This is a fictitious story of some paintings completed in Torroella that nearly, very nearly arrived in Paris. They say that art is long and life is short. It’s true, but both have the power to confront our abysmal ignorance, where there will always be room for doubts and fear.

Nadia Lopes hadn’t quite woken up. “Ten more minutes please, darling” she repeated mechanically while she hugged me, quite unable to open her eyes. Her wavy blonde hair fell down her back, a perfect back just like her, a tender, solicitous and comforting woman.

Now I was at her home and the last thing I wanted to do was that exhibition, but the paintings were already on the way. Feeling nervous, I switched on the TV and my heart starting thumping.

Shocked at what I was seeing, I raised my voice so that Nadia could hear me from the bathroom:

–Look what’s on the news, they’re talking about an attack.

–They must be talking about Charlie Hebdo.

–No, no, this happened last night in Paris.

–No way!

–They are talking about Bataclan. They’ve been shooting at people there and also on the terraces of some of the brasseries. It sounds like there are many dead.

Nadia was already by my side, she had put on a robe. We couldn’t drag our eyes away from the news. We held hands sitting on the edge of the bed.

Bodies covered in blankets could be seen lying in the street and videos of Bataclan. Sirens, explosions, screams and the first statements could be heard from Cazeneuve and Hollande, Prime Minister and President of the Republic respectively.

–It’s the bistro we were in the first day you arrived–Nadia pointed out with a knot in her throat.

I picked up the phone to call the driver. He didn’t answer. I kept trying with no success. Two minutes later the phone rang. It was him calling.

–Santi, where are you?

–Just coming into Lyon. Why? What’s wrong?

–Haven’t you heard?

–No, what’s going on?

–There’s been an attack in Paris. Turn around and go home. They might close the borders but keep calm, get back here and we’ll sort it out.

–Understood – he replied laconically.

Over the next few days everyone was hooked on the news, the streets remained strangely empty, an overwhelming sense of helplessness had spread throughout the whole city. The country was in a state of shock, and it would take time to get over it. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the slaughter. François Hollande solemnly declared that France was at war. The Jihadists had hit the capital of the Century of lights, the Encyclopaedia, freedom and tolerance.

Everything they hated, everything they wanted to destroy.

That weekend there wasn’t a soul on the roads. Nadia and I didn’t set foot in the street either on Monday or Tuesday because the gallery was closed all weekend. I bought a ticket for Wednesday. She insisted on coming with me to the Gare de Lyon. Despite assurances on the TV that there would be special military deployments in strategic locations, we only saw a couple of police officers with their guns in their hands. It was obvious that the Government didn’t have the resources to keep their promises.

The only difference was that now they didn’t let you on the platform if you didn’t have a ticket. We hugged each other tightly right next to the barrier and I noticed that she was trembling, as if lightning was going through her body from head to toe inside her lined jacket.

She extricated herself determinedly, still shaking, and said in a strangled voice.

–I don’t like goodbyes and I don’t want to prolong this upsetting moment.

She turned tail and went towards the exit. As I lost track of her among the people in the distance, I felt the weight of that returning emptiness that seemed like it would stay.I also noticed that my spirits were deserting me. A dilated and sterile loneliness that this woman had been able to break stretched out ahead of me.

Now what? I asked myself while I put the suitcase away.

After a few hours travelling the convoy stopped. There was an ominous silence. A mantle of fear descended on the passengers during those eternal twenty minutes, while waiting for the sound of an explosion that would wreck the carriage. Once the train had pulled away again, the loud speakers announced that a passenger had been smoking in the toilets and it had triggered the alarm. Damn smokers, I thought.

© JC Roca Sans

Download the full tale (spanish): Paris-Torroella. El Gran Ter.


Lost in the banks


Exhibition Atrium Torroella