Por Magdalena Pretel.
20 July 1714. Five people are crossing the bridge of San Luis Rey. It falls. All of them die.
A witness of the accident, Brother Juniper, tries to figure out why this happened to those five. He asks himself if there was a reason for their deaths, and concludes that it was all part of a plan: God’s plan.
After reading their stories, I see that what these five people have in common is that, after the day of the falling, their lives were going to change drastically. All of them had projected to start “another” life.
The Marquesa of Montemayor had discovered she had never been brave. There she found the origin of her misfortunes. Her lack of courage made her possessive, superstitious, alcoholic, madly demanding of her daughter’s attention. Because she knew her self-confidence was poor, she wished and proposed to start all over. She was going to be more independent and less controlling of everyone’s life. She was going to believe in others and be more sensitive. But it was not possible.
The person that made her notice this was her companion, Pepita. The little orphan girl obediently followed the rules of her Superior, the Abbess, but was not very happy with the Marquesa. The reasons were many. With only fourteen years old, she had to take care of an old lady that treated her badly and was constantly drinking alcohol. She had to put up with the Marquesa’s superstition, indifference, insensitivity. She also had to be careful about the other servants, as they took advantage of the Marquesa’s condition. However, she knew her own suffering had a reason: she was following her Abbess’s desire, and was going to continue with her mission. She had a long future in front of her.
Feeling lonely, Pepita wanted to go back with the nuns, at least for a while. So, she wrote a letter to the Abbess. Nevertheless, she noticed her wish was not brave, and decided not to send it. This attitude caught the Marquesa’s attention, and made her notice her own absence of courage. That same night, the señora seemed to be closer to the little girl, and promised her she was going to start afresh. Perhaps a new relationship was going to begin. Perhaps she would treat Pepita as a daughter, and Pepita would treat her as a mother. Perhaps Pepita would be able to see the Abbess more. Surely, if the Marquesa changed her attitude, Pepita was going to be happier. But then again, we will never know.
The third victim, a young boy that lost his twin brother, was going to start a trip to Europe. Esteban was never away from his brother. After his death, Esteban’s life was senseless. He even thought about committing suicide. Fortunately, Captain Alvarado appeared in his way and proposed a solution. The adventure seemed to be the beginning of a new life full of new faces and activities. Maybe he would be able to leave the memory of his brother behind, and start anew. Maybe he would make decisions by himself. However, these plans were not possible, as his life ended crossing the bridge.
Finally, two other men died: Uncle Pío and Don Jaime. The first one was an old man who desperately loved three things: the theatre, Castilian literature and an actress. However, his love was not reciprocated. Once he had been her tutor, and now he wished to teach his lover’s child. The little Don Jaime was always close to her mother because he was continuously sick. Although she seemed to control his destiny, she let him choose whether to accept Uncle Pío’s offer. Obviously, the young child accepted the proposal. He wished to learn, to meet other people, to develop his intelligence. In consequence, both lives were going to change substantially. For the first time in his life, Don Jaime would live away from his mother. He would be free. Uncle Pío would teach him everything he knew. He would treat him as the child he never had. And the little boy would have a substitute father. Nevertheless, it was impossible.
These five people had the same necessity: love. This need was expressed in different ways. The Marquesa lacked her daughter’s love; Pepita, her parent’s, the señora’s, her Abbess’s; Esteban also his parents’ and his brother’s (in his last days); Uncle Pío required the Perichole’s love; and Don Jaime, his parents’.
Fortunately, in each case, another person appeared to fill the gap. As for the Marquesa, Pepita would help her, and also the other way round. The same occurred with Uncle Pío and Don Jaime. Captain Alvarado would rescue Esteban. All of them, after the day of the accident, were going to start to fill the deficiency of love in their lives. But again, it was not possible.
So now the question is the following: was the falling of the bridge an accident, or was it programmed? Brother Juniper’s response did not satisfy me. He says that the end of their lives was part of God’s plan. I must say I expected another ending. How is it possible that just when they were going to be happy, to start all over, their lives finished?
Trying to figure out an answer, I asked myself: is there a possibility that, after the falling, their earthly life finished but another one started? Definitely.
Consequently, on the basis that their death was the origin of a new life, I thought about how this might take place.
I have two hypotheses. The first one is that they reincarnated. Perhaps Pepita’s soul was born in a beautiful family, with parents who adored her. Perhaps the Marquesa was beautiful, well-spoken, and had a daughter that was always by her side. Perhaps Esteban did have a brother, but both of them were independent and got to know different people. Perhaps Uncle Pío married an actress and had his own child. Perhaps Don Jaime was a healthy boy and had lots of friends. However, I find this hypothesis a little bit strange, as I do not believe in reincarnation.
The second idea is that, after the accident, their lives continued in the land of the dead. And here is where I find the answer to my first question, about why they died when they were almost going to start a better life. The falling was the key to cross the bridge that connects the land of the living and the land of the dead. As the Abbess said, what connects both worlds is the bridge of love.
These five characters, after seeing a light of hope in their lives, were able to cross to the other world, where they were going to be happier. Why those five? Because they were prepared: the Marquesa’s heart had discovered courage, and Pepita’s, sensitivity; Esteban had opened his eyes and heart to a new adventure; Don Jaime had taken decisions by himself for the first time; Uncle Pío had ended his selfishness and focused his energy in another one.
They were able to leave the land of the living because they had the two motors that were necessary to cross the bridge: hope and love.
In the end, the one who considered they were prepared to leave one world and enter the other was God. He decided they were ready to cross the bridge.