La presencia del náufrago / José Antonio Ramos Sucre

The Presence of the Shipwrecked Man

     The singular and gentle lady was disposed to communicate to me that afternoon the confidence promised time and time again.
     I served her a folding chair in a retreat on the aerated beach.
     The disc of the sun was rolling fugitive toward the edge of a dark sea.
     Chance had gathered us in that corner of the Italian coast. We had arrived from opposite paths to repose from the fatigue and melancholy of long journeys.
     She hid her origin under the stamp of a lofty reserve. It was difficult to ascertain her homeland because she used any cultured language judiciously, and because her physical person harmonized the most noble traits and clothing of statuesque races. She had been born in some affluent family, with roots in divergent nations.
     Golden hair, perdition of the arrows of the sun, and green eyes, memories of the high seas, solemnized her luxuriant and perpetual deity’s allure.
     She declared to have pleased with simple gratitude the courtesies and flirtations of the gallant young men, without passing to greater affections; and now she convened in referring to me the reason for her definitive isolation. She let me glimpse the name of a Venezuelan Spaniard, my compatriot.
     I was travelling last year, she sang in her artistic voice, in a luxurious steamship, an invention of fairies, across the ocean. Travelers of different origins were feeling and propagating a vivacious, exalted joy, and they immediately composed an annoying court for me. That clamor retreated when faced with the inexpugnable modesty of a Spanish American agitator, a man of sober, identical urbanity. His soldier’s name was circulating amidst commentaries and legends. That reserve might come from a fruitless youth, from an incomplete life. His hard, ascetic semblance conquered the happy and chubby-cheeked faces. A day of fog arrived and the luxurious steamship, wounded by an iceberg, plunged into the abyss with an earthquake’s tremors. I was saved from death by that weary soldier, of absorbed physiognomy. He declared his affection and his name to me and carried me on his back to a boat, where he had yielded his seat to me. He returned to the shipwreck, where he successively took up the places still free from water. Soon afterwards, the very site of the catastrophe was erased on the flat sea. That man invited with the illusion of an intrepid life in a deranged republic. With a blue uniform, on a white horse, he must have ruled the turbulent mounted rebels, free from rank, magnetizing them with his voice that left a mark, of an irresistible seduction...
     She stopped speaking, and the thickest night was completing the thoughts of the disillusioned and chaste woman. The floodgates of darkness had broken.

La torre de Timón (1925)

{ José Antonio Ramos Sucre, Obra completa, Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1989 }

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