Romanized guy with the blues
Near the border with the Czech Republic, in the best and only hotel of a forlorn village in the upper Austria, called Aigen im Mühlkreis, in the middle of the hotel´s dining room where they sat eating their respectives breakfasts as the sole guests of the hotel they were staying in, it someway happened that he came to hear a voice and that this voice was the one of the other hotel guest, a German guy at whose request he had previously introduced himsef as a Spaniard coming from Bilbao and that now assured him in dead earnest, while munching a toast with strawberry jam on it in the table opposite his, that the Basque people had remained unchanged since at least the Cro-Magnon Paleolithich period.
It was early in the morning and this news shocked him, partly because his bleary eyes hadn´t yet shaken off the night´sleep and partly because being himself of Basque origin and being just about to crack the hard boiled egg he was yawning at by means of some gentle touches of that precious outcome of civilisation named after the term of “spoon” , in hearing the German´s assessment he couldn´t help but start wondering whether the proper way to behave in such circumstances would not rather be to just grab the egg in his hand and swallow it with shell and all after having uttered some noises that could resemble the ancestral Basque language he had never before in his life spoken.
But he was more than willing to be friendly to anyone willing to be friendly to him in such a lonesome place and he dind´t want at any rate to dissapoint the views of that young german who , to make matters worse, assured him, equally in dead earnest, that he had thoroughly discussed the Basque issue with a Parisian woman novelist with whom he had shared not only appraisals of the Basque people and their mysterious prehistory but also a train compartment while travelling through central Europe where, as a matter of fact- he dared to conclude to himself out of the dead earnest of the German´s statements-, he must have tried to seduce her taking advantage of such an outlandish topic.
Thus, after a brief moment of hesitation and having remembered what little of prehistory had remained in his brain from his college years he decided to politely retort that he believed that some Roman garrisons were allocated along some winding paths that crossed the basque country by order of the roman emperor´s general staff and that may be God had seen fit to beget some of his own ancestors in a peaceful skirmish between a pretty Basque native and a Roman legionnaire , given the fact that he had always considered himself a kind of romanized basque not to mention the deep rooted fondness he still felt for the pizzas he got served in the terraces of Rome´s Trastevere neighbourhood each time he visited the “Eternal City”
In spite of this smart remark worth, incidentally, the scholarship he was denied at the jesuit university of his basque hometown, the German guy kindly advised him to check on his alleged origins because not a single scientific proof was there on hand that could demonstrate that he was the true basque, romanized or not, he had always pretended to be. Either he took a look at his family tree and luckily find his Cro-Magnon bias or else he should be prepared to say farewell to any pretention of Basque originality whatsoever.
He got the chance to evoque this unsettling encounter some years later when, living in Madrid, he happened to meet a sexy girl who seemingly was very proud of his origins too. They were talking in a bar about petty things such as her mother´s family tree-he, trying gradually to seduce her taking advantage of some incestuous branches in some light-hearted links of her lineage, she, gradually getting horny falling prey to his manly prowess amid the entangling and shameless leaves of such a humid forest – when unfortunately she began to make allusions to, alas, his Basque origins:
“Could you whisper in my ears some nasty words in Basque?” she asked him invitingly.
“Ouch…sorry, i don´t speak any Basque. I can´t remember much of what we were taught during one term in the English school i went to.”
“An English school?” she exclaimed uninvitingly
“So they used to call it, because you had to wear a cap that hardly covered the crown of your head, a uniform displaying the school´s coat of arms and you were fated to brave the harsh winter term with a pair of flannel short trousers in order, mainly, to cater the sports teacher´s lust for hairy legs. But it was fashionable then among certain Spanish middle class parents to boast of their English speaking children in front of their worse-off friends and, thus, they were ready, no matter the cost , to believe they were sending us to an original English boarding school like, say, Eton. In this sort of Spanish remake of Eton they tried to teach us Basque in English during one term , as a result of which it didn´t take long before i lost the few notions of English i had till then, somehow or other, acquired.”…
But, sweetheart, let me tell you something, i´m really amazed …You know? You are the first girl to whom i talk about these moving matters… See? (he pointed to his crotch) it makes my skin crawl, i think i´m itching for something”
“Wait there, not too fast, you rascal¡…., I´m stunned, i always thought every Basque spoke Basque since at least the Cro-Magnon Paleolithic period. But i suppose your special needs education makes a case for your illiteracy.
What about cooking? Every Basque is a good cook and loves eating, specially fish… So tell me , what dishes would you cook for me?… Mmm.. i have a craving for cod…”
“ I really wish i could cook cod for you, honey, but i´m afraid that what i´m really skilled at is at tossing a salad if you´re craving for one”
“A salad ¡” she grunted with a disappointed expression in her face.
“Well, i also like pizzas. I don´t mean i cook them but i love the way they knead them in Roman pizzerias.I think i could afford enough dough for someone to knead it , shape it, leaven it and blow it out of proportion if necessary. Anyhow i take pride in having a good palate and as to spirits, i´m pretty fond of mineral water. I´m a romanized Basque, you see? No alcohol was allowed in our legions while drilling”
“I see…” she replied curtly.
Her curt reply made him realize that the frankness with which he had spoken out his origins had deprived him once and for all of the opportunity of mustering his drilling skills to a cod eater. He couldn´t but blame himself for the dubious roots of his sadly romanized stock,but was there anything he could do against it?
Albeit in a tacit way this question had, in fact, accompanied him since he was a kid. In one way or another his whole existence had revolved around it from the very beginning without himself even knowing it. His was the story of that unanswered question, of its central contradiction being deployed in a series of falls and rises, of endless comings and goings, of besetting expectations anchored in a wasted past. Between the self-evident shortcomings of Rome´s almighty civilisation and the ongoing ethnic whims that he saw in many people around him, there was apparently no happy medium. Regardless of whether Basque or Cro-Magnon, the lack of pure origin credentials condemned this romanized Basque to nothing but the blues.