One of the things I’ve missed (and am missing) the most during confinement was my city. Yes, I’m an introvert who likes to spend time hiding in libraries and bookshops. But I guess spending months and months locked inside an apartment changes something, and I often find myself thinking how much I miss people and how much I miss walking around. (Maybe I’ll change my mind in the distant future, when things “go back to normal” and I have to face my worst enemies, hills and heat, to get to any destination, but let’s ignore this for today. Poetic license, right?).
Cities have always fascinated me, but recently I’ve created the theory that this happens because all of them carry something magical. All cities, no matter how big or small, are a confluence of experiences, different stories coming together. Have you already wondered how many lives exist behind a window, or inside the building next to your own home? (I have, and thanks to this I’ve developed a new hobby during quarantine, which is staring at the buildings and houses and making up short stories for the people who live there. I swear it’s not as weird as it sounds).
How many invisible, undiscovered cities are hidden under the route we take every day to work or to school? Maybe the present meets the past (and even the future, who knows?), on a forgotten corner next to a friend’s place, or on a funny monument we’ve never bothered to watch. Or, maybe, at a little alley we always pass by and never enter, lives someone with an extraordinary life story, or that shares an unusual interest with us.
Cities draw me so much because they share something with human life that also amazes me: possibility. What are stories if not an exploration of possibilities? Is there something more magical and more fantastic than knowing that a whole new world lies ahead of us, and can be found even in the most familiar of places?
And, in the end, we find out that, no matter how far or close we are from the cities that have changed us, we will always carry some parts of them in our hearts. Because cities, as almost everything, are made of stories, narratives. As writer Mia Couto says: “My city wasn’t only a physical place; it was also an entity that had told me stories. My city belongs more to words than to earth, and the places we love always belong more to language than to geography”. Perhaps that is the most magical of it all: knowing that the people we love and places we are made of will always be within our reach—no matter if we’re 6 feet apart, or have to temporarily see the street from behind a glass window.
Yes, magic lies around us, and nowhere better to find it than in the tales we listen and tell.
2020 has not been easy. I’ve taken refuge in stories, as I believe other people also have: they have distracted me, made me think, and even comforted me when I needed it. But they also have helped me see that the most important stories are here, around us, happening as I write. That history is made by people, and that each one of them carries their own endless universes within. This is what makes not only cities, but also life, so fantastic. And there is nothing more important or precious than that.
I hope that the brand new year brings us new stories and possibilities—to read, to write, but mostly to live. Happy holidays!