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Bertol Arrieta Kortajarena > Extracts

Narrative (short story and novel)

2004 | Erein

Sam was absorbed in his piano playing. He was singing in the snow, immersed in his work. That was why he saw her foot first, her red, high-heeled shoe. The red, high-heeled shoe slowly moving among the white, winter snowflakes. As in a slow-motion shot. And sometimes one foot is enough, one red, high-heeled shoe is enough for one to notice the beauty of the person who is wearing it.

Sam looked up slowly. Yet the white coat that reached all the way down to her ankles rendered her virtually invisible in the snow. Had it not been for those red, high-heeled shoes. Or for those lips painted red. Because her complexion, too, was so fine and white that it was almost pale. And although her eyes were blue, they seemed to be transparent, due to the brightness or something of the tear she was holding back.

She looked like another snowflake that had fallen from the sky.

Sam remembers quite distinctly that he was playing "What a wonderful world". He remembers that he had reduced the volume of his voice just slightly when he saw the girl's face, the tear she was holding back.

Sam distinctly remembers what was going through his mind when she was about to walk past him: she looked like a snowflake moving horizontally. A snowflake with a fair, white skin and a transparent, mournful expression. The softest of snowflakes, the whitest of snowflakes. The kind that could make all your hairs stand on end and caress your skin with a pleasant shiver as they fall on you from above with a dull thud. The queen of all the other snowflakes. And it seemed to Sam that not a single snowflake was falling on her. And that she was flying softly, softly, among all the snowflakes, as if all the other snowflakes would respect her, as if she was going to dance a silent, mournful song; "What a wonderful world" was not a silent, mournful song.

And it was just at that very moment, as Sam's head was buzzing with these thoughts, at that precise moment when the wonderful snowflake was passing in front of Sam, just at that very moment, neither before nor after, neither earlier nor later, just when he was repeating over and again that it was a wonderful world, when he was singing "What a wonderful world, What a wonderful world," it was just at that very moment.

Just then the girl looked round and gazed at Sam.

And at that precise moment that single, fat tear which she had been holding back trickled down her cheek when she looked at Sam, while she was slowly passing in front of him among all the other snowflakes. This was what chance had wanted, or fate, or gravity. And Sam, at that moment, did something he had not done for the previous 36 years. He did something he had never done. Something that the severest of storms had not forced him to do. Something the most stubborn of police officers had not obliged him to do, he did something that the severest cold or the most unbearable pain had never compelled him to do. He did something which that girl's look was asking him to do. Without uttering a word. With those brilliant, transparent eyes alone.

At that very moment Sam suddenly stopped playing the piano.

And there was silence.

Silence reigned in those crazy Manhattan streets. As if all the cars, trucks, taxis, trams, bicycles and pedestrians had stopped without warning. As if time had stopped still all of a sudden.

Yet she did not alter her expression. She turned her head back once again to face forward, and continued on foot among the snowflakes a little further until she disappeared into the silence.

Sam packed away his piano and headed for home.
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