READ THE FIRST CHAPTER

This is the first chapter of my most recent novel: “INFINITY IN THE PALM OF HER HAND”. The translation from Spanish was done by Margaret Sayers-Peden. The novel is available at Amazon.com both in English and Spanish.

P a r t 1
Ma l e and Female
He Created Them

Chap t e r 1

And he was.
Suddenly. From not being to being conscious that he was.
He opened his eyes. He touched himself and knew he was a man, without
knowing how he knew. He saw the garden and he felt someone
watching him. He looked in every direction hoping to see
another like himself.
As he was looking, air spilled into his throat and its coolness
stirred his senses. He could smell. He took a deep breath.
In his head he felt the confused whirling of images seeking a
name. Words, sounds, surged up inside him, clean and clear, and
settled on everything around him. He named, and saw what he
named recognize itself. The breeze moved the branches of the
trees. A bird sang. Long leaves opened their finely drawn hands.
Where was he? he asked. Why didn’t the one who was watching
allow himself to be seen? Who was this Other?
He walked, unhurried, until he had completed the circle
of the place where he had come to be. The greens, the forms and colors of the vegetation, filled the landscape and flowed
into his gaze, and he felt a happiness in his chest. He named
the stones, the streams, the rivers, the mountains, the cliffs, the
caves, the volcanoes. He observed small things so as not to overlook
them: the bee, moss, clover. At times, so much beauty left
him dazed, unable to move: the butterfly, the lion, the giraffe.
The steady beat of his heart accompanied him, independent
of his wishing or knowing, a steady rhythm whose purpose
was not his to divine. On his hands he experienced the warm
breath of the horse, the coolness of water, the harshness of sand,
the slippery scales of the fish, the soft fur of the cat. From time
to time he looked up suddenly, hoping to surprise the Other,
whose presence was softer than the wind though similar to it.
The intensity of his gaze, however, was unequivocal. He sensed
it on his skin, just as he perceived the unchanging, ever-present
light that enveloped the Garden and illuminated the sky with
its resplendent breath.
After he had done everything he thought he should do, the
man sat on a stone to be happy and to contemplate it all. Two
animals, a cat and a dog, came and lay at his feet. He tried to
teach them to speak, but to no avail; they just looked longingly
into his eyes.
Happiness seemed long-lasting and a bit monotonous to
him. He could not touch it. He could not find a use for his
hands. The birds flew past him swiftly, and very high. So did the
clouds. All around him animals were grazing and drinking. He
ate the white petals that fell from the sky. He needed nothing,
and nothing seemed to need him. He was lonely.
He touched his nose to the ground and breathed in thescent of grass. He closed his eyes and saw concentric circles of light beneath his eyelids. Lying on his side, he felt the moist
earth inhale and exhale, imitating the sound of his respiration.
A soft, silken drowsiness came over him. He surrendered to
the sensation. Later he would remember his body opening,
the split that divided his being to release the intimate creature
that until then had dwelled within him. He could scarcely
move. His body in its incarnation as chrysalis acted on its own;
he could do nothing but wait in his state of semiconsciousness
for whatever was to happen. If anything was clear, it was
the extent of his ignorance; his mind filled with visions and
voices for which he had no explanation. He stopped questioning
himself and abandoned himself to the heavy sensation of
his first sleep.
He awoke and remembered being unconscious. He found it
entertaining to examine the faculties of memory, amusing himself
by forgetting and remembering, until he saw the woman
at his side. He lay very still, observing her bewilderment, the
gradual effect of air in her lungs, of light in her eyes, the fluid
way she moved to recognize herself. He imagined what she
was going through, the slow awakening from nothingness to
being.
He extended his hand and she held out hers, opened. Their
palms touched. They measured their hands, arms, legs. They
examined their similarities and their differences. He took her
to walk through the Garden. He felt useful, responsible. He
showed her the jaguar, the centipede, the raccoon, the turtle.
They played; they watched the clouds roll by and change their
shapes, they listened to the unvarying tune of the trees; they
tried out words for describing what could not be named. Heknew himself to be Adam, and he knew her as Eve. She wanted to know everything.
“What are we doing here?” she asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Who can explain to us where we came from?”
“The Other.”
“Where is this Other?”
“I don’t know where he is. I know only that he is all
around.”
She decided to look for him. She, too, had felt that she was
being observed. They would have to climb to high places. She
thought the look must come from there. Might it not be a
bird? Perhaps, he said, admiring her astuteness. Walking among
fragrant bushes and trees with generous foliage, without hurrying,
they reached the highest volcano. They climbed it and
from the top saw the green circle of the Garden, surrounded
on all sides by thick whitish fog.
“What is that farther up?” she asked.
“Clouds,” he answered.
“And behind the clouds?”
“I don’t know.”
“Maybe that’s where the one who’s observing us lives. Have
you tried to go outside the Garden?”
“No. I know we are not supposed to go any farther than
where it’s green.”
“How do you know that?”
“I just know.”
“The way you knew the names?”
“Yes.”
It did not take long for Eve to reach the conclusion thatthe gaze of whatever was watching them did not belong to a bird. The enormous phoenix, with its red and blue feathers,
had whirled above them, but like the rest of the creatures, had
merely glanced toward them.
“Maybe it’s that tree,” she ventured, pointing toward the
center of the Garden. “Look, Adam, look at it. Its canopy
brushes the clouds as if it were playing with them. Maybe the
one that sees us lives beneath its shade, or maybe what we feel
is the gaze of the trees. There are so many, and they are everywhere.
It may be that they are like us, except that they don’t
talk or move.”
“The one observing us moves,” said Adam. “I have heard
his footsteps in the foliage.”
They made their way down the volcano, wondering what
to do to find the Other.
Eve began to call him. Adam was astounded that such a
deep moan could issue from her, a lament of the air in her
unwinged body. She had gone to stand at the bank of the river,
with her arms opened wide. Her dark hair fell down her back.
Her distant and perfect profile, her face with the closed eyes
and open mouth from which that invocation issued, moved
Adam. He asked himself whether they were wasting their time
imagining an Other like them hidden deep in the luxuriant
vegetation, where it was impossible to distinguish one tree
from another. But both Adam and the woman had sensed not
only his gaze but also his voice, whispering to them in the language
that, more and more fluently, they used to communicate.
And they even thought they had seen his watching shadow
reflected in the eyes of the dog and the cat. Adam wondered if
maybe they would see him when their eyes were more mature,less new. They still had difficulty distinguishing what existed only in their minds from what they observed around them.
Eve especially was prone to confusing the one with the other.
She claimed she had seen more than one animal with a human
head and chest, lizards that flew, women of water.
From beyond the confines of the Garden they often heard
the sound of cataclysms. They saw distant darkness and intermittent
eruptions, streams of comets blazing across the firmament.
Yet above them the sky remained unchanged, glowing
with a golden clarity whose tones increased or diminished in
no predictable order. When the earth quivered beneath their
feet, Eve would tiptoe toward Adam, playing at not losing her
balance. He would watch her, entranced, the toes of her feet
stretching and contracting, reminding him of fishes.
Adam did not remember the tree in the center of the
Garden. He thought it was strange that he hadn’t noted it
before, since he believed he had explored the place from end
to end.
“The one watching us does not want to be seen. He is protecting
himself, but we must find him, Adam. We must know
why he is observing us, what it is he expects us to do.”
Adam decided they would follow the course of one of the
rivers. They walked into the humid jungle. Their nostrils were
filled with the heavy, penetrating odors of the fertile soil where
all sorts of ferns and mushrooms and orchids grew. The graceful,
complex nests of golden orioles swung from the high branches
from which lichens and mosses spilled like lace above their
heads. They saw sleeping sloths hanging by their tails. Groups
of raucous monkeys peered at them as they pirouetted through
the treetops. Tapirs, wild pigs, and rabbits crossed their path,
brushing against their legs in a friendly manner.
Though the warm heart of encompassing green welcomed them, throbbing
with life, they walked in silence, soaking up the atmosphere
filled with the sounds and aromas of the hidden heart of their
Paradise.
The jungle was so dense that they walked in circles and
lost their way again and again, but they persisted. At last they
came out in the center of the Garden. They discovered that
this was the origin of all the paths that radiated from here and
later forked, and of the two rivers that flowed to the east and
the west. They found an enormous tree; beneath its trunk earth
and water were joined together. As it stretched upward, its
branches disappeared into the clouds, and they extended farther
to all sides than their eyes could see. Adam felt an impulse
to bow before its magnificence. Eve went straight to the tree.
Instinctively Adam tried to stop her, but she turned and looked
at him with an air of pity.
“It can’t move,” she told him. “It doesn’t speak.”
“It hasn’t moved. It hasn’t spoken,” he said. “But we don’t
know what it’s capable of doing.”
“It’s a tree.”
“Not just any tree. It is the Tree of Life.”
“How do you know?”
“The moment I saw it, I knew.”
“It is very beautiful.”
“Imposing. And I would say that you should not get so
close.”
Although the tree seemed to paralyze him, she could
barely contain her desire to touch its broad and robust, its soft
and gleaming, trunk. Beauty flooded her eyes everywhere.
The man had proudly showed her a myriad of colors
and birds and majestic beasts, but to her nothing seemed more beautiful
than the tree. Its leaves filled her imagination. They were
lustrous, their backs painted a luminous green that contrasted
with the underside, which was purple with thick, bright, salient
veins. Arrayed on the many branches, extending in every
direction, the leaves swallowed the light and then exhaled it,
distributing radiance all about them. The skin of the round,
white fruit shone, caught in the scintillating phosphorescence
that radiated from the tree toward every part of the Garden.
As Eve approached, the fruit-scented breath of the great tree
tingled like unfamiliar excitement in her mouth, a current of
life that was transmitted throughout the surroundings. Like
Adam, she was overcome with reverence, and she had second
thoughts about her initial impulse to touch the bark and eat
the fruit. She was very close, and the crinkled skin was within
reach of her hand, when her eyes lighted on a twin image.
It was as if she were seeing a reflection in a pond: another,
identical, tree rising before her, strange and complicit. Everything
that was light about the first tree was crepuscular in
the second: purple on the back of the leaves, green on the
reverse, the fig fruit dark. It was wrapped in dense air and a
dull, opaque light.
Adam, who had kept hidden, observing her, moved closer
when she circled the great round trunk and disappeared
behind it.
Even when he heard her, he still could not see her. He
wondered whom she could be talking with. Until then, they
had not come across any other creature that could put into
words the sensations of the body.
The cat, the dog, and therest of the animals communicated in elementary melodies.
If hearing her intrigued him, seeing the tree reproduced in an
identical image with inverted colors left him stunned. Carefully,
not making a sound, he followed the murmur of her
words. He saw her seated on an enormous root that sank into
the earth as if it were one of the extremities of what he imagined
might be the reflection of how the Tree of Life thought
of itself. Perhaps instead of talking, he told himself, the tree
sees what it imagines. He was about to step out into the open,
around the broad trunk, when he heard a voice. He thought
that the Other had finally allowed himself to be seen; but then
he was assailed by doubt. This voice did not sound like the
disembodied one whose murmurs he knew, the one that light
as the air had the quality of resonating inside his chest. This
was like liquid slipping along the earth and dragging stones as
it went. He heard its laughter. It laughed like the woman. It
said:
“So! You noticed that we were observing you. How perceptive
of you! And you have devoted yourselves to looking for
us? Excellent! I suspected that would happen, but I am happy
to know it was so. We could not resist the desire to watch you.
It has been very entertaining.”
“You are not alone, then? Do you have a companion too?”
“Companion? Me? Mmmm I never thought of it in that
way.”
“But there is someone else, besides you?”
“Elokim. He is the one who created you.”
“The man says I came out of him.”
“You were hidden inside him. Elokim placed you on one
of his ribs. Not inside his head, so that you would not know pride,
and not in his heart, so that you would never feel the
desire to possess.”
Those were its words. Adam kept listening.
“What is there beyond this Garden; why are we here?”
“Why do you want to know? You have everything you
need.”
“Why would I not want to know? What does it matter if I
know?”
“Only Elokim knows the reason for everything that exists. If
you should eat of the fruit of this tree, then you would know as
well. You would be like him. You would understand the reason
for all things. That is why I am here, at the foot of the Tree of
Knowledge of Good and Evil, to warn you not to partake of
these fruits, because if you do you will loose your innocence
and die.” The creature smiled maliciously.
Eve wondered what this creature was made of. Her skin
was different from theirs, iridescent and flexible, composed of
small scales, like the scales of fish. She was tall, and her body,
curving and graceful, flowed into long, flexible arms and
legs. Two golden, sparkling, almond-shaped eyes protruded
from her smooth, almost flat face, and the straight slit of her
mouth was fixed in an expression of ironic complacency and
composure. Instead of hair, her head was covered with white
feathers.
“Elokim prefers that you remain tranquil and passive, like
the cat and the dog. Knowledge causes disquiet, nonconformity.
One ceases to be capable of accepting things as they are
and tries to change them. Look what he did himself. In seven
days he drew from Chaos all that you see here.
He conceived the Earth, and created it: the skies, water, plants, animals. And
last, he made the two of you: a man and a woman. Today he is
resting. Eventually he will be bored. He will not know what to
do, and again I will be the one who has to soothe him. That is
how it has been through Eternity. Constellation after constellation.
He conceives and then forgets his creations.”
Hidden behind the tree, Adam followed the dialogue between
Eve and the creature, filled with curiosity. His chest felt
tight and his breathing was rapid. He remembered murmurs
from the Other warning him of something about a tree. Do
not go near it. Do not touch it. No clear explanation of why
he did not want them to do that. Until now the only obligation
that made sense to Adam was that he was to accompany
the woman, though she could easily care for herself. The same
was true of the Garden. The plants grew and adapted in their
own way without his intervention. The tone of the creature
that was talking with Eve sounded vaguely familiar. It was
the tone he had used to question himself about the designs
of the Other. It was similar to the sound of his impatience
when he tried to understand the reason for being.
“So you think that it’s that simple,” Eve was saying. “I bite
into the fruit from this tree and I will know everything I want
to know.”
“And you will die.”
“I don’t know what that is. It doesn’t worry me.”
“You are very young for it to worry you.”
“And you, why is it that you know all this?”
“I have existed much longer than you. I told you, I have
seen all this created. And not even I know what its meaning is Elokim creates infinite permutations from nothingness. He
gives them great importance.”
“But not you?”
“I find it a futile exercise not entirely devoid of arrogance.”
“Do you think we are a caprice of the one you call
Elokim?”
“In truth, I do not know. Sometimes it seems to me that it
is. What meaning does your existence have? Why did he create
you? You will eventually be bored in this Garden.”
“Adam believes that we will work the land, and that we
will care for the plants and the animals.”
“What is there to care for? What labor is there to be done?
Everything is done. Everything functions perfectly.” The creature
suppressed a yawn. “Adam and you, however, unlike all
the other creatures of the universe, have the freedom to choose
what you want. You are free to eat or not to eat of the fruit
of this tree. Elokim knows that History will begin only when
you use your freedom, but you know already that he is afraid
you will use it; he fears that his creations might end up being
too much like Him. He would rather contemplate the eternal
reflection of his innocence. That is why he has forbidden you
both to decide to be free and eat from the Tree. It may be that
freedom is not what either of you would choose. You see, the
very idea paralyzes you.”
“It seems that you want me to eat this fruit.”
“No. I merely envy the fact that you have the option of
choosing. If you eat of the fruit, you and Adam will be free like
Elokim.”
“Which would you choose? Knowledge or eternity?”
“I am a serpent. The Serpent. I told you that I do not have
the option to choose.”
Eve looked at the tree. What would change if she bit into
one of those fruits? Why believe what the Serpent told her?
And yet, she did not dare take the step to test it. She looked at
her hands, moved her long fingers one by one.
“I will be back,” she said.

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