Andalusian sense of tightly closed family and community circles. Anny
liked a social life, liked to throw parties. Dinner parties, holiday parties,
surprise parties. When he phoned her during the two weeks she had
been home, she was always in the middle of a scrum of lunches, coffee
dates, girls’ nights out.
In the street outside the bedroom window stood streetlamps and
orange trees, and as Simon lay in bed, the dappled shadows on the ceiling appeared to twitch and creep slowly and constantly toward him.
Eventually he rose and went to check that the suitcase was still there.
He sat on the sofa. The door across the hall slammed with an echo
that beat in the air a moment. A tall, thin German woman lived there.
She had a raptor’s imperial countenance, and she always seemed to be
wearing a dark green or blue blouse with horn buttons and black leather
shoes and loose pants upheld by suspenders. Her white hair was blown
back like a motorcyclist’s. Whenever Simon met her in the hallway she
asked his opinion of upcoming soccer matches. Simon knew nothing
about soccer, but the German said that didn’t matter and suggested that
ignorance purified his judgment and she would place bets on his choices.
This was apparently a joke. The German spoke fluent English, Spanish
and French as well as her native tongue. Simon often saw her in the plaza
beside the cathedral talking with the tourist girls; he supposed that she
offered a sympathetic ear. She also offered a free bed. It wasn’t unusual to
see young women on the stairs, and occasionally a drunk girl forgot the
German’s apartment number but remembered that it was on the second
floor and buzzed Simon and Anny’s unit. They had learned to ignore the
buzzer unless they were expecting someone. Which they never were.
He’d been on his way to the grocery store when he met the girl who
left the suitcase. Near the apartment lay various little bakeries, produce
shops and small grocers built into narrow spaces where shoppers, shelves
and shopkeepers crowded one another, but Simon preferred to take a bus
into the suburbs to find a supermercado with long aisles of packaged
food in an abundance and excessiveness that felt more familiar. One
day when he’d finished at the Archivo, he walked to the bus stop. A girl
sat on a low concrete wall beside the street. He recognized her from the
stairwell; he’d noticed her in part because she looked a little older than
most of the German’s girls, although still twelve or fifteen years younger
than himself. She had a small white paper bag from which she took dates
one at a time and ate them. He probably wouldn’t have said anything,