By: Mar Arias On: 03/10/2016 In: Cueva de los Verdes

He began working as a caretaker at the Cueva de los Verdes, one of the most beautiful centres of culture, art and tourism in Lanzarote, when he was just a child. His father also worked there in the last years of his working life and he took his place, so to speak. He always liked his work. It was easy-going. Tourists came in and were surprised with what they found inside the cave, they took photos and went home, and he watched over it, making sure that everything was OK. At first, his post was outside. Then he switched to monitor the cave from the inside. His task was to prevent any kind of vandalism. He loved being inside that cave, full of beauty. Its lighting, nooks and crannies… He knew the cave like the palm of his hand and felt at home inside it. So no one was surprised that he was the first to get to work and he extended his days voluntarily until long after it was time to go home.

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What the management found even stranger was noting that he did no even go home to sleep. He did not seem to come out of the cave. The manager asked him directly, and he offhandedly remarked that he had noticed that some vandals tried to get in at night and he had decided to stay to stop them. Although he was not entirely convinced by the response, the truth is that the man did not ask for extra money and all he was doing was protecting one of the most important places on the island. So his manager left him to it. He did it every day and, after a while, nobody thought it odd that the caretaker had made the cave his home. By the time that visitors started to arrive, he was already showered, dressed and no one would have known that a person had slept and eaten there. His workmates brought him cooked food. That was a detail of the manager that, given the fact that he was doing extraordinary shifts on a daily basis, he thought that he should address these “details”. The caretaker became the heart and soul of the Cueva de las Verdes. Soon everyone saw it as normal and he was happy.

The cave, his home

The real problem was glimpsed when one morning, the management of the centre decided to conduct a fire drill and all staff had to leave their offices and go outside. He did not do it. It was not that he disobeys; there was no malicious intent. It was that he couldn’t. He was not able to set foot outside of that room, which had become his home. But also his refuge. His prison by choice. His protective womb. He was not able to go outside and face the world. At first, his colleagues tried to persuade him.There was no way.His bosses also tried. Eventually, when they realized that there was a quite a serious problem, they went straight to the company psychologist. “Why don’t you want to leave?”.“It’s not that.I can’t.

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Well, I can’t and don’t want to. I can’t go outside.For the insecurity.The terror. The chaos… here everything is tidy, logical and known… it’s simple. I can’t go back to being one more.No longer.” “But … do you realize that this is a psychological disorder? You’ve developed a type of agoraphobia … you know? “It’s possible,” he said. “Or maybe not. Maybe it’s my genetics. My grandfather used to say that we are descendants of Los Verdes, the owners of the cave. Perhaps it was just a need to return to those origins, to the home of my ancestors.” The psychologist did was lost for words, and said that they would have a session there every day at the end of each day. And life took on a new dynamic. Every day he worked, ate his food, brought to him by his workmates, he kept part for the holidays when the centre was closed and saw the doctor in whom he confided about his present and past. Not his future however because the caretaker believed that he did not have one. They became friends. In fact, both the doctor and some of his colleagues, even his boss, became interested in meeting him every Saturday in the front office, to watch football matches, drink beer and tell stories. Then, when everyone went, he collected the leftovers, cleaned up and returned to where he considered to be his home.

Inside the cave, lying face up, he counted the protruding stones, cracks, holes, nooks and crannies… every millimetre of surface of his chosen sky. His cave was his world and the world seemed to have accepted that.

Reality or fiction?

The story of the caretaker transpired. Soon, there was a visitor who did not know the strange obsession that that man had with the cave. They asked him if he could take them on a tour.He refused. However, the requests began to come to management by letter, email, social networks and even in person. The world wanted to hear the story of the cave and its mysteries as told by its sole inhabitant. The heir (as he had defined himself) from the lineage of Los Verdes. True or false. Fact or fiction. Madness or depression, the caretaker who had only done that job throughout his lifetime, began to also be the cave’s tour guide, the storyteller, the conductor, the historian.. The soul, as we had said, but also the active mind of the place.

Soon after, it was not possible to separate the visit from the caretaker of the cave. You couldn’t distinguish the caretaker from the cave. Both were one. A single reality.

Months, years and decades went by. It was there, in the cave that, without ever having rejoined the outside world, the caretaker died. They found him lying down, staring at the ceiling, counting, they assumed, stars made of rock. Dreaming of stones. The caretaker died and his infinite soul joined Los Verdes who had lived there centuries ago. That is what people said.

Over time, his story became legend and the new guide incorporated it into his repertoire of stories. In his daily storytelling. The new caretaker came out at the agreed time and no one ever came on a Saturday to watch a match in the cave because there was nobody to visit in the cave.

However, those who have passed through the area at night say that if you listen closely, like an animal, if you hear the silence, while breathing softly, you can hear the whisper of a man looking at the sky, counting the stars, the whisper of a man inside his own home.

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