Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The coat rack

Lorenzo is, to the best of my knowledge, the most handsome man in all of Chile. He was raised in the valley of San Alfonso del Maipo, in a home hung on a hillside above the river. He and his three brothers served as our unofficial guides to the area, navigating us through the hydraulics of the Yesough and the Maipo, leading us to high altitude waterfalls and the bones of Pinochet's death camps. This past semester, he became the full time Spanish teacher at New River Academy.

During graduation dinner, the teachers -Tino, Lorenzo, Callie, Andy, Matt and I- headed to the porch for a momentary escape from the swarm of parents and students. As we passed through the decorated hallway, Lorenzo spotted an antique coat rack nestled into the corner. It was black wrought iron made from four thin, flat bars that joined at the base to creat its trunk, and then separated at the top like petals opening in all four directions, curling into spirals.

"Wait a meenute-" said Lorenzo in his thick, stacado Chilean accent. He stood studying the coat rack for a minute, and then removed his suit jacket. We were all dressed up for the occasion,
I had straightened my hair and let the girls paint smokey circles around my eyes and layer mascara on my eyelashes so that my cheeks tickled each time I blinked. We all watched as Lorenzo held up his coat in front of his face, measuring the distance of some space evident in his mind, but not ours. "Eet iz on my check leest of thzings to do in my life, to do thzees-" he said, and he tossed the coat across the width of the hallway towards the rack. It hit one of the curved arms and stuck, and under the momentum of its weight the rack wobbled sideways for a moment, as if it were making to fall over. In a moment that seemed unreasonably full of suspense and importance, we drew a collective breath. But at the apex of its unbalance, the rack swung instead back towards us and rested again on all four iron feet. The coat pendulumed sideways for a minute, and then hung still.

Looking satisfied, Lorenzo moved forward to take it back, and as he did he opened his hand, gripped an imaginary pencil with the other, and moved it against his palm in a check motion. "Check!" He said, with obvious triumph. Then he took the coat off the rack, threw it over his shoulders, and proceeded outside.

Some time later, as dessert was served, I sat down next to Lorenzo and informed him that I, too, had a check list, and that mine oscillated between the lofty- a completely sustainable existence- and the trivial- biting a tube of lipstick completely in half (accomplished, age 19, totally worth repeating). I inquire as to the rest of his list, and he replied with such fluidity that I really believed that somewhere, maybe under his bed in the Maipo valley or buried in a box beneath his family's mountain horse pasture, there existed a detailed, hand written list that he had meticulously created, written out again and again until it was complete, and then committed to memory.

"I will have four cheeldren," he said, " and write a booook, and be on thze world champi-ohn rafting team, and work for a seazon in Alaska on a fishing boat."

He asked on the contest of my list, and I rattled them off in a similar fashion- "Restore a farmhouse, write a boooook" (it was hard not to pick up his heavy, beautiful accent) "drive across the country, have three children." He nodded in appreciation. We kept talking, he ate his dessert, and I tried not to throw up.

The first time I met Lorenzo, I was tanned and strong and we were riding in the back of a pick up truck near the Argentinian border. The day after, I ripped out a page from a book of Pablo Neruda love sonnets, rolled it up and threw it into his hand. Then I turned my back on him and ran as fast as I could back to the car as he called "thzank you, thzank you", and then I drove to the airport and flew home.

The second time I saw him, 6 months later, I had just awoken from my night's sleep. I was staying in the tower room at his parent's house, and I emerged from the small room at the top of the stair case just as Lorenzo was walking past on the floor below. Feeling self conscious but pretty in a relaxed, tousle-haired way, I said "good morning" in Spanish, and then fell down the entire staircase.

All the way down.


In front of Lorenzo.

Only Lorenzo.


It's funny that we bother to make life lists at all, for all its manic unpredictability.


Zoey said...

vaery vaery nyzz

Zoey said...

vaery vaery nyzz.

glad to catch glimpse of your uplifting heart in the best melina fashion

Cassandra said...

I absolutely loved this post. Best ending EVER.