Enriquetta Maria Conchita Gonzalvez hated her name and insisted on introducing herself as "Riki" to everyone she met, whether in the Facultad des Bellas Artes or in the club los cao gatos in the Triana district of Sevilla, dancing with her friends to the thumping beat of the latest pop or techno. She cared for none of them, at least, not as lovers. Not that she hadn't had lovers, but the last, Edouardo Edilcama, had actually thrown himself from the puente del Isabel II into the dark water of the Guadalquivir as they were crossing from the Barrio one evening.
"Marry me, Riki Gonzalvez! Consent to be my wife or I shall throw myself into the arms of death!"
Riki Gonzalvez was very particular about this kind of emotional blackmail -- it made her furious. "Go ahead!"
"What?" Edouardo had replied, stunned, from where he stood atop the massive balustrade.
"The answer is No! Go ahead and jump!" she said, as she started at him as if to push. Whether he jumped or slipped is a matter of conjecture, then, but, as he plummeted, Riki yelled over the side, "I hope you drown, then! Tu estupido polla!" and stormed off to keep her date at el Meteor Azur.
They fished Edouardo's body from the river down around the town of Tobalina, several kilometers south of the city. Riki attended the funeral, because Edouardo certainly hadn't deserved to die, no matter how stupid he was, but every time she tried to feel sorry for him she just got angry all over again.
"What a childish stunt," she thought to herself.
Now, if it seems Riki was somewhat distracted, perhaps that's because she was. Riki was a painter, and she hated Van Gogh for his wheatfields and his sunflowers. Every painter who has tried to paint wheatfields or sunflowers since, hates Van Gogh for his, and it seemed to Riki that even Van Gogh hadn't gotten them quite right, at least, not as they had appeared to her the time she had first crossed the Sierra del Calvario en route from her home in El Bosque to Sevilla, where she was traveling to go to university.
Perhaps it was the change in altitude, or the fact that the sky in Andalusia is often as clear and distortionless as crystal, but the hills covered in short, dry, almost-yellow wheat, and the subsequent fields of sunflowers along N-IV as she traveled north, had a numinous quality about them that spoke of something intangible yet which was, to her, quite real. It was on this trip that she knew that she must try to capture that image, and, if she were lucky, that effect on the observer, and would therefore be changing her major from accounting to fine arts.
I did not really die, of course, and my name is not Edouardo Edilcama, but for the purposes of this story this is a useful, if fictive, nom de plume. And it is as good as any other I have used. Riki Gonzalvez is modeled after a woman I knew in the art school in Sevilla, however, and I think she may have wanted me dead. Every time she showed me her latest wheatfield or sunflowers, I could not help but compare it to Van Gogh's works. I never actually told her this, but she could see it in my eyes, as though, reflected in them, she could see not her paintings, but his.
Riki Gonzalvez is troubled lately by dreams. In one of them she is standing in the grandstand of the Jerez bullring in the rain, sobbing, her tears mixing with the water streaming down her face. The corrida has been cancelled and the crowd dispersed, the toreros having carefully inspected the now muddy sand floor of the arena in their suits of light and determined that either the bull or themselves (or both) might slip far too easily, with potentially disastrous results.
Still weeping -- for what, exactly, she does not know -- she now finds herself standing in the center of the ring. She turns, and there is a torero in a scarlet suit of light and his muddy black slippers -- perhaps it is the face of Edouardo Edilcama she sees there -- she is not sure -- and she knows that, whoever it is, she must rush to his embrace. All of this happens in slow motion, inevitably, inexorably unfolding, as dreams do, as she runs to his arms -- he steps back to his left gingerly, and she is faced with a flash of red cape -- when it is gone, so is he. She turns, and there he is again. Again she runs, but this time he raises his sword, and, as she gains upon him, has him almost in her arms, he thrusts the sword through her left breast, between the fifth and sixth ribs, and pierces, fatally, her heart.
Quite shaken, naturally, she wakes up.
Now, I know what all of the Freudians are going to say about this dream of hers, but her response is really something quite different. She says these dreams of hers have given her artwork a new direction. Indeed, she is now painting wonderful abstractions that include all the flash and blood and earth tones of the corrida; one in particular shows the stands, she tells me, full of umbrellas in the rain, with the late afternoon sun slanting through the drizzling clouds, and a rainbow just above the eastern wall.
Oh, and she has left the Facultad and moved to Frontera, which is what brings her on occasion to the Plaza de Toros in Jerez. She no longer worries about her sunflowers.
"What can it mean, Luiz?" she asks over cafe solo we are sharing in a little cafe in Puerto de Santa Maria.
"That you did actually love Edouardo, perhaps? Or that -- "