Jacqueline Doyle
Diego's Shoes

No one can fill my Diego's shoes. No one.

Mi amor, mi mundo. Massive ugly toad who covered canvases, walls, buildings, city blocks with visions that astounded the world. "I paint what I see," he said — history unfolding in a vast panorama: hundreds upon hundreds, thousands upon thousands of campesinos, factory workers, capitalists, Indians and conquistadores. Hinged mariachi calaveras danced on graves heaped with marigolds, sugar skulls, candles, and smoldering copal. Doña Sebastiana lurked in the gay crowds, dark-eyed, staring. Death, always death in the midst of life. And now she has folded him in her bony arms at last.

I see him before me, vital, alive. Wild hair combed back straight from his broad, pale forehead. Bulbous eyes that roved everywhere, saw everything. Squat nose, sensual lips, folds of fat under his chin. Bulging belly, enormous, like a proud pregnant woman's. Small hands that touched my broken body so gently, stroking my spine, my secret places. Fat swelling cock that roamed the world. The mole on his inner thigh, those monkey toes that I loved to kiss. He always came back to me. One foot firmly planted in the Mexican soil, Diego straddled oceans and continents, irresistible, larger than life.

I forgive him, over and over I forgave him. I forgive him for the massive public display that dwarfed my small canvases, overshadowed my suffering and my dreams. And for his infidelities, the anguish he caused me, my heart ripped from my chest, tangled in vines and veins, bleeding on my white skirt.

When they amputated my leg, I wrote in my diary, "Feet, what do I need them for, if I have wings to fly?" Diego sat with me all night when I couldn't breathe at the end, held my hand until my soul ascended, leaving my wasted, mutilated body far below. That dead weight, that animal carcass bristling with arrows, pocked with pain.

Now I soar—spin—float. I ride air currents far above the earth, feathered wings outstretched, and then swoop down for a closer view. His studio is empty. Even on a gray November day, the room is filled with light and warmth and color. Gold, rose, orange, vermilion, umber, cadmium green. The cup of paintbrushes is still there, a palette smeared with paint, an ashtray full of cigar butts. A rag soaked in turpentine. A pair of empty slippers.

They reviled him for his atheism, and it's true, Diego didn't believe in God. We placed our faith in the spirit of the people, the power of the revolution to establish a heaven on earth. No afterlife. This life. How surprised Diego will be to discover that the spirit endures, though what form his will take I do not know.

Mi Diego. Espejo de la noche. Where have you gone? What new shape will you inhabit? When will we meet again?

I know only this, Diego. There will be many on earth who will follow in your footsteps, but none who can fill your shoes.


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