I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.
His name is Candelario, and he owns the lawn care maintenance company which tends to my employer’s property. When he comes into my office to be paid, he smiles and calls me Senora. I like that. I love being called Senora. Although it’s merely a common courtesy for him, the word conjures romance, lace mantillas, mariachis, and Spanish love songs for me.
Something about Candelario—I wasn’t sure exactly what at first—draws me to him. Not his looks, although he is a very handsome man for his age, which I’d guess to be about mid-seventies.
During our short chats, I listen to him, enraptured, and it dawned on me what intrigues me about him and—yes—even attracts me.
His elegant bearing. The flavor of romance that shines in his smile, the whisper of Hispanic charisma that seems to have vanished with past heroes like Ricardo Montalban and Gilbert Roland.
When I glimpse beyond the stooped shoulders, the weather-worn wrinkles, the gray hair, I think of Michelangelo’s angel in the marble, and I see the young Candelario—the man who at one time surely stood straight and tall—beneath the aged exterior.
His manners are very old-world, very gracious, very elegant and, according to him, he was raised in an atmosphere where such carriage and manners were common.
Candelario doesn’t know that, because of his impression on me, the character in my book was named after him, patterned after the man I’m sure he was in his youth, the man he still is.
I look into Candelario’s eyes when he tilts his handsome head a bit and calls me Senora, when he flirts in such a gentle way that my heart flutters, and I long for the romance that he symbolizes. The long-extinct concept of romance, the manner in which a gentleman could speak with that precise combination of teasing charm and respect. The way a man like Candelario could look at a woman, and through his eyes, she became a beautiful senorita, lace mantilla and all.
And, sure, maybe this gracious but spicy elderly Latino is thinking very saucy thoughts behind that cautiously coy smile. All the better, eh?
Seriously, though, I yearn for the lost art of gallantry in which a mere smile in a man’s eyes—tempered with dignity—warmed a woman’s heart in ways that simple lust could never touch. A beauty far, far beyond sex.
Do you see the effect Candelario’s proud bearing has on me? To think about him sends my mind off to a dreamland where a gallant man takes my hand and kisses it, a flash of admiration in his dark eyes. A world where heroes still honor women, where—even though they certainly might have naughty agendas—they still know how to campaign for her attention with respect.
Last week I talked about the hero of my book as he sat in a booth across from me and my friends at a restaurant. I told about my character as I’d already written him. Today, I’m just taking a step back to reflect on the same character, but to remember him before I wrote him—when he was the angel in the marble, yet to be carved. When I fell in love with his time-worn smile, and recognized the beauty which still flickers in his dark eyes.
Both men, which are one and the same to me—the aged Candelario and the young, mysterious businessman in the restaurant—have that inexplicable something that sweeps me off my feet.
Candelario’s physical body may have aged, but such a beautiful spirit cannot be affected by time. And in his carefully respectful flirtatious smile, the sparkle in his eyes, that romantic spirit still shines bright.
The spirit that is SO powerful it made me write a book about him.