The Death of Frederico Garcia Lorca
Drew HurleyLorca knocked lightly on the door. Almost immediately it was opened by Jose Pedro de Calderon, “please come in. Have a seat,” he pointed toward the chairs in the center of the room. Facing him sat Miguel Cervantes. Next to him was an empty chair for Jose; facing them was a comfortable chair for Lorca.
As Lorca hesitantly approached the chairs, Cervantes awkwardly stood, still suffering from the injuries he sustained during his lifetime. He smiled as Lorca reached him, “what an honor and pleasure it is to finally met you.”
Lorca beamed, “the honor and pleasure is mine, sir. You have been my hero since I was a little boy and first discovered Don Quixote.” Lorca shook his hand and then demurely in the chair opposite Cervantes.
de Calderon spoke as he circled behind the sitting Lorca, “you have petitioned the almighty for permission to return early to earth. As you know, for such permission to be granted, you must be free from bitterness, hostility and anger.” Taking his seat next to Cervantes he continued, “please tell us the circumstances concerning your birth.”
“It has been over three years, and I still have trouble thinking about it, Jose. It still hurts every time I recall what happened. So I usually try to avoid talking about that subject altogether,” Lorca spoke with even, measured tones and a hint of tension in his voice and he shifted his weight in the comfortable chair.
“But, surely, you are not going to back out of this on us now, are you Freddito...? After we received your petition, I’ve looked forward to hearing you tell us about this. We are your friends, Frederico.” Miguel Cervantes earnestly pleaded, “tell us, what happened?”
“You really do want to know all of this, don’t you? Yes. I suppose you,” Frederico nodded his head slightly.
“Well, Miguel, it all began back in the little village of Fuente Vaqueros....”
Cervantes laughed, then spoke briskly with the soft sound of velvet in his voice, “you don’t have to start that far back.”
Lorca smiled at the effect of his joke, then began, “it was 1936. They were having a war. I really hadn’t paid much attention to it actually. Oh, I read some of the newspaper stories, but I didn’t believe most of what they wrote. It was terrible, really. Most of those political editorials were absolutely disastrous, if you applied any standard of prose to them. The grammar and syntax were terrible. Many of the words were misspelt.”
“I guess my vanity gave me such a false sense of security that I let my guard down. I mean, I really loved the Spanish people. My poetry and prose were odes of love to the people I truly cared about. And they were popular. My books sold amazingly well; better than I had ever expected. People, everywhere I went, spoke to me about their loves and their lives, so I never had a shortage of material. I was a man of love. I did not think that it was possible to fear, or hate me.... What could I, a poet, have done to them?
“And, also, I did not want to think that anyone believed the awful lies they were telling about me. They were terrible. I did not do any of those evil things the Falangists said I did. There were no homosexual orgies, or blackmailing men to fight for the democrats. They needed a scapegoat and I must have suited their purposes. But, I honestly don’t know why they singled me out.”
“I was not political. It is true that my sympathy went to the democrats and that some of them, personally, were my friends; but I had no real interest in politics. And when the fighting began; that was terrible. I hated the war.”
“I had always been so sick as a child, and I had to fight so hard just to stay alive that I came to value life quite highly. Because it would have been so easy for me to have just let go -- and no go on living -- I developed a finer appreciation and respect for those who hold onto life so lovingly.”
“I loved life. That is why I went into music, acting and poetry in the first place.”
“Music. Singing was my real first love in life. Being frail, perhaps I was sensitive to vibrations and sound waves; I don’t know. But I always loved music. Any music. It always sent shivers up and down my spine.”
Now smiling for the first time, Lorca continued, “I loved singing. I could really pour my heart out in a good song. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the patience or the discipline to work hard at it. I always thought that singing should be enjoyable; never hard work. That is the truth, and not just a rationalization.”
Cervantes nodded, “of course.”
“I could have been a much better singer if I had worked harder at it,” Lorca suggested, “but, I didn’t, and therefore I wasn’t.”
“That is went I took up acting,” Lorca beamed, then laughed. “But, I was terrible. I might have been a fairly decent singer if I had kept at it, but there was no way that I could have ever been a creditable actor.”
“I was too self-conscious. I could never relax on stage. I never felt comfortable playing a role. I kept thinking that the audience could see through my flimsy disguise, and that they could see that underneath it all I was naked,” Frederico shifted uneasily in his chair, trying to hide his imaginary nakedness.
Cervantes asked, “did you really think that, Freddito?
“Oh, yes! I really did. That is why I sometimes pulled off one of those zany stunts that I periodically came up with. It wasn’t that I was deliberately trying to create a novel performance. More often than not. I just panicked and was trying to hide. It was while I was trying to hide that I did most of those outlandish things, which eventually earned me a very notorious reputation.”
Jose interjected, “what sort of things did you do?”
“Oh,” Lorca was surprised they Had not heard. “Once I just off stage and tried to hide in the audience. Which, of course, I couldn’t do because everyone was watching me to see what I would do. So, I started kissing all of the women in the audience.
“On another occasion, I couldn’t think of anything else to do when I panicked, so I just started dancing. Then I thought, this is crazy, so I cajoled the audience into dancing too. Finally, everyone was dancing and having a really good time of it. Suddenly, I went into a mock-rage and yelled, ‘Stop! What are you doing?! Why are you interrupting this drama with your frivolous dance?! This is an outrage! Drama is a serious business. Sit down and behave yourselves. Actors, continue your performance!’”
“That was a terrible thing to do, Frederico,” chided Miquel with a twinkle -- more of admiration than of chagrin -- in his voice. “Why did you do such things?”
“It was all de Falla’s fault,” Lorca explained. “He was so great. His music would always inspire me to great heights. Then I could never achieve these lofty ambitions I set for myself. In those moments of terror, I thought of myself as a failure. Out of that terror -- out of that desperation -- I pulled off these feats of theatrical genius. But, Manuel de Falla was responsible for it all. His music was so exquisite, he deserves the credit and the glory.”
“The truth of the matter was that I couldn’t keep it up. At first, I was just lucky. Then I got quite good at shocking audiences. Of course, as soon as I realized all of this, I knew that I was not meant to be an actor.”
“That’s why I began to write poetry. I really couldn’t do anything else. I was articulate enough because as a child I was usually too sick to go outside and play with the other children, so I stayed at home to read.”
“Later, I traveled a lot, particularly when I was trying to make a go of it as first a singer then as an actor. And I really like people. I talked with people everywhere I went and they told me of their loves, their lives, and their dreams.”
“That is why, Miguel, I could not believe the newspapers. No one that I knew believed them. I shudder to think what future historians will say about me. Is it possible that somewhere, sometime, there will actually be people who believe the newspapers?”
“Frederico, you’ve gotten off the point,” chided Miguel, soothingly.
“Not really. The point is this: I really love people. All of the people. I never took sides during the Civil War. I certainly didn’t advocate one side over the other, and I never picked up a gun. Ever.”
“I hate guns. I tried to avoid having them around me. I guess that is one of the reasons why my assassins were so successful,” he shook his head ruefully.
“Well, when the war came to Granada, I wanted to continue to stay in the house where I was living. It was a big, beautiful house on a hillside at the edge of town, with the most magnificent view imaginable. I had my own little garden. Everything was just the way I wanted it. In my house, and patio, I was in heaven.”
“But, my friend Raoul feared for my life. He thought that my house was an easy target, and insisted that I live with him in his apartment in the heart of the democratic center of the town. I thought I was safe there.”
“When they knocked on the door, I thought it was one of the neighbors. I opened the door and saw the muzzle of a gun staring me in the face.”
“I was in shock. I didn’t know what to do. But, they didn’t give me much of a chance. They grabbed me and half-drug and half-pushed me down the stairs and into the back of a waiting car.”
Suddenly, de Calderon leaned to Cervantes and whispered, “he was killed in the apartment....”
“Shhhh...” Miguel Cervantes impatiently cut him off, “let him explain...”
Lorca continued probing his memory, “they were wearing civilian clothes and driving an unmarked car, but they were soldiers. I am sure of it. I could tell by the way that they spoke to each other. At least one of them was an officer; a major, I think. Four of them were clearly enlisted men. The other one, I’m not sure about; probably a sergeant.”
“I asked them why they had taken me and what they wanted me for. I was really shocked when they said they were going to kill me. I actually believed, until then, that I was going to be taken prisoner somewhere.”
“I tried to reason with them, particularly the major; he was clearly in charge. I tried talking to the others, too. But they just shut their minds off. It was like talking to a stone wall. Even their eyes took on a frosty glaze.”
“Here I was, a man who had always lived by his wits, trapped by six men who were absolutely determined to kill me, and I could not communicate with them. They would not listen to the words I spoke. They simply refused to hear me.”
“I was terrified. I has always succeeded in using words before, but now they were useless. All my great images and glorious verbal vignettes failed me. These men were determined not to hear my pleas.”
“It was then that the enormity of the irony hit me. I was really about to be killed -- to have my life forcibly taken from me because of a pack of lies. But, isn’t that the way it always is?”
“Every violent, unwillful death is caused by lies. Which is not to say that every lie causes a death. Goodness no. Thankfully, that is not always the case, but there I was, the victim of those newspaper lies.”
“History is to blame. Nothing that has happened in the past is worth the life of one present person. Humanity is sacred. Life is sacred. There are merely men and women. What could be more simple than that? We are here to love each other; to be happy and successful.”
de Calderon impatient interrupted, “are you getting off the point?”
“No,” Lorca protested, “this is not easy. You see, someone had to invent history. Someone decided to write down a story as to why some event or another took place. And, from at least one point of view, I’m sure that story was valid. The fallacy of history is that by focusing upon the superficial relationships surrounding a particular event we loose sight of the real motivations which people respond to. So, at one level the account in a history book may be accurate, yet this account may ignore the Reality that most people share, and respond to. For the vast majority of these people, the historian’s account of their life is as far removed from them as the man in the moon.”
“Of course, what I really object to is the notion that there can be any possible justification for the murder of a human being. Christ said, ‘Thou shall not kill.’ It is that simple. We are just men and women. All of the social rank, the class systems, the Lords and Ladies -- it is all a sham. It is the most foul obscenity imaginable. It is an illusion created with mirrors, pious words, and sacred symbols. None of it is really there. We trick ourselves into believing it. We are born into a pre-existing world and we learn to accept the prevailing definitions of that world from those around us whom we care about, and who care about us.”
Quickly, Lorca looks directly at Cervantes, “have you ever seen a government, Miguel?”
Surprised, Miguel replied, “are you getting off the topic, again, Frederico?”
“No. I’m serious. Have you ever seen a government?”
Cervantes smiled, “No. It is an abstraction, a concept.”
Pressing the issue, Lorca continued, “Exactly. And the people who make up a government; the politicians, have you seen them?”
“Yes. Of course,” Cervantes agreed. “They are real men and women.”
“No they are not,” Lorca raised his voice. “‘Politicians’ is an abstraction, too. Certainly they are men in the sense that they are no different from anybody else. This abstract concept that we call a ‘politician’ is a role. Just as an actor plays a role upon the stage, the politician plays a role in the government. The difference is that the actor has a script that he, or she, is working from; the politician invents his script as he goes along. Of course, the actor will eventually leave the stage, remove his make up and become the private individual he, or she, was before. The politician, on the other hand, gets so wrapped but in his own script that he begins to believe it all, and eventually it becomes a reality separate and apart from the politician who created it. It then becomes all too easy to forget that these political realities are, in fact, fictitious -- they are all a gigantic lie.”
de Calderon impatiently interrupted, “your point, sir?”
Lorca smiled, “we are all human beings. Period. All the rest of it doesn’t matter, except in our own minds. It is not a reality until we agree to believe the lies we’ve told each other. All of the Kings, Generals, butchers, and plumbers are only men. All of the Queens, prostitutes, milkmaids, and housewives are just women. Of course, we are all different from each other, that is what makes life so much fun. Yet we are all only trying to be happy and successful.”
“So, here I was, in the back seat of a car surrounded by six men who were determined to take away my life. I had no defense. No chance to argue my cause. I was pre-judged. It was the ultimate act of prejudice. And I never knew exactly why they did it.”
I kept asking why, and never got an answer. I think that they knew that no answer would have been good enough, so not responding was their best answer.”
“In desperation, I railed at them. I condemned all politics for its self-evident insanity. There is not a single politician anywhere that does not put his role ahead of his being; ahead of his soul. When I began to preach to them about morality, they shut their ears to me completely.”
“We didn’t drive far. Just to the outskirts of town. They stopped the car along side a deep ravine. It was a big ditch, almost completely dry, but in the Spring, when the rains come, this gully would be a raging torrent.”
“The men (I never really thought of them as soldiers, even though I knew they were) marched me down to gully a ways and the one I think was a sergeant stopped suddenly, and asking if I had a last request.”
“I was startled, but managed to mutter, ‘water. I would like a drink of water.’ There was a canteen in the car, and one of the men was sent to bring it. I tried one last time to appeal to the individual human beings standing opposite me holding those awful guns. I never got through to them. They refused to take control of their own lives. They believed that I should die, and I could do nothing to alter their belief or behavior.”
de Calderon leaned toward Cervantes and whispered, “you know that he never left the apartment...”
Annoyed, Cervantes waved him off, and looked to Lorca, “go on....”
With animation, Frederico continued, “I looked from face to face. The major was worried; he wanted to get it over with in a hurry. One of the enlisted men seemed to be pretty scared; perhaps I had gotten through to him a little. The others didn’t or wouldn’t care.”
“As I drank from the canteen, I knew it would not be long. I thought of water. I remembered the beautiful Guadalentin River where I was raised as a boy. I was seeing an image of the Guadalentin when I heard the shots.”
“Oh, dear God! The sound came first, and then the pain. Oh, did it hurt. I have never known such agony. It hurt so much I had to let go of my life. I couldn’t hold on it any longer. But, I never lost sight of that beautiful river.”
“When my poor aching arms finally let go of life, I clasped my hands together and dove into the peaceful cool refuge of the river Guadalentin.”
After a short pause, Miguel asked, “do you have any regrets?”
There was a moment of hesitation while he consider the question, and then Frederico replied, “no. None, except that I was killed. I don’t mean for this to sound like I’m being vain. I made plenty of mistakes. We all do. We simply must accept that. Sometimes I made my peace with those whom I caused harm, but that didn’t happen very often. Still, I’ve always been a gentle, peaceful, man.”
“Is there any advice,” Cervantes asked, “that you’d like to leave for others?”
“Yes,” Frederico nodded. “Yes there is. Don’t believe the newspapers. It’s a journalist’s job to report what some Politician or General said. The reporter should do that as accurately as he can, but he is not responsible for the truth of those statements. What you have to understand is that politics is the art of lying. There is no reality to it except when people collectively (and individually) choose to believe it. It you strip away all of the lies, the phony facades, and the trappings of power and wealth, you find only a pack of scared, dishonest men.”
“There is nothing else that really matters. The emperor has no clothes. Everyone of us -- all of the time; we are just human beings. When men and women care enough for themselves and each other to not allow any murder -- any unwilling death -- then humanity will be ready to receive God.”
“My advice is this: Love the god that is in every person.”
“I would have hoped that human beings, by now, would have learned the meaning of the crucifixion of Christ. But we have not. Every new Christ -- that is, every new Godly person who lives his or her life fulfilling Christ’s gospel of love -- is similarly crucified; in one fashion or another. Those who perpetrate these foul deeds are denying the divinity of those they murder, and otherwise crucify. They are also denying their own personal divinity, and the collective divinity of mankind by defiling God’s creations so brutally. That is the greatest tragedy of all.”
“When human beings care enough to love all things and everyone, we will finally know God. It is only thought love that we can ever truly know God, and each other, and therefore find happiness and peace of mind. Love life with all your heart, and you shall be truly happy.”
“Thank you, for sharing your experience with us,” Cervantes pulled himself from his chair and clasped Lorca’s hand. “We’ll consider your petition to soon return to earth, and give you our answer soon.”
de Calderon also shook hands with Lorca and then nodded to him as Frederico walked from the room and disappeared from sight. When the echo of his footsteps vanished from the hall, Jose turned to Cervantes, “Miguel, you know as well as I do that Lorca was murdered in Raoul’s apartment. The soldiers beat him severely, stripped off his clothes. They then stuck a rifle up his rectum and fired off the entire clip through his body. A unique penalty for his homosexual behavior they said...”
Cervantes cut him off, “Jose, my friend, we should never allow facts to unduly influence a man’s reality. What happened in that apartment doesn’t really matter. What is important is that we have been able to see these events from his point of view.”
“Yes. That is true,” agreed de Calderon.
Unsteadily, Cervantes grabbed de Calderon’s arm to balance himself, “and did you see too much anger, hatred and bitterness in Lorca’s soul?”
“No,” de Calderon slipped his arm around Cervantes’ shoulder, “there was surprisingly little, actually.”
Pressing his advantage, Cervantes continued, “so, you agree, do you not, that the world needs more of Lorca’s genius and elan. Let’s recommend the approval of his petition.”
Tuesday, 04-May-2010 14:47:46 EDT