In memory of Gabriel García Márquez
There are a lot of myths surrounding the death of Mr. M. I will not confirm nor contradict these myths; I will just tell the story as I know it.
The facts took place a few years ago—six, ten, thirteen years ago?—No one seems to agree on this particular point. However, everybody seems to accept the idea that it happened in Bogotá, near the corner of 27th St and 10th Av. It is my understanding that it all started at the end of Mr. M’s workday. He was done writing all the letters he had to send, he had signed all the documents he had to sign, and he had called all the clients he had to call; in short, he had done everything he had to do back then, and his daily professional duties had been fulfilled successfully. And so, Mr. M just walked out of his office in the fourth, fifth or seventh floor of the old brick building. He said goodbye to a few of his colleagues, maybe he shook hands with two or three of them on his way out. Mr. M pressed the elevator’s button and, while he waited, he stared through the window, distractedly looking at the transited and distant streets. He could have used the stairs, though; he knew some people actually believe that using the stairs every day is a pretty good cardiovascular exercise—an activity that, if practiced daily, could make a man’s life a little longer. But Mr. M was tired, you know how tired one gets during the working week. And seriously, who would use the stairs in a building where there’s a working elevator?
There was something very particular about Mr. M’s office building: it had the name of a goddess. The building was named after the Muisca goddess Bachué. In Muisca mythology Bachué is the mother of all humanity. According to the legend, she came from Lake Iguaque. After Bachué and her husband—who, by the way, was also her son—were done populating the planet, they turned into enormous snakes and returned to the lake, leaving the Muisca civilization to grow and prosper—until the Spaniards came, of course. Bachué is the name of the primordial life-giver… Perhaps this only makes the circumstances of Mr. M’s passing more ironic.
There was a mirror inside the elevator. Mr. M was alone, and he felt no shame while staring stubbornly at the glass surface. He unbuttoned the top button of his shirt and felt somehow relieved. He sure looked better that way, much more informal and relaxed. He put his left hand in his pocket, searching for a box of Marlboros. He really wanted to smoke a cigarete. Mr. M smoked between three and five cigarettes every day. He was left-handed.
The elevator’s doors were now open, and suddenly Mr. M saw something that he couldn’t quite understand: there was a furious, black fighting bull running his way. Mr. M thought he was experiencing a hallucination, “seeing things”—as Colombians say. The beast was too dark, too big to be real. He felt the ground trembling and, perhaps, he knew the monster had materialized when it got inside the elevator. In a moment of clarity Mr. M jumped back, but it was too late—the bull had gored him. Mr. M’s thorax was smashed in, many of his ribs were broken, and he somehow knew that he was bleeding inside—his heart stopped pumping blood in a question of seconds. No one was there to see what happened; no one was there to comfort him. Mr. M was all alone. He was dying, and he was alone.
A couple of blocks away there was a truck. The vehicle was empty and one of its axles was shattered. People were running scared, like terrified bugs running away from an angry boot. There were a few fighting bulls walking on the streets. I’ve heard that the truck was on its way to the Plaza de toros la Santamaría when a bus hit a big rock that was lying on the asphalt. Somehow the heavy rock was propelled towards the bottom of the truck, breaking one of its back axles. Things got crazy at the back of the vehicle; one of the bulls hit the door with all his might, smashing the lock from the inside.
In that moment of uncanny chaos one of the biggest bulls ran towards the good old Bachué, entered the building and encountered a man inside the elevator. The bull’s arrival to the building and Mr. M’s arrival to the hall were most certainly simultaneous events. The elevator opened its doors precisely when the bull was entering the building. Probably, the first thing that the bull saw in the spacious hall was Mr. M’s fragile figure. The encounter of these concise entities—Mr. M and the black fighting bull—was rather unlikely; still, it did take place, and the timing of both of them was ominously perfect.
Naturally, there’s no way of knowing what Mr. M would have thought about this story. Most certainly, the fantastic aura of the text would have been of no interest to him. But I still can see it in my mind, this very clear image of a pale left hand, dropping a fragile cigarette… and that bull, that enormous black bull. Now, if someone with a metaphysical disposition were to ask me about what became of Mr. M’s soul, I guess I wouldn’t have much to say. To put it plainly, I don’t really think we go somewhere else after we’re done living; I don’t believe that our conscience can survive our physical bodies. However, if Mr. M—or part of Mr. M—is indeed somewhere out there, I’m pretty sure he’s still trying to figure out just what the hell happened on that quiet afternoon, in the little elevator of the good old Bachué.
Juan David Cruz Duarte was born in Bogota, Colombia. He is lives in Clinton, SC. His work has been published in Fall Lines, the Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Jasper Magazine, Blue Collar Review, Burningword, and elsewhere. Cruz Duarte published a collection of short stories, Dream a Little Dream of Me: cuentos siniestros, in 2011, and a short novel, La noche del fin del mundo, in 2012. His first collection of poetry, Léase después de mi muerte (Poemas 2005-2017), was published in 2018.