Tears peeked shyly from the corners of her eyes as she told him: as real as their love was, as much as she did love him, she must go. She must leave their quiet Andean-perched village, must leave him, and seek her destiny in the growing metropolis which beckoned from beyond the rivers and the hills. And so she turned and walked away from him. He stood, shocked, unmoving, a thousand thoughts competing for purchase in his mind but none providing a key to convincing her to stay. For a moment, just a moment, she turned and glanced back at him, the white ruffles of her sleeves swirling in the breeze, the ends of the red sash about her waist whipped by the Andean wind like a trickle of her heart's own blood; she turned back and redoubled her pace into the distance, tears now flowing with abandon.

The hauntingly beautiful Bolivian-born song Llorando se Fué was made most famous in other lands by its (unlicensed) re-recording for the 1980s film Lambada: The Forbidden Dance, and more recently by its sampling in the J-Lo club track 'On the Floor.' But its history and meaning run much deeper than those ephemeral uses. Literally translated as '(she) was weeping,' the tune was adapted from an old Bolivian folk song by local heroes, Los Kjarkas. As traditionally played, the drumbeat introduces the whispy notes of the pan pipes as they rise and fall like the hills of the Andes, accented by the strum of guitars and mandolins. The song is sung at a high pitch, a fitting echo of the wailings of true love lost.

Days passed in the village, one after the next, all the same. Other women were interested, some keenly, but his heart was held open only for her, only for the possibility of her return, of the return of her love for him, to match once again his for her. His memories of her were constant, with every corner of the village holding the image of a precious moment lived there; every one of them was painful, but not hurtful; no emotion but love occupied his thoughts of her. He understood, after a fashion, her leaving; and every day he went to the familiar places where she might wish to chance upon him, if she ever did come home.

Days passed in the city, one after the next, none like the last. She was educated now, by life; urbane, employed. Her suits were sharp, her tastes refined. Men pursued her constantly; shallow, hollow men, none as pure of heart as him. None were worthy of her time, and none obtained it. Little things tugged at her constantly, reminding her of the life she had left. The shape of a tree, the sound of a dog's bark, the whipping of the wind.....

Weeks passed. Months passed. Now he walked, slowly, almost trudgingly, to the fountain by which they had shared so much laughter, so many glances in which they revealed deeper feelings than simple words ever might. He had come almost to dread his hopful circulations, having come to know that at each location he would be met with the emptiness of her absence. Perhaps he ought to skip the fountain today, such joyous memories, such painful emptiness. But he forced himself onwards, for that one slight chance....

The original song was played in a rhythm known as a Saya, a slow and sultry beat having origins in the drums of Africa and of the Amazon, sometimes danced to in parades with a series of lunging steps, bespeaking the passion which the song carries in its core. This beat seems to have been crafted from time itself to suit the lyrics penned by Los Kjarkas founder and frontman, Gonzalo Hermosa González, speaking of the tears of the heart from love having left. Here is a most excellent and faithful performance of the song by a somewhat later incarnation of that band (the giveaway is the presence of Japanese-born mandolinist Makoto Shishido, who joined the band --which is 'big in Japan-- in the early 2000s); and here is an earlier, more sedate version; and a seemingly even earlier music video of the song, which inspired (if somewhat indirectly) this dramatic recapitulation of the emotion brought forth by the same. And, if you must, here is the J-Lo vid.

And then, there she was. Standing by the fountain. Dressed in the same white dress with ruffled sleeves, the same red sash around her waist.

For a moment, the shock and wordlessness was as potent as in the moment of her leaving. For the first time, he felt anger-- how could she do that to him, to turn her back on him as she had done, and then simply show up like this? He fancied that he would tell her so then and there, reject her return, spurn her to the same casual degree that she had spurned him. He approached more closely, searching for the words by which to break her heart -- but then he saw the tears welling in her eyes, tears for him, for every minute and day and month they had been parted. He knew her fear of him doing exactly what he now planned. He saw her love for him, burning, as ever, behind those eyes.

The fool he'd almost been!! To think, he would have thrown all of that away for spite. Wordlessly, he embraced her. Her tears now flowed with abandon. She had seen the world, and had weighed the whole of it against his love, and found the scale tipped without question so strongly to him that both knew in that instant that they would never part again. And now his tears mixed with hers, running down her cheek, forever entwined with the vision of their life together to come, their home, children, children's children. And the wind whipped about them, wrapping the ends of her sash around him like a trickle of her heart's own blood.

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