He turned the thoughts over again and again in the long, dull afternoons in Tarija’s incessant summer heat:
Volunteering … for the war in Spain.
Fight against the Communists.
Each time, each thought became more and more vivid, as if it lit up a little more from the inside.
Yes, by all that he cherished - he would go defend the old land from the red scourge. And he would come back and be someone else. It was sometimes clear as a magnesium flare inside him, the feeling that all of his life would change if he did this. He wasn't exactly sure how, but it would change something - because it would prove that he could make those kinds of decisions. He could not explain it anymore than that. It was drawing him and he had to go.
Of course there were rational explanations, only they were vague, and not really suitable to reflect to much upon lest their internal logic be torn apart under close scrutiny. It was about his father, for one thing: The old man had always been, so Javier felt, not really in favor of him. He only had to accept, like everyone else, that of course Javier had to take over the family firm, because who else could? He was the only son in the family. But Don Gonzales wasn't impressed by his son, he had let that slip on more than one occasion. And perhaps he also suspected something?
No, Javier would not even allow himself to think that. But still the doubt was there. And even though he knew it was blatantly irrational - a record of courage, of having done something - when everybody else seemed content to just blabber on and comment and chit and chat and watch in badly concealed horror as the world slid into the abyss of war ... that would change everything for him once he returned. He would be another man, someone to be reckoned with.
And it wouldn't have to be flamboyant or anything like that! Javier loathed that idea; he was more attracted to an image of returning home, with stories and all - of the horror of war - and then noticing the suppressed pride in the eyes of everyone who was important. And perhaps a sudden interest from ... well, that was scarcely something to hope for, but still. It would not hurt his chances of unmaking that strange unreality of being a gay man in one of the most machismo societies in this hemisphere ... an existence that, he had often reflected seemed to be little better than that of a ghost.
The only thing he had to do now was to transform the light-filled thoughts into action. He had to go to the consulate, get the papers.
And soon, he would be bound for Europe – and a new life.
That afternoon Javier slipped off from work early, and walked through the Calle Madrid and Ingavi past the venerable church and then headed directly for the Spanish consulate in Tarija. He had to clear the paperwork now, to make it real.
And then, as he crossed the street, and nearly was hit by a car because he was so absorbed in the sudden feeling of clarity that it gave him to have this purpose - then it occurred to him for a moment that he hadn't really checked up on the situation in Spain. What was going on at the front? What was the most recent news?
The Soviets juggernaut had looked poised, just a week ago, to smash through the Pyrenees at some moment in the not too distant future. Overwhelming amounts of men and materiel kept flowing in from the seemingly endless supplies of the Motherland - willing cattle to be sacrificed, he mused, for a cause so wrong, so idiotic that there were not really any name for it in Spanish. He could not imagine that these ... men, whoever they were, from Siberia or some farm in Ukraine –how they could be worth much as fighters. Their only strength lay in sheer numbers. And yet ... what if those numbers were still enough and were about to be put to use, once again, as they had been since Moscow, Kursk and Sedan.
What if the Soviets were about to win?
It was so banal and he felt instant shame for having considered it. Because it made him hesitate...he stopped. The consulate was just around the corner. The afternoon was hot and pleasant. A couple strode across the street, passing him - hand in hand. He didn't feel a sense of loathing as he usually did when he saw couples. Instead he suddenly felt ... a strange sense of loss. And then ... fear?
Would he be coming back?
Mobilizing all his courage Javier Gonzales breathed deeply, then continued, turned the corner, and went straight to the consulate entrance.