Schopenhauer, I think." Andres recited the aphorism with a finger pointed skyward and with a sad, almost morose look on his face.
"Then he professes his love for Ana Lucia, pulls out a pistol, and BANG, right through the heart." Andres said BANG with such force and anger that the place got quiet for a moment and people turned around to see what was going on.
"People say there is a man who still comes to call on Ana Lucia, some rich dandy who looks like a cross between Salvador Dalí and Antonio Banderas, if you can imagine." Andres’ tone had become very heavy, for no apparent reason, although his allusion to the rich bourgeois suitor seemed ridiculously comical, almost laughable.
The composer imagined Zorro, with a long waxed moustache, sharp, piercing intoxicated eyes and a black beret, delicately, yet with lightening precision, slashing off Catherine Zeta-Jones’ bodice with the whisk of a sword, and then painting her dripping slowly off a table. He guffawed at the thought. "Andres, what kind of bullshit are you feeding me?"
"No really, it’s true. You need to see for yourself, and you need to take this more seriously, man. This woman is so beautiful and mysterious, people call her the modern-day Parthenope. You remember from mythology, the siren which lures men to their death."
"Yeah, I seem to recall the story, Andres. But as I remember it, Parthenope was not a very successful siren. In fact, she was a big flop! Odysseus lived to sail another day. So, why hasn’t ‘ole Dalí-Banderas taken the sword to himself then?"
"Because, and I have heard this from a reliable source, he is a brujo himself. And the house, some people tell me that it never ages, that the paint never peels, the flowers never wilt, the wrought iron never rusts."
"So, let me get this straight, Andres. There is this haunted house on a lake somewhere in Colombia, and that would be the South American country, and in it lives a witch, and this witch lures men, and when they get the hots for her, they kill themselves? And the only man who somehow survives is a witch himself who looks like an artsy-fartsy desperado who paints for a living and does the mariachi on the side? You’ve gotta be kidding me, Andres. This is the most preposterous thing I have ever heard!," then added for emphasis, "and you have laid a lot of preposterous things on the table in our twenty-five year friendship, amigo."
Andres just laughed hollowly, and then followed with a confession that not even Spielberg could have even envisioned, a confession that continues to burn in the mind of the composer. "Really, Matti, I wouldn’t have believed it myself if I didn’t have a personal connection. Matti, I have never confessed this, but I am going to confess it to you. The old hippie intellectual I talked about before, he was my father."

Silence. Deafening silence. Show stopping silence! The silence continued for what seemed an eternity, and then was broken when the composer felt the need to say something.
"Jeeeesus, Andres, why didn’t you tell me this before? I’m sorry I made light of this."
"It’s alright. It happened a long time ago."

Andres paused for a moment, one of those pregnant pauses that make you sense the other shoe is about to drop. The pause ended, and Andres dropped the other shoe. "I need a favor from you, amigo. I need you to go down and check it out for me. I’m too close to this, Matti. You’ve always been good at sifting fact from fiction. Will you at least go down and see if there is anything to this?" Andres suddenly became less serious, returning to his playful self. "After all, you could use a vacation. You’re looking a little pale, and those beautiful Colombian girls might restore a little color in those ugly French cheeks of yours! How long has it been since you have gotten a little, let us say…." His voice trailed off.
Oh god, the composer thought, does he have to bring that up. Been too long….
"Sure, Andres, I’ll go, if nothing else to put the mystery and maybe myself to bed once for all."
"Thanks, my friend. I owe you!"
"You sure as hell do! A round-trip business-class plane ticket to Bogotá, a big wad of baksheesh to spend while I’m down there, and the next three rounds will do just fine."

They shared a few more rounds until the owner of the bar came over and said it was closing time. The composer remembers how he left the bar, drunk, a bit morose, a bit nervous over what he had promised his friend. He remembers also that the story began to take on a life of its own in his mind. As preposterous as it seemed at first, the story developed into something intriguing, something he could no longer control. He had to find out about the woman in the mysterious blue house, an urge which seemingly caused the death of the father of one of his best friend, and which put him on an airplane and now in a cab….
Les lèvres de Ana Lucia bougent et rien d’autre ne s’agite
Sauf un changement dans la pression de l’air momentané et tranquille
Comme au loin un coup de tonnerre que vous sentez parce que
Vous vous attendez à l’entendre, mais vous ne l’entendez pas parce qu’ il n’arrive pas là.
Pourtant vous comprenez tous les mots, tous les mouvements alors que
La langue rencontre des alvéoles, comme les voyelles qui se forment et se défont,
Comme la danse du langage qui suit son cours et devient des murmures durables.
Vous comprenez car la danse soulève les images primales des temps passés
Que vous n’avez pas vu et pourtant voyez, images primales d’espoir et d’amour.

"Señor Mattéo, we arrive in La Candelaria."
"Señor Mattéo!" The taxista repeats louder, "Señor Mattéo, we arrive in La Candelaria."
The composer stirs awake. He had been sleeping for the better part of an hour.
"You say, Avenida Cachao, numero…?"
"Catorce." The composer wasn’t half bad with his Spanish numbers.
"Okay." And the bright yellow Corolla hurtles down toward Avenida Cachao and the blue house on the lake.
La maison azur près du lac se tient immobile et silencieuse
Pourtant à l’intérieur, les carreaux, « strictement ordonnés les uns à côté des autres, »
Tremblant de joie, de peine, et de rêves simples de la vie, la mort et le temps perdu.
«Lance-toi, » crie la Sirène Parthénope, des profondeurs de l’océan,
Lorsque les pêcheurs jettent leurs mince filets et espèrent.

Deuxième Acte
"Señor Mattéo, you say Avenida Cachao #14, no?" the taxista asks, a tinge of confusion in his voice.
"Yes, Avenida Cachao #14, that’s the address I have," the composer looking again at the Post-it-Note.
"Here, Avenida Cachao #14. There is nothing here, Señor Mattéo, you sure you have address correct?" The taxista eases the yellow Corolla onto the curb next to a vacant lot, overgrown with weeds, a few plastic Almacenes Ley bags interspersed with styrofoam fast food cartons and napkins giving the lot the impression of being tired and forgotten. "What you want me to do, señor? You want me take you back to Bogotá?"
"No, Carlos, just take me to a hotel. Any one will do." the composer says disappointed, dejected, in pain and a bit feverish, "I’ll try to sort this out tomorrow."

At first light, La Candelaria was already a bustle with workers heading to offices or businesses, children heading to school. The composer rises after a feverish, restless night, showers, and walks into the center of town where he buys a map of La Candelaria. He then slips into a small restaurant for some breakfast.

Satiated from Calentado, a mélange of eggs, rice, chicken and whatever else is leftover in the refrigerator from the night before, the composer returns to Avenida Cachao #14, wades through the trash and weeds and sits on the side of the lake and dreams.
La voix ne m’appelle plus du rivage éloigné,
Mais m’enveloppe comme un couvre-lit, alors que je fixe l’eau
Calme et lisse comme un miroir qui refléter les visages honnêtement
Qui ne cache pas les rides et les défauts de l’âge.
Maintenant, je me vois à la lumière du jour.
Je suis nu, en pleine vue à l’ esprit qui m’attiré en ce temps et ce lieu.
Ana Lucia parle doucement, cette voix, un murmure à mes oreilles,
Sa chaleur à côté de moi, comme un feu de raffinerie,
me prie de lui faire l’amour complètement.
Je sens son doux souffle pendant que ses mots me rendent sourd au bon sens.
Les corps s’enchevêtrent, la vie coule, les récipiendaires donnent,
Les donateurs reçoivent, et un mystère primordial apparaît, zygote de mon zygote,
Séparant, vainquant la peur et la solitude et la tristesse et la résignation.
La maison azur ; toi, ma petite, était conçue par la rêverie de l’adoration.
Et votre chanson, O Parthénope, n’était pas un leurre vers la mort, plutôt une hymne à la vie !

Awakened from his dream by the rising heat of the day, and with a totally outrageous plan, the composer finds himself on a new quest, a La Candelaria phone directory. Finding one in his hotel, he searches the directory and finds the heading for "Arquitectos," which he guesses with some certainty means "Architects," and chooses the first person on the list, a ‘Beltrán, A., 23 Avenida Londoño, 362-0853.’ He retrieves the map he bought in town that morning, locates Avenida Londoño, and sets out to find A. Beltrán.

The office of A. Beltrán is in a sun-blanched brown stucco building not far from the center of town. As he enters the heavy wooden door, and as his eyes are adjusting from the bright summer sunlight, the composer notices a small sparse office or maybe an anteroom, architectural magazines on an oak bookshelf next to the entrance, two rather uncomfortable-looking plaid sofas against the two side walls under old metal Venetian blind-clad windows. Large framed blueprints of a project called The Santos Towers hang on the sky blue walls giving the room at least some semblance of decoration. In the center of the room is an oversized wooden desk, and behind the desk is an attractive middle-aged woman with frosted hair typing something on a computer.

As the composer strolls further into the room, the woman looks up with an inquisitive glance.
"¿Excuse me, Señora, is Mr. Beltrán in?," the composer asks in the best, most formal Spanish he knew, but using "allí" rather than "aquí" (he never could get the allí’s, allá’s, aquí’s, and acá’s straight in his mind).
A wry smile appears on the face of the woman behind the desk. "No, Señor! There is no Mr. Beltrán. But Ms. Beltrán will return at 11. You can come back then. ¿What is your name, Señor? I’ll tell her you came by and that you will return."
"Pardon?" the composer inquires not exactly clear what the woman had said to him, her Spanish quick and run together.
"Your name. What is your name?" The woman reverts to heavily-accented English, not exactly sure of this graying but young-looking man’s nationality. Not many foreigners come to La Candelaria, and those who do, do not commonly need an architect.
"Ranvier. Please tell her that Mr. Ranvier will return a little after 11."

His jaw seriously hurting now, the composer returns to his hotel, pops some pain pills and enters the black, faceless void of deep sleep, a place that has eluded him since this bizarre adventure began.
A little before 11, an alarm goes off in his head and the composer awakens drowsily, gets dressed, and walks back to town and to 23 Avenida Londoño and the office of A. Beltrán.

He enters into the same anteroom as earlier in the morning, greets the same woman with the frosted hair, and sits on one of the uncomfortable-looking plaid couches which he finds surprisingly comfortable. The woman gets up opens a door along the back wall of the anteroom, mutters something in Spanish, and returns to her desk and to her typing.
In a few moments, the door opens and a woman appears, a woman of such beauty that the composer gasps inaudibly, then catches himself gasping and regains his composure. The woman stands ever so briefly in the frame of the door, sunlight streaming past her and into the composer’s eyes, giving her a dream-like impression, almost like a gilded icon, an object of veneration.

A. Beltrán appears young, but not too young, black hair textured like fine silk falling to her shoulders. Her tresses are partly pinned back by a barrette, revealing jeweled earrings that glisten in the afternoon sunlight streaming through the windows. Her eyes, penetrating brown like fine burnt amber. She is dressed in a white peasant blouse and jeans and black heels, understated but elegant.
"Señor Ranvier. Please come in," the stunning architect intones in an English which is fluent and only partially accented.
"Thank you." And as he enters the office and past A. Beltrán toward an overstuffed armchair in front of a small oak desk, he senses a fragrance he has known before but cannot quite make out, is it Chanel, Givenchy, Anaïs? Something about the familiarity of the place, the delicate scent and persona of Ms. A. Beltrán, or maybe something in the feel of the armchair’s fabric carries him briefly back to the lake, the depiction of the Blue House Andres portrayed not three days ago. He is aware of himself in dream space…
"What can I do for you, Mr. Ranvier?" And the dream space is broken.
"I am interested in buying the vacant lot on Avenida Cachao and building a house there."
"Ah…Avenida Cachao…," she says with wistful recognition, "Yes, I know the lot, beautiful view of the lake. The lot was once owned by my grandmother. Unfortunately, the new owners have not kept it attractive."
"Yes it needs work. I am looking for someone to design an idea of a house I have in my head."
"What do you have in mind, Mr. Ranvier?"
"I am interested in a clapboard with big windows on all sides, fronted by a wide porch with wrought iron railing. Not a big house, maybe four rooms. I picture fruit trees and gardens…"

As the composer was describing his vision, A. Beltrán, Arquitecta, reaches unnoticed into the bottom drawer of her desk and pulls out a file. She lets the composer continue his sketch, about where shade trees need to be planted, how the house will be situated on the lot. She is mildly uninterested, yet is listening with such intensity to a story inside a story, or beside a story, that the file in her hand becomes white hot.
"This may be close to what you are describing," she says anxiously almost breathlessly, taken a bit aback by the intensity of her sentiment. She opens the file and extracts a set of worn blueprints, house plans which are an exact match to the composer’s sketch, exact down to the dimension, exact down to the mango tree five meters from the northwest corner of the house. Exact!
"Mon dieu," he exclaims excitedly in French, "This is it! This is it! This is exactly what I had in mind!," his eyes wide, uncomprehending the unexpected sequence of events.
"This may be of interest to you as well," as she takes a sepia photograph from the file. It was a photograph taken of a small casa situated on Avenida Cachao #14 (the back of the picture, printed in formal script, were the words Casa de Beltrán, Avenida Cachao #14, La Candelaria). "The house belonged to my grandmother and then was given to my mother. She lived there alone for many years. Died as she lived, alone. Mr. Ranvier…" She could not continue for a moment, memories of times she thought she had forgotten, too powerful, brought to the surface like a once dormant flow of molten magma suddenly released.

She regains her composure, her persona somewhat aloof. "Mr. Ranvier, I don’t know what to say. You come to La Candelaria a stranger, and yet you describe something you could not have possibly known. Who are you Mr. Ranvier? And why have you come here?," she asks politely but with a tinge of impatience and defensiveness.
"I came on the advice of a friend, who told me this story of a woman who lived in a blue house by a lake in La Candelaria. My friend told me that his father killed himself, and somehow the woman and the house by the lake are connected to his death. I promised my friend that I would check the story out."
"And so, are you satisfied, Mr. Ranvier? Did you find the answers for which you search?," asks A. Beltrán, obviously well-educated in English, her grammar impeccable, her tone strident.
"Well, yes and no. I don’t know what happened with my friend’s father…"
She interrupts, "I know what happened to your friend’s father, at least if it is the same friend I think you are talking about. Mondragón, right? His father is Gilberto, right?"
The composer nods assent although he had not known Andres’ father’s given name.
"I assure you it had nothing to do with my mother. He killed himself because he was a crazy narcissist, loco! Deserv…," she catches herself and decides not to continue.
"I understand, Ms. Beltrán, but that is only partly why I have come. In fact, the death of Andres’ father has become less intriguing to me than what I experienced when I actually saw the lot for the first time. I felt as if I were drawn to it like a moth to fire. I sat by the lake for a long time this morning and I sensed I belonged to this plot of land."
"Mr. Ranvier," her tone softening, almost delicate, "there is another part of the story you do not know, you could not have known. Maybe this will explain your attraction to #14 Avenida Cachao. My mother had several lovers during her life, Mondragón the guerilla, my father, who was a rich businessman from Bogotá, adored my mother, took her around the world. She loved him for a while I think, but…anyway, she had another lover whom she only mentioned once to me. She met him in Paris some years after the war. He played jazz at one of the bistros on the Left Bank, taught at the Sorbonne and did some writing, was active in the resistance against the Nazis, but I do not know what he did. My mother adored him, went to her grave adoring him. He adored her too it seemed, but he had a wife and a young son, so destiny sealed their fate. She left Paris with her rich Colombian businessman. She never heard from him again."
"You say he taught at the Sorbonne. Do you know what he taught?"
"I don’t know for sure, but I do remember my mother mentioning he was interested in literature." She envisions him reading poetry to her mother before they made love. The vision comes as a sudden intrusion into her overactive imagination, which she kept in check most of the time.

Stunned by the presence of this French stranger, who suddenly appears in her office and into her life like a phantasm from a erstwhile vision, she then continues softly with great tenderness, handing the file to the composer. "Please, take this. This is your dream."
"Please forgive me," wiping a tear delicately from his cheek, "I am overwhelmed by this story and by your kindness. Please, call me Mattéo."
"Forgive me also for being rude to you Mattéo, forgive my detachment when we first met. I’m Ana Lucia……"

"Matti!" she says as she makes her way from the bedroom to the studio. "Matti, darling, come to bed. You’ve been working on that silly opera for weeks now, and you keep playing that same tune over and over and over. You need to give it a rest." Ana Lucia, her raven-hair rumpled from half-sleep, comes close and caresses his shoulders, smiles and gently kisses his cheek, her lips moist, warm and pleasing on his unshaven face. Emotions stir in him as the composer slowly wheels around to behold his beautiful girlfriend half asleep, dressed in a cotton camisole and bikini panties revealing her slim figure and its assets. He always loved her this way, natural, unpretentious, ravenously gorgeous.
"You need a break from this obsession, mi corazón. Why don’t we go to Mallorca this weekend, stay awhile. You know how our muñequita just loves the beach."

Ana Lucia takes him by the hand and the composer reluctantly gets up from the piano bench he has occupied for what seems like an eternity. "A getaway would do me good," he thinks. On the way to bed, he stops by his young adopted daughter’s bedroom and listens for a few moments to her soft and rhythmical breath. He is struck by her calm repose, her angelic face, much like her mother’s, beautiful, mirthful, he thinks. Tired, perhaps a bit melancholy for taking too long to finish what should have been completed weeks ago, but a bit exultant at the same time by his daughter’s sheer being, he makes his way to the master bedroom where he takes off his clothes, falls into bed and begins his journey of fitful sleep, a journey he has replayed over and over, falling toward blue water enticed by a gossamer presence he knows is not really there but has mysteriously transformed him nevertheless.

Grammy-Award winning musician and composer Mattéo Ranvier has achieved much notoriety for his work with the Techno-Ambient band, Vendu Range, and for his three operettas, Caméléon, L’Ecriture Antiautoritaire, and Un Lundi Pluvieux, the latter having won coveted Victoires de la Musique and Gramophone awards in France and the Royal Philharmonic Association Award in the UK. The composer divides his time between Southern France and La Candelaria, Colombia, where he lives on Lake Costanza near the love of his life, architect Ana Lucia Beltrán, and her four-year old daughter Lyn.

©  Richard McGarry November 2008

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