Otro Manhattan – Donald Antrim

manhattan

La literatura es un producto más y, como tal, necesita mercadearse. Me sorprendió, al visitar una librería en Eureka, California, recibir como regalo Another Manhattan de Donald Antrim, texto que puede leerse aquí y que formará parte de “The Emerald Light in the Air” a publicarse en septiembre de 2014. Los escritores necesitan lectores, cada vez más escasos. Intrigado por el novedoso regalo, me detuve a leer ese otro Manhattan que propone Antrim: una historia de engaños y decepciones, donde acaso el amor es un concepto inaprensible pero profundo. Jim, el protagonista, acaba de salir del hospital por una crisis nerviosa. Tiene el compromiso de una cena con una pareja de amigos, pero se detiene a comprar un bouquet de flores:

He’d arrived at the florist’s. Inside, he went straight over to the roses in their refrigerated case. Though it was a cold day, cold and very windy, and he’d come in chilled, the short walk across the heated space warmed him, and he could feel the frigid air hit him in the face when he yanked open the glass door. He leaned in and peered at the flowers. He asked the girl, “Do you have yellow roses that haven’t already bloomed and, you know, opened?”

Nos hemos mentido tantas veces, dice el autor al inicio del texto. Jim no puede comprar las flores, la tarea es un fracaso y un signo de todo lo que anda mal en su vida. Logra llegar a la cena con el bouquet en sus manos: no ha podido pagarlo y ha huido como un vil ladrón. Todo parece casi como un milagro. Cuando llega al restaurante, nota que tiene el rostro arañado y que el bouquet está casi destruido.

Had you been walking downtown on Broadway that February night at a little past eight, you might have seen a man hurrying toward you with a great concrescence of blooms. You might have noticed that he did not even pause for traffic signals, but charged across streets against the lights; and so you might rightly have supposed that he could not see through the floral arrangement that he held (doing what he could to keep clear of thorns) at arm’s length before him. Whenever a siren sounded in the distance—and, once, beating helicopter blades in the night sky caused him to sprint up a side street—he dropped into a furtive, crouching gait. His balance was off; he was paranoid about police. Windblown flowers lashed at his head. Seen from a distance, he might have brought to mind an old, out-of-favor stereotype: the savage in a headdress. But as he came closer, you would have noticed his European clothes, his stylish haircut; and you might have asked yourself, “What’s wrong with that man?”

Hay que intentar solucionar las cosas. La vida. Lo perdido. En el otro extremo está Kate, su esposa, quien mantiene una relación extra-marital con Elliot, uno de los amigos con los que van a cenar.

There was a chance also that it wouldn’t look awkward or strange when, at the end of the evening—he didn’t really believe that he and Kate would be staying in—he paired with Susan for the walk through the cold, from the restaurant to Elliot’s car. It might look, in other words, as if he were not bothered by Kate’s whispering to another man. (She had a way, with Elliot, of bowing her head and mumbling furiously through the strands of hair that fell across the side of her face, so that, in order to make out her words, Elliot was forced to stoop and lean into the fog of her breath.) Jim’s own affair, his affair with Susan, had been over for almost five months, long enough, he thought, as he approached the florist’s on the corner by his and Kate’s building, for him to begin experimenting—later that same night, if the mood was right—with innocently putting his arm around Susan’s shoulder while she and he and Kate and Elliot walked in two sets of two toward the parking garage.

Cada quién escoge sus propios infiernos. Dentro de los suyos, nadie puede juzgar que Kate y Jim no se amen. Ese otro Manhattan es también la oportunidad de ese otro amor. Sin blancos ni negros, Antrim nos enseña que nada es simple y que, como Cortázar nos enseña, las cosas más sencillas –como comprar un bouquet de flores– son las más difíciles de concretar.

Si les interesa, el texto está disponible online en The New Yorker –en inglés–. Tómense un tiempo para écharle un buen vistazo.

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