Books with a Return.-
It was a coincidence that Triana Quevedo looked out the window precisely at that time. She had arrived in New York one year ago, with the same suitcase full of dreams that immigrants usually bring with them. However, at that stage the city had swallowed her, vomited her, then swallowed and vomited her again. In other words, she was on the edge, at that point of the razorblade where one misstep and you go down, with your soul sliced in two. She kept thinking of that Woody Allen film with the tennis ball hitting the net in the last scene.
She had been insulted, spat on, shouted at, and a massive guy had tried to rape her just a few days ago. She was saved when a gangster turned up and stabbed the other man because he recognised him from a rival gang. After helping her up, he stole her backpack with her laptop and her ‘lifesaver’ book, a first edition of Esbozos líricos by Juan Miguel Pomar, her best friend’s gift to her on her eighteenth birthday. ‘One thing does not rule the other one out, baby’, the stabbing savage seemed to be saying with the expression on his face as he turned away from her. That day she almost gave up, but her Italian landlady told her a few stories from other tenants and she understood that everything she was going through was like a toll that the most cosmopolitan city in the world charges to newcomers. ‘It’s the learning curve, sweetheart.’ And, somehow, she pulled through.
With all this emotional baggage, she had been feeling down and drowsy, and getting up in the morning had become a real challenge for the last several days. ‘That’s not drowsiness’, her manager at the Instituto Cervantes had said, ‘that’s early signs of depression. You’ll get over it. Come on, let’s get to work.’ But today was Saturday, and although she didn’t have to go to work, she had been awake since before sunrise and couldn’t go back to sleep.
As the first sun rays filtered through the Manhattan skyline, Triana looked up and took a deep breath of air, still not too polluted by the traffic. She noticed some movement on one of the ledges on the opposite building, where the archaic sign of the Waldorf Grand Hotel was still lit in an anachronistic way. It was an old but respectable building with an imposing façade that mixed the verticality of the Big Apple with details inspired by French palace architecture. Upon further inspection she spotted two people passionately kissing just in front of the sign. ‘This only happens in New York’, she thought as the image grabbed her attention and she held her breath.
A few minutes later the girl left the ledge and the guy, who was wearing a very peculiar hat, like an adventurer, burst into song and began to dance on the ledge in quite a careless manner. The wind carried the man’s voice to her window and Triana clearly recognised one of the Native American anthems from Mardi Gras in New Orleans: Indian Red. She was unable to tell the man’s age but he looked happy, exultant, so excited that he nearly fell during his dance. Before leaving, he threw a bunch of papers into the air as he laughed. Pure happiness.
The papers flew like confetti on July Fourth in the Fifth Avenue and the air currents fortunately carried some of them towards her building. One of them drifted close to her window, and she plucked the paper out of the air. When she looked at it, she read - astonished - the lines on the page
At first glance she had already guessed that the papers flying in the wind were the loose pages from the book Esbozos líricos she had lost a few days ago, when she had been assaulted.
Although several days later she tried to find the mysterious man in the hat and figure out how the book had ended up in his hands, it was impossible. She found out however that the girl she had seen on the ledge had gone missing and the NYPD was already looking for her in the Hudson. She also heard that the man, a jazz trumpet player, a long time tenant of that hotel, was completely heartbroken because of this.
Then, while standing by her window, Triana felt a strong determination that made her run down the stairs to grab as many pages as she could, which she managed to do as the traffic at that time wasn’t yet too chaotic.
She anxiously started to go through the pages she had found and put them in order. She then realised she was only missing one page. She was a perfectionist, and she wasn’t happy with this. Somehow that missing page was an important piece and she was cross for not having found it. There, in the street, she sat down on a stairway as she felt like crying for the missing page, when an unexpected hand placed the lost page on top of the other papers. She raised her eyes and saw a young man near her own age.
‘Hi, my name’s Banky. I was just walking down the avenue and saw you all stressed picking these papers off the ground. I figured they must be important because you’re wearing your Hello Kitty pyjamas. You know you are, don’t you?’
Triana was dying of embarrassment.
‘Don’t worry’, said Banky, ‘this is New York, nothing here is too weird. I have to open my bookshop in half an hour but if you don’t mind being in your pyjamas…’ he hesitated, ‘coffee and bagels and you tell me the story about these pages?’
‘Banky, I’m definitely having the fucking strangest week of my life, so, yeah, let’s go have breakfast. I don’t care about the pyjamas.’
And that breakfast was the first of many. Triana Quevedo guessed that Esbozos líricos written by Juan Miguel Pomer in 1927, which had given her company for many years, would now, perhaps, give her something else.