Everyone wants to be loved. Everyone wants to feel that fire that burns our emotions and makes us feel unique, the owners of a great treasure. And for a moment, we really have a treasure: an instant where we feel that the whole world lies in our lover’s arms, that brief moment where time avoids the clock and our existence resides beside the person we love.
For a moment, we are far away, in a place where we are untouchable, in a place where we love and someone loves us back, in such a transparent and open way, that makes us feel so pure and bright that for a second, we feel sacred, like touched by something divine. In that precise moment, our senses are open and everything smells better, our skin reflects the light and we shine with the brightness of something heavenly.
We feel like we are dreaming but everything feels real — maybe too real to be truthful. But we fall into the illusion, into the sweet contradiction and live that moment like there is nothing else outside of it, like the only existing thing in the whole earth is us.
Although that moment is evanescent, it will fade away as soon as we wake up and realize that our existence is part of something bigger and we are only a small part of it. We feel like a something has been taken away from us and we feel insignificant and melancholic. We come back to ourselves and realize that it’s getting late for work, or maybe we discover that the other person woke up earlier and left us behind.
So, we come back to the usual reality, to the daily routine, to the shower to get rid of the smell of our lover, to get rid of our lover’s caress and become an ordinary person again. Although something feels a little bit different, because now, in spite of our ordinary existence, we have something that we did not have before: we have a treasured memory, an image that we can evoke and makes us feel special. So, we smile, with our boring clothes on, in the car to our way to do something irrelevant, we smile and feel accompanied by something beautiful even if we are alone in a big and grey city.
This is what the graphic novel Salón destino by Carlos Vélez published by the publishing house La cifra is about. A man, who can be any of us, lives in a big city with an anodyne existence but suddenly discovers a place where his life, his destiny — as the name of the place suggests — will change radically. That place is a dance hall where he meets a red haired woman that literally transforms the colour of this life. It might sound like the typical love story, but it is not. This is the story of a man who rediscovers himself through the dance and the music.
El Salón destino is reminiscent of The Magic Theatre from the novel Steppenwolf by Herman Hess, where the protagonist faces his deepest desires and fears and, metaphorically speaking, he travels into his consciousness in order to discover himself. In a similar way, the main character of this graphic novel begins a journey where he discovers himself as a different person than he was.
This graphic novel is wordless, the story is narrated only by images but the use of the colour has a special meaning. At the beginning of the story, the colours are muted like covered in dust, representing the monotonous and solitary life of the protagonist. This changes as soon as he sees a red flash, the hair of a woman; for the protagonist, this is a small but significant sign that invites him to enter to the Salón destino. And yes, he learns to dance but moreover he learns to live a life full of meaning and go beyond the limits of his usual existence.
Maybe the world is the same and the city is still dark and full of unknown people, but he transforms himself so the world and his own existence become more tolerable and even worth it to be lived. He still has a boring office job and lives in the same place, but little by little, these spaces come to look a bit different, because of the presence of small things coloured in red. In spite of the deceptions and the losses that occur during the story, the protagonist transforms his way of looking at the world and moreover, he transforms the way he looks at himself.
It is very interesting how visually the graphic novel also transforms, from delimited panels to pages full of one image or small figures that creates a sequence without bubbles or panels. Some of these pages are so meaningful and visually powerful that could be a paintings itselves, with resemblances to the work of artists like Wassily Kandinsky and Joan Miró. These pages create a visual experience that allows the reader to experiment the intensity of the scene, that moment where the human existence is distant from the ordinary.
Salón destino by Carlos Vélez is a journey where the colours, the music, and the dance are combined to create a piece where our senses are expanded and open to a new experience. The story shows how a small decision could determinate the course of our lives and how for a single moment, we feel like we could fly through the sky without falling.