Life goes on in better weather. Paula continues to serve as my muse in Mama Racha. Rare are bad weather days in Buenos Aires, fine days are common, and some are even better. We are coming into a string of better as the “good airs” blow us out of winter and into spring. (Sorry for you folks who have it backwards up north. Greet your winter.)
Paula has been doing well in the muse department lately — she does not know she does this, and if she knew the magic would probably disappear. It is her simple presence, like a painting on a wall, perfectly played music from a distant window, a persistent daydream … . An unsuspecting literary guardian angel. She checks on me, passes by and glances over my shoulder to make sure there are words on the screen, not Internet dawdling, and she protects my things (so I can walk away from my table for whatever purpose and know nothing will happen to my computer or phone or pen). I would be embarrassed if Paula looked over my shoulder and did not see work. What better hope for a muse?
Paula is young — from my aging perspective, everyone in the world is young. I think she is in her late-20s. She has had a boyfriend for a long time, but now they are having trouble and trying it out as “friends.” Just friends is always the last stage of any romance. She lives in the center of the city, in a flat with three or four other girls. She used to live closer to Mama Racha, but moved to save money. She is always broke. Once I offered to help her (in a very small way) and she became immediately indignant with me.
She is pretty, has luxurious hair, wears no makeup, has one (visible tattoo) on the outside of her left ankle. It is small; I think it’s a dolphin or some sort of fish. She is usually serious and mature, although she has the little girl trait of falling down a lot, skinning her knees, either tripping or falling off her bicycle; she goes around town (this most dangerous of all towns in traffic) on a bike. She wears small bits of adornment (not really jewelry), a hand painted sweat band around one wrist, one always large earring and always only in one ear, a cheap maybe silver ring, and sometimes an odd pin on her shirt, something she made.
She is from a town in the north and came to Buenos Aires to work for the money to continue university; she is studying … not sure what to call it: technical theater? The not acting part. I told her once that she was attractive enough and had such a distinct personality that she should try acting. She laughed like I was crazy. She is quite shy, really, and cannot imagine herself being watched or stared at. Her parents are divorced and she says it doesn’t really bother her, she says they are happier this way. Her mother is an artist, her father an architectural designer.
Paula has been doing a good job with me lately. I was dead stuck probably two-thirds of the way through “Only Love,” unable to move forward, creeping toward the fear of having to abandon it yet again. I had taken a turn down the wrong path and written myself into an impassable corner.
This happened while I was working, or trying to work, in another café. Then I went back to Mama Racha and realized I had gone wrong because I had no muse. With Paula passing by regularly to glance at the screen, with Paula standing behind me with her hand on my shoulder and squeezing, telling me to stop looking so depressed and get back to work, in one exploding leap backwards, I deleted all the work of the past six weeks (more than 9,000 words), and found where I had taken the wrong path.
I am now on the right path, and now I can see every page of his novel from here to the end. I am going to finish it in a little while — weeks, probably, not months.
As long as my muse keeps looking over my shoulder.