He closed his eyes and let go of his last breath, which fluttered away in the shape of moths and monarchs battling each other as they flew into oblivion. Those were his last feelings and hopes for something ideal and magical, all which he hadn’t let go until that last moment.
He had been a hopeless romantic for as long as he could recall. That feeling, that longing, was as old as his memories of toys or the first time he discovered airplanes, or the cold nature of ice. Both his creative soul and artistic inspirations had conditioned him to become the hopeless romantic. The characters of his youth, belonging to the pages of Dickens and Gabo and Fitzgerald and Allen and Poe, all echoed with his own existence. Even his Colombian of the hips and the Spaniard troubadour would sing of lost loves and romantic mirages.
It was in the embrace of death that he realized his hopelessness had been a defense mechanism, a mere trap laid by his upbringing, his ambitions, and his own persona.
He had written enough about his musings, his muses, and all his clichéd creative sensibilities, always reaffirming his own image of an artist. No one around him would consider that a secret. Yet, deep inside him, the fountainhead of it all stood hidden between his nature and his intent. His hopelessness allowed him to justify failure before it happened. It was the gamble rigged to be successful whether in victory or failure, just like that of Flynn, Florentino, and Gatsby: yearn for the unattainable muse, the one who likes to be the source of inspiration and object of attraction, the one who will foster that interest into an obsession, but who won’t reciprocate or give in to the suitor—unless a lifetime has gone by. With that gamble, unrequited love, that massive failure, becomes the epitome of “romantic” in all its idealness and nobility. Even in the remote chance of a happily-ever-after by the end, that would just heighten the heroism of such a hard-labored romance.
Had he not taken to heart the advice of the philosopher of Madrid? “Beware of ideals,” had been the warning…
Every chapter of his life had been that cycle, repeated with different names for the same archetypes and settings, yet always with the same climax and dénouement. Find a muse, get inspired, rise for and because of her, and lose her…
He wondered what the name of her would be next, right before exhaling his butterfly hopes. He pondered the viciousness of the repetition, laying waste of friendships that were meant to make history, and wrecking memories that had once felt happy. Only ghosts and carcasses and myths remained.
He had to be both the villain and the protagonist—his own antihero in the whole debacle. In each debacle, really. His smarts were telling him so then. How could he expect to be a conqueror, if he didn’t have the physique or the strength? How could he expect to surpass the common ending if he lacked the moral lax? Yet his pride, his constant and primo mobile, had never allowed him to consider those facts. In his fiction, his flaws built his character and made him even a better protagonist. His crooked teeth, scarce hair, and bespectacled eyes comprised the features of his profile. He would have to come to terms with the truth and put his self-made fictions to rest after his last breath.
He realized his ambitions and passion had not been enough. Back home, years before, he knew he would end like that—far away and on his own. When he left, he knew he would never go back. At home, his hopeless romanticism had a purpose: to allow him to severe ties, or more accurately, to have none. No relationship, no one person, saddled him in his mission to reach greatness away from home. His ever-successful neurosis of failing and falling for muses had even pushed him closer towards greatness and departure each time. Again, his failure had meant success in other terms.
Flynn and Gatsby reverberated in his mind, voicing mutedly that success away from home, away from her, the unattainable muse, would always be the sweetest revenge and bitterest failure.
His upbringing was to blame for it all. His damn upbringing had derived his many fatal flaws that had set him on his road to greatness up the mountaintops of humanity and off to a deep cliff of perdition. He had been doomed from the beginning, from the Word, to a special kind of Hellish solitude among a cornucopia of friends. He thought of all his allies, handful of good friends, and dear family who would be bereaved of his existence after those moments. He also thought and regretted the absence of a companion to make his quest in this life worthwhile. Thank goodness he would cease to exist in that Hellish solitude that had started with his family. All the men in his family had been failures, many times worse than his own failure, so how could he expect to be the exception to the rule? How much hubris did that require? Besides, he knew there was an exception already whenever he thought of his great grandfather, the General and history maker who had triumphs amongst saints and sinners alike. The curse of the men of his family had always been a demon in his mind, always reminding him of the impending doom while also pushing him harder to be unique and break the hex.
Yet he realized by then that the curse extended not only to the men but to the couples, all made by pairing up embodied cautionary tales with fearless amazons. His parents had begun as a pseudo-romantic story with codependency undertones that later unfolded as a plot penned by Dostoievsky. His grandparents, both sets of them in fact, could be summarized as stories of love that had been lost in lust whenever third parties had entered the stage.
He thought further of his Grandfather, of whom he reminded everyone who had known him. He flinched at the thought of his flaws shared with his Grandfather, and the family hex. If he was the reincarnation of his Grandfather, wouldn’t that mean he was doomed to the same fate? Hadn’t his Grandfather squandered his own talents and betrayed the love of his life, for an unexpected and lesser Calypso of the country plains? How the Hell could he expect to be know what true love, or functional love, was if history and reality had failed to show him? His alternative examples, too, had been fatally flawed, with all the drama, tragedy, and comedy that he had found in pages, canvases, screens, and lyrics. He had been hopelessly surrounded by imperfection and idealism all of his life.
But that ended right there with that last breath. How Byronic.
He had spent that same life seeking and reenacting the follies of his family and the fiction he fancied, thus sabotaging and saving himself at the same time from a fate worse than unrequited love—losing the One. He thought of the muses in his lifetime, which all had been modeled after the original wild, uncatchable, free-spirited spitfire—his Mother. The sense of Oedipal realizations made a chill run through his spine, ending with his clenching his fists and wondering about the wisdom of it all. He realized he had been forging the stories of his parents and grandparents all along: antithetical opposites who had attracted each other while working together; men who had somehow ensnared women stronger and far more interesting than themselves despite their better judgment… He hadn’t been original even in his neurotic cycle of muses and unrequited love.
With that last breath, and with such hard-hitting epiphanies, he could no longer claim to be blind to his condition. He had not expressed enough. He had respected too much. He had allowed the divergence of distant future goals to preclude the convergence of present, shared desired. He had failed to exist to his full potential.
If only he hadn’t sought an impossible goddess… If only he hadn’t judged everyone a doormat… If only he had preferred an ongoing dialectic with her rather than the allure of an unsolved, fiery riddle… If only he had been smart and proud enough to cut his own Gordian knots…
But ultimately, he had not. He needed to let that last breath go instead, letting go of his hopelessness and idealism and Byronic romanticism. He had to dispel his fictions and find his truths. He had to massacre his idols and immolate himself. He had to die as a hopeless romantic first before he could return anew, free of hexes, free of himself, and free of her.