In the dream it was always the same. A girl with hair as dark as night, holding something in her hand, saying words he could never remember but they brought so much happiness…
Sunlight streamed in the window resting gently on his coverlet and poking at his eyelids. Antoni, his grey hair matted on his forehead, resisted for a moment, but there was no use, the sun was up and the day had begun. He patted down his hair absently, that silly cowlick with a mind of its own in his youth now ruled the roost, proclaiming its domain by sticking straight out and refusing to be tamed. He waved his hand in disgust. It didn’t matter; there was so much to be done. He roamed around his cramped quarters, an eccentric living area at best, gathering bits of paper. A grand four post bed squatted in the midst of a paper jungle. Tables sat everywhere, here with a cold cup of coffee, there with notes, all in various stages of disarray. Strangest of all was the soaring windows, the high ceiling, the stained glass. Antoni, of course, would not think it strange, it was more convenient to live at the cathedral he was building, and he had practically done so before. Now, he had a bed. He hadn’t even bothered to put on his smoking jacket by the time Joan, his lanky assistant, came in carrying more roles of drawings and a bag of seed.
“Here are your drawings, Mr.Gaudi. The rest of the seed is just outside …” A well groomed Joan finally looked up, “You haven’t even put on your jacket. Antoni! You’ll freeze. The sun is not nearly as high as to …”
“Hog wash. Busy, busy …” Antoni waved his arm and stared at his model. The great contraption hung from ceiling to floor. Small ropes with tiny bags of seed at their ends, fixed just so, in loops here and there like some fantastic, unreal, garden. The weight of the bags had to be just right. Something was wrong with the overall scheme and it would have to be fixed, before the foreman arrived.
“Let me at least get you some breakfast.”
“Had it, had it.” In fact, Antoni had eaten half a nut loaf from the night before, the evidence of which still rested on his chin. “Hurry up with that seed. Can’t take all day you know!” Joan scurried out of the room and Antoni leaned back into his model. Antoni adjusted the mirror so that he could see the entire model right side up.
“There.” He sighed. In the mirror the reflected bags of seed and rope came to life and became the soaring towers of a great cathedral. In the mind’s eye one could see small mountains of stone and glass peering out behind one another, topped here by a cross, there by a dove, wheat, fruit, the gospels, and … “Ah!” Antoni ran to the other side of the room, rolls of paper, pencils quickly shoved this way and that until finally the great towers appeared. Lovingly he began to sketch the words ‘Hosanna, Excel sis,’ on four of the tallest towers, specifying ceramic mosaic in the margin beside. “Joan, Joan!” Antoni yelled into the hall. He closed the door. He opened it again to yell once more. “Joan! These papers, right away.” An exhausted Joan arrived moments later, seed bags under both arms.
Antoni shoved the newly minted drawing into Joan’s arms. “This and this to foreman right away. Tell him to wait before work as I have another important adjustment.” Antoni drifted back to his model. “I just cannot see it yet.”
“But Mr.Gaudi, the foreman has not yet arrived …”
“Not yet arrived? When will he work? When day is done? Argh. City man. In the country we are up at dawn…”
“And asleep by noon.” Joan whispered to himself, inwardly groaning.
“What was that?”
“Just agreeing with your work ethic. After all here I am. The rest of Barcelona? They are not so eager. Ten o’clock remember? Ten o’clock the work begins. Two o’clock …”
“Siesta, siesta, siesta. How are they so found of sleep?”
“They don’t all sleep, Mr.Gaudi, it’s the heat. They begin work again at …”
“Yes, yes, yes. I know. But I do not have all day. So, foreman is not here. So, so, no need for him to wait.” He turned back to the model then again to Joan. “Still here? There is plenty to do. All these things before my walk this morning…” Antoni was already rubbing his leg. It had been sore for years now, since his childhood, when an illness had shut him inside for months. Later, he had been prescribed walks, short painful ones at first, longer ones later. But he had always been slow; he never could run or play. Now, well it was much too late for play, but the walk would never end.
Joan still stood by the doorway. He looked strange, even a little amused.
“Joan, what is it? Why are you continuing to interrupt my morning?”
“Mr.Gaudi,” he paused his eyes glinting; “there’s someone here to see you … a woman.”
“Oh, how very nice. I’m busy. Too busy to take on contracts, too busy for social blah, blah, blah.”
Joan didn’t leave, instead, he stepped forward. “She says she is from your home town. I told her you were busy, but she insisted.”
“So she’s from my hometown. What is she, reporter, or social convener? …”
“Her name is Beatriz.”