The Romantic on The Romance Reviews

The Romance Reviews

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Romantic Musings: The Romantic (pt 8)

Despite the years that had passed, Hadriel Alighieri had not forgotten Sophia Paula. He worked day and night in America. Uncle Mauricio Maravilla-Fuentes had procured him a job as a dishwasher, and later as a cook. The pay wasn’t much, but the experience proved invaluable.
He learned to speak English from the waitresses that flirted with him in the restaurant, and befriended the bus boys who wanted to learn profanities in Spanish. He gave piano lessons to supplement his income, and spent his free time at the local library, which was within walking distance of where he lived with his uncle in a quiet Chicago suburb.
His studious nature impelled him to enroll in night school at the university where Uncle Mauricio Maravilla-Fuentes taught. And he prepared to take the U.S. Naturalization test for the purposes of becoming a naturalized U.S. Citizen. After Hadriel Alighieri passed the exam, Uncle Mauricio Maravilla-Fuentes guided him on the path to citizenship.
“You earn your place in this country, mijo. The world is filled with people who will remind you of your flaws, and who will confuse your heritage with their prejudices. When you do things correctly, with your pride and your dignity intact, then the bastards can take nothing from you.”
Uncle Mauricio Maravilla-Fuentes knew what it meant to be an immigrant. He had seen how Americans treated his fellow countryman. The ones who crossed the border into El Norte: without papers and without permission and without guidance. In a country where culture was replaced by tradition and the most recent migrant was viewed with disdain, Uncle Mauricio Maravilla-Fuentes ensured that his nephew would succeed.
As a full-time student, Hadriel Alighieri pursued a degree in mythological studies. His passion for books and his interest in understanding the human experience revealed in mythology attracted the attention of a colleague of Uncle Mauricio Maravilla-Fuentes, named Abdul-Karim Aziz.
Professor Aziz recognized something in Hadriel Alighieri that reminded him of his youth. He was a boy in need of guidance. An immigrant. He had yet to discover his purpose, yet he had already lost the love of his life.
“Tell me, young Hadriel Alighieri. What is the name of the goddess who hides in your heart?” Professor Aziz handed Hadriel a stack of books from the cart.
Hadriel Alighieri cast him a quizzical glance and dismissed the professor’s observation. He had not spoken of Sophia Paula in well over two years. Not when he was alone, for the mere mention of her name threatened to shatter his heart. Nor with anyone else, lest he find himself wandering through the dark corridors of his heart, haunted by a ghost that didn’t remember his name.
Professor Aziz and Hadriel Alighieri pushed the carts through the aisles of the library. They returned the books to their shelves.
“If you do not wish to reveal her name, I understand.” Professor Aziz shrugged. “So long as you never forget it.”
“Forget what?” Hadriel Alighieri turned, bewildered.
“The name of the goddess with whom you’re still in love.” Professor Aziz handed him a heavy volume.
Hadriel Alighieri did not answer. Instead, he ran his fingers over the burgundy colored leather bound cover. “War and Peace. Leo Tolstoy. Epic.”
“But all that is only life’s setting, the real thing is love—love!” Professor Aziz quoted Captain Ramballe.
Hadriel Alighieri avoided the professor’s eyes and returned the book to the shelf. Professor Aziz studied him momentarily. He recognized the pain that Hadriel Alighieri hid. It lingered like a wisp of smoke behind the image of the goddess reflected in his glistening brown eyes.
Hadriel Alighieri had harbored hope where none existed, heard her whisper in the rain, and clung to the memory of his sweet obsession. He endured the curse of every man. He had suffered the inevitability of unrequited love. And he would not have resisted that hushed affection to avoid the purest of pain.
But he was a different person now. Detached. Indifferent. Alone. Everyone had said that change would be good for him. And it was.
But it wasn’t.
Professor Abdul-Karim Aziz asked Hadriel Alighieri to accompany him for lunch. They walked to a nearby restaurant renowned for it’s authentic Indian cuisine.
“Lunch time is ideal for sampling foreign foods.” Professor Aziz waved a hand over the buffet. “You may try different things for a low price and find something that will appeal to your taste buds.”
Hadriel Alighieri filled his plate with a flavorful array of the professor’s suggestions. Tawa Paneer, sautéed cottage cheese cubes with onions in an orange masala sauce; both Chicken and Lamb Kheema Samosas, deep friend pastry cones stuffed with minced meats and spices; Tandoori Shrimp and Lamb chops marinated in exotic Indian spices, served with Kali Dal, over white rice.
“In essence, life is a buffet and love is the main course.” Professor Aziz continued when they sat. “One will not always know what they love most without having tasted the bitterness of heartbreak, or the acerbity of betrayal. And, perhaps it will be that you will always favor one above all the rest, but first you must taste a little here and a little there, to be certain.”
“What if I find that nothing compares to the one I may never taste again?” Hadriel Alighieri asked before he drank the mango juice.
“Then at least you will be certain of what you want, and have the courage to pursue it in lieu of hiding inside your books where you wait for a sign that isn’t there.”
Hadriel Alighieri smiled.
When they had completed their meal, Professor Aziz turned to Hadriel Alighieri and said, “I’d like you to work as my assistant. Your eyes reflect passion. Your mind loves mythology. That’s a good combination in this field.”
“And what field is that?” Hadriel Alighieri asked.
“The field of myth, of course.” Professor Aziz shrugged. “Where gods and goddesses intervened on mortal affairs.”
“I would like that.” Hadriel Alighieri nodded. “I will work day and night, grading papers until dawn, and addressing the students’ concerns when you are in meetings. In exchange, I request that we leave this business about the goddess in the past.”
The professor laughed. “Even if you immerse yourself in work. Even if you meet another goddess, and she too breaks your heart, you will never escape your shadow. For the memory of true love lingers. Always near.”

1 comment:

  1. I found your great blog through the WLC Blog Follows on the World Literary Cafe! Great to connect!