La Voz de Galicia – September 29, 2017 →

Cristina PatoShe is tall and thin, her hair is white and her eyes are light. She must have been an elegant woman. Sometimes dressed and sometimes half-naked, she goes out nightly to collect cigarette butts on the street, butts that she puts in her pocket and that then, during the day, she smokes as if they were expensive cigarettes. She sits on the doorway steps, her detached eyes stare at nothing, and her lips, red. There are days where she asks for food, others where she asks for a light, and almost every month she suffers an accident at home that fills the building with police and firefighters.

My second-floor neighbor is probably around seventy. She has something timeless and incredibly beautiful about her, but seeing her on a daily basis and imagining her past life always produces in me an existential fear: alone, in a great city, abandoned by social services, and without anyone looking out for one’s welfare.

New York is a city that one both hates and adores in equal parts. It is as cruel as it is generous; it reminds you daily that you are nothing; and even though loneliness is present in all corners of Manhattan, we are all ants working to build a meaningful future. And then you reach old age, and all that work leads to an infinite loneliness…

It rained in Ourense. I entered the cathedral and went to the tiny chapel where I seek refuge since adolescence; I sat there in silence, looking at nothing in particular, and suddenly, a woman around seventy murmured tenderly, “If you look at the Christ sideways, it looks as if he’s smiling.” I looked at her, hugged her, and began to cry because at that moment I understood that loneliness had nothing to do with the size or the ambition of a particular city. Loneliness, like death, is part of our existence, and learning to live with it is a life lesson…

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