EMPTY HANDS

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Within six seconds he would be born, and they’d call him Rupencio González, a name derived from devotion to the Virgin Carmen.  The midwife did not imagine the strange event that would occur after washing the little one.  Such a scandal would arise that the priest would have to bless the baby, so that nobody would say it was bewitched or had been given the evil eye.  The baby seemed to have come out of a magical story; one of those white stories where the ethereal lacks meaning and the sublime becomes a cricket’s song.
    The old ones of the town met to discuss the matter.  It was not enough that the new priest had sanctified it.  No.  Because his wisdom was not based on experience, but in theological concepts learned in some book or in cheap philosophies of the kind they sold in bookstores.  In the town, the unease grew more as the night passed; in every house a lit torch was placed as a sign of vigil; but it more certainly symbolized the fear that their sins had begun to take human form.
    “It’s definitely that the spirits have taken form tonight and have wanted to show us our sins.  Apparently the circle is closing and all the powers we have used for ill are turning against us.  Prepare yourselves, because hard times are coming for us.”
    One of the old men stood up from his chair and walked to the pool and began to intone songs unintelligible to the ears of others.  The water clouded up and strange symbols appeared, indicating to him what had happened; the Crucified also appeared, with bloody hands.
    “Gentlemen permit me to address you and tell you my conclusions about the matter that concerns us.”
    The door opened suddenly and interrupted the voice of the old man.
    The priest walked with firm steps towards the circle. Five feet away from the circle, he stopped, paralyzed by the vision that shone in the pool.
    The old men watched him with indifference and continued their discussion.
    “I believe that a terrible spirit is in the little one.  If it were not so, he would not have the hands he does.”
    “It’s possible, because there is a type of ghost that has them like that.”
    The priest could not continue indifferent to the conversation, and added:
    “Don’t be stupid; don’t you see they’re symbolic?”
    The old man at the pool returned to his place and sat down.  The others watched him, intrigued.
    “Well”—his voice seemed to fall into an abyss of insignificance—“I think the priest is right.  It’s a symbol.  A white truth of Being.”
    “If that’s it, let him show it.”
    The priest addressed them with a trembling voice.
    “I believe that within the evolution of Being towards transcendence, many battles must be fought.  And this fight for one’s identity is reflected in the hands.  It is as if he had worked all the time, since the moment he saw himself closed in that body.  He fought intensely not to be imprisoned in that primary energy. That’s why his hands reflect the intense internal fight to want to be what he had always been obliged to be.  It’s our own battle for identity; we never know who we are, we only understand an imperfect echo of what we believe we are, a sad image that seeks perfection.  They resemble the hands of the Crucified, full of blood, full of themselves.”
    “A very pretty speech, but this doesn’t resolve the problem of the hands.  We have performed countless conjurations with the purpose of returning the hands to their ancient curse.  I don’t believe there’s anybody in the world that can return him or her to their place.”
    The priest interrupted him and stated that he could.
    The druids laughed, except the one who had gone to the pool.  
    “Try it”—they shouted, daring him.
    The priest went to the middle of the table where the little one rested in the wicker basket.  He raised the child in his arms, pronounced a prayer, and plunged him into the pool.  The old ones praised the priest.  Just then the door opened noisily and the very priest who was with them entered.  Everyone was stunned, except the old man of the pool.  The priest of the miracle disappeared in front of everybody.
    “Who was that who looked like me?” —Asked the priest.
    None of the old ones answered.  Silence seemed to raise its hand and sit down among them.  
    “Didn’t you see him?  The same one who was here.”
    “Whom do you mean?”
    “The crucified one, gentlemen, the child…”
    “You’re crazy, that must have been an illusion.”
    The old man raised up the child in his arms and uncovered him, showing the little one’s hands.  They were clearly healthy.  Then he placed him in the basket next to his mother and walked to the pool.  He submersed his hands and lost himself in the crystalline undulations.