Chapter 26


Illustration de Paloma Agüera

I have fought against the Persians and conquered the Balkans. I know all of Helade, I slept in Anatolia. I stepped on the tomb of Darius the Great and walked the Silk Road. My borders extend beyond the Indus and in hundreds of cities I wrote my name. I have sat down to dine with other cultures, learned languages, brought to my army the foreigners I met along the way. I have been able to pray to other gods as well as to my own, betrayed some to favor others. I fought against wild animals, I walked mountains flooded by snow. I reneged Babylon. I read Aristotle. I was inspired by heroes I surpassed and still envy.

I had all the friends, some more than I wanted to have. I read more books than I could remember. I left a nation in tears for not talking to every single person in it, for not trying all its recipes, for not putting the soles of my feet on all its streets. I missed things by wanting them all. I will always feel guilty; for missing them and for wanting them so much. I went running and I got to all places to end up not being in any of them. I chased things without knowing why, like a cat after a toy, I didn’t know what to do when they were in my mouth, when I bite I forget to taste. I admired the traveler and the office worker. The bachelor and the married. The lonely and the accompanied. I envied the poor for their freedom and the rich for the same. I wanted to be one and the other or all at the same time. I suffered from saudade for a memory that never existed, I missed all that I could have been, I admonished myself for not multiplying, for being only in one place, for choosing something to the detriment of another, for having made a choice. I suffered from insomnia for not being able to rewind life, for thinking that I could not return to the places where I left something to discover. I could not choose badly if I had no time to get rid of what I had chosen, I could not fail if I had no margin to mend a mistake. Colonizing life with the goal and the pressure of the 30’s, of 33, of the awareness of the finitude of life. Pure ambition to be everything, to concentrate a whole life in one third of it.

– What will there be beyond the Indus and what am I missing if I stay?

– You are already lost for thinking of leaving – I manage to answer to myself, sometimes.

These are the times when I don’t let myself be carried away by the pothos*, I find all the frontiers in a nocturnal cuddle between the usual sheets, I see them in books when I stop for hours to read between the lines of a single page, I make room for them on the sofa while I let time pass, while I take possession of the clock’s second hand that doesn’t move when the present is ruminated.

When I discover that I am letting myself get carried away with living fast and dying young, I count the places, infinite, that appear in boredom, in routine, in what we take for granted: breathing, the sounds that surround us, cooking as if it were an end in itself.

If the pothos arrives, if it ever left, I anchor myself to her, because she keeps all the jungles and mountains, the languages I want to learn, the uncertainties that disturb me and that she gives me back in the form of certainties. She is Roxana, Parisatis and Stateira, but also Hephaestion, Olympias of Epirus.

Now I am not afraid when she comes to scare me with her ambition, now I wait for her with the confidence of being in the place I want to be.

*A term commonly used by ancient historians to designate the impulses that led Alexander the Great to perform important achievements, such as crossing a river, founding a city, visiting a certain territory, a special place or some significant people. According to the most generalized interpretation, it was a kind of irrational desire to surpass all limits, spatial and temporal, in which there was a certain feeling of nostalgia to achieve the feats of the ancient heroes. This term would express the more diffuse and unattainable aspirations of the Macedonian monarch, transforming the usual sense of nostalgia into a constant longing for the unknown, the distant and the unattainable.

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