martes, diciembre 11, 2018

THE MONKEY OF LIGHTS

Translated by Mariana Antúnez

 Today was one of those days when I didn’t know what to write, when suddenly, like a cat running from one sidewalk to the other, an image crossed my mind that was hard to miss.

 Some years ago, while standing in front of a display window at the National Art Gallery, I saw a small traje de luces, or suit of lights, tailored with fabric remnants and aluminum foil. It was the bullfighter costume made by Armando Reverón to dress his pet monkey, Pancho.

 Ladies and Gentlemen, forget about Cosmo and Wanda, Philip Roth, or the paintings by Picasso, Modigliani or Rothko! Forget about it! Dressing a monkey up as a matador, taking its measurements, tailoring this little suit of lights with a bullfighter’s hat and everything, pretending to confront an invisible bull, getting away with a pass resembling Procuna’s, the sword over the red cape, imagining how the monkey elegantly eludes the charging bull and finally plunging the sword deep into the beast’s neck is simply genius beyond limits. A disproportionate act of creation, of enormous, gigantic, monumental beauty before which any Dadaist or even the Marx Brothers themselves would look like a bunch of phonies.

 Reverón was a genius; a character with the stature of Mr. Andrés Bello, Rómulo Gallegos or José Antonio Ramos Sucre. But one thing is for sure: he was a bearded man, who paraded in his underwear, living in the fishing village of Macuto, within four walls he designed himself, which isolated him from the stupidity of his time.

 I don’t know why, but these days I had the idea of making up a story where two well-dressed gentlemen, members of the National Security’s secret police, arrive at the entrance of Armando Reverón’s Castillete, his Tiny Castle, aboard a black Packard. Standing in front of the door, they look at each other and wonder, without saying it out loud, what the hell they are doing there. Suddenly, someone opens the door. It is a fat woman, with a mustache drawn in charcoal and a feathered headpiece.

 The lady lets them in and announces the impending arrival of Armando. Meanwhile, they observe the place. They see the veil, the birdcage complete with paper birds, the cardboard phone, the rag dolls; in their grotesque and suggestive silence, the paintings…
Do you really think someone is hiding in here?
—No, but we still ought to take a look.
 Take a look at those rags with palm trees painted on or at... Look. There it is, the owner of this shack…
—Hi there, gentlemen —Reverón made his appearance, full-grown beard and shirtless, walking hand in hand with his pet monkey—. Hahaha, this is Pancho… Well, say hello Pancho. Say hello to these gentlemen. He already learned how to play the piano, so ow I am teaching him to use the cape. How can I help you?
—Are you Armando Reverón, the painter?
—Yes, that’s me.
—You see: some prisoners escaped and we were ordered to search for them here. Would you mind if we take a look around?
—No, not at all. Look around as much as you want and don’t forget about Baby Jesus.
Baby Jesus?
—Yes, that’s right. I saw him around here the other day. He was wearing a hat just like yours. Aren’t you Baby Jesus?
—Look, Mr. Painter, we’ve seen enough already. Please, let us know if you see anything weird, would you?
—Pancho and I always see weird things. Just the other day, we saw a flying bull jump from the bullring to the grandstands… But that was the bullfighter’s fault, because he didn’t have the balls.
— See you later, maestro. Have a good evening.
—Pancho does have the balls. He wouldn’t have let that bull go … See you later. Come by whenever you want.

 After closing the door and listening for the Packard’s engine fading into the distance, Armando whistled and, from behind a pile of frames, two men emerged silently.
—Hey buddies, come here. Come see Pancho fight the bull.

 As I said: there are days when you think you don’t know what to write about, but remembering those who were great will always save us.