I heard this story from a man who tells stories. More than once I told him I didn’t believe him.
“You’re lying,” I said. “You’re rambling, you’re telling tales, you’re taking the piss!”
He was unmoved. He went on calmly telling his story, and when I shouted, “You liar, you rambler, you daydreamer, you traitor!” he looked at me for a long while, shook his head, smiled sadly, and then said, in a voice so low I was almost ashamed: “There is no America.”
To make him feel better, I promised I would put his story in writing:
The story begins five hundred years ago in the court of a king, the king of Spain. A palace with velvet and silk everywhere, and gold, silver, beards, crowns, candles, lackeys and servants, courtiers skewering each other at dawn after throwing down their gauntlets the night before. Sentries sounding clarions from the tower. And messengers hopping up into their saddles, messengers jumping down from their horses, friends of the king and his fake friends, too, and beautiful ladies, and dangerous ladies, and wine, and all around the palace people who paid for all of it without question.
But the king himself lived this way, without question, and no matter how you live, in splendor or in poverty, in Madrid or in Barcelona or anywhere else, in the end every day is the same, and you get bored. Which is why people who live somewhere else imagine that Barcelona must be beautiful, and people who live in Barcelona would prefer to leave and go Somewhere Else.
The poor imagine how nice it must be to live like the king, and their tragedy is that the king believes that poverty suits the poor perfectly well.
The king gets up in the morning, goes to bed in the evening, and all day long he’s bored among his problems, his lackeys, his gold and his silver, his velvet and his silk. He’s bored among his candles. True, his bed is magnificent, but after all what else is a bed good for besides sleeping?
Every morning his lackeys bow to him deeply, every morning as deeply as every other morning, and the king is so used to it that he no longer even looks at them. Someone hands him his fork, someone else hands him his knife, someone else pulls out his chair, and whoever speaks to him says Your Majesty and many other pretty words, but behind them there is nothing.
Nobody ever says to him: “You idiot, you ass.” They won’t say anything today that they didn’t already say yesterday.
That’s how it is, the life of a king. . .
To read the entire piece, purchase your copy of Music & Literature no. 9.