She was youthful and strong, as her name implies. Her big smile and thick glasses seemed to radiate her mirth all over the lecture hall in our philosophy class. Bright and curious was her intellect, and from the first day of our college days we became part of a small but tight group of friends. Those were the times of fascination with Marx, Jung, Benedetti, and Ramakrishna; the times of walking about in sandals and native cotton shirts; the times of basketball hoops on Saturday morning; the times of beer and a slice of pizza; the times of listening to Silvio Rodriguez when listening to Silvio would get you killed. Those were the times of hope.
We had an intrinsic and thus unspoken trust in our integrity; and surrounded by war and torture, we acted as if we believed the times were changing. We saw the world and history as if we were sure any day now it was going to reflect what we felt in our bones ought to be.
Perhaps drunk with that idealism, she one day pulled Guillermo and me to the side. She did one thing you should never, ever do. She told us of her role in the rebellion. Yes, we were all on the same side, in mind and spirit. But to actually tell someone you were an active agent, that you were connected and knew people and took action, was a death wish. It was to rely too much on the loyalty of those who had not taken an oath. It was to rely on their presence of mind, their integrity, and their ability to keep silence. It was to risk your life to loose lips, fear, torture, and changes of heart.
“I’m putting my life in your hands by telling you this,” she told us. So I did the one thing you should never, ever do if it is not absolutely necessary. I told her what I could never tell anyone, not even friends, family, teachers, or lovers. I told her of my involvement, so that my life would also be in her hands.
It never crossed my mind that she would betray me, or I her. Neither ever thought Guillermo would ever do anything to put anyone else at risk either.
We never did. What I didn’t suspect was the depth of her nobility.
After, came the time of deep peril, and the years of exile. A gulf of time and experiences later, after not seeing any of them for years, I was sitting with Guillermo with pizza and beer between us. He told me then of the time, after I had seemed to dissolve into the obscure exile outside, when he was walking the streets of San Salvador with her and another poet of the old gang. I could only imagine the laughter, the heartfelt joviality in every intellectual reference, the reminiscence and satire about all things current. I imagined in his account more of what I had missed for so long, until the army barricade stopped all. Then came the usual yet dreadful “show me your papers” and “what are you doing here?” and “where do you live?” Maybe they expected to be let go with just remnants of the brutal chill in their hearts, or perhaps they expected to be allowed to leave without a watch or a wallet.
But this time the servants of the oppressors wanted more. My male friends were made to sit on the sidewalk, machine guns pointing at them by men with cold in their eyes. She was taken behind the bushes, and the soldiers took turns raping her. His face was full of tears as he recalled the moment, and his impotence was a cold blade still lodged in his heart. They were both sitting, unable to do anything but cry as they heard one hijueputa after another violate our gentle friend, who had lived so happily for the good of others.
When they were done, they decided not to kill her, or any of them. They left them there, on the sidewalk, with their laughter and curious intellect forgotten. She approached them from the back. She saw them in tears of frustration, rage, and impotence. She knelt beside them and held them both, next to her bosom, and consoled them.
“She consoled us!”
And seeing that scene in my minds eye I became awestruck by the force of her, whose love and force are so whole and all pervading that even across time and space continues to heal this heart of mine of all the rage, impotence, and despair.
I still cry. I still rage. Over this and many other things, I cry and rage. But I no longer despair because I always now feel the eternal embrace of Her, who nameless and formless has all names and all forms, and who one day took the form of my brave friend, whose name I swore once not to reveal, to console the hearts of the impotent men who were forced to watch the horror of man over the beauty of the Beloved.