It’s been seventeen years since I left the neighborhood of Gràcia. And even though I returned to Barcelona many times since then, the truth is that I had never stopped by my old neighborhood. I was free on one particular morning, and I was going to grab a coffee with my sister Teté and her wife Jan. Since my sister-in-law had also lived for some time in my rented apartment, we decided to meet up in the neighborhood. I walked there from my hotel and arrived at the corner of Travessera de Gràcia and Torrent de l’Olla. Then I saw the newsstand. I took me some time to approach it. I looked around, and I did not recognize the area. Gone was my grocery store, the frozen foods shop, and the bakery. But there was the newsstand where for years I bought my daily paper when I returned from my walk and my morning call to my parents from the phone booth. That’s right, the phone booth where I spent one hour a day talking for a hundred pesetas, had disappeared as well.
I peeked in, and in a matter of seconds, the surprised attendant exclaimed, “Green Pato!” We stood still, looking at each other, stunned, smiling, and without knowing what to say. It had been seventeen years since we had seen each other, and though the neighborhood was now full of banks and abandoned lots, he remained there, with his newsstand, like a memory from times past, like a metaphor of survival.
The encounter made me think of the years I shared an apartment with Pili and Eli, when I could still chat with my father every morning, and when the streets of Gràcia teemed with real life. Pained, I returned to Ourense thinking about how sad it was for businesses to disappear without anything appearing in their stead. Then I realized that although there were not many differences between my two former neighborhoods, there was one notable exception—here, in Ourense, we no longer have newsstands.