Perfect Skill: The Visionary
Enter Mexico City.
The young rural Pedro was led deeper into the park by the revolutionaries to see his former lead, Jorge. He was amazed when he saw him because of how different he looked. His head was completely bald and his skin was blackened, which made his blue eyes appear to be glowing. He wore a simple muscle tee. “Pedro, I knew you would come. Give me some good news, like you already ransacked the city and purged all the evil.”
“You’re still alive…it seems that nothing can kill you, man.”
“Justice is on my side, friend. How did your part go?”
“Perfect. It seems that people will follow anything that offers them a better life.”
“Ah…is that what did it for you, too?” Jorge questioned Pedro.
“No, it was the revenge that did it for me.”
“Yes…the sweetness of revenge is compelling.”
“I’m glad you found yours…and now it’s time for mine.” At that Pedro unsheathed his machete and drove the blade towards Jorge.
* * *
Jorge started screaming out orders. “Two of you get Raúl out of here and get me some bandages!”
“Let’s go, move!” One revolutionary, realizing the greater threat, led Raúl towards the front of the park. Another revolutionary trailed several paces behind.
Raúl sojourned between them, between revolutionaries. He was not a fighter. He vowed to never spill the blood of man or beast, but fed off the land, sustaining himself through deprivation and sacrifice. A sojourner in the truest sense; helplessly addicted to travel yet afraid to fly, a man with nothing to his name who owned the world, and yet average to any sense of the imagination: medium build, mid-length dark wavy hair parted at the side, and blood from the east to west surging through his veins.
Raúl walked between revolutionaries, but refused the title himself. Peers to the college students around him who welcomed the title, but refused to own it himself. It didn’t match his skill set. His was more perfect. He stayed behind the scenes; didn’t engage with direct actions. But no one held a firmer control over the workings of the revolution in Mexico City than Raúl. His intellectual capabilities were but the surface of his power. He had the ability to detail, predict, plan, and direct a systematic four-pronged revolution in complete concealment of Mexico’s government.
Those close enough, the revolutionaries flanking him, were able to diagnose this enigma of a man. They too wouldn’t dare refer to him as a revolutionary, but they gave him his proper place, unacknowledged as he was by the masses. They referred to him as Raúl: The Visionary.
* * *
Before he was the Visionary though, he had to be a Sojourner.
* * *
The price of a sojourner was one he would always regret to some degree, but once his mind was set free, rising above the norms of his own people, it was too late to move back to that realm of security where all the answers were there, true or not, and where he had hope, false or not.
At moments like these he tried to go back, listen to his teachers, and just be successful. He was brilliant, and he knew this much, but something somewhere along the line clicked; his brilliance perhaps, and he was confronted with an opposing notion: suffering precedes salvation.
It’s not that it was his ideal vision for his life, but it was a revelation of how the world operates and with this logic he went one step further. He sought to usher in salvation by embracing suffering, by running to it, by identifying with it, and by jumping on a cargo ship traveling to Africa, not to find suffering per se, for that can happened anywhere, but to connect with his ancestral past and let the suffering come to him. There was a hunger inside of him to move beyond what he knew into something eternal.
The dock lunged towards the ocean, or perhaps it was conceding away from the abyss. It was winter in Spain. A light drizzle came down from above. Raúl's breath was thicker, forming into shapeless clouds trying to maintain weight, but dissolving into the chilled air. The smell of winter seeped through his nose. Raúl covered his nostril as he blew a snot rocket into the water before proceeding on. The sea brought its own smells, a first hint of something foreign; something beyond.
The sun was starting to rise. La Furia Roja (The Red Furry) was about to awaken.
The final steps onto the ship were the last precursor before leaving his homeland for the first time. It was truly bittersweet. A thick smoke of emotions all hitting him at once. What would the upcoming weeks bring? What would the next days, minutes, and seconds bring? It was an abandon to find something deeper, but attached to it was a sense of freedom and an exhilarating ecstasy of new life.
The long-awaited departure into the ocean severed any option of turning back and led him forward in a rocky ship that was able to transport him to Cameroon, the northern border of the country he hoped to visit: the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, or Guinea Ecuatorial, the only African country with Spanish as an official language.
In the middle of the ocean, the waves rolled over the ship, rolling Raúl’s stomach. Something that felt so freeing at first became a torturing reminder of his lack of control. A ship was the symbol of his rite of passage, a new entry from university into adulthood, no longer part of a single identity, but forged into a transnational network of the human species. On one side, a freeing identity no longer binding him to spatial-temporal cultural practices, but on the other side, sentencing him to a life of loneliness, a fate that from there on in would define, mark, and follow him.
* * *
Suffering is not a one-time cure, but a lifetime process that never leaves your side. In Cameroon, there is a proverb that says, “It is better to be the victim of injustice than to be unjust yourself.” Raúl didn’t know how the Duala people interpreted it, but it took on special meaning in light of his circumstances.
It was not the injustice he witnessed in Guinea Ecuatorial that brought courage to Raúl to fight back, but how the farmers and fishermen faced that injustice that really moved his heart. He accepted the message of that proverb, knowing within it was the path inside the hearts of the masses. Once his eyes were opened to injustice in another land, he began to see the injustices of his homeland clearly, no longer blinded by a cultural lens letting people get away with oppression. Now he realized this was not just a localized problem but a global phenomenon, and one that he was already preparing to give his life to.
Raúl knew a revolution was like a chess game without kings and queens, bishops, knights, or rooks, but only pawns, and in this game of pawns, Raúl had the advantage. He found the secret to becoming a chess master: see through the guise of the bourgeoisie, for the only power they wield is in the mind, and if they wanted to stop the revolution, they would have not one man or one state or one revolution to put down, but thousands of self-governing, self-sufficient, peasant driven revolutions led by millions.
* * *
Daniel and Carine met in Spain several years back. Daniel was practicing Juego del Palo (game of the stick), a martial arts form originating in the Canary Islands utilizing sticks as weapons. He was always laughing, and loved the joys found in everyday life, especially his lover: Carine.
Carine was adventurous and fun, which made it hard for her to settle down, and even harder to stay in her hometown. She had dark hair and dark eyes with a thin nose and jaw. When she was younger she was heavier, but after she grew up, her lifestyle toned her body out, constantly moving on to something else: jobs, sports, hobbies, and especially travel. At the time, it was Juego del Palo, where she could keep up with the men, competing for her own credibility. She didn’t stand a chance against Daniel though, as he was one of the best, but their humor attracted each other into something beautiful.
Eventually life got dull for them, and Carine was ready to try something new.
Carine kept a serious face as she pleaded with Daniel. “This is it. We’re here, somewhere neither of us was looking for a few weeks ago. But it’s only the first step. We’ve found something real that we can cling to: an unnamed future; a mystery; utter sensation. We’re made for each other, a perfect combination, our fates merged into one. We will see the world together.”
Daniel couldn't keep a straight face and started laughing uncontrollably. Carine followed. They knew each other deeply, and could joke freely. It was the beginning of a new adventure for them both. They were on their way to Asia to use their talent at Juego del Palo to do street performances. It was the first time she found someone who would carry on with her plans, actually taking that leap of faith to buy the tickets, get on the plane, and quit their jobs.
She sat leaning against the wall, cross-legged on the mat where she slept. Her future adventure replayed in her head, sending a rush of wind through her lungs, through her veins, pulsing with each breath. Daniel felt the same wind rushing through himself.
It’s the beginning of adventure that started the fire inside them, enlivening the medals hanging from the dresser, an old poster of psychedelic design, a stuffed cat from childhood. This was their new beginning, a newness that radiated from every relic collected through her life. Carine's bones creaked as she stood, using the roach infested bathroom for the last time before she would board the plane to another international city with the man of her dreams: from Spain to Taiwan.
* * *
Raúl had pounding migraines the whole way to Taiwan, the next stop planned to connect to his ancestral past. It was his first time flying and he was soaked in sweat. His greasy hair fell across his face in loose curls.
One of the four Asian tigers, Taiwan is a small island country with a beautiful mix of traditional and modern culture. Landing in Asia for the first time, it’s hard for anyone not to feel that instant high of being somewhere magnificent and glorious; anyone but Raúl, who had placed his head in the clouds until every detail and jot of his plan fell in place like sand falling from an hour glass. It was only a matter of time before the injustices he witnessed would climax. One day, he knew it would be time to act.
Raúl’s migraines had lessened when he awoke in the next day, but it was still there. He shaved his head to prevent him from ripping his hair out anymore from the pain and stress. With his dark skin he looked like a Tibetan monk, yet instead of tranquility he had anxious torment waiting at each passing hour.
Raúl found his way to Elephant Mountain where he sat a midst lush greens overlooking the city. Raúl was troubled, like there was something paining him. He removed his shirt, soaked in sweat, and stared motionless at the breathtaking skyline of the capital, doing anything he could to stop his head from pounding.
* * *
The long shaft was topped with a flammable material on both ends. Each was dipped in a tank of gasoline wafting its fumes into the air. The fire ignited, dripping flames of fire onto the concrete pavement beneath. The base started its beat and he spun around with such ease, constantly moving: clockwise, counter-clockwise, clockwise, counter-clockwise. Daniel threw the staff into the air, not taking his eyes off of it until catching it again and letting its momentum direct his steps in a fire dance that watchers on couldn't resist.
Daniel and Carine quickly mastered the art with their background in Juego Del Palo and could draw a crowd of hundreds with ease. Music and flames of fire were an easy attraction and Carine loved feeling the heat of flames against her body. It was, for them, easy money.
They took turns showing of their skills, working the microphone, introducing the songs, and asking for donations. “This next song is a Spanish love song from our own homeland. Feel the heat from the lyrics and let your body move along with us. C'mon, put your hands together!” The music started and Daniel's sticks were burning hot. This time he brought two smaller ones, one for each hand. Young and old gathered to watch as the foreign music inspired and drew them in. The crowd murmured their feelings, all noting the glory in the act, but not all as equally impressed. Some moved on quickly, but others stayed for the whole show, finding a place on the concrete to sit.
It was the song from his homeland that caught Raúl's attention. The serendipitous moment when it feels like your whole life is about to change. He stayed for the whole show, realizing there really was two Spaniards in front of him, even all the way in Taiwan. It was the friendship they sparked after the show that led to a close bond between the three of them. The way Carine and Daniel laughed together, it was easy for Raúl to see the love they shared. For him, it was a picture of what life could be like if we chose justice and peace instead of greed and violence.
After only a few weeks of contemplation, Raúl spilled everything on his heart to them. He wanted to wait longer, but his own conviction to act compelled him to speak.
“...You see, these injustices can no longer continue in this generation. The disparity in the world between nations and ethnicities is an evil that we have the skills and resources to uproot right here among us, but we can never lean on the same weapons and tactics of this evil system. We must vow a better movement of non-violence to unleash a tidal wave of unified screams aimed a the top; the few at the top with the keys to every door among us. With those keys we can open a revolution that will transform without war; bring change without terror. Here lies the start of that movement. We can plant the first seed that will start a chain reaction around the world.”
A revolution with no leader, no authority, no hierarchy, no rule books, or committees, or structure, or plan, or strategy sounded simple, but it made Daniel believe in his vision. He had a part to play; a role. But underneath his own thoughts, goals, and ambitions, Raúl systematically calculated a sophisticated, global, widespread, full-proof, meticulously planned, multi-pronged revolution that targeted the most effective area for the greatest possible impact. It didn't merely include them, but also a network of intellectual technocrats online who would be the voice behind the movement.
It was Daniel's role to be in the spotlight, and Raúl would be invisible. Raúl was the the more precious asset, but Daniel had to be protected as well, so he was given a pseudonym. He became, simply, Jorge: non-violent revolutionary and master in Juego del Palo.
Carine didn't agree.
In the end, Raúl knew they were to go to Mexico City, the last destination where the blood in his veins flowed. From Spain to Guinea Ecuatorial to Taiwan to Mexico, Raúl was fulfilling his nature; his identity. Carine, although eager to see new parts of the world, felt all her dreams, her whole life, being swept away by the current of the 'revolution'.
She found Daniel in their room; his face serious. They discussed the logic behind Raúl's movement and what it could lead to. They argued. There was uncertainty, inconsistency, and, at times, irrationality between them. In the end, Carine couldn't offer a better way towards justice, and Daniel felt a calling, persuaded by Raúl's convictions. So, he chose the revolution over love.
“We will use one city as our example to build a transnational network and forge a new way of life for the poor, one that will transform the world and end the corruption so prevalent across the globe...” Raúl stopped. “Are you sure you want to give your life to this? Are you willing to leave her behind? Are you willing to change everything for this?”
Daniel put his head down, no longer laughing. A tear rolled onto his cheek and fell onto the floor. Fighting through tears he simply said, “What's our next step?”
* * *
The fan blew the frosted air circling inside. The temperature began to drop again. The moisture in the air froze, forming small beads of crystal over his body. Each bead, froze in place along with the cross, connecting everything together: the prayers of the saints with the crucified Lord. The freezer burn upon Pedro’s crucifix from months of neglect was a symbol for his conviction to act, but his refusal to move. A crucifix buried a midst the frozen food allowed him to forget his conviction and forget his faith, which brought him to forget his friends. The buried crucifix was his reminder that he was too guilty to accept the life of a catholic, especially one such as Father Juan who stood on the side of justice and the poor and helpless. Instead, he slowly sank back into his own thinking, his own ideology. It led him to follow his instincts, the natural course of life.
Pedro looked at her, reading her eyes, and he finished her thought, putting one arm around her back to pull her in close against his thick chest and using the other to pull back her veil. And he kissed her, soft and sweet, but full of meaning and power.
Her voice awoke him from his dream, pulling him back into reality. “Pedro, are you awake? What did you say?”
Pedro’s eyes were opened to the only woman he ever made love to, a woman who couldn’t count the number of men she made love to. Isabella, the prostitute who fell madly in love with a man from the countryside, was happy and fulfilled, lying naked next to Pedro with only a sheet covering her curvaceous figure.
Her brown eyes matched the mole on her cheek, and her hair, messy from sleep and sex, was sprawled out in a thousand directions on Pedro’s pillow. They made love to fulfill each other: Isabella for acceptance and Pedro to satisfy his cravings; his longings.
Groggily, Pedro realized again what his life entailed: A desk job consisting of menial tasks from full-time journalists that he only had because his friend Carlos who managed the office, and an on and off relationship with the only woman he could get to sleep with him...or at least the easiest. They both used each other, but of course Isabella was more dependent on Pedro, as she didn’t have to work when she was with him.
She longed for normalcy and consistency in their relationship, but Pedro was only interested in her for physical pleasure, not even knowing who she really was. He was too annoyed at her to pay attention, but let her stay around the apartment for the convenience of free sex. Sometimes he would get tired of her voice, hating when she tried to have conversations about his past and his interests. At these times, he kicked her out, sending her back to the streets to support herself. Eventually, he would seek her out again.
He didn’t feel guilty about it because she was the only one he had relations with, and it didn’t seem to matter how many times they were together. Isabella was his Rosa without the vision, the relationship without the love, however manufactured that love might have been.
“I’m going to work. Adiós.” Pedro put a pair of jeans and a button-up shirt on and got out of his apartment as soon as he could. He stopped at the vendor on his way.
“The usual?” The vendor asked.
“Hasta mañana.” He said as he handed him his food.
He finished his torta before getting to the building. He still shared office space with Carlos since he received all his work from him, but their layout had changed quite a bit, at least on Carlos’s side. He started putting up pictures of his family, and a large one of him kissing his wife when they remarried. Carlos confessed not only to his wife, but also to the church, and they started attending St. Joseph Parish Church regularly to recommit their relationship to God. It wasn’t something they completely worked through, but the healing process was moving forward.
“Hola. ¿Cómo estás?”
“Bueno, bueno.” Pedro lied.
“I put some work on your desk; should be straight forward.”
The two were close, but Carlos’s changed heart and transformed life left Pedro unwilling to tell him how much he was struggling. So he kept it in, and let Carlos have his joy, thinking he could figure things out for himself. Everyday was the same for him, a mundane life where only the money kept him from moving away.
“Did you hear? Rosa made her solemn vows last week.”
“Oh, yea I did.” Pedro lied, again.
“She’s doing so much, it’s unbelievable, from the women’s shelter to the rehabilitation classes, it’s quite amazing.”
“I know, man.”
“Pedro, you look like a mess. Get out of here and clean yourself up. You need to take care of yourself.” Carlos was purposely harsh to give Pedro some time to cool his head.
“I know man, I know. I have something to do actually, I'll see you after lunch.” Pedro took the opportunity to escape again.
It was news of Rosa that brought a feeling of guilt rushing over him. He had to see her.
* * *
Most sunrises are beautiful, but not this one. Perhaps it was just his state of mind, because the arrays of blue, yellow, and orange spread across the sky were shallow, depressing, and lacking real life; vibrancy; and the vivid colors he was used to. No, this one wasn’t memorable. It was just another event in another day. Minutes passed. The sun was slowly showing its face; revealing the rays that prevent all from staring directly at its blinding presence.
Raúl tasted the cold realities of death, yet in totally inexplicable ways, he was being reformed, not into someone or something else, but into himself; into who he needed to be.
That feeling where you realize that something you believed in and worked towards for so long was all wrong. It was a lie, and now you faced the consequences, unable to receive help, but stuck, stopped, totally immobile, just waiting for the pain to surmount in untenable degrees.
And there was Raúl, lost in the undercurrent, hidden away in another world not his own, seeking a path foreign to the world he belonged to. And here was Raúl, suffering in such a profound manner that can only be seen as a horror, and being touched in the deepest parts of his being, unleashing the core of his soul to something foreign and unthinkable. But above all else, despairing for who he was, and the failure of who he tried to become.
Raúl stared blankly and just then everything finally clicked. It was at that moment Raúl had perfect vision. Each pounding of his migraine coalesced into a solid stream, pushing his spirit beyond himself.
'Early dusk: the figure appeared from the shadows; pale like the moon; his eyes glowing with intense fury. Unsheathing his sword from his back, he readied for combat. One, two, and then ten men were all slain, smearing his sword with fresh, warm blood, which splashed onto his face and clothes. He simply licked his lips, tasting the dark blood of his enemies, and smiled with menacing approval. The battle ended with one man standing. This was guerrilla warfare, city style.'
'The music resounded through the auditorium. As loud as it was you could tell your ears would be ringing the next day, but it didn’t matter. The melody was eloquent and moving, touching the depth of your soul with sweet comfort. The sound hailed from the most beautiful girl he had ever seen, widely praised by the whole audience. She wore a very modest, but stylish dress that came down to her knees. Her long wavy hair brushed lightly across her perfectly browned face, a few strands getting stuck to her plump red lips. She had the voice of an angel, strong and commanding, that melted you away while she hung on to that last note without relenting. Everyone was in perfect peace.'
'The Virgin of Guadalupe's eyes opened, and her mouth started moving, literally, with audible words coming forth. She spoke with a soft but authoritative voice. “Where victory and freedom are hand in hand, there you will purge pride and power.”'
Raúl opened his eyes again, glowing with intense fury. “That's what they did. It's him. There's still another way.”
* * *
“I’m getting another vision again.” Pedro told her.
“…What do you see, Pedro?” Gabriella asked, concerned.
“I see this man; he’s up on a hill. He has this power, I can’t explain it, but he’s different somehow.”
“What does it mean?” Gabriella tested him.
“I don’t know. I just want it. I want that he has, I want that difference.” Pedro was serious; desperate.
“Pedro, you’re different too. We’re all different.”
“No, but it’s more than that.”
“Why? What do you mean?”
Pedro looked into her eyes. “He can see clearly, he can see past the visions.”
“…What can he see?” Gabriella realized it as soon as she asked. “He has it,” she said under her breath.
Pedro knew what she meant, but he didn’t have the words, until she said it.