In the small and charming village located at the foot of the mountain that houses the monastery there is a centenarian train station. We were, Loureiro, the elegant shoemaker who loves wines and books, and I, seated on an ancient wood bench waiting for his niece. Her mother, one of the cobbler’s sister, had asked that her daughter come to spend a few days with her uncle. She had been distraught and Loureiro was to help her out of her gloomy mood. It was still too early in the morning, and the sun was yet to be strong enough to put away the chill of the night. I noticed how fascinated he was with all the movement involving arrivals and departures, typical of any train station. Before I spoke to him about that, his niece arrived. She was thirtyish, quite pretty but looking dejected. They hugged tightly, as those who love one another do when they meet. We were introduced, and she was very gracious. Then, she said she needed a coffee. We went to a coffee shop right there, at the station. When the nice waitress placed on the table the steaming cups and warm rolls filled with the delicious local cheese, the niece opened her heart. She regretted that life had been turned inside out.
She was on vacation. She worked for a famous Italian fashion-design company that manufactured female clothes and accessories, known worldwide. The work environment was terrible; lots of disputes, not always clean, for better jobs and more visibility, and too much dissent among team members of her department. To make things worse, she no longer felt in her boyfriend his sincere willingness and joy in being next to her. If all of that weren’t enough, her father was in a terminal coma from a disease that had been assailing him for years. Finally, she confessed that despite the love she had always had for life, living under those conditions made life unbearable. She had no strength to go on.
The shoemaker took a bite of the sandwich, licked his chops, sipped his coffee. As if he had no haste to find the best word, he pointed to the platform behind the window with his chin and said: “Once a day, every day, this station sees many people arriving and leaving. I have been coming here for years, and when I see two people hugging each other, many a time crying, I can never tell if it is for the joy of going or coming.” The niece interrupted him to point out that it could be out of sadness, since leaving is not always desired. Loureiro gave her a sweet look and explained: “Whenever there is sadness for the mere fact that one is following their course, it means there is something wrong within us. The free spirits face departure with wisdom and love, therefore, with joy.” He paused to sip his coffee and continued: “I am not talking about the departure of beloved ones to other cities or spheres, but of jobs, things, loves, ideas and behavior. We are conditioned to have control over our lives; however, due to miscalculations, we spend plenty of time trying to act upon external situations that relate to us, particularly those which we have no control over, and we forget to look after the only part over which we have total control: each one over themselves. We change reality according to modifications we make in choices; only with the exercise of freedom will we find plenitude and peace.”
“Our choices grant us the power of life. To improve our choices is the true process to free and heal the being. Wings or handcuffs are defined as we understand the reasons and feelings that prompt each decision. Sadness or unhappiness in departure indicate attachment, selfishness or a frustrated attempt of domination.”
“Postponing departure is protracting pain. Let go, of everything and everyone. This is essential for those who want to learn how to fly.”
He paused briefly and then continued: “Why should you be sad with the cycle of life? Can’t you see that everything and everyone have their time to leave?” The niece was surprised. Everything and everyone? The cobbler nodded and said: “Yes, we only suffer the departure of someone when, out of childishness or fear, we pass on to the other person the core axis of our existence. You must retrieve the power that is essentially yours without hampering the course of others.”
“I am not talking about people that go to other destinations in order to search for themselves, but of things, places and situations that might have been important in our lives, but have completed their cycles, just like we have ours to complete. In short, all that represents the status quo is on the verge of changing: the existing state of affairs will not remain. Or the necessary renewal of life will not take place and life will not dazzle us with its fantastic magic. This fosters a healthy relationship with impermanency, therefore with the feared death, and it is a necessary stage for the march of evolution.”
The young lady confesses she was afraid of losing what she had achieved and ending up without anything. The uncle was didactic: “Life demands courage. Not the aggressive or inordinate heroism of madmen, but the composed bravery that stems from the gaze of the wise. Can’t you see that the station of departure is the same as for arrival? We must let go so that we can open our arms and free our hands to receive whatever or whoever arrives. The wise man knows that the end of a cycle will be, necessarily, the beginning of another, just like a story that begins when the other finishes. This nourishes and supports your courage in face of the new and unknown.”
The niece asked when she would know the time to give something up had come. Loureiro said: “Whenever we fee unhappy or uncomfortable, it means something must change. Always within ourselves never in the others. Each one is accountable for their transformations and bears the consequences of their choices. Give up, once and for all, the habit of expecting that the other, or even the world, will change to suit what you long for. This is disrespectful; worse, it is an attempt at domination, useless for being ineffective. Do your part the best possible way and move on, period. You may even disagree with the other, but you can never impose any kind of change, under any condition. The opposite is also true: we should never grant anyone the power over our choices. After all, because of them, each one will have to face harsh elements or beautiful landscapes during their journey.”
“Contemplate on accepting with patience and respect if the decision of the other to leave affects you somehow. The other is also on the journey to find himself. It is time to wish farewell and replace the sadness of departure with the joy of what is to come.”
“When life becomes bland or unpleasant, it is the warning you need that it is past the time for the unavoidable changes that propel advancements. It is time to leave or to let go. Life needs motion not to stagnate. Not the empty motion of shallow fun that is but one’s attempt to escape from themselves, but the movement that leads you to find your own self, the movement that turns you into a different, better person, free and at peace.”
We remained some time without uttering a word, until the niece started to sob. I asked her if she was all right. The lady nodded her head yes. She said she needed to be alone. We paid the bill and left.
After a few days, I went back to Loureiro’ shop and asked him about his niece. He said she had gone to spend a week at a farm of a friend of hers, close to the village. We were in the middle of a conversation when the niece entered the shop. I was amazed. Her countenance was different, she had a nice smile on her face. She greeted me and smacked her uncle on the cheek. Then, she said that the days of introspection have allowed reality to be unveiled. She came to understand that the stubbornness in not giving up anything that surrounded her only prolonged suffering, by keeping close to her what should no longer be. Stagnation causes rotting; in motion lies the cure. Now she could clearly see that. She recalled the hardships and the pains her father had during the treatment; the physical deterioration he underwent. She had finally realized they were both imprisoned in a painful cell; he was expecting to hear from her that he could leave in peace, because she would be fine, and that sooner or later they would meet in another station, because love aligns the destination. She acknowledged she was being selfish and, now, she was ready to say good-bye. She would wish him a nice journey and tell him she would see him eventually. The cobbler nodded his head and said: “Yes, time has come for his body to dissolve, so that his spirit could continue on another stretch of the long journey.” Next, the niece told us about the concessions she had to make against her will to keep her boyfriend; however, in addition to being fruitless, they made them both miserable. It was time for each to catch their train and move on, in search of new stories. The novel of their romance made sense up to a certain chapter, then the letters no longer formed words. Finally, she said how oppressed she felt in her workplace. Even though she gained experience, she was unhappy. She knew that many coveted her job, but what is the good of being admired and living the dream of others if she wasn’t happy there? The joy of the early years was gone. She admitted she has always thought about designing her own clothes and accessories according to her likings and style. She had to put the wagon of life on the track bound to her gifts. She had decided to quit her job and open a small studio to develop her own brand. She knew it would be very difficult in the beginning, but she was very excited because she would be travelling with her dream seated next to her. Finally, with teary eyes, she said she recalled having listened from the mouth of her uncle that risks are the seasoning of life, and that without freedom the spirit becomes ill.
Loureiro cracked a large smile, stood up and gave the niece a long hug. They fixed their gaze one on the other and the shoemaker said: “You are ready to go to the station. The train to your destiny has just arrived.”
Kindly translated by Carlos André Oighenstein.