Jorge Cuevas  




The Elixir

My favorite medal is the one they give you at the Rome Marathon.1 It's bronze colored and it shows the outlines of athletes sprung to life, from Ancient Rome, running with a she-wolf. They hung the medal on my neck, but I had to keep on running.

I saw some gladiator lying on the ground, a fellow marathon runner, completely dehydrated from the battle. The paramedics were trying to revive him. The Roma Forum was behind me, ahead was the Colosseum. I was now running my 26th mile.

I continued through the Via Capo d'Africa, where I saw some other gladiators resting on the sidewalk. They were laughing and sipping beer. I I longed for a drink myself, but couldn't stop, I had to hold on to my own elixir.

I ran through the Via Claudia, and I witnessed what seemed to me an apparition, for there were two female gladiators, bathing with buckets of water in their underwear. I couldn't say if they were real. Because of watching them a car almost ran me over.

Going into 29th mile, I picked up the scent of oranges, coming from a small quaint fruit stand. And I couldn't help but picture myself squeezing the juice out of a slice of orange and into my mouth, and lying in cold water just to forget about the heat. But again, I couldn't stop, since I already knew in my mind what I wanted and I had to get it. It was now the final stretch, uphill.

And so it was that I came to stop in front of the building with the number 202 on it, at Via Gallía.

The door was made of wood, but when I tried to push it open, it felt like stone. I had to use my whole body to really push it open. The old elevator wasn't working, so I climbed up the stairs, leaning on the railing. The key was big and old, and the door creaked. I saw the lamps, the worn-out furniture, the kitchen, the coffee maker and finally my notebook, underneath a coffee cup that still contained its smell.

I grabbed my pen, sprawled myself out on the floor, and wrote down the answer I had found. It was the answer I had been searching for when I ran outside that morning, through 3,000 years of history and almost 30 miles.

This idea, this answer, was now caught in paper. I read it out loud and it felt as if I were listening to some part of me I had previously ignored, but had always been there.

I read it again just to make sure, and I knew beyond a doubt that I had found the elixir.

It wasn't just the answer to my life, it also gave me the knowledge of why I had decided to write this book, 28 weeks before the Rome Marathon. This idea gave me a feeling of sense, a central concept, clarity. It simply put everything in its place.

Writing is the easiest part of creating a book, drafting is just like maquila labor2. The difficult part is to find what you really want to say indeed.

The elixir, as I wrote it down, wasn't long. It was just the answer. It went straight to the heart of it, the guiding point.

I was no longer in a hurry, so I took a shower before starting to get ready.

I took my shirt off, and felt my armpits chafed. I noticed a few drops of blood dripping down my nipples. When I took my shorts off, I saw how raw my fleshed seemed, in my groin and my butt. When I felt the water, everything burned. But I couldn't have cared less, it only heightened my experience.

Then I raised my head, opened my mouth and drank as much water from the shower head as I could. It was my celebration. I celebrated over my resistance, for holding on until I captured the elixir. Too many times I had told myself: I'll write it down later. Every single one of those times I had forgotten what I wanted to say.

I walked very slowly down the stairs. After running like that, it's always a lot harder going down the stairs than up. I walked over toward the coffee shop just a couple of doors down from my building, and sat down in the terrace. I felt the April sunshine of a Sunday in Rome.

—Prego —a gray haired man took

Recibe antes que nadie historias como ésta