Close to the very frantic heart of a bustling and populated suburb of a large city of the East Coast of the most powerful conuntry an Earth, closer to helplessness than to opulence, a hermit once lived.

A hermit raised among counter clerks, maintenance workers and grocery store attendants, a hermit who had already experienced what it feels like to live among stinking streets streaked heavily with graffiti; and educated, without doubt, in an impoverished kindergarten and ordinary elementary and junior high schools.

His flat was modest. Compact ... but somehow beautiful; it could even be said, cozy; with three or four pieces of art that reflected the way of life of its inhabitant. Three rooms. One that combined a kitchenette, a dining and a living room, with a minimal step at the middle that ended in a large window with light brown satin curtains; which when opened, gave way onto a railing overlooking a small and quiet wooded park.

A mustard-colored love seat and a single sofa, both in worn leather—but still elegant—with two hand-woven flowered cushions sitting on top of them, altogether with a small antique wooden table on the center over a rustic rug and a forged wrought iron lamp standing next to it, was his modest living room. And his study, so to speak, was no more than a simple bookcase with three shelves filled with all sorts of interesting books laid out in an almost perfect order.

The second, the bedroom, housed only an individual bed, a bureau on one side with a vintage alarm clock on top, and a minimal closet; and the third, was a small bathroom with toilet and shower, kept extremely clean, with a light smell of lavender.

It was said that the hermit used to be in better times an important personage, a senior executive of transnational corporations, a traveler of the five continents, a walker of crowded airports and cosmopolitan cities, a frequent and tireless globe-trotter... It was even speculated that—by his own will—just after retirement, he went to live, for two or three years, among compassionate, but strict, Zen monks in a humble retreat, lost in the coldest mountains of northern Japan.

What was true, and what confirmed his wanderings in far distant lands, was that he was incredibly cultured. He could make himself understood in two or three languages and he was able to establish a conversation on practically any subject with whoever he met on a library lounge, in a cafe, a bar, or even in the subway; or to remain silent, in those frequent afternoons when he wandered alone in old-fashioned second-hand bookstores.

He was always neat, both in his clothes and in his person. He tied, in a ponytail, a handful of straight hair—mostly black—passing a few inches beyond his neck. Beard and mustache, clean and short, which he apparently trimmed carefully at its tips, because he always looked impeccable in that; and indeed, in everything.

He used to wear regular pants, not expensive or of any known brand, but of good shape and form, of sober colors that fit his height and complexion rather small in the waste, undoubtedly a result of a strict lean diet. He accompanied them with Polo shirts, some turtleneck and formal shirts; and two or three sport jackets with patches on the elbows that he used to wear on a merry-go-round routine through days, weeks and months, and which he probably replaced regularly, because they did not show marks of noticeable deterioration.

The rumor circulated by those with viperous tongues was that he still received a certain stipend from his years of prosperity; and that for that reason, it was his choice, to do something, or, simply... Do nothing.

Several days a week he wandered at liberty through avenues and boulevards, visiting opera theaters, concert halls, art exhibitions and street festivals; and he was often found, long afternoons, reading a book, sitting still, isolated, quiet, on a park bench, where he used to leave the texts just finished with a note of comments for whoever could find them.

In spite of his apparent status as a lonely and melancholic soul, he was able to establish an affable rapport with almost anybody, gaining soon the confidence of those who by accident crossed a word with him. Confidence that was accentuated as he later established a more intimate relationship, whether by his lightness to smile, or for his calm, the respect that he showed any human being; whether an elder, a needy, or an important dignitary of State.

In this way, the hermit ceased to be a hermit and became something of a character. A character, not to preach a new and marvelous religion, much less a new astounding science, but to talk about what he thought about life, of his experiences, his errors, lessons learned and mistakes committed.

It all started one afternoon as a casual talk with a group of young people on a particular topic (which I now do not remember); where, little by little, other passersby, intrigued by the seeming interesting nature of the talk, stopped to see what was happening.

That practice became a regular and agreeable habit of many Sunday afternoons on one corner of a park very near downtown; and his fame rapidly transcended those blocks, and as time passed by, people came to listen from near and far, from all races and all backgrounds.

                                      *     *    *

One of those afternoons I am talking about, a Russian lady, an accountant of a big import company, who lived by herself in a luxurious apartment (Not very young, but very attractive and beautiful, by the way); who, by very particular details that she had shared with him, he knew that her real name was Svetlana—but for easiness in that adopted country, she asked to simply be called Maria—requested him in a confident and flat manner.

“Tell us something about ‘Dreams’.”

He nodded with a slight movement of his head, gently put aside the book he was holding on his hands; and standing straight up from the bench where he was sitting, started saying with a slow and calm voice.

 “Dreams are the stars that illuminate the path of our lives as a lighthouse in the middle of the ocean. They are the Faith and Hope. The eternal satellites of our lives and the magic that keeps us alive. They are like stars that sparkle so beautifully that we would think that we could touch them with our hands.

“Dreams distinguishes us from the whole rest of the world. They give hue, color, diversity, brightness to grey and ordinary lives. Dreams pull us, impulse us to become want we would like to be; they lead us to conquer the summit of Mount Everest, cross the North Pole or win an Olympic medal...

Or, to achieve, something, that to anyone may seem easy, even trivial; but to us, restrained by circumstances, it costs us lots of sweat, tears and pain. Only those who persist, who do not faint, make them true.

He made a pause, just to continue saying firmly.

“Dreams have that magical ingredient that makes us give the extra push and puts us in a state of alertness, immediate disposition, or reverie.

“Ah... ah! But we have to be very, very careful ...” He added. “Because the world of dreams is an elusive, hard-to-catch world.”

Although it was a little bit late, some of the heat of that mid-summer season was still on the air—uncommon for a day of that period of the year, where the breeze of the Atlantic usually kept afternoons cool on that north region of the East Coast.

So, he paused to calmly remove his jacket. He folded it carefully and placed it on the backrest of that white and rusted iron bench that used to be his companion for many solitary afternoons; then he continued saying.

“Sometimes, to make a dream come true, it´s not something easy to attain. To succeed, you have to put all your will, all your spirit and commitment in an intelligent way. So, even if you suffer countless setbacks, you will know when to loosen and when to tight, when to retire and when to fight back. And if today does not bring the success you strive for. It will be tomorrow. And if not, it will be... the day after tomorrow. Just keep up the very same courage you showed on the first day.

“The important point is never, ever give up. Not on the first round, not on the second. Not even on the third one.

“Do not ever give up. Did you hear it? Never, ever give up!!!

“If you give up on the first exchange of punches... Then how could you know if the fight is worth? If you have not even tried to the very limit of your strength, to your last ounce of courage and honor. Because no one said that dreams are achieved in a blink of an eye. Or are they? Even failures can give you a valuable lesson. Ah! But to fail does not mean that you have to stop dreaming.”

Then, touring them all slowly with his eyes and gradually smoothing his voice in tone and rhythm, he added.

“You must also be able to recognize when a dream is far beyond your reach and way away your possibilities. When it´s no more than a ‘Chimera’, a mischievous fantasy; before it becomes a silly obsession, or a self-imposed will that does not measure tiredness or sweating, causing only pain and despair, and a deep feeling of frustration and failure.

“Besides,” making a brief parenthesis, he added. “You have to know when your dream has become obsolete, démodé. When it has already fallen short, for not to wear out yourself pursuing it unnecessarily.”

At that momentwithout anyone else noticing it—from the opposite side of where he was standing and behind that compact group of listeners, an elderly couple was approaching, walking slowly with many difficulties.

Interrupting what he was saying, he promptly went out to welcome them, extending amicably both hands to help them climb up the last part of the small hill where they were sitting, while asking for their particulars in a very soft voice.

The man, who evidently was older than his companion by at least two or three lusters, answered for both in a voice almost muffled, interrupted by a frequent and deaf coughing, product of the exhausting effort of the ascent.

“Ma..r.i..lyn...  and…  Jon..a… than…”

Those who were sitting on the bench next to his got up immediately to make a space; and once all had been rearranged on their seats, he resumed what he was saying, speaking this time with a loud and firm voice.

“Though many dreams may seem easily achievable… Others, may even seem impossible. That´s why you must have your feet firmly anchored on the ground to weight down the circumstances and plan your actions with care, to measure them on the scale of your efforts and your strength, and even a little beyond, to become a spur, a challenge, and do not let you fall into distractions or laziness.

“Also... Please, please...” He said in an almost begging tone. “Please, do not believe in fake dreams unconsciously. That does not lead to anything. Dreaming that tomorrow you're going to win the biggest lottery jackpot ever, or you´re going to become, suddenly, a famous movie star, or a charismatic soup-opera actress… They are nothing but fuzzy dreams. Mere deceptions of your treacherous subconscious.

“Dreams are not conquered from one day to another. That´s for sure. Those could be just coincidences of what is the exercise of life. As it could happen that while walking you may find on the pavement. Bingo! A five-hundred-dollar bill! Or suddenly, on the sidewalk a pot could drop directly into your head”.

He changed again the rhythm of his voice, speaking this time in a charismatic tone.

“Do not believe in good luck as a panacea that falls directly from sky. Better believe in yourself and work hard putting in your dreams all your will and talent. And then... When good things happen, you could think that a casual chance made them happen; although something inside you will tell you that they were the result of the strong desire you put in achieving them.”

The arrival of Chandra, who already had come to the park for the last two weeks—accompanied this time by two new friends—interrupted the conversation for a second time.

Chandra first introduced Dimitri, a bright and clever engineer from an aerospace company who, though he seemed a very down-to-earth and a serious fellow, had a quick and easy smile.

Dimitri, respectful, only inclined his head repeatedly to shorten the salute. The second companion—Constantinos, of the same aerospace company—disdainful and unformed as he looked, appeared by himself, unloading “Subito” over the grass his orange-bright backpack. He turned the crowd around, smiling and walking like a famous Hollywood actor, hand-shaking with vigor the hands of each one of the listeners.

After welcoming Dimitri and Constantinos, Carlos, The Hermit, as he was already being called—and who was only known by his given name, continued with what he was saying.

“Dreams have to be worked on. They are not going to wake you up early in the morning and push you out of bed to take a shower. They are not going to have your clothes clean and ironed for you just to dress up and open the door, bragging: ‘I`m READY to conquer the World!’

“That JUST will not happen! You cannot say, ‘I'm going to be a Great Architect.’ If you haven’t yet even applied for a place in college. You can´t imagine yourself crossing the Atlantic Ocean on great breasts, if you haven´t even learned to swim. Your actions must be congruent with your dreams.

“Do not feed dreams without foundation.” He emphasized. “That’s to be unconscious, and anyone who is striving on the same path or who has already traveled it, will realize that you are just building castles in the air and losing your time making pyramid cards.

“Ahhh! ... Keep this advice in mind.” He added, as if all of a sudden he had remembered something very important.

“The most persistent enemy. The most difficult to defeat... and the strongest one to kick out down. It's you. Yes… You!” He remarked firmly.

“Because to achieve a dream… You have to do most of everything. That´s why achieving or not a dream translates in the sum of successes and failures you´ve had. They are the rule that allows you to measure life: How many did you imagine? How many did you achieve? On how many did you give up?

“Dreams let you know how many successes you have accumulated and how many mistakes you have made. And by this easy arithmetic you could estimate the past and imagine the future. They allow you to understand that many things in life are not as easy or as simple as they seemed to you before, because there are factors beyond your reach and others that escape your control. And laziness, apathy, distractions… Usually… Take, their toll.”

In a close by tree, a bird started to sing. Its song was so beautiful that Carlos and everybody else stopped talking or listening for a short while, until it finally flew away somewhere else.

Then Carlos started to say.

“In the pursuit of your dreams... be they, tiny or huge ones; you must give yourself time to think about the simplicity of happiness or about the misadventures that the day to day brings; and do not grieve too much if in spite of all the efforts you have put on, of all the nights that you´ve gone to bed exhausted, almost dead, your dreams do not crystallize and fall short; just as if you had not even tried... Because, they did their job. They kept you alive and different from those who did not even tried; and, on the way, for sure, you learned something.

“Worse than not getting a dream come true, is not having a dream. A life without dreams… It’s an empty life.” He concluded categorically with that phrase.

Maria took the opportunity to say that after finishing her accounting studies at the state university in his natal city, in one of the most remote and coldest provinces at the north of her country, and after enduring a hard and unfit job for several years, her illusion was to learn another language to get out and see the world; and that she was very happy and proud to have finally succeeded.

“For sure, it was very hard for you to leave your family and friends behind and come by yourself to this faraway country to start a new life”. Carlos said; then, turning to face all, he continued saying with a particular strong emphasis.

“When you make your dream come true. When you finally reach that bright star shining above the horizon, for which many bet that never, ever it would be yours... Tears of happiness and joy will run out freely from your eyes, sincere tears of satisfaction born from your heart and from your chest. That sentiment is more important and everlasting than many, many other things in life.

“Those tears of happiness and joy are priceless and you will always remember them; because they will tell you that you have really lived, that you had aspirations and dreams to live for, to keep going on. And despite what awaits you at the end. Be good... or bad. What will persist will be the joy of the small and of the great victories, the remembrance of the winding roads full of obstacles and thorns, rather than the despair and pain of the defeats you endured and suffered.

“So... Bless your defeats. Because they will make you prepare with diligence your shield and your sword for tomorrow´s battle; to tighten your will to resist hard setbacks and dejection at nightfall... Although, occasionally, desperate and sad, when the sun hides behind the horizon, they will make you cry seas of tears. But next day, as a reward, they will make you smile and enjoy the dawn.”

He kept talking, asking this time to his listeners about the dreams they had.

A teenager said he wanted to be an engineer to understand how the stars and planets travel and drift across the universe. He corrected him, telling.

“Ah! An astronomer! Or perhaps a specialist in orbital dynamics. Very interesting!”

One pretty girl sitting in the middle of the group said that while she was working in a convenience store, not far from that corner of the park, on her spare time she was taking runway fashion classes, because her dream was to become a Top Model of a very famous design house.

He urged her to persist, saying that although sometimes we have to take part-time jobs to get us resources to subsist, that should not prevent us diverting from the beacon that illuminates our lives.

Jonathan, the old man who had arrived with his wife when the conversation of that afternoon began, still coughing sporadically, said.

“Elderlies… as we are called... We do not have dreams..  anymore ... because we do not have any time left to dream… What we were able to do ... We did it when it was needed and endured hard times, as war, privations and hunger… And whatever we still could want to achieve ... for that ... It´s simply too late… We no longer have the motivation ... neither the strength enough.”

Carlos, looking tenderly into his eyes, in a soft, warm voice, showing a moderate tone of surprise, answered to him.

“Hey! Look at me! I am no longer a boy. That´s evident from far.

“And... Yes! I am old and I´m alone.

“Well... Not too old... But... Yeah! A little bit alone.” He corrected immediately, adding:

“But I am happy.” Then he said with a light smile.

“And what it´s more important. I still harbor dreams. Many.

“They wake me up young every day to apply myself from the early morning in the many tasks and activities of my agenda until the day ends, and when I became even older, a feeble old man, my dream will be to get out of bed, take a shower and get dressed to go out and read a book, to see a new dawn.

“Maybe I will come to this park to be blessed by the rays of the Sun, to become asleep, to look at the stars.”

A voice was heard at the very back of the group—it faded out by the thunderous sound of a speeding motorcycle crossing the main avenue. Whoever asked had to repeat his request with a stronger voice.

“Carlos. Tell us something about ‘Sadness’.”

Carlos kindly replied by saying.

“It's a little late today, and it looks like those clouds threaten a dense rain to fall soon over us.”

He pointed to a group of deep gray cumulus that swarmed rapidly above the skyscrapers near to that corner of the park. And although for that season of the year it was not common to have unexpected showers, that particular city had a bad reputation that its weather could change suddenly in five minutes; and it was not rare that an unforeseen storm suddenly fell.

Then he added saying in a low and comprehensive voice.

“Besides... Sadness demands its time. What about if on another occasion we talk calmly about it?”

It was already late. The light of the billboards near that corner of the park were already streaming a dim light through the branches and leaves of the trees, and the night began to move with the different bustle of passers-by who rushed away to get home soon before the storm got untied... In that great and cosmopolitan city that had the rhythm of those who never sleep.


Entradas populares