by Antonio de la Fuente Arjona…….
I am thinking about this letter as I go through the tropical winter on my Black Mare. On my tricycle, I am riding from one end to the other of a heat dilated island. I am waving mosquitoes away as I write this message of relief in the air. I am talking to you. I am singing to you. And I might look like a homeless in Key West who holds interesting conversations with the wind.
Here too, I live and work on the other side, in the backstage, seeing the seams of reality. The setting, moreover, is more spectacular, with its majestic skies, the wonder of rain and flowers, and that hypnotic sunset, when the sun bids farewell as the crowd applauses.
Eden is on sale in Key West. Some mojitos, a delicious frozen margarita, some country music or live salsa … But thirst does not stop me from recognizing the mirage. The cayucos and coyotes and the VISA with their daily load of cheap labor. The Yuma that feeds on hunger and ambition.
Meanwhile, the official walking dead wander about the keys, almost invisible, remnants of another era, leftovers or simply survivors. You should sharpen your eyesight to distinguish them between roosters, overweight tourists and iguanas (the three protected species in paradise), tanned zombies, spoiled Hemingway ghosts who protect themselves from the heat and deadly passage of time in the library or Public buses, come and go in a long circular vigil (the ticket is almost free for them, the only condition is that they do not fall asleep). At dusk they take refuge in the mangroves or under the bridges or inhale their particular happy hour in any corner. The majority march in procession towards the shelter that offers them a clean bed and dinner, next to the Golf Club and the Animal Shelter. There is also an perennial old woman on the seafront, at the entrance of the island, sitting on a small beach lounge. She is the guardian of the road. She does not ask for alms or toll, she just is, marks the border. Today you see them and tomorrow they disappear, with the waves, with the flocks of ducks, ibis and other snowbirds.
But here I am the stranger, the foreigner, the one who talks strange. Castaway, pirate, treasure hunter.
Luxury is not on the yachts or in the beautiful wooden houses or in the fancy cars that pass my tricycle. Fortune is in the words. Bilingual dream, understanding the world through language. Perhaps mastering that native accent will give me a different way of expressing myself, of talking, of writing, perhaps even of thinking! Although I think I am somewhat old for that teenage fantasy, age made me hard-of-hearing and twisted tongue, and the more I study the more I discover how little I know. But frankness does not prevent me from continuing to pedal and palate, in the middle of a happy regression, savoring everything new that I feel.
For now, learning a new language leads me to silence and solitude.
I lay in the sun on the beach and caress the words with my fingers, they are as close as butterflies, multicolored, tempting, but not allowed to hunt. Not yet.
Key West is a crossroads on the high seas, a village, a neighborhood surrounded by salt water and sometimes sharks and manatees and turtles and hurricanes. Far enough so the cruises can get here but not the friends. Here I live my voluntary exile. If in Spain lately I touch the clandestinity, working, creating, here, I am on the road to a non-existence, one more illegal alien in the process of chrysalis.
Original written in Spanish
English translation: María Salazar and Marie Barili