By TS Hidalgo
I had recently graduated from college, where, as a matter of fact, I received an outstanding dissertation award. I met Lucila in an introductory stock market class in New York, at Columbia University. It included an internship at Lehman Brothers. Thirty years after Lucila, masses psychology professor in the class itself, was born: almost a decade older than I. It is June, it is 1994.
“I’m going to show you a failsafe remedy for asthma,” she said to me one afternoon as we were leaving the first day of class. She had noticed that I used an inhaler after signing up for polo club as an extracurricular activity with some of her fellow countrywomen. Interestingly, I also met fellow countrymen when they were signing up for a Monopoly tournament. As a matter of fact they were practically the majority of this pseudoclub with fictitious roots hereinafter.
“There’s no question it's better than that Ventolin you use. Much healthier than eucalyptus leaf steam. And than Vick's Vaporub,” continued Lucila with her Korean accent. “Four brief puffs and one long one, deep calm attack,” was her first medical prescription. It was that very night, in her bedroom, while she manually auscultated me in the dark.
“Stop and breath deeply, Spaniard. Just concentrate and start the movement again in let´s-call-it-a-Morse-code. It's the second round now: four short hip movements, fifth in its due time, and precursor to the next cycle of four plus one on your way to infinity. Try to arrive today in your baptism with me at the fifty lunges before finishing. Before you register a patent for the sea, or for the south: before you come, Tomás. Don't finish before,” she said that first night we were together, a ride in which I didn’t, as a matter of fact, get to the third round.
“We’ll resort to Eric Satie’s Gymnopédies from here on in, pibe,” Lucila says. She tried to hide her deception when we said goodbye five minutes later. In the doorway to her loft, in Spanish Harlem. A loft is a loft is a loft. She let me borrow the Satie CD for a few days. She then explained the beautiful and nostalgic flat rhythm of that musical piece, broken rhythm, no leitmotif, it would help me like a metronome. Clever controller. Ideal in these affairs of prevailing unspokenness - explicit catenaccio, will power, bull, status, trade - when trying to hold out on the final score.
“Practice, Spaniard,” she insisted.
The next weekend we ran into each other leaving a movie theater near campus. A multiplex. Actually it was a classic sci-fi film fest. Lucila had gone to see 2001: Space Odyssey with her polo mates. I was out with some acquaintances, from the Monopoly tournament - which we had to add two extra playoffs to because of unexpectedly high turnout-. We had seen the sequel to Kubrick's classic in the next theater over, 2010: Odyssey 2.
The two groups met in the multiplex’s huge entryway on our way out outside in front of the theater’s showtimes inside. Good manners and a certain spirit. I started to talk to her about film and with her fellow countrymen. “Nevermore,” they answered as one when I suggested going to see Gunfight at the O.K. Corral at the next film festival, this time on westerns. Slalom when I loved her that same night, when I made my debut in the dozen rounds, the fifty lunges, hits - previous lack of flow-. They predicted crack'd mirrors in August olive groves then, electricity in the marrow: the end of the world is coming. Replacement then for shock between my legs: pleasure in bulk. Afterward, with glasses of wine - and dreams-, we gave each other cement kisses, revolver kisses. Welcome to Spanish “bared” cinema.
Internships at Lehman consisted mainly of participating in an international stock market tournament. I was chosen to be captain of my team. First prize in the finals. That same night, for the first time, and not without effort, I reached 90 lunges in just one union or matrimony. I appeared after the climax, and as an involuntary astral trip, in Harrod’s - sales in the Earth’s center of gravity, not necessarily Baltic staging of the Te Deum-.
“You can calculate the movement of the stars, but not the madness of men,” she assured me when I told her about the vision I had just had: the first of a long list. That sentence was actually a quote by Isaac Newton, ruined on the stock market after the South Sea bubble popped in the 18th century: greed and fear are considered the cyclical and unflagging driving forces of the aforementioned madness of men in the financial world, sheltered both in the oblivion of our existential backgrounds, of collective memory: an ongoing resetting: an unteach us how to forget how things are unlearned.
At this point, everything else was a piece of cake. All the finales with Lucila in her loft brought me for a few seconds - ten?, twenty?, thirty?, a minute perhaps? – to an abrupt new ride in the form of star trip. Yes, indeed: star trip. And that was how I celebrated my particular centennial with Lucila that same week flying over Marrakesh. I walked through the city amongst its bazaars and shady and somewhat sinuous alleyways. Its music and its writers passed before my eyes. And snake charmers, water carriers, fortune tellers, and acrobats until I arrived at the exotic and frenetic Jemaa el-Fnaa market place.
In the following days I visited San Francisco after enduring 110 pelvis thrusts at one time, Mount Fuji emerging from the fog after getting to 120, a station in Antarctica from doing it till 130, another time Mount Fuji at 140, the Parisian cemetery of Montparnasse at 150 (What is the soul, man? - I found written on a post-it stuck to Sartre's grave-), Boise, Idaho, when I came for the first time at 160, Lake Rudolf - between Ethiopia and Kenya-, cradle of Humanity, at 170, an island in the South Pacific when I debuted at 180, and an unknown desert or remote landscape to exploit at exactly 190.
After the date I reached the second hundred, things took another turn: time travel made its appearance as well. I witnessed the Yalta Conference when I reached the sky at 200 and a G-8 conference at 210 - the Spanish language was notably, on both occasions, absent: I was thankful for the advanced English class before the stock market class -, and, although 220 came and went without leaving a trace, I got to know the intimacies of 23-F when I exploded in hip movement number 230, and the arrival of Peronism when I did it at 240.
Then diamonds and people with wooden horses appeared - eating marshmallow cakes - in the tens from 250 to 330. Only four times: I skipped, given my present skill level, several of those tens. During this advanced piece of the summer, she still continued with her polo practice and I with Monopoly. More and more of my fellow countrymen joined the games so another tournament had to be opened at the same time.
As for us, at some of the culminating points of passion images from my own life appeared to me. It sounds strange, right? A special mention for the visions that I had of a future then far off: the exact moment of my stepping down: in the middle of the elections for company chair and in front of the TV cameras. After having operated, of course, the entire previous six months on the stock market with high risk derivatives, ideal for multiplying - actually increasing exponentially - your wealth in dragging markets. I lived in that future tenths of a second afterwards like a punk, like the Sex Pistols: a toxic and fast-paced life. Driving my serpent al vent: I left my huge footprint from the platform to the auditorium in singular parabola of penduluming axis of departure, aspersion irrigation: golden rain. I wanted to reach all of you drop by drop.
Some of the visionary conclusions weren't by tens but by fives. Closing ceremonies then: never-ending odyssey with the work on my first loft, unbelievable payouts to the Tax Office in 2010 and 2011 - and the next years -, … and construction on the M-30 highway: the world as it was explained to the pharaohs. In yet another turn of events, and on one of the first occasions that I went over 70 rounds, I saw myself again.
It was one of the most clear and long-lasting visions of the whole summer: the biggest stock market crashes in History. In the past - the tulips in Holland in the 17th century, the aforementioned South Sea bubble, and the one in ‘29 on Wall Street - and in the future: human vulgarization and ineptitude have the astonishing ability to reinvent themselves, to repeat, to reappear transformed: to, paraphrasing the main character of The Leopard, change absolutely everything to leave things exactly as they are: to be, to exist.
Given the proximity of goodbye we decided one day to spend all of our time on our activity. She decided to stop going to polo practice. I missed the Monopoly finals. The aforementioned B Tournament couldn't take all the applications once it was set up and started - swamped by the entrance of students from other nationalities -: a C Tournament was opened.
A few days later, and after 80 full rounds - the 400 blows - Richard Nixon appeared to me from above:
“Annihilation,” was his first message.
More times same appearance and count from that date. The second time he abruptly changed his message. The appeared ex-American president - a bit lit - came about in a from then on in constant:
“Turn off the music. Then, turn off Lucila.”
I got a gun and kept it ready under the mattress.
My second to last night in New York. Complete silence in Lucila’s loft. Halfway through our journey accomplices in the ephemeral death I shot Lucila: in the fascia, in the trapezius muscle. Lastly in the occipital, although my shot the third time was poor. I ran out still hooded. I got to the bathroom and I looked at myself in the mirror, panting. I still wielded the weapon.
My heart beat at a low heat.
Lucila appeared unexpectedly a few seconds later and in the struggle ended up on the floor after grabbing me forcefully from behind. In that struggle, the weapon fell into the toilet. I bent over to pick it up.
I took a step forward and filled the gun with soap and water again.
TS Hidalgo (45) holds a BBA (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid), a MBA (IE Business School), a MA in Creative Writing (Hotel Kafka) and a Certificate in Management and the Arts (New York University). His works have been published in magazines in the USA, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Germany, UK, France, Spain, Ireland, Portugal, Romania, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, India, Singapore and Australia, and he has been the winner of prizes like the Criaturas feroces (Editorial Destino) in short story and a finalist at Festival Eñe in the novel category. He has currently developed his career in finance and stock-market.