The same way as when I had left Montevideo and Buenos Aires and then came back, coming back to Lima after a few days away gave me the feeling of coming home.
Edu already had plans for the day when I arrived, so I went for lunch on my own, near the central park of Miraflores. Sometimes, all you need to be happy is a sandwich and a book. I knew where I could find a sandwich but was still missing a book. But I had spotted a library not far away, so I went in to find a quick read. And left ten minutes later with three books.
The frenetic consumption of books, or at least the compulsive buying of them, is a family disease. Nothing can be done about it. I remember my mom once took the very wise New Year’s resolution not to buy a single book in the twelve following months. I say wise because she just did not have enough space on the bookshelves any more to add a single volume. Honestly. Not even a pocket. They were already decorating the living room table. So when she bought three books at the end of January – she did resist the temptation for a full month which, in itself, was probably already quite an achievement – I interrogated her about the firm decision she had taken only a few weeks earlier.
– Oh, yes! But this is different.
– They are books. How can it be any different?
– You’re going to offer them to me for my birthday. So, technically, I won’t be the one who bought them.
I suspect my mother to be some sort of bibliomaniac. Fortunately, it is harmless. And much less cumbersome since she has a Kindle. I seem to be affected by the same syndrom, though by a less acute form of it.
I found myself a nice spot in the restaurant, with view on the park, ordered a chicha morada, food, and plunged into one of my recent acquisitions. My concentration was not at its best, though, my nose rising from my book every other minute. Until I noticed a man, sitting on a bank just outside the restaurant. As the entrance to the place was a French window which remained open all the time, he could see me as well as I could see him. It took me a minute or two before I recognised him but I was quite sure: it was the man who had been holding a monologue to me on the Plaza de Armas when I had arrived in Lima, about ten days earlier. I can call it a coincidence of course but what ARE the chances. I know two people in a city of 7.5 million people and there sat one of them. Precisely the one I had no particular wish to see again. Just in front of me. But as I had no intention to say hi – I didn’t feel like being subjected to another monologue explaining to me how very wrong the Europeans are – and he didn’t show any signs of having recognised me, I decided to ignore him and continue my reading. Which, of course, was useless. If my concentration was bad before I had noticed him, it was now gone for good. I had finished my lunch, so I decided to go back home.
As I left the restaurant, I had to pass in front of him but I was firmly decided not to throw a single look in his direction. When I was about 50 meters further, thinking I was out of reach and ready to claim “mission accomplished”, my “friend” overtook me and asked for the time. Exactly the same way he had done before. With exactly the same scene as a result: as I was taking some time to reach for my phone, he was already a few steps away, as if he was about to leave. Nevertheless, I gave him what he had asked for. Said nothing more. Then turned right. And hoped he would disappear. If I had thought he hadn’t noticed me while I was eating, I now knew I had been wrong. And it started to feel the situation was a bit creepy. Had he been following me to that restaurant? Now that I was thinking of it, the spot where he was sitting, just doing nothing, facing the restaurant rather than the park, was too weird to be just casual. Just before turning again, I had a quick look behind me. He was gone.