Victoria the Mad
This is about Victoria the Mad; fortune’s un-favored, cursed by the gods. For a quarter century a clotting of old spontaneous compulsions and erratic bellowing, yelping and undesirable behavior, she met walking the streets of the Peruvian City of Huancayo, her image, the very image of a mad, indifferent woman, whom neither friend or foe, man or woman, or stranger ever turned to look at twice, walking with tin cup in hand, repetitively looking into shop-windows; alone walking the side streets, around the Plaza de Arms. The mind would soar, glancing and glaring, with inferno long stares into nothingness. Then she’d walk down one side street after another, from one boulevard to another, across the longest stretch of the sky above her head, then down, she cast her eyes down, lost in the crust of the earth, like Moses carrying the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments, down Mount Sinai, only to end up casting them upon the forsaking lot, who abandon the one and true God (Jehovah-Elohim-El Shaddai).
She was often found in the city’s main Plaza de Arms, which is not very large, less large than the State University, the National University of Central Peru (UNCP) that looms outside the city’s limits. But here she roamed the plaza quarter, like a paved street, with all its dust and carbon dioxide, encircling, engulfing, and enveloping her, night and day, marked by naked feet, seeking for shade under the deep rooted Algarrobo trees, with their oval glossy green leaves, and short wide trunk in the brisk cool summers and warm corners by the church in the rainy and wet winters, of this Andean city, and the haunting big stars by night.
Friends and acquaintances told me:
“She was just always there, always around.”
“Been around twenty or twenty-five years, then she up and vanished.”
“She never changed one iota, in all that time. Never changed from the first day I met her.”
“She was always wearing the same clothes it seemed, that black dress, pullover dress she wore—or whatever it was, the same old shredded dress, the one she always wore, sitting on someone’s door steps, like a mutt waiting to be fed, insisting she be fed, I doubt she ever had another dress.”
“She spoke no more than ten different words, or perhaps a few more, but not many, although she could cuss a llama blind.”
Evidently she had never had any schooling beyond the elementary stage, which is required. No one knew how she was when I asked about her, how she was getting along, people who had lived in the city all their lives, whom appeared to have know her—had faded recollections of her, had no idea if she still lived or had died, and if she had died, if long buried. It seemed a mild, if not hopeless mad woman, a mad woman who looked as if at one time, she could have been handsome—seemingly she had the features to have been—perhaps even a professional, but now only a lost fable of a half-tramp, a silly, impractical woman, in a Christian community, from the 1960s—who dragged her frame from here to there—through the mid 1980s, who had lived a miserable but quiet happiness, alone, within herself—all had forgotten her—no, not quite forgotten, but almost gone, time had elapsed for the city and its people, the new generation was now taking command, and she was just a photograph, a part of the past, represented on a snapshot enlarged, for some odd reason, taken out of the files, of the city’s borough, for an exhibition, a show the city held one summer in the municipality plaza, and there I saw her for my first time (2005).
Perhaps quite happy and quite poor, the beggar woman, half crazed (perhaps bipolar, with an ounce of paranoia, depression; and perchance a borderline schizophrenic—who’s to say?) with a tin coffee can in hand, for change or coffee, or whatever, perchance soup.
But I went through the trouble and risk of stealing this story and her hardships, lest I think about writing this tribute the rest of my life. I’ve sure enjoyed what I’ve gone to the trouble to get, and much will not be said, that I’ve learned, it would only take the satisfaction out of what I’ve already written thus far.
“Enjoyed what?” you say.
“The story” I mean what do you think she was thinking those twenty-five years, just coming daily and looking at the plaza and its people? She didn’t act, and she was not rich. That’s a fact. By the look on her face, and her composure, from the one photograph I saw of her, soaked in mud up to her ankles, and barefoot, hair knotted, like a hornets nest, a naked child (retched and bewildered, but not mortified) yet, one who isn’t got sense enough to know she needs to worry about something, so she worries about nothing. She lived in a world where all faces were alien faces, even more so, once absorbed.
What was she doing in the plaza: perhaps she was doing judgment enough to keep her busy, maybe she was saying: “Is this happiness, is this what it’s all about? Is that what happens to you sooner than later, or later than sooner? Darn fools, how long do they think it will last? We don’t live forever. And here I am—” She stops, stares into the multitude of faces, eyes, limbs; she notices their agility, perpetual movements, almost as if on automatic impulse—she has a voice inside her head, that keeps her busy from such unawareness; all this is all about her, all around her, and she can’t help but notice the uncountable pigeons flying to and fro, being fed by the populace, the children, as they run after the pigeons. How ungraceful, she thinks, dirty pigeons, scavengers who eat garbage, but they feed them well.
She forgot who paid for her coffee, and the bread biscuit she has. She doesn’t know, and she’s not curious, she’s one of God’s sparrows, and He feeds all his sparrows, we all know that—people feed pigeons.
“What do you ask of a sparrow, you should ask no more of her?” God tells me this (right at the end of this story, so I can put it in, tell you), somehow he whispers it into the back chambers of my mind, you know, that second-self we all got, we talk to now and then, but never admit that we do to anyone—least they think we are crazy. But I can’t find her to feed her, so I feed the sparrows instead.
Afterward: Had I asked her about her plight in life, and had she had the spoken words to tell me, she might have said: “Some are born for one thing, and some are born of another. And the person that is born a guppy or tadpole, it’s no use trying to be anything else, like a shark, or fat trout, she’s just going to be what she was meant to be—other than a fool for trying.”
That’s what she would have told me, I do believe. And I’ve now done my part—I think her and I would have gotten along quite well. If I told you the full truth of my life story, she hasn’t been all that bad. Sometimes, some things just isn’t in the lot and plan for mortal man and mortal woman to know—who would ever have guessed, she’d be a legend!
No: 725 (1-31-2011)