Coffee with Pablo

Yesterday, as I was leaving the house, an old man appeared at my door.  He spoke to me in a thickly accented Spanish.  He told me to go back inside.   He sat on my couches and looked at me, weary and expectant.  I brought him some coffee.

He spoke.  Slowly, with words carefully chosen. I listened, and the day slid out from beneath me.  His words seemed to bypass his brain and instead rose out gracefully from his chest, naked and untempered.  He put a hand on my shoulder, and his watery eyes looked into mine with love,  and implacable sweetness.

He asked me for another cup of coffee and I rose to boil the water.  Returning, I found an empty couch and french doors ajar, sunshine pouring in from the east.    I looked down the road and saw him slowly pulling on his sweater and cap as he walked.  I smiled.

Turning back to the house, I saw a note written in green pen.  “I want you to know one thing. If this is so, you shall lift your arms and your roots will set off.”

Folding the note into my wallet, I picked up my bag and began walking.


5 thoughts on “Coffee with Pablo

  1. beautifully written. When you write, I can picture the way things happened perfectly. I don’t even have to use my imagination – you do all the work for me. This vignette leaves me wanting more, though. Who was this man? what did you talk about? Where did you go? This reminds me of a neruda blurb – “why do trees hide the splendor of their roots?”

  2. Lauren, thank you for your kind words. I am glad you recognized Neruda in this entry.

    In answer to your (his) question: I think trees hide the splendor of their roots because they’re unwilling to let go of the past. And should they not be? I have yet to see a tree reaching to skyward that was not firmly rooted.

    Interestingly, I came across an article a few weeks ago about the discovery of the world’s largest buried forest in a coal mine in Illinois.The coal seam has been partially mined, exposing the forest from below. Scientists are exploring the forests through the exposed roots of the trees that once lived there.

    So, I guess these trees are finally exposing the splendor of their roots. Perhaps they weren’t willing to let go of the past, until the past let go of them.

    • A-ha! I was taking your story too literally! (trying to think of a way to pun “literary figure” but I can’t 😉 I’m happy I extracted neruda from your lovely words, and I like your answer to the roots question. Did you know I first came across that question in an open book on Neruda’s desk in Santiago, Chile?! I did a tour of his house there, and absolutely fell in love with his estate, and this question. I know you’ve been to Chile, so I’m guessing you’ve been to his house as well. I kept a blog while I was in Chile and discovered that I’d written a blog post titled “why do trees hide the splendor of their roots.” It was interesting to see what I wrote:

      “After breakfast Hannah and I had plans to spend my last day in santiago together, doing girly things like shopping and visiting museums, and of course eating ice cream. We did all three, bringing my last day to a quite pleasant end, rather enjoying the english company. Her way of speech is rubbing off on me, and I reckon I’ve taken on a bit of her accent. Hannah lost all of her cards and money last week, having to live off the little bit her dad could wire her, and so I treated her to an english tour of the Poet Pablo Neruda’s house.

      And on this tour I learned that as he was dying he wrote a book of questions. In his study, one of these questions sat on his desk, asking me Why do trees hide the splendor of their roots?

      A smile crept into my lips, I closed my eyes, and thought up my answer…the most beautiful things are not what we see, but what we imagine.”

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