Finisterre

Note: Suitable for adults only.

Finisterre – Excerpt

She’s sitting there on the underground, head nodding to whatever industrial grind she’s got playing through her headphones, and suddenly for the first time in years I’m reminded of Jorge, and I miss him like God just tore out a chunk of my heart.

She’s not much like Jorge really. She looks like she’d be a vampire if she had the imagination for it. All black makeup and pale skin. Jorge’s skin was so rich I could have planted a seed in it and it would have grown. I think it is her eyes, the colour of raw sugar, that remind me of him, although Jorge never had that blank, hopeless expression. Not even when they hung him.

Even so, for a moment I’m tempted to get up and go over to her, just to talk, to remember his voice. Hey, but how would that look? Forty-eight year old man, not shaved for a week, not changed his clothes for as long, smelling of old beer goes up to a teenage girl on the subway. What would you think if you saw it? So I don’t. I just close my eyes and remember Jorge.

Jorge with his guitar, singing revolutionary songs under the banana trees by the river.

Jorge with a rifle, in the jungle, waiting for the troops to pass.

Jorge drinking and laughing in the town square while Somoza’s National Guard were gathering in the hills with their CIA friends.

Jorge in my arms.

Jorge between my thighs.

Ah, God.

Jorge hanging from a rope in the town square.

It was just a little town, about thirty miles east and ten miles north of Matagalpa. Maybe you wouldn’t even call it a town. But to Jorge and his friends it was like heaven. Corazón de la Revolución they called it, Heart of the Revolution. They put up signs all around town with that on, Corazón de la Revolución. Then they sang and laughed. It was 1976, and the National Guard were moving towards us with their American weapons. And there were Jorge and twenty of his friends with rifles that only worked two times out of three, and me, straight out of college, writing articles that would never be published for newspapers that didn’t care.

Jorge didn’t die when the National Guard took the town, but the Heart of the Revolution did. When we saw we had lost, we hid. They tore down the signs around the town and put up their own. They called the town San Lorenzo. Their captain’s name was Lorenzo. Perhaps he thought he was a saint.

American money bought Jorge from the people who had hidden him. The National Guard hung him in the town square as a lesson. And I watched. I watched, that’s all. I didn’t help him. I didn’t even have the courage to take a photograph. And then he was dead. Jorge. God, I miss him. I should have saved him.

I open my eyes.

I’ve missed my stop and the girl’s gone. In her place is a man. He looks a bit like me. Dirty, unshaven. But he looks happy. He’s smiling.

“Finisterre,” he says.

“What?”

“The end of the Earth.”

I shake my head and look out the window at the darkness, hoping he’ll go away.

“He died, didn’t he? You lost him.”

My head jerks around. “What did you say?”

“You lost him. I know. I can see. You’re like me. I recognise you. I lost someone, but I found them again.”

He’s got that unhealthy glow of enthusiasm in his eyes. For a moment, I think he’s going to offer me a copy of Watchtower or something. But he doesn’t. Instead he pushes his hand through his thinning hair. “Her name was Jennifer. I loved her, but I lost her.”

My neck reddens. “But you found her again,” I say, almost shouting it. “Jorge is dead. He’s been dead for twenty-six years. I’ll never find him again.”

I subside back in my seat. The train is pulling in to Kings Cross. I wonder if I should just get out and change trains.

“Tell me,” he says, his voice soft, persuasive.

And, to my surprise, I do. The hole in my heart demands no less than this drawing out of quarter of a century of pus.

“What do you think happened to Corazón de la Revolución?” he says when I stop.

“They burnt it down a month later,” I tell him. “Somoza depopulated Matagalpa province. That was his lesson to the peasants.”

The man shakes his head. “No they didn’t. They burnt down San Lorenzo,” he says. “There is a difference.”

“Some difference.”

He smiles again. I want to punch his smug face, but I don’t have the strength. Remembering Jorge has left me weak.

“Do you think Corazón de la Revolución just disappeared when they changed its name to San Lorenzo?” he asks.

I sigh. I should have got off at Kings Cross. “No. It became San Lorenzo. To the National Guard, anyway. Not to me.”

He nods, as though somehow I’ve proved his point. “Corazón de la Revolución didn’t go away because they changed its name. It is still alive.” His voice drops, and I have to strain to hear it. “In Finisterre, at the end of the Earth.”

A train passes us, going the other way in the darkness of the tunnel. I see strobes of light from the windows, and faces flashing past too quick for me to distinguish.

“So what if it is? Jorge is still dead. I don’t care about Corazón de la Revolución. I only care about Jorge. He’s dead.”

The man frowns, like I’m some remedial student struggling over an algebra problem.

“Your Jorge wasn’t killed in Corazón de la Revolución. He was killed in San Lorenzo. In Corazón de la Revolución he may still be alive.”

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