by Greg Nachazel, 04/17/2020, Traverse City, MI
January 2019, I was sitting in the Café beneath the Sophia Hotel on the public square; Plaza de la Aduana, sipping a tall expertly made Mojito, I could not have imagined the idea of Corona Virus in Traverse City. The vacation cruise ships, the locations, the masses of people squeezed into spaces; the great jamming of mankind into dense masses of flesh…all natural behavior for people.
It was intense human proximity. That’s over now. This intimate café, had on the walls above the lengthy window into the kitchen, very large chalk boards. Printed neatly in Spanish were quotations from Gabriel Marquez. Each little table had one of his books in the center of it, with a candle cradled in a votive glass resting on it.
I asked a most beautiful young woman, with an angelic innocent face, if this was Garcia’s favorite Café, in a mixture of poor Spanish and sun blistered English? ( I had toured the high fortress and hiked the old city and was exhausted.) Laughter, the universal diffuser, was her response. She called for the jefe…the gorgeous Maricela Mercado. Her flawless English complemented her exotically Columbian countenance. She explained that when in the city, Gabriel was comfortable with his friends here on days and occasions.
How are the poor of these poor impoverished countries, like, Columbia? Where in Cartagena, the Sophia Hotel rests around the corner from Saint Peter Claver’s Church? It was there I had knelt and “ lit ” the electric candle, in a votive arrangement along the wall. It took Columbian coins to light them. Here, the only true moral man in the entire 17th century Spanish Empire rests, entombed on the altar. Peter rescued the starving and terribly sick Africans from the sewage filled bellies of sailing ships, just arriving from the slaving coastlines of West Africa. He understood Love in the time of Slavery.
In Cartagena I had loved every minute and loved everyone I met. Not the romantic timeless cerebral love, Gabriel enjoins the reader to in his,” Love in the Time of Cholera”. I simply loved them because they are people, fellow travelers in this world. Now I worry about them in the time of Coronavirus. Their difficult impoverished lives have gotten harder. We live in a paradise of stuff. They live in a sub-tropical paradise of climate…and they could die there, with as little as a kiss, just like us. I can see millions of eyes looking out to the sea for the cruise ships that do not arrive. One can only imagine the increase in sadness, across the coasts, as the weeping’s of the nights, crawls on their knees alongside the evenings off-shore breeze.
“Think of Love as a state of grace: not the means to anything but the alpha and omega, an end in itself.”
Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
From Love in the Time of Cholera.