“It does not seem to me…that we understand the laws governing the return of the past, but I feel more and more as if time did not exist at all, only various spaces interlocking according to the rules of a higher form of stereometry.” — W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz
“Such ideas infallibly come to me in places which have more of the past about them than the present. For instance, if I am walking through the city and look into one of those quiet courtyards where nothing has changed for decades, I feel, almost physically, the current of time slowing down in the gravitational field of oblivion. It seems to me then as if all the moments of our life occupy the same space, as if the future events already existed and were only waiting for us to find our way to them at last, just as when we have accepted an invitation we duly arrive in a certain house at a given time. And might it not be…that we also have appointments to keep in the past, in what has gone before and is for the most part extinguished, and must go there in search of places and people who have some connection with us on the far side of time, so to speak?” — W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz
“La única posesión de un extranjero son las imágenes que tiene de sí mismo, sonriendo en un lugar que ya no existe.”
–Lupe Pérez García
(translation: A stranger’s only possessions are images of himself smiling in a place that no longer exists.)
That’s how it felt when I found my way back to the Parc de la Ciutadella. I remember walking through a winter park on my first visit to Barcelona, nearly eight years ago, and seeing L’Hivernacle, not knowing its name and its connotations of the winter I was experiencing, thinking how beautiful it was and how I would probably never see it again.
When I came upon it this time, I found more than what I remembered. The greenhouse was still there, but on a quiet afternoon’s park bench, an older Spaniard named Ramón asked me the time and ended up sitting with me for an hour, killing time as I waited for a friend, discussing all the things that were in our heads. We were talking about books and he didn’t know the original English title of the novel he was reading. Turns out it was A Widow for One Year, John Irving being one of my favorite writers. It started to rain and as a diabetic he had to get something to eat so we parted ways as quickly as we met, using the colloquial “hasta luego,” even though we both knew we wouldn’t see each other later. When I was crossing the street heading home, I couldn’t see which way he had gone.
Parc de la Ciutadella, Barcelona, September 2010