Memoirs of a parricide
Surrounded by books read and to be read, by unpublished manuscripts sent by writers or aspiring writers, by old papers and paid bills and expired contracts, Barclays decides that, since the year is beginning, it will buy a shredding machine and tear that mountain range to shreds. made of old papers that surround his work table. He does not know that in doing so he will summon the ghosts of his past, the dead who refuse to die at all, those who were his lovers or his friends and are now his enemies.
Then, notebooks from the English school appear, on a curious green paper that time has not deteriorated: good grades, some even outstanding, except in physical education, and encouraging comments in English from their teachers. Back then, Barclays was a talkative, know-it-all kid who dreamed of going into politics to please his mother. He did not know that his deep genetic faults, his mental disorders, would prevent him. There are also some papers from the Pontifical Catholic University that attest that he has completed the general studies of letters, but not those of the law school. They are translated into English and sealed by the Foreign Ministry. It was Barclays’ mother, Dorita, a saint, who obtained those certificates and endorsed them at the foreign ministry. He quickly mailed them to his son, Barclays, who lived in Washington. Dorita wanted her son to finish the degree he had left unfinished, to study political science at Georgetown University, to graduate with honors. Stubborn, stubborn, stubborn, Barclays stood like a camel in the desert, refused to continue studying and announced that he would be a writer.
Among the papers from the past are the official documents that prove that Barclays married thirty years ago, in the courts of Washington, with a lady named Casandra Mesías, a political science student at Georgetown University: the marriage certificate, the letter of congratulations from the judge asking for a tip, the legal procedures for Barclays and his wife to obtain temporary residence in the United States and years later permanent residence. There are handwritten love letters, broken promises of love, even poems written by Barclays to his wife. Three decades later, that seems false, exaggerated, childish. Barclays remembers the early mornings when he and his wife stood in long queues at immigration offices, the separate interviews in which they were asked about the color of the sheets on their bed, the color of the oven, the color of the refrigerator, the interviews about the history and geography of the country that they underwent to obtain nationality, the official notebooks that they had to study for that purpose, everything is appearing like a mountain of evidence that points in one direction: Barclays did not want to return to Lima, where was born, and wanted to remain in the United States, where he continues to live.
Right away, the rental contracts for the apartments on Northwest Thirty-fifth Street in Washington, near the university, where he and his wife lived, appear: they paid a thousand dollars a month, and now they charge three thousand; the apartment used to cost one hundred thousand dollars, and now they ask for four hundred and twenty thousand. I should have bought it, he thinks. But then he remembers the freezing winters in Washington, the nights he used to run through the snowy streets, and he says to himself:
-I’m better in Miami. Up there the cold was killing me.
Of all the papers from his past in Washington, perhaps the one that impresses him the most is a short handwritten letter written to him by his uncle Bobby Lerner, a wealthy mining businessman, asking him not to publish his first novel, to exonerate the scandal-sized family, to keep the manuscript in a drawer and dedicate himself to matters that would not bring shame to the family. Of course, Barclays ignored him. Since then, they have drifted apart. Bobby thought his nephew’s novels were lewd, in poor taste. So when he died, he didn’t leave him a penny: he was either ashamed of Barclays, or upset with him.
In so many drawers overflowing with old stationery, Barclays finds the papers for his divorce with Casandra, the courses they were forced to take to get a divorce before the Miami courts, and he wonders if that divorce, already parents of two girls, was not precipitated . Immediately, three photos appear that his lover María Gracia took of him in Santiago and with them comes the memory of how much he loved that free, insolent, fantastic, talented woman. He prefers not to read the interviews in newspapers and magazines: in all of them he seems to look like a complete fool. He also prefers not to read the criticisms of his books: both the good ones and the bad ones seem exaggerated to him. What does capture his attention is the abysmal disparity between his book contracts and television contracts: those of his first books were very meager but then they improved a lot, reaching estimable numbers twenty years ago, and then they began to gradually decline. to the point where the publishers did not agree to pay more advances; those on television show a consistency, an upward curve, an eagerness or a tenacity to continue giving trouble on program after program, channel after channel, country after country: be it Miami or Lima, Bogotá or Buenos Aires, Santiago or Guayaquil, the Television contracts reveal that Barclays listened to his literary agent Carmen Balcells, who advised him:
-Never leave the television.
It also surprises him, shredding papers from his past, reading hotel and airline bills, how much he has traveled, how much he has spent traveling. As the publishers have been reluctant to pay for their trips with the comfort that they wanted, Barclays has preferred to always pay for their trips, all their trips, including work trips. His most frequent destinations have been Madrid and Barcelona, Buenos Aires and Lima, Santiago and Bogotá. He has almost always traveled to these cities to present a book, to attend a book fair, to meet with his agent, to make television programs. The last book fair he attended in Madrid, before the pandemic, was tremendous because hundreds of viewers, perhaps a thousand, of his television program attended. In other words, Carmen Balcells was right:
-Television will make you sell more books and give you the freedom to write whatever you want.
When breaking the accounts of the hotels, he remembers that he used a pseudonym to stay in them: before it was Lucas Bueno, then it was Javier Garcés, lately it has been James Barclays or Jimmy Barclays. He also remembers that over the years his preference for hotels has changed: in Buenos Aires it was always the Alvear, although in times of austerity he chose a coquettish and well-located one, the French Club; in Santiago it was the Sheraton tower because it was one step away from the television channel where he presented a program, but now he prefers the Ritz; in Bogotá it was always the Hotel Portón; in Barcelona it was the Claris and now it is usually the Mandarin, with a remarkable spa and pool; and in Madrid it was the Wellington, then it was the Ritz until he found a live spider in his bed, and now it’s back to being the Wellington, the hotel for bullfighters. Shredding hotel bills in Copenhagen, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Barclays remembers that her boyfriend was very refined, very exquisite, and did not tolerate four-star hotels: in Stockholm, at the Berns hotel, he made a scandal because he said that the The hotel was very old and smelled like shit, so he moved to a more expensive and modern one, the Lydmar, but Barclays stayed at the Berns because the singer Mika, whom he adored, had slept there.
Papers from the past also evoke disgraceful deeds, unfortunate events: traffic tickets in several countries (especially Canada) for driving fast and parking badly; official communications stating that his driver’s license in Miami has been suspended; courses that he studied and exams that he raffled to recover that revoked license; properties he bought in Lima, paying for an apartment under construction, a building under construction, which was left half-built, without the seller, a man with the surname Lanata, taking the trouble to return the money or give him an explanation; properties he bought in Miami, leaving a security deposit, only to later regret it and lose the deposit; bank accounts that were closed for withdrawing too much cash; even bad checks that paid him to present a theatrical monologue in Santo Domingo: all those infamous papers awaken ghosts, summon demons, resurrect zombies and face those ghostly creatures in front of Barclays, who sinks into sadness, thinking:
-I’m a moron, a great moron.
But there are also the papers of his daughters, which bring a fresh breeze of happiness and perhaps even measured pride: the happy trips when they were children because as adults they prefer not to continue traveling with him; the handwritten notes they sent him; the movie tickets for the many movies they watched together; university accounts; the occasional money transfers to New York, to Connecticut, to Philadelphia; the strange persistence of Barclays in showing their unconditional love by always sending them money, through thick and thin and through the worst, and not getting involved in giving hateful advice or setting limits, rules or standards of conduct. When reading the records of the payments to the universities, of the purchases of the vans, of the semi-annual remittances of money, Barclays thinks:
I haven’t been such a bad father after all. At times I have been an absent father, but financially always present.
Finally, there are papers that time seems to question, to call into question: was it necessary to buy not one, but three pistols? And how the hell did one of the guns get lost? Was it necessary to travel to Panama to buy some pills that you couldn’t get in Miami, travel one day and return the next day with a briefcase full of pills, hundreds of pills, feeling like a drug trafficker? Was it necessary to spend so much money on the opulent party for his thirty-five years and the gargantuan dinner for his fifties? And, above all: was it really necessary to call his father and his uncle Bobby “mean bastards” for disinheriting him? Barclays then arrives at that disturbing conclusion, after tearing up mountains of paper:
I am a parricide.