In Ithaca, New York.

By Beatriz Salcedo-Strumpf

I woke up agitated: beads of sweat were coming out of my body: a sticky fluid slides from my forehead. I lifted the sheets, stood up and dried my face.

I couldn’t believe it! Once again I had dreamt of Penelope…! I remember how the first time I woke up in a good mood and said to myself: “Wow, I immerse myself in literature and my favorite character visits me in my dreams”.

I turn around and see on my desk the thousandth letter I wrote last night. I want to read it before…:

My dear Hector,

I remember when I said goodbye that beautiful warm summer afternoon in Paris. Your love left an indelible trace.

We went on separate paths and life stopped making sense to me.

I returned to my country full of light and happiness, possessed by the soft garden you had planted in my heart.

You stayed in Paris. Our letters crossed the ocean more than a thousand days.

Your words stopped the day that you refused to love me. Or never loved me? How can I know? You promised to visit me in Mexico; and I to return to Paris. However, nothing came of it.

I wonder if you got my last letter in which I was telling you about my new job in Ithaca, New York.

After a decade I still wait for your return.

Thinking always of you


I tear the letter in many pieces and throw it in the garbage can. While I imagine  Hector returning to my side, I write at night what I destroy during the day.

I feel the need to take off my wet pajamas and undress myself slowly while trying to get rid of that dream that is so difficult to interpret. I enter the bathtub naked.

The warm water washes my body, but not my worries. I turn off the faucet. I shampoo my hair, I soap myself softly, and feel as if Hector’s hands were caressing me tenderly in our intimacy. I get out of the bathtub. I sit in front of my dresser mirror and put on my make up, then I dress and go out to teach my classes at the University.

I evoke my last dream: I see myself walking unhurried, in downtown Ithaca, which is strangely deserted. I don’t have any idea where I’m going. It snows and evening falls.  I stop in front of a Macy’s window. All of a sudden, I feel that someone’s touching my shoulder and as like spring I jump and turn my body; I see in front of me a beautiful slim woman with a tunic and a linen shawl, and she tells me: “Andrea, stop imitating me, do you understand me? I’m going to be more explicit, don’t make my same mistake, knitting and unknitting for twenty years waiting for Ulysses, What a waste!

It seems like my favorite character reads my mind, since I always thought that she was the prototype of fidelity and the patience of waiting. Or I suppose she saw my questioning and disconcerted look. The truth is that in the dream she talked before I could ask anything.

_ Twenty years is a whole life; nothing makes up for what one wasn’t able to do. For twenty years I was faithful, and I’m certain that he was not. I knew him so well; his vigor, passion and bravery. Many women might have fallen in love with him; and myself? I took care of Ithaca, raised our son Telemachus battled with my suitors that were only interested in the wealth of the island. No, Andrea, I regret it all now.

When he came back, we didn’t understand each other.  We had grown up separately. He returned to Ithaca to realize that away from it he would be happier. Don’t let the same thing happen to you. You have time. Forget! Live! love!

Penelope goes away. Her regal figure gets lost in the dark. At that precise moment I wake up all sweaty.

Penelope’s words: “Love! Live! echo in my ears like drum of war. I finish putting on my make up and get dressed. I look at myself in the mirror and say: “It’s never too late to start to live, Andrea”. When I finish this sentence, I see her face reflected in the mirror, offering me a

16 thoughts on “In Ithaca, New York.

  1. Me gustó esta historia y la manera Penélope da andrea el empuje que necesita para vivir su vida y dejar de preocuparse por algo que nunca puede ser incluso si fue a través de un sueño.

  2. Esta fue una historia conmovedora. Me encanta la foto. Yo vivo cerca de Ithaca y es uno de mis lugares favoritos en el mundo entero. Es muy único y hermoso.

  3. El profesor es triste leer que no funcionó para usted y hector. Parece que el que realmente se preocupaba por él y apesta cuando no funciona de la manera que usted desea.

  4. This is a great short story because it is so relatable on many levels. One level is moving away from a lover and learning to cope with life without them and move on. Another is moving away from home, your friends and family for a new job opportunity. More people have this experience than not, and they have to leave everything they are comfortable with and face an entire new life. One last level is moving through life by valuable lessons you have learned from either a person or in this case, a piece of literature. There are often hidden messages that one can interpret and apply to their life from a piece of literature and this story is a great example because the character Penelope helps Andrea to seperate from the heartache of leaving Hector and focus on her new job and life in Ithaca.

  5. I almost cried after reading this. This is a sad story. It shows how history repeats itself, and even though this is referenced to a piece of literature from thousands of years ago, it still touched my heart. I also like the message of the story: “It’s never too late to start to live.” Life goes on, and it is not fair for yourself to be stuck in the memories of the past. You owe it to yourself to be happy and live life.

  6. I love this story because it teaches that life is for the living and if a person spends their entire life on hold then they are not living. It was bitter sweet and beautiful and I know that I will always remember to love only those who love me back, even though it might not always be that easy.

  7. Este cuenta es my romantica y triste. El dolor de amar a alguien quien no puedes amor es muy horrible. Me gusta este cuenta.

  8. Esta historia es tan hermosa y tiene un mensaje verdadero. Muchas veces las mujeres dan todo su amor a un hombre, y el hombre no puede dar el amor. Es una lastima. El mensaje de esta historia es muy buena y triste.

  9. Esta es una historia conmovedora y una gran lección de la vida. La gente necesita aprender a no aferrarse a lo que no hay que aprender a moverse en la vida porque si no, van a perder un tiempo de vida que no pueden dorso

  10. Esta es una triste historia de amor, pero retrata un buen mensaje sobre de cómo avanzar en la vida. Todos nosotros hemos experimentado la pérdida de un amor y puede ser muy difícil avanzar. Me gusta mucho esta cuenta.

  11. This was amazing, when i was reading it i was able to imagine everything that was going an and I was able to relate. I love how you mentioned it is never to late to start to live again. Nothing should be able to stop you from moving on ad enjoying life. Life is to short to let any past memories or past events hold you back. I love this!

  12. This was an absolutely amazing story. the language that was used throughout is so lyrical and beautiful. The description of the sweat and of paris also seemed so lovely. the moral of the story is also really good, that nothing should hold you back. The past should not effect the future. This was a lovely story with passion and strive.

  13. Me gusta mucho la moraleja de esta historia. Nunca deje que algo le impida ser usted. Se tu mismo siempre. También me pareció interesante que la foto es de Ithaca porque tengo familia de Ithaca.

  14. This is a very touching story. This short story is filled with love and passion that teaches the readers that life is about moving on and trying to live in happiness. Being away from a loved one is hard and I thought it made this short story really good.

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