And then I closed my eyes and I put on one of those black fabric blindfolds that the stewardesses give you so you can sleep. I wasn't interested in the plastic headphones. At the beginning it was very dark, so dark you couldn't see anything. Suddenly there were moments of light like electric sparks when I tried to open my eyelids under the blindfold. I was in a plane, in the skies with TWA 800, returning home after the long trip.
In this country that I was now leaving, it seemed like the story of my life had been repeated but in fast motion. The people that I met were like doubles of people who I had known throughout my life. Except that this time my relationship with them didn't last as long, sometimes just a few days or even a few hours. Also the houses that I was living in reminded me very much of the houses that I had lived in throughout my life in Spain. And also the names. The names of the new people were all like the names of people I already knew, almost always with different faces.
I remember that just after my arrival, on my first real day in the city, I went to the MoMA library on 53rd Street, and there she was, my first girlfriend from when I was 20. I couldn't believe it. She was sitting at the front desk like a secretary, legs crossed and with a pair of great tits, and smiling at me. Her name was Anne, the real one was called Ana. My relationship with the first Ana didn't last long, hardly a few months and with one summer in between, each of us in a different part of the country. She was in love with a pilot for Iberian Airlines, a man who she later married. But we made the best of it in the back seat of the Dos Caballos car that I shared with my siblings. Of course that was more than I could do with the new Anne, who wasn't even there the next day. In her place was another person, a boy, pretty unfriendly. I never saw Anne again.
In a few days, and in the same library, my second girlfriend appeared, Montserrat. I was trying to decipher an article by Rosalind Krauss, with the dictionary in my hands and the magazine on the desk. Her expression was stiff. When she smiled, thousands of wrinkles appeared around her mouth and neck. She was German and she seemed pretty aggressive, just like Montserrat. I was already waiting for the first slap on my face in whatever moment and without reason. Maybe because she didn't like my black folder of files so typical of Spanish students. I remember she said something about that. Gunda was her name and she sat down right in front of me. On this occasion, the names didn't seem to have anything in common, but this didn't affect my intuitive sense that it was really her, or at least something very close. Fortunately, this second fake girlfriend had even less time than the first one to try to detour my destiny, although I must admit that we met for coffee several times. Almost immediately after that, I met Sara.
Sara was doing an internship at the MoMA, in the exhibitions department, I think. She was like my third girlfriend, Blanca. This time there was no correlation in names, and I couldn't understand why. But the physical similarities were extraordinary in any event. She wasn't very tall, she had dark hair, she was thin, and extremely good looking. I remember having spent some wonderful days teaching her how to weld metal. I'm talking about Blanca. With Sara I shared a table in the cafeteria that was reserved for the MoMA staff. Believe it or not, she wanted to seduce me with perfume, not realizing that I couldn't care less about perfumes.
The best thing about this third encounter was that I knew it was going to lead to my fourth girlfriend. My thinking was that since I never had a fourth girlfriend in Spain, the fourth would be the first real one in this country. Sara invited me to her birthday party on Greene Street, and that's where it happened. But that's another story for another day.
A lot of the time there were numeric coincidences, too. The eight months that I was working like a dog for a Soho gallery were for me like the eight years that I worked for my father kneading clay in the dark, damp basement of the Mina. After eight years in that depressing job, I finally got someone else to take my place, though I did continue working in my family's factory. After eight months at the gallery, I was awarded a grant and I could quit my job. How do you like them apples?
I could continue giving more details about the amazing coincidences, in numbers, names, and places, but I'm not going to do it. I'll just say that it was like living another life, but in miniature and this time without a father or a mother.
So as I was saying, I was in the airplane, and I finally fell asleep and had another dream. It was the last day of vacation, and I was 12 years old. We were in Bonalba, in the house that my parents built in the 1960s, near the sea in Alicante. It was time to return to Madrid, to go back to school. But I didn't want to go, and I hid in the fireplace. When my family left and I was alone, I began to walk through the house, through the different rooms, and I saw things. The house was very dark except for the light that came in through a few windows. Then I noticed some furniture, the big marble table, the portraits of my ancestors.
I saw the pencil markings on a wall that showed the heights of all the family, from almost every year since I was three. They were behind the dining room door. The inscriptions had the name and then the year. Sara 1968, Agar 1970, Yago 1973, Iro 1980, Mama 1972, Papa 1978. You could see how my parents' heights hardly changed from year to year, though I don't understand how they did change at all.
And there were also heights of kids who didn't really belong there, like my cousins from Seville who came in 1974 and 1976, and penciled in their names, Juan Carlos and Guillermo. And then there were some other names of some kid who wasn't even family, usually it was the child of one of my parents' friends who was visiting. Just so that kid didn't feel left out, my father would end up inscribing his height, too. But for me and my siblings, those markings were like an invasion of our special wall, ruining everything.
My lines were always the lowest of all until one year I passed my sister Sara, in 1980, and then my sister Agar in 1982. I'm sure I would have also passed my brother Yago, but we all forgot to measure ourselves one summer, and then the whole thing kind of died out.
And so I was there, in this house, as a little kid asking myself whether I'd rather be able to levitate objects and be rich and known around the world because of that, or if I'd rather be a famous sculptor. To have the power to move things without touching them was really appealing. I thought that it was an absurd dilemma since I'd never have to decide something like that, but one day I saw a shooting star or something, and I thought it was time to decide, and I remember choosing the sculptor option. But I was joking. I didn't mean it. Of course, now I regret it.
When I woke up, I thought about the dream and I thought that becoming a famous sculptor wasn't so bad after all. I thought a lot about how much money I would have and how I would spend it. If I made 50.000 pesetas in a month selling some work, the next month seemed logical to make 100.000, and then the third month I would make 200.000, and so on. That means that in one year I would have 102.400.000 pesetas. And the next thing to consider was how to spend the money, and I started thinking about buying a big piece of land, with the main road quite far away from the house. I started imagining how big the land would be, how it has to have little mountains, and the house has to be big...and then the guest house, which is close to my house but far from the studio, a little walk...
All my life I've been collecting notes and observations about buildings just for this personal project. Every time I see an industrial building, I add to this bank of ideas. I take mental notes, sometimes making drawings in my notebook, just in case one day I have the opportunity to build this big studio, the guest house and my living house. I remember being obsessed during my childhood with the Fallingwater House and with the Habitat that Safdie built for the Montreal Exhibition in 1967, which looked like a mountain of white sugar cubes. I could connect the cubes in a thousand different ways and have thousands of steps everywhere. That idea pleased me. Also from my childhood, I remember the enormous printer's warehouse that was directly in front of my parents' factory. It was an abandoned place and seemed like a giant version of my perfect studio. And more recently, from my hotel window in Shanghai I could see the temporary metal structure that the workers made to protect them from the rain as they built the skyscrapers.
I also remember that in the dream I entered one of the bedrooms and saw the map of the world, and that at the end, I went to the kitchen. It was San José day, and there was the grandfather of my father cooking, making buñuelos de arroz.