[Leer cuento en español]
[Ler a história em português]

When he goes to get fresh air on the balcony, Phil is immersed in the everlasting dance of the treetops that strain to mask the urban reality of cement and brick. His light red hair may not take any more walks than is fair and necessary; but his mind knows no such restrictions: this greenery hypnotizes him once more, and his imagination runs wild until he sees —feels— the eternally-damp soil of London under his shoes, the lavender twitching in the wind, and the tiny hand of little Colin, who in turn intertwines the fingers of his other hand with Adrien’s.

On the way to the urban farm, Colinho is jogging alongside his parents, chattering about how his first day of preschool went and endlessly asking why, why, why. Phil entertains him by teaching him the numbers in Portuguese, Adrien fills his ears with little French stories, and then they hum Thinking Out Loud, because they always find a chance to sing their song. At the farm, Colinho laughs out loud and starts suddenly at a growl and goes through the names of the animals in all the languages of his universe. When his son craves a treat, Phil realizes he doesn’t know if his choice would be a muffin, an éclair or a brigadeiro, and this uncertainty pulls him out of his reverie.

The interruption does not bother him, however, because the return to reality becomes a delightful limbo where the time he spends in the treetops passes in slow motion. He is struck by how his subconscious always chooses the most British names that exist (today he had a Colin, but yesterday he imagined a Prudence, Thursday a Freddy and before that a Daisy,) and he finds it very funny how right away, he lusophizes them, as if his mother tongue reasserts itself almost indignantly after his years and years of residence in England.

His return to reality becomes complete with the ping of a new email. Every time the name of the social worker pops up on his screen, his heart skips a skip, he crosses his fingers, calls Adrien (“a message from Ginnie”), and the two steam open the digital missive together. They sigh: once more, news without news, yet another joint interview.

They never quite know what the next appointment with Ginnie will bring. Adrien is a bit short with words, but for the talkative Phil there is always more and more and more to discuss. In the individual interviews, over a rambling two hours, he outlined in painstaking detail his favorite uncle’s love life, the feuds that characterize the dark side of his family history, and how his grandmother defied the rigid social norms of 1960s Brazil when raising her daughters. The joint interviews force them to stare deep into each other, to confess beliefs they had not even realized they had before, and to decisively make distant and intangible decisions. And it’s not just exploring each other: with each meeting, Phil and Adrien feel like they’re delving a little deeper into their own depths.

Despite their initial fears, the pandemic has actually given them certain advantages in the process. Meetings with the social worker before the lockdown meant both were obliged to ask for a day off work, arrive with very British punctuality, comb their hair, dress up and conceal any nervous tics that should suddenly manifest. But now everything is much easier, because Skype appointments are easily fit within the workday, haircuts are less scrutinized, and talking from the warmth of home brings a more relaxed atmosphere.

At the last interview, Ginnie warned them that during the next stage they would have to decide the age. In the event that they opted for a baby, one of them would have to stop working for a year, but their company would only grant them thirteen paid weeks, but London is very expensive and they do not have that much savings, but they could pull it off if they moved to a cheaper flat, but moving is a sign of inconsistency and the adoption agency demands rock-solid stability, but maybe with government assistance, but all this would only be affordable for Sir Elton Hercules John himself.

In the next interview, they will have to talk about why they want to adopt. That’s what Ginnie tells them, as well as the date and time, which they confirm immediately. Adrien grumbles and walks back inside; Phil prefers to do his grumbling on the balcony and searches and searches for a slightly less hackneyed reason that he can give. Before leaving the breeze on the balcony, Phil takes one last look outside and feels a certain friction between the overwhelming inactivity of those streets (where nothing seems to be happening) and the elation of the imminent change that will come in weeks, months, a year? Unlike the world out there, their lives are filled with speed and excitement.

Today it’s Adrien’s turn to cook and, since he knows that Phil tends to melancholy, and that he misses the nights out in Camden, he has prepared fish and chips, just like at Poppies, accompanied by a pint of beer and the best songs from his favorite bar, The Hawley Arms, temporarily closed, but reopening today only in a nondescript London home. To avoid dwelling on Ginnie’s questions and the fears, expectations and challenges of parenthood, they catch up on how telecommuting is going: Adrien has been putting together a hummus commercial for the Luxembourg market, and Phil has been collecting drawings from their friends’ kids to appear on the television channel where he works. As their social life extends only to their counterpart, the conversation chosen for this special evening soon peters out, and they cannot prevent the future from returning to their lips, and they find themselves talking of when the three of them will go to Mantes-la-Jolie to visit Adrien’s parents, of what a good example Phil’s loving goddaughter, Lily, will be, when they visit Petrópolis to officially present the new member of the family, of the living room dance sessions to the rhythm of the Spice Girls.

Every night—even Camden nights—the couple watches a show, and today they’re in luck: they have a new episode of one of their favorites. But at six minutes and sixteen seconds, Adrien is already sound asleep, as usual, so Phil has to resign himself to finishing Killing Eve tomorrow, because he knows the moral code of their sacred union has some immutable tenets and thus that he cannot watch even one more scene by himself. More nocturnal by nature, Phil still has a long time before exhaustion will set in.

Since Friends doesn’t do anything for Adrien, Phil spends two episodes stifling his laughter at every single joke, even though he knows them by heart. Between jokes, he glances out of the corner of his eye at his husband, who, when he sleeps, overflows with tenderness and seems centuries younger. Little by little, he curls up next to him, and Adrien’s body turns automatically to snuggle up, as if magnetized within the sleepy inertia of his idyll. At that moment, as every night, Phil falls asleep with the absolute certainty that their bodies fit perfectly, and he remembers Colinho and Prudencenha and Freddinho and Daisynha, and his eyelids surrender to nostalgia for the future.

{Translated by Adam Lischinsky}


More tales of the pandemic based on real stories at
Love in the Time of Coronavirus,
by Patricia Martín Rivas

Love in the Time of Coronavirus


[Leer cuento en español]
[Lire l’histoire en français]

This house. The one next door. Doh-ba-doo-ba-doo. The curly hair in the wind. The communal garden. A timeless ballad by John Coltrane. The beauty of chaos. Doo-ba. The beauty in chaos. Dream companions who come and go depending on the season and love. Love. Doo-ba-doo. A voice. That voice. Doo-doo. Méli had never before fit so well into a place and, melding into it, she now no longer knows where her skin ends and where the orchard, the stone, the air of her home begin.

And now the arrival of a baby, ba-ba-boo, to that family that is not a family but is a family. Be-bi-boo. Lily and Martin are going to be parents, remember when they told us, we’re going to be mothers, remember? Be-ba-ba. And the bad news about her health, remember when she told, remember, how supportive they were, remember? Love. Ba-ba-boo. That house. Love.

In that house in Toulouse lives music. And politics and love and the tenor saxophone and reflection and love and we’re going to have a baby and creativity and let’s change the world and sickness, ssh, ssh, nothing negative, nada, da-da-da, don’t think about it, sing, play. Let’s change the world. Doo-doo-doo. The piano. Doo-doo. And love. Méli smokes and feels and utters beautiful gibberish with the magic of her throat, da-da-da, and forgets everything that has no place in the house.

When she goes into the home recording studio they jury-rigged at the beginning of the pandemic, her whole body fills with one, two, three, and, and do, re, fa, la; that studio, t-t-tcha, from which several musical projects have already sprouted, tcha. Now there is not so much coming and going and only four live in the house, two couples, all musicians, t-t-tcha, all music, and they create, rehearse, record, rehearse, create, create, t-t-tcha, record. It took her a while to get into a rhythm, to be honest. The musicians she met during the years she lived in Spain and those in France became hyperactive during the lockdown, and at the beginning she would get new videos from them every day. But she was overcome with timidity and doubt. Tcha. Daily. What a talent. What talent? Tcha. And you, Méli, what about you?

She judged herself. She judges herself. Always. There is no judge who is stricter with her. She has started a thousand texts, melodies, rhythms that crowd her throat and begin, but they get stuck, wrong, Méli, wrong, terrible, Méli, they get stuck, they stay, a throat clearing, wrong, wrong, Mélissandre, c’mon focus, girl. She demands so much of herself because the mirror and the videos do not show the glowing aura that appears to her when she sings. She doesn’t realize how her voice rides on the notes of a piano, of a trumpet, of whatever instrument is put in front of her. How it makes love to the notes, her voice. You shine, Méli, look at you. Good. Good, good. Wonderful. But it could be better, couldn’t it? Di-da-di-la-la-la. Two unequal forces confront each other in her being, her inner authoritarian, ta-ta-ri-a, and her interior voice, which struggles tirelessly, to assert itself and get out. To assert itself and get out. To get out. Di-la-la.

Now, Méli has learned to open the floodgate instantly. She lets her primitive voice, her instinct, her guts speak. It comes to her and she sings it, ti-ti-ti, she records it and hides it away, well tucked away, tay-tay-tay, far from that authoritarian self, in a place where she could never find it, nor judge it, because she doesn’t have the key. She has nothing but fear. And when the fear passes, pa-poh-pa, Méli will go to the hiding place and rescue the song. Not today. Tomorrow? No. No-na-no. Well, maybe. Maybe. Maybe tomorrow. Today you learn from others. Tomorrow? Well, maybe tomorrow.

She and Emilio, her boyfriend, are a musical duo. Before the lockdown, they used to trot out the ii–V–I progression on every corner of Toulouse, ba-bop-ba-ba-dop-bop, but the winds of the present no longer permit that. Now they are experimenting with Brazilian music. Lily and Martin receive a government grant for having played more than seven hundred hours and are expecting their baby unburdened by too many financial worries. But Méli and Emilio haven’t reached the required number of minutes, so they are forced to draw from their savings, dop-bop, because they can’t play in bars, concert halls, or parks. For months they’ve been getting concerts canceled on them, months in advance. Ba-dop. Toulouse is silent. Everything canceled, postponed. No, no, no. May? No. August? No. October? No. No. Maybe in 2021 the silence will be broken. January? No. Maybe. The silence misses being torn open by Méli’s voice. Silence is filled with meaning thanks to music, but for the moment the notes are locked in the invisible cage of the communal garden.

The communal garden adores the merriment of all the musicians who inhabit it. Just musicians? Well, musician-ethno-psycho-carpenters. How many are there now? Eight? Ten? I don’t know. Twelve? I don’t know. How many people live in the other house? People come and go. I don’t know. From the garden. From life. Ny-ny-ny. Like when, at the age of two and a half, Méli arrived from Tahiti with her mother, who started out singing in bars and concert halls and parks. That’s how Méli grew up, going from stage to stage, immersed in melodies, and that’s why she now feels, at the age of thirty, that the musical-chaotic-creative house in Toulouse is a home par excellence. People come and go. Méli hasn’t been to Tahiti for ten years. She will go back. Ta-ta-hi-ti-ti. She will go back. She doesn’t know when, but people come and go. They come and go. She will go back. Or not. Ta-hi-hi-ti. She will go back.

They have done everything in the common garden. Everything. Clarinet. Sewing masks for hospitals. Double bass. Cooking competitions. Piano. Yoga, pilates. Saxophone. Packing food for the homeless. Trumpet. The garden is the most ironclad and harmonious present. Remember the concert of Balkan music for the neighbor who couldn’t return to Romania as planned? Everything. Everything. Ting-ting-ing. Everything. The shared garden, the shared house, the shared life. They share everything. The food, the clothes, the joints. They debate, argue, question the government measures. It doesn’t matter. They love each other. Everything belongs to everyone, nothing belongs to anyone. The common baby. Ting-ding-ting-ing. The vegetable garden shines because every morning — if she feels like it, to tell the truth — Méli waters it singing, ding-ting-ting, and merges with the earth and, while the plants occupy themselves with trills, she photosynthesizes.

Shortly before the lockdown, the health problems began, and Méli broke isolation to go to the hospital, and then they discovered the spots on the MRI. The news of the baby was mixed with news of her multiple sclerosis and all the feelings crowded together in that house in Toulouse. Grief. Rage. Happiness. Grief. Happiness. Love. Surprise. Fear. Love. Love. Joy. Fear. Love. Love. Love. 

She waited to tell her parents until after the lockdown. She wanted to tell them in person. To her grandmother, nothing. Not a peep-pi-pi. Her grandmother gets too much bad news. She loses friends every month. Nothing. Not a word-pi-pi-peep. She is a very cheerful woman, she does not want to spoil that. Everything remains the same with her grandmother, but her relationship with her parents has changed since they found out. She now calls them more. They give her space. They know that Méli will tell them any news. Pi-pi. They love each other, they trust each other, they stay hopeful.

The music, the orchard, the politics keep her alive. Fi-fi-fa-fa-fa. A few months ago, the police wanted to arrest a girl from the other house for hanging an anti-Macron banner in her window. Then they came up with the idea of filling the streets of Toulouse with questions, and now they go out from time to time to hang posters. Fi-fi-fa-fa. Méli has received scholarships and welfare and thanks those who fought to get them and honors them by fighting. During the lockdown, the government took the opportunity to pass new legislation worsening workers’ conditions. Fu-fu-fu. The struggle cannot stop. The posters don’t say anything outright, they just ask, open the debate, fi-fa-fa, and people look at them and curse them or discuss them or applaud or exchange opinions or reflect for a moment and move on, with the question inevitably trailing behind them. What are my core values? Fa-fa. Can hope be cultivated? Fi-fa-fa. Do you want to return to abnormality? Fi-fi. Do you develop your critical thinking? Fi-fi-fa-fa.

Music, the orchard, politics, love. Love. Da-ya-da-du. Méli owes her mental strength to all those who surround and care for her. Love. She is persuaded, more than ever, of the great power of salvation of love and solidarity at this time. Ya-da-du. Displays of fondness and affection do not cost money. They cost time, dedication, and sometimes commitment. Méli is a composition of harmony and love and encouragement, a whirlwind of musical notes swirling in her throat and exploding in the air, and she knows all too well that in this life we have no choice but to improvise.

{Translated by Adam Lischinsky}


More tales of the pandemic based on real stories at
Love in the Time of Coronavirus,
by Patricia Martín Rivas.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus


[Leer cuento en español]

Cette maison. Celle d’à côté. Do-ba-du-ba-du. Les cheveux bouclés au vent. Le jardin en commun. Une ballade éternelle de John Coltrane. La beauté du chaos. Du-ba. La beauté dans le chaos. Des compagnons de rêve qui vont et viennent selon la saison et l’amour. L’amour. Du-ba-du. Une voix. Cette voix. Du-du. Méli n’avait jamais été aussi habitée par un lieu, elle n’a pas de frontières et ne sait désormais plus où finit sa peau et où commence le jardin, la pierre, l’air de son foyer.

Et maintenant l’arrivée d’un bébé, ba-ba-bu, dans cette famille qui n’en n’est pas une mais qui en est une. Be-be-bu. Lily et Martin vont être parents, tu te souviens quand elle me l’a dit, elle et moi allons être mères, tu te souviens ? Be-ba-ba. Et la mauvaise nouvelle concernant sa santé, tu te souviens quand elle nous l’a racontée, tu te souviens ?, à quel point ils l’ont soutenue, tu te souviens ? L’amour. Ba-ba-bu. Cette maison. L’amour.

Dans cette maison à Toulouse vit la musique. Et la politique et l’amour et le saxophone ténor et la réflexion et l’amour et nous allons avoir un bébé et la créativité et changeons le monde et la maladie ?, chut, chut, rien de négatif, rien, na-na-na, n’y pense pas, chante, joue. Change le monde. De-de-de. Le piano.  De-de. Et l’amour. Méli fume des joints et se laisse entraîner et chante de beaux charabias avec sa voix magique, da-da-da, et elle oublie tout ce qui n’a pas sa place dans la maison.

Lorsqu’elle entre dans le studio d’enregistrement fait maison qu’ils ont improvisé au début de la pandémie, tout son corps frémit, un, deux, trois et, et do, re, fa, la; dans ce studio, t-t-tcha, d’où sont déjà nés plusieurs projets musicaux, tcha. Maintenant il n’y a pas tellement d’activités et seulement quatre personnes habitent dans la maison, deux couples, tous musiciens, t-t-tcha, tout en musique, et ils créent, répètent, enregistrent, répètent, créent, créent, t-t-tcha, enregistrent. Il a été difficile pour elle de prendre le rythme, à vrai dire. Le confinement a permis aux musiciens qu’elle a rencontrés pendant les années où elle a habité en Espagne et en France de développer leur créativité et au début ils lui ont envoyé des vidéos tous les jours. Mais elle était remplie de timidité et de doutes. Tcha. Tous les jours. Quel talent. Quel talent ? Tcha. Et toi, Méli, et toi ?

Elle se jugeait. Elle se juge. Depuis toujours. Il n’y a pas pire juge qu’elle-même. Elle a commencé des milliers de textes, de mélodies, de rythmes qui s’accumulent dans sa gorge, ils se coincent, mal, Méli, mal, fatal, Méli, ils se coincent, ils restent coincé, un toussotement, mal, mal, Mélissandre, s’il te plaît, concentre-toi. Elle est très exigeante car les vidéos ne reflètent pas son aura resplendissante qui apparaît quand elle chante en direct. Elle ne se rend pas compte à quel point sa voix accompagne les notes d’un piano, d’une trompette, de tout instrument jouant face à elle. Comme sa voix est en symbiose avec les notes. Tu brilles, Méli, rends-toi en compte. Bien. Bien. Formidable. Mais ça pourrait être mieux, non ? Dis-da-dis-la-la. Dans son être, deux forces inégales s’affrontent, celle de son moi autoritaire, tai-tai-taire, et celle de sa voix intérieure, qui lutte inlassablement pour s’affirmer et sortir. S’affirmer et sortir. Sortir. Dis-la-la.

Maintenant, Méli a appris à ouvrir la porte instantanément. Elle laisse parler sa voix primitive, ses instincts, ses entrailles. Ça vient et elle le chante, te-te-te, elle l’enregistre et le cache, bien gardé, dé-da-da, loin de son moi autoritaire, dans un endroit où elle ne pourrait jamais le trouver, ou le juger, parce qu’elle n’a pas la clé. Elle n’a pas la clé. Elle a peur. Et quand la peur sera partie, né-na-né, Méli ira à la cachette et révèlera la chanson. Pas aujourd’hui. Demain ? Non. Non-na-non. Eh bien, peut-être. Peut-être. Peut-être demain. Aujourd’hui elle apprend des autres. Demain ? Eh bien, peut-être demain.

Avec Emilio, son partenaire, elle forme un duo musical. Avant le confinement, ils arpentaient la progression II-V-I dans tous les recoins de Toulouse, ba-bop-ba-dop-bop, mais les évènements actuels ne le permettent pas. Maintenant, ils essaient de jouer de la musique brésilienne. Lily et Martin bénéficient d’une aide financière pour les intermittents du spectacle, pour avoir joué plus de sept cents heures et attendent leur bébé sans trop de soucis financiers. Mais Méli et Emilio n’ont pas atteint le nombre d’heures requises, alors ils doivent dépenser leurs économies, dop-bop, car on ne peut pas jouer dans des bars, ni dans les salles, ni dans les parcs. Ses concerts ont été annulés il y a des mois et les prochains aussi. Ba-dop. Toulouse est plongé dans le silence. Tout est annulé, repoussé. Non, non, non. Mai ? Non. Août ? Bah, non. Octobre ? Non. Non. Peut-être qu’en 2021 le silence prendra fin. Janvier ? Non. Peut-être. Le silence manque d’être déchiré par la voix de Méli. Le silence est chargé de sens grâce à la musique, mais pour le moment les notes sont enfermées dans la cage invisible du jardin commun.

Le jardin commun adore le brouhaha de tous les musiciens qui l’habitent. Juste des musiciens ? Eh bien, musiciens-ethno-psycho-menuisiers. Combien sont-ils maintenant ? Huit ? Dix ? Je ne sais pas. Douze ? Je ne sais pas. Combien de personnes habitent dans l’autre maison ? Les gens vont et viennent. Je ne sais pas. Du jardin. De la vie. Na-na-na. Comme quand, à l’âge de deux ans et demi, Méli est arrivée de Tahiti avec sa mère, qui s’est lancée à chanter dans des bars, des salles et des parcs. C’est ainsi que Méli a grandi, de scène en scène, immergée dans la musique, et c’est pour ça qu’aujourd’hui à trente ans elle sent que la maison musico-chaotique-créative de Toulouse est sa maison par excellence. Les gens vont et viennent. Méli n’est pas allée à Tahiti depuis dix ans. Elle y retournera. Ta-ta-hi-ti-ti. Elle y retournera. Elle ne sait pas quand, mais les gens vont et viennent. Vont et viennent. Elle y retournera. Ou pas. Ta-hi-hi-ti. Elle y retournera.

Ils ont tout fait dans le jardin commun. Tout. De la clarinette. Coudre des masques pour les hôpitaux. De la contrebasse. Des concours culinaires. Du piano. Du yoga, du pilates. Du saxophone. De l’emballage de nourriture pour les sans-abris. De la trompette. Ils vivent vraiment le moment présent en harmonie dans le jardin. Tu te rappelles du concert de musique des Balkans pour la voisine qui n’a pas pu rentrer en Roumanie comme prévu ? Tout. Tout. Tou-tou-tou. Tout. Le jardin commun, la maison commune, la vie commune. Ils partagent tout. La nourriture, les vêtements, les joints. Ils débattent, argumentent, doutent des mesures gouvernementales. Peu importe. Ils s’aiment. Tout appartient à tout le monde, rien n’appartient à personne. Le bébé commun. Tou-dou-dou. Le jardin brille parce-que chaque matin —si elle en a envie, à vrai dire—, Méli l’arrose en chantant, tant-tant-tant, et se fond avec la terre et tout s’entremêle : les plantes chantent et Méli fait la photosynthèse.

Peu de temps avant d’être confinée, les problèmes de santé ont commencé et Méli a dû quitter la maison pour se rendre à l’hôpital où ils ont découvert les tâches à l’IRM. La nouvelle du bébé se mêlait à celle de la sclérose en plaques et tous les sentiments étaient entremêlés dans cette maison toulousaine. Peine. Rage. Joie. Peine. Joie. Amour. Surprise. Peur. Amour. Amour. Joie. Peur. Amour. Amour. Amour.

Elle a attendu après le confinement pour le raconter à ses parents. Elle voulait leur dire en personne. Pas à sa grand-mère. Pas un mot. Sa grand-mère a reçu trop de mauvaises nouvelles. Elle perd des amis tous les mois. Rien. Pas un mot-mo-mot. Elle est une femme très gaie, elle ne veut pas l’attrister. Tout est resté pareil avec sa grand-mère; mais la relation avec ses parents a changé depuis qu’ils le savent. Maintenant, elle ne les appelle plus. Ils lui laissent de l’espace. Ils savent que Méli leur donnera des nouvelles. Mot-mo. Ils s’aiment, ils se font confiance, ils ont de l’espoir.

La musique, le jardin, la politique les font vivre. Vi-vi-vre-vre-vre. Il y a quelques mois, une fille dans l’autre maison était recherchée par la police pour avoir accroché une banderole contre Macron à sa fenêtre. Ils ont alors eu l’idée de remplir les rues de Toulouse avec des questions et maintenant ils sortent de temps en temps pour accrocher des affiches. Vi-vi-vre-vre. Méli est reconnaissante de la lutte sociale qui lui permet de bénéficier d’allocations chômage et elle continue la lutte. Pendant le confinement, le gouvernement en a profité pour rédiger de nouveaux décrets qui aggravent les conditions de travail. Bou-bou-bou. Ils doivent continuer à lutter. Les affiches ne disent rien de tranché, elles posent seulement des questions, ouvrent le débat, vi-vre-vre, et les gens les regardent et ils critiquent ou discutent ou applaudissent ou échangent des opinions ou réfléchissent un petit moment et continuent, avec la question qui traîne, inévitablement. Quelles sont mes valeurs fondamentales ? Vre-vre. L’espoir se cultive t’il ? Vi-vre-vre. Voulez-vous revenir à la normalité ? Vi-vi. Cultivez-vous votre esprit critique ? Vi-vi-vre-vre.

La musique, le jardin, la politique, l’amour. L’amour. Da-ya-da-du. Méli doit sa force mentale à tous ceux qui l’entourent et prennent soin d’elle. L’amour. Elle en est persuadée, plus que jamais, du grand pouvoir salvateur de l’amour et de la solidarité en ce moment. Ya-da-du. Les démonstrations d’affection et de tendresse ne coûtent pas d’argent. Elles coûtent du temps, du dévouement et parfois des compromis. Méli est un mélange d’harmonie et d’amour et d’encouragement, un tourbillon de notes de musique qui bouillonnent dans sa gorge et explosent dans l’air, et elle sait très bien que dans cette vie on n’a plus qu’à improviser.


[Read story in English]
[Lire l’histoire en français]

Esta casa. La de al lado. Do-ba-du-ba-du. Los cabellos rizados al viento. El jardín común. Una balada eterna de John Coltrane. La belleza del caos. Du-ba. La belleza en el caos. Compañeros de sueños que van y vienen según la temporada y el amor. El amor. Du-ba-du. Una voz. Esa voz. Du-du. Méli jamás se había mimetizado tanto con un sitio y, transfronteriza, ahora no sabe dónde acaba su piel y dónde empiezan la huerta, la piedra, el aire de su hogar.

Y ahora la llegada de un bebé, ba-ba-bu, a esa familia que no es una familia pero sí es una familia. Be-be-bu. Lily y Martin van a ser padres, ¿recuerdas cuando nos lo contaron?, vamos a ser madres, ¿te acuerdas? Be-ba-ba. Y las malas noticias sobre su salud, se acuerda de cuando lo contó, ¿recuerdas?, cuánto la apoyaron, ¿te acuerdas? El amor. Ba-ba-bu. Esa casa. El amor.

En esa casa de Toulouse vive la música. Y la política y el amor y el saxofón tenor y la reflexión y el amor y vamos a tener un bebé y la creatividad y cambiemos el mundo y ¿la enfermedad?, ssh, ssh, nada negativo, nada, da-da-da, no lo pienses, canta, toca. Cambiemos el mundo. Du-du-du. El piano. Du-du. Y el amor. Méli fuma y siente y pronuncia hermosísimos galimatías con la magia de su garganta, da-da-da, y se olvida de todo lo que no tiene cabida en la casa.

Cuando se mete en el estudio de grabación casero que improvisaron al principio de la pandemia, se le llena todo el cuerpo de un, dos, tres, y, y do, re, fa, la; ese estudio, t-t-tcha, del que ya han nacido varios proyectos musicales, tcha. Ahora no hay tanto movimiento y solo viven cuatro en la casa, dos parejas, todos músicos, t-t-tcha, todos música, y crean, ensayan, graban, ensayan, crean, crean, t-t-tcha, graban. Le ha costado coger ritmo, la verdad. Los músicos que conoció durante los años que vivió en España y los de Francia se activaron con el encierro, y al principio recibía vídeos a diario. Pero a ella le invadieron la timidez y las dudas. Tcha. A diario. Qué talento. ¿Qué talento? Tcha. ¿Y tú, Méli, y tú?

Se juzgaba. Se juzga. De siempre. No hay peor juez para sí misma. Ha empezado mil textos, melodías, ritmos que se le apelotonan en la garganta y comienzan, pero se atascan, mal, Méli, mal, fatal, Méli, se atascan, se quedan, un carraspeo, mal, mal, Mélissandre, por favor, céntrate, mujer. Se exige tanto porque el espejo y los vídeos no muestran el aura resplandeciente que le aparece al cantar. No se da cuenta de cómo su voz cabalga sobre las notas de un piano, de una trompeta, de cualquier instrumento que se le ponga por delante. Cómo le hace amor a las notas, su voz. Brillas, Méli, fíjate. Bien. Bien. Maravillosa. Pero podría ser mejor, ¿no? Di-da-di-la-la. En su ser se enfrentan dos fuerzas desiguales, la de su yo autoritario, ta-ta-ri-o, y la de su voz interior, que pugna incansable, para afirmarse y salir. Afirmarse y salir. Salir. Di-la-la.

Ahora, Méli ha aprendido a abrir la compuerta al instante. Deja que hablen su voz primitiva, su instinto, sus entrañas. Le viene y lo canta, ta-ta-ta, lo graba y lo esconde, bien bien guardadito, to-ta-ta, lejos de ese yo autoritario, en un lugar donde jamás podría encontrarlo, ni juzgar, porque no tiene la llave. No tiene la clave. No tiene más que miedo. Y cuando se pase el miedo, do-da-do, Méli llegará al escondite y rescatará la canción. Hoy no. ¿Mañana? No. No-na-no. Bueno, quizás. Quizás. Quizás mañana. Hoy aprende de los demás. ¿Mañana? Bueno, quizás mañana.

Junto con Emilio, su pareja, tiene un dúo musical. Antes del confinamiento, paseaban la progresión II-V-I por cada rincón de Toulouse, ba-bop-ba-dop-bop, pero los vientos del presente no se lo permiten. Ahora están experimentando con la música brasileña. Lily y Martin gozan de una ayuda del gobierno por haber tocado más de setecientas horas y esperan a su bebé sin demasiadas preocupaciones económicas. Pero Méli y Emilio no alcanzan el número de minutitos exigido, así que se ven obligados a tirar de ahorros, dop-bop, porque no se puede tocar en bares ni en salas ni en parques. Les cancelan conciertos desde hace meses, para dentro de meses. Ba-dop. Toulouse está en silencio. Todo cancelado, pospuesto. No, no, no. ¿Mayo? No. ¿Agosto? No. ¿Octubre? No. No. Quizás en 2021 cesará el silencio. ¿Enero? No. Quizás. El silencio extraña que lo desgarre la voz de Méli. El silencio se llena de significado gracias a la música, pero de momento las notas están encerradas en la jaula invisible del jardín común.

El jardín común adora la algarabía de todos los músicos que lo habitan. ¿Solo músicos? Bueno, músico-etno-psico-carpinteros. ¿Cuántos son ahora? ¿Ocho? ¿Diez? No sé. ¿Doce? No sé. ¿Cuánta gente vive en la otra casa? La gente va y viene. No sé. Del jardín. De la vida. Na-na-na. Como cuando con dos años y medio Méli llegó desde Tahití con su madre, quien se lio a cantar en bares y salas y parques. Así creció Méli, de escenario en escenario, inmersa en las melodías, y por eso ahora siente a sus treinta años que la casa musical-caótica-creativa de Toulouse es el hogar por antonomasia. Va y viene la gente. Méli hace diez años que no va a Tahití. Volverá. Ta-ta-hi-ti-ti. Volverá. No sabe cuándo, pero la gente va y viene. Va y viene. Volverá. O no. Ta-hi-hi-ti. Volverá.

Han hecho de todo en el jardín común. De todo. Clarinete. Coser mascarillas para los hospitales. Contrabajo. Concursos culinarios. Piano. Yoga, pilates. Saxofón. Empaquetar comida para gente sin hogar. Trompeta. El jardín es el presente más férreo y armonioso. ¿Te acuerdas del concierto de música balcánica para la vecina que no pudo volver a Rumanía como tenía planeado? De todo. De todo. Do-do-do. Todo. El jardín común, la casa común, la vida común. Lo comparten todo. La comida, la ropa, los porros. Debaten, discuten, dudan de las medidas gubernamentales. Da igual. Se quieren. Todo es de todos, nada es de nadie. El bebé común. Do-to-do-do. La huerta brilla porque cada mañana —si le da el venazo, la verdad— Méli la riega canturreando, do-do-do, y se fusiona con la tierra y, mientras las plantas se enredan en gorgoritos, ella hace la fotosíntesis.

Poco antes de confinarse, empezaron los problemas de salud y Méli rompía el encierro para acudir al hospital y entonces descubrieron las manchas en la resonancia. La noticia del bebé se mezcló con la de la esclerosis múltiple y todos los sentimientos se apiñaron en esa casa de Toulouse. Pena. Rabia. Alegría. Pena. Alegría. Amor. Sorpresa. Miedo. Amor. Amor. Alegría. Miedo. Amor. Amor. Amor.

Esperó para contárselo a sus padres hasta después del confinamiento. Quería decírselo en persona. A su abuela, nada. Ni mu. Su abuela tiene demasiadas malas noticias. Pierde amigos cada mes. Nada. Ni mu-mu-mm. Es una señora muy alegre, no la quiere contaminar. Todo sigue igual con la abuela; pero la relación con sus padres ha cambiado desde que lo saben. Ahora los llama más. Ellos le dejan espacio. Saben que Méli les contará cualquier novedad. Mu-mu. Se quieren, confían, tienen esperanza.

La música, la huerta, la política la mantienen viva. Bi-bi-ba-ba-ba. Hace unos meses, a una chica de la otra casa se la quiso llevar la policía por colgar en su ventana una pancarta contra Macron. Entonces se les ocurrió la idea de llenar las calles de Toulouse de preguntas, y ahora salen de vez en cuando para colgar carteles. Bi-bi-ba-ba. Méli ha obtenido becas y ayudas sociales, y agradece a quienes lucharon por conseguirlas y los homenajea luchando. Durante el confinamiento, el Gobierno aprovechó para sacar nuevos decretos que empeoran las condiciones de los trabajadores. Bu-bu-bu. La lucha no puede parar. Los carteles no dicen nada rotundo, solo preguntan, abren el debate, bi-ba-ba, y la gente los mira y reprocha o dialoga o aplaude o intercambia opiniones o reflexiona un momentito y sigue de largo, con la pregunta a rastras, inevitablemente. ¿Cuáles son mis valores esenciales? Ba-ba. ¿La esperanza se siembra? Bi-ba-ba. ¿Quieres volver a la anormalidad? Bi-bi. ¿Cultivas tu pensamiento crítico? Bi-bi-ba-ba.

La música, la huerta, la política, el amor. El amor. Da-ya-da-du. Méli le debe su fortaleza mental a todos los que la rodean y cuidan. El amor. Está persuadida, más que nunca, del gran poder salvador del amor y de la solidaridad en este momento. Ya-da-du. Las muestras de afecto y de cariño no cuestan dinero. Cuestan tiempo, dedicación y a veces compromisos. Méli es una composición de armonía y amor y ánimo, un torbellino de notas musicales arremolinados en la garganta que explotan en el aire, y sabe de sobra que en esta vida no nos queda más que improvisar.


Más cuentos pandémicos basados en historias reales en
El amor en los tiempos del coronavirus,
de Patricia Martín Rivas.

El amor en los tiempos de coronavirus_Patricia Martín Rivas

Art Bites Paris

The Oath of the Horatii
Jacques-Louis David, 1784, Louvre Museum

Let’s face it — most visitors go to the Louvre Museum to see the Mona Lisa (or, more specifically, to take distant blurry photos of this overrated painting). Most of them also leave the museum without seeing many important works of art, amongst them The Oath of the Horatii. This is one of the greatest works of Neoclassicism, a movement based on the aesthetic values of old Greece and Rome for which symmetry and detail were paramount. In this huge painting, David depicts a 7th century BC story with only nine characters: the three overly-patriotic Horatii (on the left) lift their swords and swear to their father (in the middle) victory or death, leaving their mother, wives, and kids (on the right) in sorrow, perhaps for the last time. The tension is eased by the geometry, and the intricacy is simply breathtaking — one could spend hours merely contemplating the details on the leg of the first Horatius.

Luncheon on the Grass
Édouard Manet, 1863, Musée d’Orsay

Parisian salons in the 19th century had the crème de la crème of French society and no shortage of scandals — especially in the Salon des Refusés, to which the worst works were banished. Luncheon on the Grass was rejected by the biggest Parisian salon, but even in the Salon des Refusés, it had a lot of detractors who insisted that it be taken down. Perhaps it was the first time they’d seen a naked woman in a painting? Well, obviously not, but always before it had been an idealized, unreachable goddess. Their impression from this painting was that that naked woman was nothing more than a prostitute, and that was outrageous — at least, to show. The alleged infamy of the piece didn’t stop it (or maybe helped it, actually) from becoming one of the most iconic paintings in the history of art, and one of the most imitated. There is, for example, a 1964 version of Luncheon on the Grass (with the same name) in the Centre Pompidou, by the French pop artist Alain Jacquet.

A Box at the Theatre des Italiens
Eva Gonzalès, 1874, Musée d’Orsay

Even if she never exhibited any of her works with the Parisian impressionists, Gonzalès’ style led her to be considered part of this movement — after all, even her teacher, Manet, was excluded from these exhibitions. Very few women are acknowledged as part of the history of art, but there were some bright lights amongst the impressionists — most notably three, Eva Gonzalès, Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot, and many of their works are in the Musée d’Orsay. They normally depicted women in a domestic atmosphere (many times with children), since that was, after all, their main role in society. Gonzalès learned from Chaplin and Manet, but she soon developed a very personal style, creating intense portraits full of emotion. In A Box at the Theatre des Italiens Gonzalès chose a public atmosphere but made it very intimate, due to the black background and the amazing detail in the clothing and accessories of the two people depicted. These two characters — in reality, her husband and her sister — seem to have a distant relationship and to be very close at the same time, and the woman’s expression is especially interesting due to its ambiguity. Unfortunately, the artist died after giving birth to her child when she was only 34, and her husband actually ended up marrying the sister pictured in the painting!

A Box at the Italian Theatre, 1874 - Eva Gonzales

Dada Head
Sophie Taeuber-Arp, 1920, Centre Georges Pompidou

Even in the frantically hyper-modern 20th century, only a few women were allowed into elite artistic circles. Painter-dancer-weaver-designer-photographer-etc. Sophie Taeuber-Arp was one of the lucky ones and was accepted in the male-dominated Dadaist world. One of her most famous works is her series of heads, some of which can be seen in the Centre Georges Pompidou. The Swiss artist considered these colorful wooden heads on pedestals to be parodic portraits and functional hat-stands. Apart from mentioning Dada in some of them — as all dadaists tended to — she simplified the main concept by creating abstract geometric interpretations of reality, avoiding any physical or real resemblance. Some of them also resemble African masks, an influence on many artists of the day, starting with Picasso.

Water Lilies: The Clouds
Claude Monet, 1920-1926, Orangerie Museum

In the last 31 years of his life, French artist Claude Monet painted around 250 versions of the water lilies of his garden in Giverny, in the north of France. Nowadays many are scattered across the the important museums of the world, but one of the most impressive ones is the one in the Orangerie Museum, with dimensions of 2 x 12.75 meters. The immense size is not the only factor that makes one feel inside the work, as the amazing technique irresistibly attracts the viewer to its beauty. Monet’s Impression, Sunrise was the painting for which Impressionism was sarcastically named. This movement was mainly based on capturing light and studying how as light changes, vision (and thus the artwork) changes correspondingly. He also painted 30 different versions of the Rouen cathedral between 1892 and 1894, some of which can also be enjoyed in Paris, at the Musée d’Orsay.

Water Lilies, The Clouds, 1903 - Claude Monet

Ingres’s Violin
Man Ray, 1924, Centre Georges Pompidou

One of the main practices in the explosion of artistic creativity in the first half of the 20th century was appropriation, which essentially means transforming an artistic reference piece into a new work of art. Emmanuel Radnitzky, better known as Man Ray, did this — many times — including in this 1984 work where he modified one of the most famous representations of an Odalisque (the original work, by Ingres, is currently housed in the Louvre).

In a punny reference to the French idiom “le violon d’Ingres,” meaning a hobby, the American Man Ray painted the characteristic f-holes of violins on the French artist’s photograph of a practically naked woman (his lover, Kiki), her whole back exposed. Then he photographed the slightly altered photograph and, voilà, his glorious new interpretation was complete.

The modernist American artist spent most of his career in the artistic circles in Paris where he experimented alongside Dadaists and Surrealists and created his famous Rayographs, photographic images made without a camera.

Plaque décorée d’une Infante (Les Ménines)
Pablo Picasso, 1957, Picasso Museum

“Good artists copy, great artists steal,” Picasso said. He was obviously a genius, so he stole a lot — as well as creating, of course. In the museum dedicated to his work in Paris (a city where he spent many years of his life), one can admire a lot of his works, both original and stolen. Picasso is known worldwide for his great contribution to the development of modern art, especially cubism, and applying his characteristic style — solidity, flatness and different perspectives — to reimagine old works of art. In this case, Picasso made a series of 58 paintings of the famous Las Meninas, by his compatriot Diego Velázquez, whom Picasso admired deeply This entire series is in Barcelona, but he also painted some of the characters independently on different materials, like ceramic here, some of which can be found in Paris. And though he termed it stealing, these versions of Las Meninas have strong character and a whole new perspective, breaking all rules of representation.

Portrait relief de Martial Raysse
Yves Klein, 1962, Musée d’art moderne

Yves Klein was linked to movements like Pop Art and Neo-Dadaism, which was actually a reaction to the introversion of Abstract Expressionism. He quickly became one of the most influential artists in the 20th century — not only influencing art but fashion! In 1960, he created and patented a color named IKB (International Klein Blue) and used it in a lot of his artworks, such as in his bronze and gold paper Portrait relief de Martial Raysse, where he recreates a classic sculpture giving it a powerful new meaning using only IKB. The color has become very common nowadays. In the late 1950’s, he also did a remarkable performance called Zone de Sensibilité Picturale Immatérielle, which consisted of exchanging “zones of immaterial pictorial sensibility,” certified with a cheque, for gold that he immediately threw into the Seine. So Dada!

The inhabitants of the Hôtel de Saint-Aignan in 1939
Christian Boltanski, 1998, Jewish Museum

The half-Christian half-Jewish artist Christian Boltanski was born in 1944 in Paris, and he met many Holocaust survivors growing up, so the terrible European genocide — alongside memory and human nature — is the leitmotiv of his work. In The inhabitants of the Hôtel de Saint-Aignan in 1939, he created an installation in the former hotel, then Jewish residential building, then Jewish Museum in the Marais, the Parisian Jewish, and now gay, quarter. His work doesn’t directly confront the unfathomable killing, but instead suggests and personalizes it. It consists of small signs, each containing a person’s name, job, and origin. Sometimes there’s also a date of death, but when there’s none, this may mean the person either escaped or disappeared — it is certain that a total of thirteen inhabitants were arrested and killed. This installation has been part of the museum since its opening in 1998, and the signs are made using ink on paper, so deterioration forces them to be replaced regularly, creating a beautiful and intense metaphor — after all, memory works that way, with the past needing to be constantly relived in order to never repeat it again.

The Thinker
Auguste Rodin, 1903, Rodin Museum

The Thinker — originally named The Poet — is one of the most famous and most influential statues of all time. Even though it may seem like the figure is anonymous and independent, it was originally imagined as something much more specific. It all started in 1880, when Rodin planned to do a sculpture of The Gates of Hell, inspired by Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy — a task which would end up taking him 37 years to complete. In the gate — which the first version in plaster is in the Musée d’Orsay — one of the 180 figures is The Thinker, placed on top of the door panels, and there are several interpretations of who it is: Dante looking at the Inferno, Rodin himself contemplating his own work or even Adam, shocked at the consequences of his sin. Anyway, Rodin decided to sculpt a larger independent version of The Thinker in 1888, ultimately completing a total of 28 versions, in which a naked muscular man sitting on a rock in a twisted, unbalanced position is, of course, thinking deeply with his whole body, now to be found all over the world, literally (the Cleveland version even suffered a terrorist attack in 1970). Nowadays, it is often used as a representation of the discipline of philosophy.

Information about museums in Madrid

Louvre Museum Tickets and Hours

Admission: Adults €15, Visitors aged 18 and under (25 and under if residents in the EEA) – free
Opening hours: Daily 9 am – 6 pm, Wednesday and Friday 9 am – 9:45 pm, closed on Tuesday
Address: Musée du Louvre, 75058 Paris – France
Getting there:
Metro: 1 (Palais-Royal/musée du Louvre)
Bus: 21, 24, 27, 39, 48, 68, 69, 72, 81, 95
Batobus: Louvre stop, quai François Mitterrand

Musée d’Orsay Tickets and Hours

Admission: Adults €12, Visitors aged 18 and under (25 and under if residents in the EEA) – free
Opening hours: Daily 9:30 am – 6 pm, Thursdays 9:30 am – 9:45 pm, closed on Mondays
Address: 62 rue de Lille, 75343 Paris – France
Getting there:
Metro: 12 (Solférino)
Train: C (Musée d’Orsay)
Bus: 24, 63, 68, 69, 73, 83, 84, 94

Centre Georges Pompidou Tickets and Hours

Admission: Adults €14, Visitors aged 18 and under (25 and under if residents in the EEA) – free
Opening hours: Daily 11 am – 9 pm
Address: Place Georges Pompidou, 75004 Paris – France
Getting there:
Métro: 1 (Hôtel de Ville, Châtelet), 4 (Châtelet), 7 (Châtelet), 11 (Rambuteau, Hôtel de Ville or Châtelet), 14 (Châtelet)
Train: A, B, D (Châtelet Les Halles)
Bus: 29, 38, 47, 75

Orangerie Museum Tickets and Hours

Admission: Adults €9, Visitors aged 18 and under (26 and under if residents in the EEA) – free, free the first Sunday of each month
Opening hours: Daily 9 am – 6 pm, closed on Tuesdays
Address: Jardin des Tuileries Place de la Concorde, 75001 Paris – France
Getting there:
Metro: 1, 2, 8 (Concorde)

Picasso Museum Tickets and Hours

Admission: Adults €12.50, Visitors aged 18 and under (25 and under if residents in the EEA) – free
Opening hours: Daily 11:30 am – 6 pm, Weekends 9:30 am – 6 pm, closed on Mondays
Address: 5 rue de Thorigny, 75003 Paris – France
Getting there:
Metro: 1 (Saint-Paul), 8 (Saint-Sébastien-Froissart or Chemin Vert)
Bus: 20, 29, 65, 75, 69, 96
Batobus: Louvre stop, quai François Mitterrand

Musée d’art moderne Tickets and Hours

Admission: Free for the permanent collection
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday 10 am – 6 pm, Thursdays 10 am – 10 pm.
Address: 11, avenue du Président Wilson 75116 Paris – France
Getting there:
Metro: 9 (Alma-Marceau or Iéna)
Train: C (Pont de l’Alma)
Bus: 32, 42, 72, 80, 82, 92

Jewish Museum Tickets and Hours

Admission: Adults €10, Visitors aged 18 and under (25 and under if residents in the EEA) – free
Opening hours: Daily 11 am – 6 pm, Wednesday 11 am – 9 pm, Sunday 10 am – 7 pm, closed on Saturdays
Address: 71 Rue du Temple, 75003 Paris – France
Getting there:
Metro: 1 (Hôtel de Ville), 11 (Rambuteau, Hôtel de Ville)
Train: A, B, D (Châtelet Les Halles)
Bus: 29, 38, 47, 75

Rodin Museum Tickets and Hours

Admission: Adults €10, Visitors aged 18 and under (25 and under if residents in the EEA) – free
Opening hours: Daily 10 am – 5:45 pm, Wednesday 10 am – 8:45 pm, closed on Mondays
Address: 77 rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris, France
Getting there:
Metro: 13 (Varenne, Invalides), 8 (Invalides)
Train: C (Invalides)
Bus: 69, 82, 87, 92

[Article originally written by Patricia Martín Rivas for travel company Wimdu.
The images in this article are from Wikimedia Commons and copyright-free.]