Domingo

There’s something she does on Sunday mornings, so she jumped from her big bed this morning. I could have stayed there awhile, maybe pick up the VS Naipaul novel I had been reading the night before and peek at her getting dressed to go to what she does Sunday mornings from behind it, but no. I slipped out of bed while she showered and put a quick breakfast together, hot mate tea, half a warm baguette with butter and the honey she extracted from her beehives only last week, and a big scone with cranberries and nuts.

We had a lovely breakfast, still happy about the moderate pleasures and modest successes of the previous day, and she left.

I lingered about for a while, never too far from the mate gourd. I thought of making myself useful around midmorning, and fed her chickens, washed dishes and prepared a big bowl of salad for lunch. Well, she’s back now, and the day’s almost gone… it was, and is, a pleasure, but the sky’s darkening and it’s her turn to fix a meal and I’m just sitting here trying to fill the screen with what happened today. She has a TV but no cable service, we use it to watch films on DVD sometimes. We were feeling lazy when she returned from her morning errands, so we ate the big salad, plus hard boiled eggs and some peppercorn cheese, watching a movie, ‘The Wrestler’. Mickey Rourke, Marissa Tomei. Good film, highly recommended. Then we retired to her room, turned the AC on, and had a satisfying sexual session for maybe 30 or 40 minutes. I tried to take a nap after that, but it’s useless, I’m not a napper. She went outside to harvest tomatoes and carrots, which she is in the process of preparing now, along with some fish, as I type and sip on a bit of wine.

But really all these mundane details are not what I wanted the story to be about. Throughout the day, I’ve been getting glimpses and flashes of Sundays long ago, Sundays 10, 20, even 30 years ago. Not whole days, just flashes, sensations. What would be the oldest one? Probably the scene in the old flat my family had in a bohemian, downtown area of Buenos Aires, in the late 70’s, early 80’s. My dad still lived with us and had gone downstairs to buy some pastries at the bakery around the corner. He’s drinking mate, just like I drink mate now, but I didn’t like it back then, as a child. Too hot, too bitter. He comes back and we resume building a fortress with little wooden pieces that we pull out of a cloth bag; I still have the wooden pieces and the bag, and my kids and I sometimes play with them. He’s blasting classical music from the stereo as we play. Sundays are perfect for vast, complex pieces that last hours and require many vinyl long play disc changes: masses and passions of JS Bach or Haendel, Beethoven’s Fidelio, or more likely, a dark, brooding, sometimes exhilarating Wagner opera. My happiness is complete, but I don’t know it, getting irritated at my younger sisters when they try to add to the fort and destroy it instead; the thing needs to be completed, plastic soldiers placed on the towers and walls before my dad (who lets my sisters take his turn) and me start shooting the cannon and demolishing the whole thing. My mom is in a different room, grading papers. In my mind, it’s a gray, cold day, but who knows.

Today I was visited by many other Sundays, and it was bittersweet. It’s so rare to have a wide open day – no kids, no work, not at my place so there’s nothing to do about the urgency to go out and use the time well, take care of MY animals and plant MY crops and so on… I guess the memories just ambushed me, they were just waiting there, in some little corner of my brain, waiting for a few hours of leisure, for a lazy, gray Sunday, to once again poke me, smile at me… remember this, Rulo?: I’m in my early 20’s, and live in a different flat now, a small thing without a kitchen, a 3rd story cubicle with a balcony right next to a highway overpass… it’s Sunday again, and I’m alone. I’m in college and work nights, so I’m resting now, reading, smoking, warming up some water for mate in an electric kettle. There’s almost no traffic on the overpass, and what is that? A light drizzle, a wet curtain that doesn’t qualify as rain, yet is more than fog… the hours tick away, I’ll have to be at work by 11 PM, and by the time I get back to my place Monday morning, traffic on the overpass will be heavy, the sun rising over the Rio de la Plata will be fierce, and I’ll roll down the shutters, have a drink, go to sleep. But it’s still Sunday afternoon… things are hushed, storefronts blank, the cityscape in the garúa rain melancholy and deserted.

Tastes of Sundays long gone. To sit down at one of the old cafés I liked with a girlfriend, a young woman who must now be middle aged, like me, ‘La Giralda’ or ‘Bar Británico’ or ‘Las Violetas’, and order a hot submarino, a tall glass of warm milk, a jacket of tin around it, with a handle, on a porcelain plate, a bar of dark chocolate on the plate right next to the milk, for you to drop into the glass like a submarine, and make it swirl with the long spoon, round and round and round as you look into her pretty green eyes and talk nonsense, talk and don’t say much because you’re too young and there’s nothing really to say although you don’t know it, maybe talk about the arthouse film you plan to see with her in an hour, or have just seen, something European or Latin American, never a Hollywood movie because even back then I disliked them so very much, and still do… car chases give me a headache…

Smells of Sundays long gone. The aromas emanating from the corner taco cart as the owner sets up and fires up the grills on the corner outside of a derelict, century old mansion in the posh part of Guadalajara, a section that is now empty for the most part, as is the rest of the city except for around the stadium if there’s fútbol and maybe the touristy things to see downtown… still, the taco vendor sets up, and the smells of his tacos al pastor reach me at my rooftop room, not so hot now that the sun is going down and the big mango tree blocks its rays from hitting on the ramshackle structure too directly… enticing, so enticing, I probably haven’t eaten much all day, nursing a hangover, so I count the pesos I have left and prepare for a trek downstairs, through the courtyard, past the mango tree and the marble fountain full of green, icky stuff, and out of the metal gates, towards the corner….

Happiness!

And I always seem to find it embedded in rusty, sad, old fashined things, in places that appear, seen from decades later, gray, always so gray and still and I’m tempted to say hopeless. Inglorious Sundays without many friends or lovers – just about enough, I reckon now – for the most part alone, left alone to pursue my appetite for happiness, for the particular taste of happiness that I crave. Different places… but so many Sundays! 40 years worth of Sundays!

I’m so grateful for them. To whom, to what? I’m just grateful in general. To life, for my lot in it.

My mother playing Chopin on the piano. The smell of incense and the slow rituals at my favorite childhood churches, Santo Domingo, San Francisco. The smell of pizza and of bbq coming out of neighborhood restaurants as Sunday night closes in. The sounds of my children when they were much younger, baby sounds, the sound of Florida rain falling on the roof. Bus rides and train rides and cafés and long walks in places that I called my own for a while, the feel and texture of Sunday different in every one.

I was given this, I got this, I lived all these Sundays and most, not all but most were good, like this one here, one more under the belt, still on this planet and drinking, smelling, touching Sundays, as my companion tidies up her kitchen and talks about her bees and I decide to wrap this up at no particular point, to pour myself another glass of wine and be aware of the gift of life once more, before putting head to pillow…

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