I came to Comala because they told me my father, a certain Pedro Páramo, lived there. My mother told me. And I promised her I would come and find him when she died. I squeezed her hands to show her I would do it; she was at death’s door and I would have promised her anything. “Don’t fail to go see him,” she advised. “His name is different one way or another. I am sure he will be happy to meet you.” Then I had no option but to tell her I would do what she said and, having repeated it so often, I continue d to say it even when they had to work hard to prise her dead hands from mine.
Even before then she had said:
“Don’t go asking him for anything. Just demand what’s ours. What he should have given me and never did. My son, make him pay dearly for the fact he left us abandoned.”
“I’ll do it, mother.”
But I had no intention of living up to my promise. Not until soon afterwards I started to fill up with dreams, and illusory thoughts fluttered through my head. And so I started to create a world around the hope embodied in that man Pedro Páramo, my mother’s husband. That’s why I came to Comala.
Those were the dog days, when the August air blows hot, poisoned by the fetid air of the saponarias.
The path went up and down: “It goes up or down depending on whether you are coming or going. It goes up if you are going; it goes down if you are coming.”
“What did you say is the name of that town you can see down there?”
“Are you sure it is Comala already?”
“And why does everything seem so sad?”
“It’s the times, sir.”
I imagined seeing through the memories of my mother: of her nostalgia amid the fragments of her sighs. She always lived aching for Comala, to go back there; but she never went back. Now I am coming in her place. I bring the eyes with which she saw these things because she gave me her eyes to see: “When you go over the pass of Los Colimotes there is a very pretty view of a green plain, a little yellow with the ripe corn. From this place you can see Comala as a white patch on the earth, lighting it up at night.”
And her voice was secret, almost whispering, as if she were talking to herself… my mother.
“And why are you going to Comala, if you don’t mind me asking,” I heard someone asking me.
“I’m going to see my father,” I replied.
“Ah,” he said.
And silence fell between us again.
We were walking down a slope, listening to the springing step of the donkeys. Our eyes were exploding with the sleepiness, in the hot days of August.
“He’s going to throw you a fine party.” I heard the voice of my companion at my side again. “He will be very happy to see someone since no one has come here for so many years.”
Then he added:
“Whoever you may be, he will be pleased to see you.”
In the reverberating sun, the plain seemed like a transparent lagoon, dissolved in vapour where the grey horizon shone in the distance. And beyond, a line of mountains. And still further, the most remote distance.
“And what does your father look like, if I might ask?”
“I don’t know him,” I said. “I only know his name is Pedro Páramo.”
“Yes, that’s what they told me his name was.”
I heard the “Ah” of the muleteer again.
I had come across him in Los Encuentros, a crossroads of many paths. I was waiting there, until this man finally arrived.
“Where are you going?” I asked him.
“I am going down, sir.”
“Do you know a place called Comala?”
“That’s exactly where I am going.”
And I followed him. I went behind him trying to keep up with his pace, until it seemed that he realised I was following and slowed down. After that we went along so close that we almost touched shoulders.
“I also am a son of Pedro Páramo,” he said.
A group of crows went flying across the empty sky, calling kuar, kuar, kuar.
After having come down off the highlands, we came down even further. We had left the hot air up above and were sinking ourselves into pure heat with no air. Everything seemed to be waiting for something.
“It’s hot here,” I said.
“Yes, and this is nothing,” the other replied. “Calm down. You will feel it even more when we get to Comala. That place is on the burning coals of the earth, on the very mouth of hell. Let’s just say that a lot of people who die there, when they get to hell come back for a blanket.”
“Do you know Pedro Páramo?” I asked.
I dared to ask because I could see in his eyes the beginning of familiarity.
“Who is he?” I asked again.
And he whipped on the donkeys, unnecessarily because the donkeys were going on well ahead of us, trotting along on the descent.
I could feel my mother’s portrait I had tucked away in my short pocket, warming my heart, as if she were sweating as well. It was an old portrait, eaten and worn at the edges; but it was the only one I knew of her. I had found it in a cupboard in the kitchen in a pot filled with herbs: melissa leaves, Flor de Castilla beans and sprigs of rue. From then on I had kept it. It was the only one. My mother was always against having her portrait taken. She said that portraits were a kind of witchcraft. And it seemed to be so, because hers was full of holes like needle holes and just where her heart was there was a very big one through which someone’s middle finger could easily have fit.
It is the same one I have here, thinking that it could be useful to help my father recognise me.
“Look here,” said the muleteer, stopping. “Do you see that hill range which looks like a pig’s bladder? Well, behind there is the Media Luna. Now turn around that way. Do you see the ridge of those hills? Look at it. And now turn around this way. Do you see that range which you can hardly even see because it is so far off? Well then, that is the Media Luna from one end to the other. You might say all the land you can take in with your eyes. And all that land is his. The thing is our mothers gave birth to us on the floor even though we were sons of Pedro Páramo. And the funniest part of that is that he then took us to be baptised. The same must have happened with you, didn’t it?”
“I don’t remember.”
“Go to the devil.”
“What did you say?”
“That we are arriving.”
“Yes, I can see that. What went on here?”
“It was a roadrunner, sir. That’s what those birds are called.”
“No, I was asking about the village, which seems so alone, as if it were abandoned. It seems like no one lives here.”
“It’s not that it seems like that. That is the way it is. No one lives here.”
“And Pedro Páramo?”
“Pedro Páramo died many years ago.”