I am with my love in La Colombina, a room with forty narrow windows and a stained glass spine to the ceiling and calligraphic iron scribbles for roof support. The sea stands still beyond hillsides of innumerable houses, folded and tucked shapes of plaster and painted tin. A seagull waits at the open window beside me, attentive, alert, sure, not even cocking his head as he plants himself on the wave-like ripples of the metal roof. Nameless-to-me purple flowers on long, wavery branches are like strange sea coral behind him. I eat razor clams and reinetta and unknown fishes until I am replete. I drink champagne and agua mineral. All is light and contentment that drifts in from the Pacific, hovering over the houses with balcony gardens and sleeping porches.
I wait for you like a lonely house / till you will see me again and live in me. Love poems and Stalinism of Pablo Neruda pass through my mind and float away, and for an instant I recall how Borges and Octavio Paz found Neruda wanting as a man, though not as a poet…
Soon we will gather up our woodblock prints from the Mapuche street artist, Lonkomille, and the woven hat and the bow ties from an old-fashioned haberdasher’s shop with endless cases and cabinets and hat boxes, and (because it is Monday and, alas, the house is shut and padlocked) we will bribe someone to let us into the steep, lush Valparaiso garden of Pablo Neruda.
Afterward we will climb down the thousands of steps—some rainbow-striped—past the graffiti and fanciful murals of Valparaiso, past the broken funicular, past the Coca-Cola signs from a hundred years ago. And all this time we will be happy, though tomorrow in Santiago Michael will be robbed in Bella Vista, near Neruda’s La Chascona, and we will be toted off to the abode of the carabinieros to file a report, and so for that reason I will never, ever in all my life go inside any of the lonely houses of Pablo Neruda.