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A life in a blow

Angelica’s life is marked by a mental disorder which  leads  her to an unusual escape from reality.  The forced separation from her son Carlos triggers in her an unstoppable desire for revenge  and the hope to run away with him.

 

 

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"Whith time you'll realize that you failed to see just what you wanted to see"

                                                              

Explore the places of the story in Madrid

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plaza de cibeles - paseo de venezuelaplaza de la puerta del sol - paseo del prado

padeo del recoletos - broadcast tower - la casa di angelica - paseo del embarcadero

 

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ancoRead the first chapter - The Interview

                                                                    

 

                                                                                                                                          Madrid
                                                                                                                               May 23,  2055

At last, I found myself in studio 23 of the TV channel Telemadrid, located on the 46th floor of the Broadcast Tower, a rotating skyscraper designed by Dynamic Architecture, a company founded by the visionary architect David Fisher. I was restless, glancing repeatedly  out of the corner of my eye at the presenter and host Daniela Guerrero, an immense beauty I took in with evident awe. In the meantime a technician placed a tiny microphone on my perfectly tailored Hi Tech jacket made of 100% smart fabric.

   Previously, behind the scenes, she quickly mentioned how the dynamic interview would go. She wanted everything to be perfect but at the same time natural, easy going, was the phrase she used to put me at ease if I remember correctly. Understandable, seeing as the famous interview program, ‘A life in a blow’, was her creation, and Ms. Guerrero was also the author. We were both seated on odd minimalist chairs while ‘the cash’, as she called the commercial spot, gave us the last few seconds to finish settling in before going live and she gave a final glance at her script. Meanwhile one of her assistants finished covering my dark circles with a bit of what I believed to be foundation or powder, although I’ve never understood the difference between the two. I sensed that we were going on the air from the production coordinator’s hand gestures.
He gave us the -3 -2 -1. The makeup artist quickly pulled off the tissue from my shirt collar used to protect my clothes from the make up. The set lights came to rest on the humanity of Ms. Guerrero, who, with the sobriety of a Duchess, began the fourth episode of the second season.
“Dear audience, welcome to a new episode of ‘A life in a blow’.”
The cameraman masterfully opened the close-up shot from the lips of the beautiful TV presenter, and finished with my silhouette still concealed in the darkness of the set.
As we agreed behind the scenes, I approached the table in front of us on which were laid some objects of the twentieth century found by the production staff: a wax candle and old matches. Objects similar to those I last saw as a child. Then, a little clumsily, I was able to light the flame, which in contrast to all that cold technology inside that skyscraper which turned upon itself, gave a slight warmth to all those present including myself; creating a momentary sense of nostalgia, until the tender light was obscured by the power of the impetuous spotlights which revealed my physicality. In this show the ritual of lighting the candle so, in the semi-darkness of the set, served to mysteriously and romantically  reveal the host on duty in each episode, a concept inspired by the direction style of the father of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. All these methodical performances helped begin the interview.
Miss Guerrero presented me graciously:  

“Our guest of the evening is a specialist in mental disorders, Doctor Carlos Arroyo Jr.”
“Good evening, thank you for the invitation.” I replied.
“Doctor Arroyo, what is it? Or rather, what does mental illness mean?”
“A mental illness is a disease that affects a person’s thoughts, feelings or behavior, in a way that is strong enough to render social integration problematic or to cause the person endless suffering. Mental disorders are behavioral or psychological changes which cause danger or instability and impede the natural development of the person.”
“Doctor if I may, I would like to share a situation with our audience which is at the borderline of logic that I noted when reading one of your treatises, when I was preparing your interview. Namely, that your decision to become a psychiatrist was born from an event that happened in your own life when . . .”

 … Ms. Guerrero continued to relay a personal experience of mine, which I made public years ago in my treatise, using it  as an example of the distortion of reality.
She undeterredly continued to address her audience staring at the lens of the hologramatic camera,  while I limited myself to looking at the reflection of the soft candlelight that was lost in her deep blue eyes, and inevitably all but forgot my own experience, while the presenter was in the throes of telling the story of the woman who had triggered in me a strong desire to devote my life to studying how the mental illness could, in a manner so vile, slap the dignity of many human beings, my family being no exception.
Even I became a spectator, suddenly falling prey to the charm and magnetism of this career woman. In the blink of an eye, I hung on her lips and followed her narration of my story as if I were a stranger.

 

                                                                                                                           Parque del Retiro
                                                                                                           Calle de Alfonso XII, Madrid
                                                                                                                               May 23, 2000

The Paseo Venezuela was crammed with families and tourists inebriated by the scents of the Spring, which floated in the surroundings of the dreamy Palacio de Cristal, the curious building with the staircase immersed in the man-made lake measuring 918 by 459 feet. If the gardens Real Jardin Botanico, Campo del Moro, Jardines de Sabatini, El Capricho and El Retiro, are the undisputed lungs of the Madriñena city, then El Palacio de Cristal  is the heart of the micro-cosmos El Retiro.
The season’s warm, sweet air caressed the legs of each and every woman, who with light skirts strolled along el Paseo.
“Carlitos come here, come here! Don’t be naughty,” An-gelica said to her little son Carlos, a four year old child with an enviable energy. She never missed an opportunity to reaffirm that he was a portrait of herself when someone, particularly young women and grandmothers attracted like magnets by the smile of little Carlos, approached to fawn over and play with him. All of them diplomatically confirmed their similarity, but frankly speaking, Carlitos was a clone of his father, a spitting image, obviously bearing in mind the difference in age. On the other hand, in terms of temperament the boy was restless like Angelica, who at that time wasn’t particularly well.
There was in fact a dark time after her pregnancy during which she lived day by day suffering from one ailment or another such as sluggishness, fatigue, nervous exhaustion, hopelessness, loss of appetite, insomnia or excessive sleep, crying fits, a lack of interest in the child,  fear of hurting the child or herself, and sudden mood swings. This went on until a doctor at the clinic Nuestra Señora de Atocha where she worked as a nurse diagnosed her with post-partumdepression, a particular kind of nervous disorder that affects some women, manifesting itself in some cases as a real depression accompanied by forms of psychosis.
Thanks to her partner, the father of little Carlos, and some Doctors and colleagues from the hospital, she managed to keep the monster of depression at bay. A terrible thing, ‘thebastard’, as the Doctor Carlos Arroyo Jr called it in his seminars around many universities from Canarias to Galicia, and la Cataluña to Andalucìa. The need to find a rational response to these mysteries of the mind brought about, in those years, a need to seek comfort in an array of technical justifications like, for example, that low levels of serotonin in neurons could cause depression.  Medical science had not yet provided definitive explanations regarding the cause of the phenomenon, although some studies attributed the onset of post-partum depression to hormonal changes in women, in particular, the decreasing level of estrogen and progesterone, with a statistically high number of cases among women who experience severe discomfort in the premenstrual phase. Actually, there are many other factors which are crucial to the emergence of post-partum depression, mostly of psychological origin linked to the events immediately following childbirth, such as the change in the role of women in their social life, fear of their impending responsibilities and their  physical appearance. The symptoms of depression could manifest themselves in mild form and disappear within a few days, but if they persist the intervention of a specialist is required, mainly in the case of the most severe form of the disease, called post-partum pychosis.
The walk on El Paseo de Venezuela, in the park El Retiro, marked the ultimate return and persistence of the darkness in the life and mind of Angelica, like a wax seal on centuries old parchment paper, when in a moment of distraction the little Carlos wandered from the small sculpture where Angelica was chatting away with an old colleague found there by chance.
Carlitos was attracted by the glittering water of the man-made lake and by a couple of teenagers who were laughing hysterically while they approached the shore with their little dinghy. Smiling with his hands held forward, he rushed towards them without noticing a boy who, on his left, was flying on his bicycle at breakneck speed. The recognition that they were utterly helpless appeared instantly on the petrified faces of the kids in the dinghy, who understood what was about to happen. Only the cries of the passers-by, an ear-piercing siren, snapped Angelica back to reality and made her conscious of her absent-mindedness. When she turned towards the lake, she saw the boy with the bicycle on the ground, screaming from a bloodied face, bracing his arm which was fractured in several places. She quickly glanced to the left in the direction of the dinghy only to see the girl sobbing desperately while pointing to a spot on the sidewalk next to the lake. At that moment, Angelica went into shock, no longer able to hear anything around her. Neither the screams of the passers-by,  nor those of the kids on the dinghy,  but only the intense beating of her heart. Almost aware of the horror, she resisted turning in the direction indicated by the girl. While a crippling fear continued to climb up her legs and arms, she eventually found the courage to turn her head and saw her Carlitos on the ground, unconscious, wrapped in the sour smell of his own blood which flowed incessantly from a deep wound in the shape of a ‘ T ’ on his little right arm, quickly bathing his clothes and the sidewalk of el paseo.

 

                                                                                                        Clinic Nuestra Señora de Atocha
                                                                                                               Calle de Modesto Lafuente
                                                                                                                         December 14, 2000

Carlos’ seventh month in a coma left indelible traces on all of his closest relatives, his father and inevitably Angelica, who from that day in May, sank into the darkness to stay.
The depression, or better ‘the bastard’, returned this time cementing its roots so deeply that it went far beyond her mind and reached her heart, filling it with rage which immediately transformed itself into insane cynicism.
‘The bastard’ spoke to her during the long nights, or rather, tormented her. Angelica was not only angry with herself, but now in silence wanted revenge against the entire world.
The colleagues and managers of the clinic were exceptional and very sensitive, all of them taking his case very much to heart, arranging everything necessary in order to maintain Carlos’ vital signs without charging them anything. They did even more: the head of the clinic encouraged Angelica to the point of convincing her to return to work in the clinic, and to once more take charge of the position she left seven months ago. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the best choice that could have been made, even though during the following two months everything proceeded as per usual. Working in the clinic Angelica had the privilege of spending more time with her Carlitos. Often, while working on the night shift, she made the patients’ monitoring rounds not quite as she should have: everyone knew it, that she spent most of the time in her son’s room. But the colleagues who shared the same shift did their best to help her out, filling in and compensating for her whenever they could. In all that time nobody ever complained.
Maybe because deep in their hearts they felt pain for her and her tragic and trying situation.
One of those nights, she silently observed him, staring wide-eyed, hoping that maybe he would at any moment wake up. After a while her gaze trailed to the scar in the shape of   a ‘ T ’ that marked his little right arm, and she shuddered. She began caressing it and whispered:
“Don’t worry, when you’re all grown up you’ll see that it’ll get increasingly smaller, and if it doesn’t get small enough, maybe we’ll remove it with plastic surgery.” She then fell silent, a cold shiver sliding down her spine.
In reality she hated that scar, because it represented the indelible memory of that horrible day. That scar coexisted in symbiosis with her feeling of guilt. And she felt tremendous pain every time she saw it. Like pain-filled betrayals that hurt and from which you cannot escape if the one you love continues to slam it  into your face. But this wasn’t the only means she had to come to terms with life.

   Six months later . . .

     The clinic found itself in the eye of the storm, under investigation for a series of inexplicable deaths. The homicide division of the Madrid police department took little time to solve the case of the four alleged murders. The tiny cameras hidden inside in the rooms of some patients, revealed the horrific answer to this question. During one of the night shifts, Angelica, being convinced that her colleagues were certain that she was in her son’s room,  entered one of the rooms and with a syringe injected air through the drip into the vein of an unfortunate patient.