Spark from Madrid

By William Markiewicz


One day I was standing at my easel on the Plaza del Oriente, near the Royal Palace, absorbed in my painting. Suddenly I felt an insistent nudge at my side which forced me to turn my head. I saw a neglected looking older woman with a moon-round face and an absent look in her eyes. She apologized for the inadvertent shove. I wanted to continue painting but she, probably considering the introduction made, began to chat.

After a few inconsequential words about my picture she started to talk about herself. I didn't pay too much attention, expecting her to get bored and go away. I understood from words caught here and there that the municipality of her village refused to give her some documents she needed, saying they had "flown away."

"People make fun of me, call me stupid, call me crazy, " she complained "-- but they don't know that I think about great and beautiful things. About great and beautiful things," she repeated, "just like my Father."

At first, what she was saying didn't reach me; it simply didn't relate to anything. So she and everything connected with her stopped existing for a moment. When I finally came back to myself and saw her staring at me with absent eyes, my first reaction was to look around. Nothing had changed; the crowd, the cars, continued their own way but in me a sense of justice woke up and rebelled at the dissonance between the reigning banality and this pauper rejected by society whose pronouncement fell on me like thunder from a clear sky.

I thought of seeds of intelligence, sensitivity, poetry, sown on sterile ground. I thought about those two generations which represented nothing besides suffering and unrealized potential. How to understand it and above all how to accept it?

She invited me for a beer, certainly from gratitude for respect and listening. She understood that I couldn't leave my canvas and easel and she wasn't offended by my refusal. I never saw her again but I will certainly never forget her. 

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