|Leo Briones ||El gran silencio
I have seen her in a dream of everything,
of stars, of clouds, the smell of deep dark coffee,
cool ripe mango, and warm glowing arepas.
My parents are there and although they do not agree,
they think she is beautiful. “Muy guapa”, my Papa says.
He changes the subject, “That goddamn Chavez,
does she know about that goddamn Hugo Chavez?”
The party beats on as my brother pulses with his new brunette
to the throbbing rhythm of ‘salsa tropical’.
We make eye contact; I give her a furtive glance, and smile.
She smiles back at me. My brother does not notice.
I am back now. At the party and with you—my beautiful guapa,
with high cheekbones, haunting eyes, and immaculate lips.
You absorb the flavor of my magnificent Venezuela
as if you are tasting fine wine. You lift its glass, smell its bouquet,
swish its richness about your mouth, and finely sip its robust essence.
I point out my primos and primas. They all want to meet you.
I tell them you are my friend. My prima, Annabel, who has always been a brat
and never afraid to offend, tells me, “¿Su amiga, como Maestra Soledad?”
She speaks of the old rumor. It still haunts me.
Haunts me like hidden memory that appears only when
I cross a deep river or enter a dark forest.
What can I do? I am not offended. I smile.
I am glad to remember Soledad—older than me, yet so young at heart.
Her lips petals, her hair like milk, her skin fine wool.
I look to you and her reflection in you—
the statuesque structure of your face, your confidence.
I ask you if you want to see my old bedroom. We scurry up the stairs.
As we reach the balcony, we look down. The party below is surreal.
The music pulses and people move in slow, deliberate motions
as though they are apparitions captured in the dwelling that will forever be their home.
I finally hold your hand. It is so soft. I pull you closer to my body.
You have the slight smell of lavender.
I open the door to my room. It is an explosion. The light of the setting
sun has filled the space with orange and yellow and red hues.
My old room has changed little. My Mama insisted on this when
my Papa demanded I go away to school in the ‘Estados Unidos’
to save our family the shame. Although Papa cried when I walked
to the plane at Simon Bolivar International. He was relieved.
Mama, on the other hand, never stopped crying. So here in this room,
with its kept bed, porcelain dolls, and thick, dark oak armoire—she kept me—
her little Sarita. Her princess that one-day marries her gallant prince.
I look at you and think you are my prince. You are gallant.
And, I am your princess—loyal and proud.
You peer out my old bay window. The wind blows through an open shutter
and lifts your black dress. You look like a maiden waiting at the edge
of the ocean for her sailor to return from sea. But it is me who waits
for you tonight. I am you maiden. You turn toward me. Your face glows.
A glow I have never seen before. You notice my old RCA turntable
on my chest of drawers. You smile like a child in a play box.
Your classic love has always been music. Intently, you thumb through
some old vinyl LPs. You are giddy to find an old Ennio Morricone
album from the 60’s. I say, “That’s…” you stop me and respond,
“Requiem per un Destino by Morricone. It’s one of my favorite, favorites.”
You pull the album from its sleeve. Gingerly, you put the album on my old turntable.
The needle hits the vinyl and the scratching sound bursts into to an intense symphony.
You turn to me. You lift my hand to your mouth. You begin to lick my fingers.
You lean to me and kiss my soft lips. I melt to you.
I do not hear a sound or whisper—
not the static of all the girls, I have touched but never loved,
not the confusion of all the boys, I have loved but could never touch,
not the ocean, not the air, not the wind.
As you lay me down upon my childhood bed and make love to me—
there is only a great grand silence.