It is Monday morning and from a distance I can see that the Joan Miró Library is closed.
The blind covers the entrance like a black cloak.
On my back weighs the backpack with the computer and the books.
I get even closer.
There's someone at the door.
A man with white hair and a long beard.
He carries a bag in his hand.
I know it.
We both look at the sign with the schedules.
What a pity, girl, he says.
I better go home.
And then he says goodbye and sits on one of the benches in the park that surrounds the library.
He takes something out of the bag and eats.
I cross to the cafe across the street.
I'm there for a couple of hours, but I can't concentrate.
I think of that man.
I must have seen it before.
I go out for another walk in the park and I discover him now lying under one of the roofs of the building, in one of the corners, there where he sets up his shelter along with other people from the street.
A few months ago, in an interview with the Ecuadorian writer Natalia García Freire, we talked about how her first book
Nuestra piel muerta
came to be .
She mentioned the master's degree she attended in Madrid, where she lived for two years, but mainly highlighted public libraries.
She said that they were a treasure that was not found in her country.
This asking for a book and having them look for it and lend it for a month, two months, three.
I migrated with few books.
Much less than I would have liked.
Once in Barcelona, I rented a room that had no light.
I spent my days in bars, parks, but mostly in libraries.
Following García Freire's advice, the first thing I did was look for the nearest public library and become a member.
Every morning, I would wait at the door and watch the librarian walk by and then go in first, while the lights were still going on.
She knew precisely the routine schedules.
She imagined that they could hire me to repeat the dance step.
In the mornings she taught Catalan or technology classes.
The younger ones studied upstairs, with more privacy.
On the ground floor those who, like me, prefer the sun on their faces.
And they don't mind sharing the study table.
The funniest thing: at noon, the music started.
Almost always, a record by Fito Páez.
The volume increased little by little, until at half past one it was almost impossible to read or write and you had to get out.
So she would have lunch at the bar on the corner and two hours later she would come back.
For a month I repeated the routine.
And the faces began to become familiar.
One morning a man asked my permission to sit next to me.
I took my bag off the chair and said yes.
And he sat down.
After a while, I started to feel something strange.
An intense smell.
Strong, as saved.
I looked back at him and then I realized: the pants covered in dirt, the jacket with holes;
dry and gray hair.
And a plastic bag that was resting on the table, right next to the newspaper that he was reading.
He didn't read one, he read three at a time.
From beginning to end, not a single page was skipped.
As if it were a book.
In time I was able to find a better place to live.
I got a desk.
A small library.
Even so, he kept thinking about that man.
He was spinning with the idea of finding it again.
Sometimes I went back to the library to look for books, but I preferred to read them at home.
Spending so many days wandering in the street had tired me: I preferred the shelter of a home.
Until one day I decided to go back.
It's December and I approach the librarian.
I ask if she has a record of how many street people come to the library.
She says no.
There are many, but most are not registered.
At least she knows three men who come every day to read.
She describes them.
I know each one of them.
She interrupted her: and what are they reading?
She does not know.
They reach out and grab whatever is at hand on the shelves.
I sit at a table determined to write this column.
I think: hopefully he comes.
A place is not a refuge if there is not a certain permanence.
An hour passes.
I focus on the page.
Excuse me, someone says, and it's him.
He sits at the table to read.
He carries in his hands three newspapers.
I think about talking to him, but I don't want to bother.
He has an even longer beard.
A warm pullover under the jacket.
Read the newspapers in order, from the first to the last page.
Things don't change.
At one point he stops and returns the journals and then stops over one of the bookcases.
Above he says
Narrative, poetry and theater
Arms behind him, hands clasped behind his back, he paces the rows.
He stops and watches.
He chooses one.
Read a long time.
When it's time to leave, she returns the book, gathers the bag, and walks out.
Good afternoon, girl, she says.
I hope to see you soon
Belén López Peiró
Belén López Peiró
is a writer.
The last book of hers is
Where I do not stand
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