I recall walking hundreds of times on the old bridge, where the mind flows like nowhere else. Nothing can symbolize a city like that connection. The bridge that from day to day builds a river in its entrails in a sin of fantasy.
The same always happens when I arrive, to what I should call “home”. It’s a hidden expectation of a slight and secret hope that crumbles as I take the first steps. In the dregs of the trip, as I wait for the luggage, the sensation climbs up my ankles. The kind of anxiety that develops into some imploration to run away. Maybe it was just the distance, for what used to be my city, painting a thousand colours inside me. Now becomes an amplification of grey as I draw near and looses all its glitter. The glitter of books and tourist guides. Of travellers that have never been here. The glitter of the power to recreate adrift in memory. Of lost childhood tales. No questions asked, no talk. It happens.
Reality welcomes us. It comes with the full weight of the luggage. It isn’t the faces or the weird parlance, much less the hearts. It cannot be. It isn’t the absent rocking of the ship or the aerial turbulence. What is it then that breaks that immense desire of staying? The result is the bitter taste stuck to the throat that neither goes up nor down. A slight rubbing conditioning the air one breathes. Maybe it’s the climate. The perception of the river’s odours that are always in default or in excess. The fish that swim blind, fearful. Perhaps a trick of the imagination caught in the act, caught unaware. Naked.
Nothing is as perfect as what is written in fantasy. The lights. The scent that caresses the soul in the recollection of another time. The sound of another time. The other time. When we didn’t speak yet. And at last, what is seen is the utopia of longing falling apart in silence and troubled-free. At my feet. Like someone drawing attention for the wrong reason. The reason why I wish not to see, the one hiding a raw animal ready to eat. I reckon it’s the lack of an urban smile. If there’s such a thing. The cold sympathy of a city welcoming in a semblance of open arms spreading like a reptile over streets and avenues bursting at the seams. Could it be the accumulation of traffic in layers in mobile floors that is wrecking my judgement? The lack of a conception of space, the lack of a life plan. Could that be the shattering of a minute dream? What happens is that I arrive less and less frequently.
The few reasons that bring me here, beyond certain professional commitments, have fallen to ruin. The city grew smaller. Shrank. Its views and spaces were narrowed. It became a mountain of wrecks under construction here and there, all over the place. Crumbling brick everywhere one looks. The defining grin of modernity recruited from a past that doesn’t exist. Which ended long ago.
A castle. A wall consecrated to the gods. A dragon’s tail. The cut up stomach of a palace. Deserted pyramids drawn over poorly taken photographs. Stolen from magazines randomly found in a waiting room. Copies to entertain someone who drinks coffee. Plagiarism in granite full of windows that do not open out. That’s what this city is about.
Tears on the walls that leak darkness from a inkless copy machine in the absence of light. A machine left in a corner lost in the dark. A machine that woke up not knowing if it was copying a monument or the remains of a promise. A life expectancy. A tunnel. A raise-bridge, a round table or a mausoleum. Because it no longer could switch off the light to save energy, massively.
Everything happens in a city where money falls from the sky and flows faster than blood in the veins of its citizens. Notes and coins leaving open wounds in broad daylight with blood astonished by being splashed in the air. Holy realities. Stories of kings and princesses for a day. Fairies, gnomes, countless dwarfs. An amusement park filled with athletes and blind tourists lost in the glow of gambling chips. I get nervous from day one. I get here and hide in a restaurant, with my back turned to the street so that no one notices me.
– Hola señor, quieres algo?
There is the reason of the unclassified heritage that roars when one comes inside. As soon as the cobbled street greets our walk and doors surround us. An heritage afraid of the dragon’s guts and the palace treasures. Shrunk down. Screaming for help. Heard from a distance. We clash with it. Real estate with its drawers filled with little visual nightmares. Waiting for carte blanche. Heritage kneeling down and screaming. And the unclassified wreckage growing like mad roaches.
There is an integrity that should be protected: not only the historical value of this and that building, its timeless value, but the whole surroundings. Be it a square or the vastness of a whole city, whereby the quality of life of its citizens is preserved. In the contact with its strangeness that monumental inheritance starts showing the cracks. Loosing its plaster. Becoming an earthquake. Falling apart without remedy in a chaos of irreparable chasms. And so, which is protected in a work of renovation is the future, not the past.
– Qué quieres, señor?
I recall walking hundreds of times on the old bridge, where thought flowed like nowhere else. I want to keep it with all my power. With my teeth and my nails. I want to keep the faces of all I’ve walked past. I want to keep all that I thought about. As a symbol of human creativity. The engineering of being. The diversity. Nothing can symbolize a city like that bridge. The bridge that from day to day builds a river in its entrails in a sin of fantasy. Or that hotel with the name of a capital of another nation. That no longer is an object of contemplation in the lottery of looking. Why not protect it? Classify it? That historic monument that synthesizes this whole humanity. This mix of Peking Duck with racing cars. Yes, the utopia of longing infiltrates the cracks in the brick. Looses itself in the wall of aerial turbulence.
– Y la bebida, señor?
And what about inheritance, legacy, heritage? What have we left of it? Some fire, some blind fish. Fearful fish. The perpetual dilemma of love and hate, hidden in an agglomeration of scales or in a building shaped like a vegetable? That’s what this city is about.
“And your stew, señor, is it tasty?” Upon the cliff, round the corner, the castle was kept. The secret and the city’s thousand colours were lost. What remains of it is fastened to the throat, conditioned in the agony of breathing. Now I rarely arrive. I come less and less. I keep myself away, inside a poorly taken photograph, nobody knows why. Does anyone know, does anyone speak? Does anyone ask, does anyone clarify? We know that tomorrow is always another day. A new time to discover. The last motion of the ship’s rocking. A new beginning. From scratch. On the feeling of wanting to hug everyone and at the same time punching them. Therefore, I arrive less and less. But that is my own business. Take it or leave it.
“La cuenta, por favor!”