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Barcelona, mapa d'ombres

Lluïsa Cunillé
Barcelona, map of shadows

HE: I have something I want to give you too. (HE takes something from the table drawer and gives it to her) It’s a guidebook for Barcelona, a little old to be sure. One of the first jobs I had was to help put together this guidebook. A few like me went through the whole city marking all the streets there were at that time in Barcelona. It wasn’t easy because there were a lot of shacks and you couldn’t tell if some of the streets were really there or not, and the people threw rocks at us sometimes.


SHE: Why is it all marked up?

HE: I marked it up later. One summer when it was very hot and I was working collecting light bills, I marked all the sidewalks where there was shade. The numbers at the top are the different hours of the day, because the shadows moved with the sun, they’re never still.

SHE: But why did you do it?

HE: I thought that the following summer I’d go more rapidly with the guide and I wouldn’t feel the heat so much, but it wasn’t much use to me because that’s when I started work at the Liceu.


SHE: It’s like a great map of shadows.

HE: Yes, you could say that. I’ve wanted to show it to you for a long time, but I forgot about it. (Pause.) The Passeig de Gràcia isn’t there.

SHE: Yes, I noticed.

HE: I tore out all the pages where I walked.

Long pause.

SHE: What’s wrong?

HE: It suddenly seemed strange to see you dressed that way.

SHE: It didn’t before?

HE: No.

SHE: The fact is I feel a bit hot in these clothes.

HE: My shoes are too tight. (HE takes them off.)

SHE: I’ll take them to the shoe repair shop tomorrow.

HE: The shoe repair shop is closed.

SHE: Then I’ll look for another one.

HE: Did you know that my grandfather repaired shoes?

SHE: Yes, you told me.

HE: Do you know how he died?

SHE: How?

HE: Burned to death.

SHE: Burned?

HE: One night when he was sleeping in the bed beside my grandmother he started to burn.

SHE: What do you mean?

HE: His body started to burn all by itself. It’s called spontaneous combustion.

SHE: That’s not possible. No one burns spontaneously.

HE: He was fatter than me and he also drank.

SHE: You haven’t drunk in ages and you’re not so fat. Besides, it’s impossible. Nobody could suddenly start burning.

HE: Yes it is possible. I know how it’s done.

SHE: How what’s done?

HE: How to burn something without setting it on fire. I can burn things if I wish.

SHE: You?

HE: Yes.

SHE: How?

HE: By thinking it.

SHE: Thinking it?

HE: Do you see that facial tissue? (There is a wadded tissue on the night table.) For a while I’ve been thinking, thinking that it’s getting so hot that at any moment it will burst into flames.

SHE: Are you serious?

HE: Yes. (SHE looks at the tissue and starts to touch it.) Don’t touch it!


SHE: It doesn’t seem to be burning yet.

HE: It takes a while because it’s damp and I’m out of practise. I haven’t done it for a long time.

SHE: You’ve burned something that way?

HE: Yes.

SHE: What?

HE: At first I burned small things like the tissue until one day I tried it on something larger. Then I got scared and didn’t do it anymore.

SHE: What did you burn?

HE: The Liceu.

SHE: What?

HE: I was the one who burned the Liceu.




Translated by Marion Peter Holt
Lluïsa Cunillé, Barcelona, map of shadows. Nova York: PAJ Publications, 2008.
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