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    José Aurelio Paz in all corners of life

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    José Aurelio Paz en todas las esquinas de la vida

    Since Antonio Moltó said that phrase, the "glorious old men" remained as a code of affection between José Aurelio Paz and me, to the point that there was no call, message on Facebook, gathering or SMS that did not start or end with it. We assumed it with all the jocularity that was possible, knowing that in him all the glory was consummated and that the years had whitened his head, but not his memory or his heart.

     We demanded attention and meetings, suspended by the damn COVID-19, which ended up leaving one last message with a reply in the air. He would tell me "Buddy, I'm in the Cubita`s, if you finally arrive ask for permission at the door" and I, with troubles "in the queue for the liquid detergent, I don't think I'm coming, excuse me, my love, this is life or death, love you”. To which he would reply: "haaaaa, totally justified."

    We did not drink coffee or prepare spaghetti again or sit on his terrace full of memories, taking care of him and us, and, now that I try to understand - assimilate? -, accept his death, in addition to the terrible pain that has remained in the left of my chest, I feel that I have a debt of affections that I must pay, at any cost.

    Because José Aurelio Paz believed in life after death and from his hand I entered the Enmanuel Baptist Church one day to know, not exactly to profess, although one always feels things and sometimes rationalizes them and others only feels them. He recognized himself as Christian and not religious, as he was breaking the dogmas in his wake, with his pen at the ready, without folds, without condescension.

    This is what he told Katia Siberia one morning, also about coffee and memories, when she dared to interview him and chronicle that meeting, to him, king of interviews and chronicles, born conversationalist, impatient writer, goldsmith of words, sincere critic, loving father of a son who does not have his blood, cultural promoter, musician, poet and happy madman. They had finally awarded him the José Martí National Journalism Prize, and I have not forgotten that, upon returning from the homage of rigor, I told him that, officially, he was a “sacred bull”.

    We laughed again, because he laughed a lot and savored the happiness of life as well as the lunches at his beloved Hotel Sevilla. Even if the food was good, I know that he was looking for his friends, for the good treatment that does not decline there, not even between cracked walls. He left me an order and I plan to fulfill it.

    He also suffered the pains of life. We talk so much about those things ... Even one nondescript afternoon, in the middle of an (another) assembly to which he could have decided not to go —because when you are a glorious old man you have certain licenses—, suddenly I looked at him next to me and said to him "What are you doing here?". His expression needed no explanation. We both stayed.

    This love story of mine and yours started like all: looking at us in the distance. I saw in him what everyone saw, a paradigm, the goal, to emulate his talent. I do not know what he saw, but he let me enter, little by little, that personal space behind every great professional. From the strictly journalistic advice we pass, without realizing it, to the anecdotes of his childhood, his work and even his many trips, in which he lived experiences that if they had not been told by him would be incredible.

    José Aurelio has a collection of fortuitous and true events in almost every corner of the world. From huge mistakes, the Moscow Olympics 80, to which he came to win a literary contest, to half-dark stories; from memorable interviews with the greatest divas of this country, or the chronicle of a meeting to which he had been sent for coverage, to him, who did not know how to write informative notes.

    In 2018, when the news of the award and the interview, he said that he would confess something never said before. We waited for his “bad memory”, which made him forget “things”, to later describe in detail the clothes that one of his many interviewees was wearing, although his color-blind eyes confused the colors. I dare to guess that his confession was a declaration of love and I want to believe that it was for us.

    Were you afraid of COVID-19? Yes. Like everyone, or more. He put his hand on his heart to say hello and hardly ever left the house. We always said, when all this happens, you have to open one, two, the bottles of wine you need. Of all the pains that stampede with his death, perhaps that of having been alone in his last breath is the one that sinks the most. Damn disease that you do not allow us goodbyes.

    Many called him Peace with nobody, because he shied away from euphemism and flattery and was not afraid to speak his mind, but JOPA was always at peace with himself. Now we need that peace to accept that we will be lacking in this corner of life.