Candice, the cloistered


candiceI once found the girl of my dreams by accident inside a children’s bookstore in Minneapolis. I decided quickly to take her away with me to Santiago, Chile. Candice was young and had never been in love before. At the time I mistrusted the world and was in perpetual fear of losing her and her unexpected innocence. I found us a small bedroom with yellow and blue walls inside a crumbling three-storey house on a street called Elena Blanco, which, according to the landlord, was situated in a more respectable part of town.  Whether or not he told us the truth I would never know for certain. In the four-and-a-half months I lived with Candice in that little room I didn’t once step foot outside the house, nor did I possess the slightest inclination to even get out of bed.

You see, as long as I shared a cup of instant coffee or tea with Candice in the morning I had no reason to spend the rest of my day wandering off into the foothills of the Andes. I had no desire to savor the carmenères and the cabernets that made the surrounding wine country famous when I could savor the clavicle, calf and other pieces of Candice that made her beautiful. Cafes, taverns, and seafood restaurants were all simply out of the question – Candice made the best scrambled eggs I have ever tasted. Even the thought of visiting the fabled houses of Pablo Neruda seemed to me both tame and toilsome in comparison to an afternoon of reading each other children’s stories in bed or watching episodes of Law and Order.  I simply longed for Candice’s quiet company and all the little things we’d say or do in a day that would contain the unlikely secrets on which my love for her was built.

When I listen closely I can still hear our nameless housemates tip toeing up and down the stairs at all odd hours, the shouts and grunts coming from tennis players who played doubles at the Italian Embassy across the street, the sound of butter knives scraping margarine onto burnt pieces of toast in the kitchen. There are many other sounds I hear as well.  Candice singing softly in the shower or picking a song on the mahogany guitar her father had given her.  The steady, monotonous drizzle of the rain in July.  Candice crying into a pillow, her body rolled into a little ball at the corner of the bed.   Two cars colliding head-on at an intersection, ripping a woman out of her seat and sending her through the passenger side window.  Candice slipping in and out of our bedroom window late at night.

It was only a matter of time before Candice would leave or I would have to give her up – I knew this from the beginning. I did not blame her when she bought a bus ticket for La Paz, by way of Arica. Nor did she blame me for my vain and selfish efforts to seclude her from the vagaries of humankind (somewhat ironic coming from me, I know).  Whoever wrote, “He will steal, sir, an egg out of a cloister,” couldn’t speak a more noble truth.

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