L’Eco de Sitges, 9 December 2000
Soon it will be a year ago that, coinciding with the celebrations of Christmas and the New Year, we visited New York, a fascinating, stimulating city full of disparate contradictions, cheerful and cosmopolitan, and the first megalopolis in the world. I always had believed that, rambling through the streets, those highest of skyscrapers, so close to one another, had to cause a sensation of breathlessness, almost of oppression. False impression! Everything is extensive, luminous, limitless. The buildings, all of different heights, form an assembly of extraordinary beauty, paradigm of modernity and of harmonious architecture. In this unique scene, the awestruck visitor feels a sort of vertigo, the same that one suddenly feels in the middle of a forest of gigantic trees, conscious of one’s physical insignificance.
It would be exhausting to describe all the attractions that the city offers: the artistic wealth of its museums, the proliferation of art galleries, the elegance of the boutiques of every ilk replete with objects, from the most exotic to the most sophisticated and refined, as well as the distinctive originality of the decoration. On Broadway, a prodigious portal to musicals, theater, concerts... New York: a city capable of instilling the vitality necessary to enjoy all imaginable impulses. And again, the sensation of vertigo.
At dusk, to contemplate from the other side of the East River, once past the Brooklyn Bridge, the island of Manhattan as it is covered with that bluish semi-obscurity and adorned with thousands of lights, constitutes a spectacle of a captivating magnificence, as if a fluorescent mirage. In the distance, the Statue of the Liberty proudly raises its arm from Ellis Island, like an invitation to visit the city.
Central Park, a vast space of naked calm at this time of the year, has the peaceful enchantment that nature always offers when it extends through the middle of a boisterous city and defies the stony elegance that surrounds it with the pure arrogance and slenderness of the trees that in the spring must be of an intense verdure. On the frozen lake, skaters twirl and twirl. They are multicolored figures that stand out against the frozen whiteness, like belated flowers moved by the wind.
It’s curious how there are places, spaces, cities, that leave a special imprint on our memory, on our sensitivity and on our predisposition to the evocation: of the passage of a novel, of the singular character of a personage or of the peculiarities of a deserted landscape. Often, we intensely relate what we see with a close friend with whom we have shared key moments of our life.
On a date half-obscured (medio oculta) by the years, Antonieta Almirall had recently been married by proxy and had traveled to New York to be with Marko to begin her new life as an American citizen. How splendid she must have found the city to be! How dazzling new landscapes seem to us when they are contemplated for the first time with naive eyes! When the adventure of life passes through its most intense moments.
All this I meditated upon while walking through those streets, among the bustling crowd, occupied with being able to see the maximum number of things possible in so few days. We already sensed that she had to be ill, but we knew that, for the moment, she was well. We took an afternoon to travel to the state of New Jersey, some kilometers to the west of New York, where she, good natured and smiling, waited for us with her children to celebrate our stay in the United States. It was the last time we saw each other.
Antonieta spoke her maternal language with a subtle Anglo-Saxon accent and often introduced American words in her conversation. She was a person integrated perfectly with the nationality, the language, the life and the customs of her country of adoption. She did not forget her Sitgean roots, but she also knew that the fruit of those roots, her children, were Americans and America, her ample home.
Our last talks on the telephone already were tinged with sadness, the sadness that precedes the last goodbye. Her voice was weak and distant, as if the distance between her and ourselves were extending until infinite, until the announced death has turned the distance into absence, though not into forgetfulness.