The following story isn’t about my artistic evolution, nor does it have a clear moral, however, I felt it needed to be told. I wrote the story of Felix out of memory and imagination, so please consider it as a reality based fiction. And a word of caution to my regular readers: This post is longer than usual!
I stood with the kids under the shade of the “Australian tree” near the entrance of the foundation, when I heard laughing voices announcing the passage of a “Pichon”, a local homeless vagabond, through the village. A few kids ran enthusiastically to the unpaved road, pointing at him and teasing him, laughing out load and calling him “Pichon! Hey Pichon!”
I was very embarrassed that the kids under my responsibility were making fun of an innocent man who happened to walk by our place. I ordered them to stop immediately and so they did. However they could not hide their mocking expressions. I approached him and apologized; “Please forgive them, they are only kids, good kids actually. My name is Oro” I introduced myself while lending him my hand. “Mucho Gusto”, “pleasure to meet you Oro, my name is Felix” he replied and shook my hand. He was barefoot and held a worn out Yuta sack over his shoulder. Although he was quite neglected, he was still quite handsome. He had a little beard and a short curly hair which turned a bit grey, and wore dirty clothes. He looked at me as if he was contemplating, “Where did you fall from Oro? What are you doing here?” When I told him that I am from Israel, he looked at me astonished and after a few seconds cried out “Santo Dios, de la Tierra Santa/ Oh my God, from the holy-land.”
“Yes, I am, and how come you know about the holy land? I asked. “I read the bible” he replied. One of the kids who stood next to me began laughing and exclaimed “Pichones don’t read”. A few kids repeated “Yes, pichones don’t know how to read”, and a few others argued they could. Again, I was extremely embarrassed and thought they were very rude. “First it’s not nice to laugh at people who don’t read, many of the kids here don’t read and we don’t laugh at them. Second, let’s see if Mr. Felix here can really read. Senior Felix!” I turned to him “Can you really read?”
“Of-course” he replied immediately “…but slowly” he added. “Can you read the letterhead behind the fence?” He squinted, like many others who lack the resources to purchase glasses do, and began reading slowly : “F-u-n-d-a-c-i-o-n Mar-lee-Jo”. “Very good!” I praised him and applauded.
“El Pichon sabe leer”, the kids began shouting …he knows how to read…We talked a bit more, than blessed each other and farewelled.
A few days later, when I walked together with my good friend Adame in the mountains, he said to me: “I saw you spoke with Felix the Pichon the other day, did you ever hear his story?”
“No I didn’t. I just know that he can read, and he looks to me quite naive. Anyway, what is his story all about? is it interesting?” “Very interesting” Adame replied, and without asking began telling:
Felix was a young handsome man, who lived in a small fishermen’s village by the sea. He was a simple fisherman, but everyone envied him because he had a beautiful, good hearted wife who truly loved him. He was a happy man.
One day, as he was walking down the beach, making his way back home with his catch in his hands, he encountered a cardboard box covered with a white nylon. Although hesitant, he took the box with him, with the intention of verifying what was in it, and who it belonged to. Upon his return to the village, before entering his home, he met his elder brother Juan, who asked him curiously about the box which he carried. When Felix replied that he found it on the beach, Juan’s eyes wide opened. He had always heard stories about local fishermen who collaborated with Colombian drug dealers. The pilots who carried the merchandise in small airplanes, would drop it in boxes into the ocean, nearshore, so the collaborating fishermen could pick it up and transfer it to the local dealers. They opened the box together in Juan’s house, and sure enough, it was full of white powder. His brother tasted it and sniffed it and confirmed it was a high-quality cocaine. He suggested he would speak with a good friend to verify it’s worth. Felix did not argue with Juan and left the package with him. He got back home to his wife and to his life, and a week after, his brother Juan approached him with a stash of cash in his hands. “That’s your part brother. Don’t waste it too fast! It’s a lot of money.”
Felix had never seen so much money, let alone in his own hands. Overwhelmed, he thanked Juan and hugged him. “That would help us renovate our entire house” he said. “God sent us a present.” When he got back home, he showed the cash to his wife Maria and told her where it came from. She became nervous and concerned. “It’s dirty money Felix”, she told him. “You are not like that Felix. You should have taken it to the police. What if the owners of the package will look for it? I’m sure they are bad people. You know these characters. Give it back to your brother”.
But Felix didn’t. He was determined to renovate their house and provide his wife with what he thought she deserved.
His brother Juan began showing off around the village. He bought a brand new motorcycle, and he was wearing a long black leather jacket night and day, despite the heat, as if saying out loud: “Look at me. I am rich and successful, and I made it big time.” He kept drinking every night at the local bar until he was wasted. He invited everyone to drink and celebrate on his expense. When Alcohol enters, so everyone knows, secrets tend to escape. Since every night he gave a different version about his sudden wealth, multiple rumors spread out. It was quite obvious though, that Juan deceived his brother and left nearly all of the money to himself. Juan became the rich guy of the village, and all the young girls were after him, hoping to get a piece of the trophy. When Juan wasn’t wasted he did spend some time with those girls, but his heart was after his brother’s wife Maria. Whenever Felix went out fishing, Juan came to visit Maria, or more precisely, he was wooing her, bringing presents, flattering her etc. Initially she rejected him, because of her love and loyalty to Felix, and also because she knew where his wealth came from. However, as the days went by, she became more and more impressed by his persistence and was also charmed by his relative sophistication. He wasn’t as good looking as Felix, but he had a very smooth tongue. One morning, as they farewelled, they shook hands strongly for a few long moments, and that was the beginning of their prohibited relationship. Felix wasn’t very masculine, sensual, or verbal, so when Juan entered Maria’s life, he satisfied her long-time desire for both intellectual and sexual adventures.
Since there is no nice way to tell it, I’ll make it short: One morning, Felix’s boat engine did not start, so Felix came back home earlier than expected, and found Maria and Juan together in bed.
Felix grabbed a chair and crashed it on Juan’s head, who died immediately.
Felix was convicted of murder and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was transferred to the Samana prison in complete silence. It seemed as if he lost the ability or the willingness to speak, and became dumb or deaf. Most prisoners ignored him after concluding he was nuts. The different versions of his story kept running around the prison walls, just like they did in his village and its surroundings.
Felix went out of prison with nothing in his hands, and no friends or family came to pick him up.
The one thing he did take with him from his time in prison was faith. It was the prison’s pastor who recognized his pure soul, and took him under his wings.
The morning Felix was released from jail, he climbed the highest mountain his eyes could see from the Samana harbor, and that’s where he slept his first night of freedom. He spoke with God, who became his loyal companion. He was walking all through the days, and towards evenings, he would look for a nearby mountain to climb, where he had always spent his nights . Coconuts, bananas, mango, and whatever he could find in his way, kept him alive, and the long distance walking made him fit. He forgot his previous life, his beautiful wife, and his own brother whom he killed.
He seemed to live in peace with his destiny.
The following time I saw Felix was on a trip to Samana, probably a few days walking distance from Agua-Sabrosa, where we first met. I stopped the car and called his name. He remembered mine. “Dios mio!” he shouted at me. “My God, it’s Oro.” He went down on his knees, then looked up to the sky and thanked God. “Thank you God for sending me Oro”. I gave him a big bottle of water and an energy bar. Then we blessed each other “Vaya con Dios!”.
I kept looking for him for a long while, but I hadn’t seen him since.
Ironically, the meaning of the name Felix is happy and fortunate.