Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Of balconies and memories (In Memory of Héctor)
When I was still studying in Spain, I lived in the university dorm reserved for graduate students. It's called Residencia Reyes Católicos, located on Calle Teresa Gil, Valladolid.
I was a nomad for the first 10 months of my stay there, since I was originally assigned to a first-floor room, traditionally reserved for transients. Then I was moved to a fourth-floor room, a small space for students who stayed longer. Finally, I was transferred to Room 307 that had this beautiful and spacious balcony where I used to hang out, cook using my electric paella dish or dry out shoes and clothes. This was where I would stay until I finished my Master's.
In 309 was a Spaniard from Burgos. His name was Héctor. At a young age he was already doing his PhD in Physics. He had studied French, gone to Italy to feed pigeons, tried to date girls, become a member of the Science Museum in Valladolid... too many achievements so early in life. He was a bit weird, too: delayed reactions whenever we told him stories, topics totally unrelated to the conversation, debates over the mundanest topics, a curious gaze, perhaps.
But deep in him was a beautiful soul of a person struggling to fit in while trying to be true to himself. When people began laughing behind his back or started imitating his antics, he was oblivious. He was there to study and study he did. When everyone tried to push him away, he tried his best to move in closer, although he was not successful in every attempt. And when he sensed it was futile, he kept to himself and did not say a word.
The last time I saw him was on the day I left for the Philippines, although I had the opportunity to exchanges a few e-mails with him and chat a bit afterwards. Last Thursday, Héctor passed away after falling from his balcony, the same balcony that we all had in Reyes Católicos where we hang out, cook and dry clothes. No one may ever know what's going on inside his head when he fell -- it was so characteristic of him to be secretive -- but I hope that he was not thinking how lonely and oppressive life could be.
And I hope, too, that somehow, somewhere, Héctor could read this and know that he would be sorely missed, and that other people who may be going through rough times and feel that they do not belong know that there's always a willing ear and a helping hand out there to help.
Descansa en paz, Héctor. ¡Hasta la vista!