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Looking up at the city sky and not finding stars does not take away imagining them and dreaming of seeing them again. The stars and the sea have a deep meaning, perhaps because I grew up observing them, resorting to them as an oracle that gave me answers in the comets, artificial satellites or silence. In this city I have a lot of sea and little of stars. When I want to look for them I slowly walk around the great “Reservoir”, looking for contrasting sensations and memories. When I reach the Northern end of the lake, I observe the big city that seems a gigantic amusement park and me a clumsy child who wants to play. I haven't done very well with the stars, but I have enjoyed wonderful thunderstorms; after all, walking through Central Park is an experience that alleviates the constant dissonance of the city. Other times, I walk along Fifth Avenue and enter the park on 85th Street, observing the details of the "Temple of Dendur" I can retrieve from the sidewalk, then I continue behind the MET Museum through woods until I reach my beautiful "Angel of the Waters" on the Bethesda Fountain. It is at night that her figure becomes abstract, unreal, a dismal illusion that shakes me. It is in the dark that I most like being with her. During the winter, when snow covers her wings, in the middle of the intense cold and we are completely alone, it is in those moments that I most enjoy her company. Sometimes she observes the cosmos with a desolate nostalgia. "You are very brave" I tell her. She answers me with an infinite gaze, and then turns to the cloud-covered sky illuminated by a city that resists resting.
“Look up!” she shouted at me one night when I felt trapped in a present so uncertain that I could not cry. “Look Up!” she shouted as I beat my fists against the snow and she flopped around dreadfully to free herself from the fountain. “Look up!” she shouted as her wings flapped so big they seemed to cover the entire sky. “Look up!” until she managed to slip away from the base and in a rapacious flight, dove down to hug me.
That’s how she is.
When I was a teenager trying to find an explanation to the world, a more reasonable one than religion and school books, I found in a used bookstore with a warm smell of old books (a place that in winter you had to enter dressed as if you were going to the North Pole), a Spanish magazine with an article on stardust. Since I had no money, I read it hiding, taking advantage of the owner being at the cash register next to her kerosene stove. That winter afternoon in the early nineties, I discovered that almost all the atoms and chemical components of our planet and body, such as carbon, hydrogen or nitrogen, come from stars that ceased to exist billions of years ago. That day I discovered that we are a part of the universe. But I also discovered that because of the speed of light, the stars we see belong to the past. Those stars are spirits, I thought. That winter afternoon in the early nineties in my southern city of Concepción, I left the used book store with a strange feeling of nostalgic happiness and without paying a dime for the read.
— If we are part of the universe, what do you think the New York of that other galaxy looks like? — I asked my angel one night when we were talking about stardust.
— From Andromeda?— she asked me enigmatically.
— Yes, from Andromeda, maybe.
She looked up slowly and erratically, as if searching in the middle of the cosmos for that place she once knew and had forgotten the route. Her eyes stopped at the North, between the constellations of Pegasus and Cepheus, and she began her story:
“In the Andromeda Galaxy, there is a planet with a city full of skyscrapers that are actually holograms and change shape every day. New buildings appear and disappear according to the creativity of their inhabitants who dream a transforming metropolis. The New Yorkers in Andromeda are highly sophisticated, and enjoy the pleasure of time and company more than consumption. Men relax in the parks enjoying shades of strange colors and read verses of non-existing poets, or imagine the skyscrapers that will shape their city for a single day. Sometimes they get distracted by some captivating girl. When she realizes she has been seen, she turns away nervously and draws pinwheels on the cornices of the skyscrapers, or crazy shapes on the roofs of the buildings she dreams. The inhabitants are born to dream, and in that they spend a big part of their life. Watching the city is something that stays printed on my mind. There is an angel like me in every fountain of every park, because whatever the planet, admiration for space travelers is as important to life as death is.
— So — " I asked, confused— , "how does this New York resemble Andromeda’s?
— Both cities are full of fantasy, inspiration and are inhabited by authentic dreamers and creators of non-existing realities.
— And if they came, what would they take home?
“Oh, if you're thinking of Victorian buildings, Art Deco, museums or skyscrapers, forget it! They would probably take away sensations or images. I am thinking of movie scenes to later share with their friends. I am thinking of Audrey Hepburn's discreet gaze in front of Tiffany’s, Michael Keaton's clumsy underpants race through Times Square, or Meg Ryan's orgasm at Katz’ Delicatessen over in the Lower East Side. Images and only images are what they take away to the end of their lives. Although I think that they may take those mysterious gardens hidden on the terraces of tall buildings”.
— And if they wanted to take you, would you go with them?... Would you go?
My beautiful angel looked up at the sky where the sound of an airplane cutting through the clouds like a thin winged shark distracted us for a few seconds. Then, she looked down to hide her gaze somewhere in The Lake.
Since that night, when I look up at the sky, I think of the New York my beautiful angel told me about. I think many things, some of them sad because I am sure she didn’t tell me everything. Sometimes I think that New York, the one in the other galaxy, perhaps no longer exists and I will not be able to know it. What will have become of them? Is the dust of their fantasies and dreams creating new lives? But then I return to the fountain and think of something less ambitious, I think of who will accompany me to look for the stars of New York, when my beautiful angel has gone forever.
Manhattan, December 20, 2019
Translations Corrections: Aurelie Cotugno.