Church bells collided every hour or so on top of the Iglesia del Santo Domingo. They rang one second in the left ear and one in the right when Lucca ran in circles playing fύtbol and caking his body with silky dirt. Between bells, the silences stretched for boundless plates of food and adult conversations when Lucca wasn’t allowed to leave the table and didn’t allow himself to say a word. The church bells rang from the center of his body when Lucca slept, especially on weeknights, where calming spanish chatter came less frequently at 2 in the morning. On nights like these, when the silence felt as dark as the sky outside, Lucca would dream of the bells, so strong the wind couldn’t sway them, monoliths. He would just let them be in his mind…so still that time meant nothing. He would dream this image, resting in a cove without noise.

Then the hammer would drop and swing clockwise to the left and

         he never managed to wake up before it struck –

                 – and that’s why Lucca always hears the church bells collide.

The church bells collided at 2pm when Lucca slipped past the cobblestone corner of Calle Puente and Calle Santo Domingo. He was sprinting to his favorite trees – with the small yellow sweet and sour fruits – and didn’t bother thinking about the tough trunks of strangers’ legs that dashed around the streets around him. Seven-year-old Lucca almost fit right underneath the legs of a black-trousered man. His eyes, however, were just at zipper level. And the last thing Lucca saw was the gold glint of a fly only halfway zipped.

People were pushing each other to see the root of the public spectacle and nobody called for an ambulance. Lucca missed a church bell for the first time of his life. He never felt time again.

A mandolin with three strings formed in Lucca’s mind. In slow-time, he began to notice a powerful wind, pulling the small yellow sweet and sour fruits down from the trees and lifting little pamphlets with the mother Carmen to the sky in peaceful spirals. The stands of mercadores lifted and scooted across the asphalt a few centimeters at a time. The occasional car could hardly move in its willed direction. The church was undulating and the flagpole bowed under the forceful flight of the Chilean colors. The mandolin rested on the steps of Santo Domingo and let the wind pass through the strings and the soundhole without rocking on its concave back.

Lucca saw a bright red dress frolic up the stairs. He saw flashing white socks and dance shoes – her delicate feet skipped up the steps so lightly in the shortest moments. She dashed up the marble stairs, floated down to her knees and enclouded the mandolin with wispy fabric. She became formless in the wind, with a fleet of cloth birds swirling and encircling and covering every inch of her body. He occasionally glanced gold brown limbs and strands of black hair in the flight. He felt like crying. Her name was Isadore.

He lost thought of the trees and fruits and cars and mercadores and flagpoles. They had become still again. Santiago was silent and waiting. The birds encircling Isadore began to calm, and one by one retreated back into the bright red dress. All was still again. She sat, legs crossed on the marble steps of the towering Santo Domingo, with her mandolin resting in the cloud of her lap, with the soft left fingers of her left hand holding the neck and pressing the strings, and her beautiful, tan, right hand covering her bosom and waiting a centimeter from the doubled strings. He stared at her fingers, slightly curled and hovering over the top of the soundboard…holding a baby. He stared at her index finger. It looked prepared and poised and like a hammer.

She struck the string

Image: Untitled by Roberto Matta, ca. 1938. Colored wax crayon and lead pencil on paper.