I still do not know the actual reason why I am doing this.
Well, yes, I do, partially at least. First of all, I am on the Internet because Benjamin has not attached any list to his letter. Thanks to this weird space, I have already found his address and I will soon proceed to send him a reminder via “email” – that is, a kind of electronic letter according to the survival manual “The Internet for dummies” that he has kindly left on the desktop for me.
What kind of professional leaves his information accessible to everyone, though? And, above all, why is he testing my patience by not sending what was agreed upon?
Welcome to New York. I hope you find your new home comfortable. Please, do forgive me in advance for any temporary inconvenience you may encounter – I will be there soon, ready to accommodate all your desires.”
Accommodating all my desires was going to be a difficult task; I was afraid that the passing of the years had turned Benjamin into a dull flatterer. I could simply hope that he had developed the same level of ability to keep the family safe.
“[…] when our beloved abba told me that you had awakened by accident and that you were expected to arrive in a few weeks not to London anymore, but to the other side of the Atlantic, my heart was filled with joy. I still remember our last meeting in Old Street before your departure to Egypt. I am deeply sorry that Dr. Mujahid and his team violated your sleep – I honestly did not expect you back until reaching my silver years, as agreed. At the same time though, let me say that you could not have come back at a better time. The business is buoyant, dear Lilith.”
I then remembered little Ben, the boy of hazelnut curls, jumping around during those wonderful ’70s, wearing a multicolored t-shirt, overflowed with joy that very grey day because Andy Warhol had agreed to photograph his Bar mitzvah – in exchange for a few pounds, of course.
Warhol was a complete idiot, let me tell you.
“…despite the exciting opportunities that await us, the incident in Saqqara reflects how difficult is playing hide and seek in this fast-paced era.
On top of the dining table, you will find a briefcase with a million dollars in cash. This should be enough for the first few months (how long are you planning to stay with us this time around, if I may ask?). Please, always, always try to pay for all your expenses in cash, Lilith. It is (unfortunately) much easier to leave a trace today, in every possible way. There are already cameras with facial recognition systems in all street corners – well, I might be exaggerating, this is not China (yet), but there, there…”
Were these times really that dangerous …? The incident in Egypt was quite annoying, yes, but I had mapped the risk of being discovered before deciding to usurp that chilly tomb. Especially because that risk had become a reality before. In fact, it is comforting to realize that humans still invest in discovering the spells of the past. On the other hand, this very present also seems to offer its very own charms, hidden behind blue lights and liquid screens. The Internet gives you the opportunity to “learn everything about the universe without having to move your ass from the couch” according to my new manual. In this sense, I should feel safer than ever.
Or maybe not.
“Besides that briefcase, you will also find a portable computer (which has nothing to do with those loud machines that ran the British Museum’s offices at the time) and a couple dozens of manuals and books that may help you get started (abba keeps saying that the number of these is insufficient, as you apparently learn really fast). If you open the closet, you will find fresh new clothes to camouflage yourself amongst the hipsters (that is how people call the beatniks nowadays). You will also find some firearms and armes blanches (just in case, you know). Please be careful, Lilith.”
I gently pressed the oak door; the clothes were terrible, styled for poor people, but most likely worn by the wealthy. I was probably going to be forced to use Ben’s green bills sooner rather than later. The M17, on the other hand, seemed to be somewhat an exaggeration, considering that I had never fired a bullet in my life.
… would I be calling for unwanted attention by wearing such props?
“Gloria, the Venezuelan lady who has given you this letter today, will come every day to assist you, but do not worry: she will never ask questions. I will be arriving in New York in less than a week. I am now working on your papers, building you a new identity alongside our lawyers so that you can have access to a credit card, sign a personal telephone contract … you know, administrative matters. Oh, I am making you Spanish in your passport, by the way. I hesitated between making you either Spanish or French, but we could always change that small detail.”
Some things never change: the identity crisis of my home country is one of them.
“I hope you will find the house to your liking. I managed to import several pieces of your very own furniture, and I hired a decorator from Nice for the occasion (I did not understand anything she said, which I interpret as a good sign). You do not have neighbors living on the floor below, the neighborhood is lovely…”
I breathed deeply, closing my eyes and rubbing my alabaster feet against the delicious ghali carpet.
Lilith, I love you, I want you, I love you so much…
My heart clenched, and a chill crossed my back.
I opened my eyes.
“[…] and that is all, at least for now. I shall be going back to work. Attached to this letter you will find a list with a few first names; I pulled all this together respecting your preferences. I would really appreciate it if you burnt the letter before leaving the apartment tonight, by the way. Oh, and please, do not forget the keys. It would be a real problem if you lost them. Although yes, I guess you could always enter the flat through the roof if you really felt like it … in brief, I cannot wait to see you again.”
I checked the other side of the letter. Nothing. I went back to the envelope of silver cardboard. No success. I imagined Gloria, my new Caribbean maid, cheerful, chubby and clumsy, looking for logical connections between the eclectic list of names.
But that image was, in fact, really improbable. In conclusion, little Ben had forgotten to attach the damn list to his letter.
I got up. I breathed deeply, reaching out towards the bohemian crystal chandelier that hung from the ceiling. I started the laptop and took the manual “The Internet for dummies” in my hands. I went to the bathroom, turned on the hot water faucet and threw a vanilla bar into the porcelain tub; at least, abba had taught Ben well about my tastes.
I was back at my desk an hour later, dressed in sky blue and ready to explore the streets of Manhattan. I turned to the keyboard and pressed the first key. Tac. Tac, tac. Tac, tac, tac. “This is going to be fun”, I thought to myself. Two hours later, I had already read about the fall of the Berlin Wall, about the first head of state of color in the United States and about the first orange president of the world, among other trivia. I had also opened this blog.
Deeply entertained, I did not reply to Ben up till three hours later.
Thank you for your warm welcome. I am writing this urgent electronic letter to let you know that I have no access to the list of names that you mention in your kind letter. In this regard, I would be most grateful if you sent me the details of at least one of our targets through the private Internet site that I have now generated, for our convenience, under the security protocol hereby attached.
On another note, both your social profile on Facebook and your Instagram photos make me suspect that you still have those precious curls populating your head; I cannot wait to caress them again.
I do take note of your safety instructions, though; I have written them all on a (kind of) personal log, for my better memorization. Do not worry, I will make sure not to make your mistakes; I will always use passwords that may include capital letters, numbers, and letters on all my interactions on the world wide web.
See you soon. Love, Lilith.”
I closed the computer screen and smiled to myself. “Today, a new summer begins”. And so it was: the first and last flashes of the sun were already flirting with my silky curtains, celebrating the end of a rainy day. I opened the living room windows and watched with curiosity the many lives of my Lenox Hill neighbors on that sweet solstice in New York’s Upper East Side. I imagined García Lorca, the poet, doing that very same thing 90 years ago. It is strange to think that the first time I walked these streets, over a century ago, every corner of them was covered in mud and weeds. Today, my new home was located in one of the most affluent areas of the concrete island, populated by slow mothers and fathers in a hurry.
The image of those men crossing the streets in red traffic lights reminded me of how hungry I was. I locked the main door and went down the stairs of my new brownstone also in a hurry, regretting not having a list in hand yet and wondering (again) about the real reason behind the creation of this blog.
“In the future, you will all be famous for 15 minutes,” said Warhol on a famous television show before my last sleep. Maybe the cretin was right. Maybe, simply and plainly, I just want to fit into this new virtual world that I have known for 5 hours, get lots of attention, achieve fame. Not being alone.
Lilith, my love, I will always protect you. This I can promise you. But do promise me as well that you will look for your fellows when I am no longer here for you.
Or maybe not. Perhaps the time to fulfill my promise has finally arrived, and the creation of this blog is nothing else than a last desperate attempt, a cry to the void. Where are you? Talk to me. If you exist, do look for me. We need to meet. We have to. I have stirred cemeteries, libraries, castles, and galleries for hundreds of years, and I hate to admit it: I am tired of being alone.
“Good evening, miss” – I suspected the Indian origin of the taxi driver because of his thick accent – “Where to?”
I playfully watched the fatigued worker through the rearview mirror, fixing my cat eyes on him, admiring his beautiful dark skin, his thick metal rings (devoid of any style).
This made him nervous: he had begun to sweat.
“Take me to a dark, warm place where young people like me go out to on a Friday night like this. I understand that you want to monetize this abstract desire, but I kindly ask you not to abuse my naiveté today.”
The taxi driver cleared his throat and started the engine of his Toyota Prius in silence.
And so it began my first night in the city that never sleeps.
And God knows I was starving.