Pedro Ávila

Mist and fog hangs in the air — warmer days all but trail behind.

I think of nothing sometimes, and let the fury of it all just rush past me like an uninteresting cloud. Of course, it needs to be that way sometimes, when the winds of change are stagnant. Outside, the little creek streams past and sometimes it’s in an awful hurry. Outside, the heat dissipates as the sun angles off and gray rain falls on the bay.

There is a dense air over the creek, slapping any urge to leave in the face…laying on me a smack-down to stay in today.

So be it. Let us sit then, and tell sad stories; leash our words of war for another day. And let us write of the neuronic misfirings that took us wherever it is that we ventured off to last night in slumber…

While driving I am rocked by waves of uncharacteristic darkness in my thoughts. In my thoughts I swim in waters of black venomous heat and am taken by a tide of despair. An old man, thin and sweaty-browed stops my sinking, takes me by the ankles and drags me to his cave for professional advice.

“I have none to offer,” I tell him, arrogantly, I guess. But still, he drags me.

“It is not yours that I seek,” he says, “but mine that I wish to give.”

“What makes you think I want or need it?” is all I can think of as a reply to such unexpected words. He drops me as we enter a cave; a small cloud of dirt scuttles from the ground where I fall. He doesn’t seem to mind.

“You let yourself be dragged all the way up this hill from the black pool.”

“You dragged me, dude” I accuse him.

“So you say.”

A moment passes between us. I use it to ponder his cryptic words and how they’ve brought me to this place that is so damn cold. It occurs to me that the words are not his but belong to something much more ancient – this cave perhaps. But it is no matter, silence only works for so long.

“So?” I ask.

“You are wondering about the choices you’ve made.”

“That’s silly. They’re already made. Done. Besides, what makes you think that?” I ask him with a serious look.

“You are here, with your heart in your hands, recently come from a plunge in a pool of the darkest thoughts you’ve never let out.”

“You don’t scare me with your dark words, wizard.”

“Ahh,” he says, slowly, taking his time to finish the expression, as if he really did just comprehend something, “but they are not my words – you thought so yourself.”

“That’s right, I di…wait a minute — I only thought that! How’d you…”

“Wizard,” he says curtly.

“Oh. right,” I say, stupidly. “Shoulda known.”

“You did know, which is part of why you are even here,” he says, again, in as drawn out a manner as I can stand.

Sometimes I wonder if I watch too much TV; I will definitely be looking to cut back after this.

“I see…” It is of little importance to me now why I am here. What matters is, he’s certainly got a point. “Why would an answer you provide be different from one that I could conjure?” I wonder out loud.

“It isn’t, necessarily. But you’re not here to listen to whatever it is that you have to say.” Damn. He certainly is nimble with the deep answers.

“Ok, fine. So how about these choices I’ve made?”

“I see you are ready know – you will listen,” he says, this time with somewhat more hesitance than he has yet shown. Old men typically have little faith in the young.

“It’s still damn cold in here…do you think you could conjure up a solution to that?” I ask him.

…another moment passes during which I am certain he is pondering whether to turn me into a muppet, but then he smiles. As he does, the cave warms and the air doesn’t feel so thin and sharp. Damn wizards and their subtlety.

“Neat,” I try to lie with some sarcasm in my voice, but the truth is I think it’s pretty damn cool. I would never tell a wizard that, though… my guess is that he would consider it obvious – and I hate being obvious.

“You are, undoubtedly, thinking that it’s too soon for all this, am I right?” He begins, this time with a warmer tone in his voice.

“Well, perhaps, but even if I thought that, it wouldn’t make any sense and I’d discard it,” I say.

“And why would that be?” I know he already knows the answer to this.

“Because there is no temporal frame of reference,” I respond. “You do things when it seems right for you – not for your age group or your generation.”

“That’s a good story,” he retorts.


“Does it seem right for you then, I wonder?” He asks, cynically.

“Well, certainly it’s not what I would have seen myself doing even two years ago, but life led me this way by the choices I made.”

“So why is there a conflict?”

Man, you ask a lot of questions…”

“Wizards usually do.” And he smiles again, giving the room another wave of comfort.

I feel bad for wasting his time too. I know that I’m already aware of the reasons for my own problems. I don’t think he either intends or is capable of showing me a way out of them, except to make me face them — fix them myself. But I fully intend to anyway, so what’s the point?

“Why is there a conflict…indeed.” I say as I face him, returning to the conversation. Eons seem to pass. “On the surface, it seems I am trapped between what I want now and what I’d like later in life.”

I pause.

“It may be that the two are not mutually exclusive; that having one will not even scathe my efforts at getting the other. But it is certainly hard to see at this point.

“Planning when you’re traveling shouldn’t be done in detail more than a couple of days ahead…that’s one way to keep it fun and relaxed. But life is different, isn’t it? I mean, the consequences of not planning your trip is that you may have to come up with a different plan; do something else. If you fuck up the later part of your dreams, you can’t be resigned to re-dream it.”

“Can’t you?”

“I never want to stop traveling. But when I’m 35, 45, 60…I want to be sailing, staying where I want to stay, going where I want to go, and not necessarily where it’s cheapest. It’s not that I want to be rich; it’s just that there will be other challenges…money shouldn’t be one of them. Neither should time.”

“Let me ask you a question,” he says slowly, “How do you know what you’ll want in your middle age? You’re already starting to feel the pressures of nature and time, aren’t you? Your thoughts already dwell less often on New Zealand and more on San Francisco…am I right?”

“Maybe — but I could still make a split-second decision and go live in Spain or Switzerland over buying a house and settling down.”

“So you want to plan for your middle age so that you can continue doing what you do today, but with less worries?”

“…fewer worries,” I correct him. “And yes, that’s about right. But there’s more that complicates it.” I sense the room get noticeably colder for a moment but it seems to pass.


“Yeah, to say the least. What about kids? What about all their dreams? What about marriage? What about my parents, and my brother? I can do what I want to now, or I could spend these days planning for what I know will be important to have then…”

“You already see the problem with that, don’t you? Don’t be silly.”

A cold chill passes through me as I realize what demons are holding on to my will, trying to drown it in worries. It hasn’t occurred to me before that I am not looking for an answer to my problems…that I already know it. But it’s so much easier to look for an answer than it is to understand why that answer is the correct one. So many problems have many answers.

He continued, “You give up what you have to sometimes. They’re things you want badly, but it is a necessary exchange to have something you want more. That’s called sacrifice, and life is made of it, kid. But you cannot stop the events of today, any more than you can stop imagining what may happen tomorrow.”

“So what’s your answer?” I sneak in, hoping for something good and solid. Such a fool’s hope.

“Think about tomorrow, by all means. And if you must plan, be ready to re-dream. After all, it just won’t serve you to dwell on your dreams if you forget to live.”

DAMN. That was deep.

“I like things that suck now, but will later become funny as we look back at them; it shows how fleetingly irrelevant the present is.”

“True, but you don’t really mean that,” he says. And perhaps he’s right. So much time passes every second, I don’t even feel it sometimes.

Again, I pause. His dragon eyes are ripe with experience and the hardship of learning over many years. Of course, he’s right. I’ve known it all along. I too have fallen and stood up again. I too have learned all I know by doing it for myself. I too, have lived.

I continue to pause but his look of amused-certainty does not change.

I’m guessing here, but I think that neither does mine.

Pedro Ávila Pedro Ávila

For a reasonably sane & productive member of society (arguable, but let’s not complicate things), I’m far too mobile and unrooted. I travel quite a bit for a job that is simultaneously my greatest privilege and my worst burden.

So I write. And I write. Travel pieces, political journalism (a stretch from ranting but, still), short stories, poetry and other such riff-raff. I contribute to a handful of publications and will probably just keep going until something gives out, or someone gives in.


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Of smiles and roars