4 January 2022. The Spectator
Colombia, fourth day of the year 2022. The notebook has 365 pages. They say that the pages are blank, but it is not true: they are tattooed with the emotions, illusions and disappointments of the past, the usual ones, the ones that cannot be read, but are felt like caresses or like pebbles stuck in the history of the body.
Without knowing at what time, the footsteps became footprints and we became the elders of the tribe. We are skin woven in a loom of silver and cotton threads, of misery, loves and sleepiness. We are the imperfect mixture of memories and oblivion, of conflicts, art, half-answers and roots uprooted in displacements. We are a country of a thousand battles, where carnivals and wakes are danced with bare feet and faces covered in black veils and red lace. We are contradictions, strength, omens, science and incantations. We are sun and shadow of ourselves; the zero parallel version of the four seasons: in every leaf litter, in the floods, in every rebirth -when life dares-, and in the drought, when the clock gets tired.
We have so much history between chest and back that this 2022 is not a new year: it comes full of unfulfilled agreements and unfulfilled promises, and the ethical mandate to finally break the circles of clumsiness and violence. Fortunately, no one (neither dictator nor emporium) can force us to keep making the same mistakes and falling into the same traps. We can be better than we have been and free ourselves from anachronistic, useless or perverse precepts. It is up to us to change the course of the brutalities we have committed and let the past be the book that teaches us, not the padlock that locks us in.
I am halfway through the column… or rather I am on a small road, full of green and tropic, when I receive a call full of sadness, of impotence, of that inexorable point of no return: Santiago Patiño, my cousin and soul friend, died around three o’clock in the afternoon in a hospital near New York. He left with his half of the moon, with his guitar and his good soul; he took with him that smile with which we were so often accomplices in life, and he left me the hugs he gave me, always full of truth and meaning. We had spoken recently, on Thanksgiving Day, and we reviewed every triumph of affection, every crossroads saved by sweet company. Little did we know that in a few days he would become gravely ill and we would never see each other again. We had no foreknowledge that all too soon death would come knocking again at the door of family and heart.
I continue on the road, but my voice closes as if someone were pulling back a curtain of stone; no words can describe what I feel. Santiago is the first of our generation to go to meet our parents and grandparents.
I arrive at my cousins, almost my sisters, and we embrace each other as if we need to be reborn; or rather, as if silently promising each other that we will never leave each other.
Little by little the sky changes colour; it is still deep blue, but now it is even brighter. The clouds look pink and yellow, they are reflected in the mirror of the water, and I feel that they were dressed like this to welcome a man who overflowed with tenderness.
Forgive me readers: every day it becomes more urgent to dedicate the next 12 months to putting an end to violence and other demons. But today nostalgia took over the words. Rest in Peace, my dear Santi.