The Spaniard

I’m finding myself more and more fascinated lately with people almost lost to history.

It’s hard to remember, at times, that everyone who ever lived, lived.

He wondered if he would ever see her again.

But who was he? Am I talking about the Egyptian King Iry-hor? He’s the oldest person whose name we know, and that’s about all we know about him.

Or were those the thoughts of the Altamura Man as he hung, upside down, broken and dying in that cave?

Or the anonymous soldier I’ve watched fall five, a dozen, a hundred times as he came out of the surf onto the beach that day in June.

And so often the “he’s” aren’t men at all; our culture, all of our cultures, are much more likely to leave the lives of women unnoted, unrecorded, unnoticed.

Why did Elinor Curry agree to marry him?

Why did they get divorced?

All of them lived. All of them ate, and drank, and laughed, and maybe even loved, and lay awake at night, unable to sleep, worried about the future, got up in the morning, bleary-eyed, took a shit in the manner appropriate to their culture, station, and situation, ate meals which likewise suited them, and all of them almost, almost, almost disappeared.

But not quite.

“He took some informal guitar lessons in his twenties from a Spaniard he met next to a local tennis court. After a few weeks, he picked up a flamenco chord progression. When the man failed to appear for their fourth lesson, Cohen called his landlady and learned that the man had killed himself. In a speech many years later, in Asturias, Cohen said, ‘I knew nothing about the man, why he came to Montreal . . . why he appeared at that tennis court, why he took his life. . . . It was those six chords, it was that guitar pattern, that has been the basis of all my songs, and all my music.’”
The New Yorker

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