It is a sunny winter’s day. I walk out into the garden. I’m surprised at how much the lemon tree has grown, its crown rising above the gable of the quincho. I sit on the bench by the pond, I know that this is my favorite spot. I observe the thrushes chasing each other across the grass. They are the only thing that moves. I can’t remember when I planted the lemon tree. I don’t remember why I am here. I know that it’s Monday, but I don’t know how I know that, nor what it could mean. I’m wearing jeans, worn—down sneakers and a gray sweatshirt. My whole body aches, especially my back. It hurts as if I’d overexerted myself. I can see the house from here. One of the doors is halfway open, I’m sure I left it that way when I went out into the garden. I can see part of a refrigerator and half of a table, maybe it’s the kitchen. I should go back inside, or at least close the door, but I can’t. I’m afraid. I’m fine here.
Someone closed the kitchen door. I feel relieved, no one has come into the garden. The sun is almost completely overhead, that happens at noon, I’m not cold anymore. There is music coming from the house.
I try to think of who could be listening to the radio, but I can’t remember anything. I can’t go inside, they might ask me what I’m doing in the garden and I wouldn’t know what to say. The telephone rings, a woman answers. I hear her say:
—He left early.
—Let me see if his car is here.
There is silence, and then the same voice says:
—The car is in the garage, I don’t know what could have happened to him.
The kitchen door opens. An older woman yells out. “Ricardo, are you there?” I wonder if
I could be Ricardo. I stand up and walk toward her.
—What are you still doing here? They’re calling you from the office.
Behind her, I see a wireless telephone on the table. I take a few steps forward and pick it up.
—Mr. Álvarez, are you going to arrive much later? The auditors are waiting for you.
—No, I’m leaving soon.— Where will I have to go? Why are they waiting for me?
—I’m going to take a shower.
I stand there, looking at the woman. I’m waiting for her to show me the way. Evidently, I remember something, because I think I should take a shower.
There is a set of stairs, I go up them. I turn right, but that’s not the right room, there’s someone sleeping there. I go towards the other room, this must be it, there is a queen size bed, an en—suite bathroom and a dressing room. I must be married, I think, and the woman downstairs must be my wife. I enter the bathroom. I look at myself in the mirror. I’m an old man, too, my hair is practically all white. It’s strange, because I felt much younger. I undress and get in the shower. I think that maybe all this will pass with a little hot water. But it doesn’t pass. I can’t figure out how to tell this woman that I don’t remember anything. There is a shaving kit in the bathroom, so I shave. I see that I have a huge scar on my chest. I look at it and have a vague sense of an extraordinary pain. I know it didn’t happen long ago, but I don’t know anything else. I put on the best—looking clothes I can find. I go downstairs.
—Are you going to have breakfast? —the woman asks.
—No, I’m in a hurry.
I walk in one direction and immediately find the stairs. The garage must be downstairs. I start the car. There’s a controller on the dashboard, I turn it on and the doors open.
It’s best not the think, when I let my body follow its routine, I’m able to figure out how to do things. I realize that I never said goodbye to the woman, my wife, and that she didn’t say anything. What kind of relationship do we have? The car goes a few blocks and gets on the highway. I try not to think so I won’t mess up. When I enter the parking garage, the man at the gate comes to park the car.
—Good morning, Mr. Alvarez.
—Good morning, I answer, looking all around until I find the open elevator door.
I’m facing the button panel, the building has 17 floors. I close my eyes and push a button. I open my eyes, the LED lights on the control panel light up as the elevator moves up the floors. It stops on the tenth floor. I get off, wondering where I should go. I vaguely recognize the hallway with an office at the end. A young receptionist says hello and comes towards me.
—I let the auditors in, Nélida is with them now. I told them you weren’t feeling well. That’s understandable after…
I look at her, wanting to ask her, after what? She raises her eyebrows, I’m not sure why.
—Thank you —I say, with the name Mercedes on the tip of my tongue, but I hold back for fear of being wrong.
The conference table is covered with folders and papers. Two men are analyzing them. A forty—something—year—old woman is seated to their left, she must be Nélida. I say hello and sit down beside her.
—What happened to you? —she whispers, reprimanding me.
—I didn’t feel well, I had chest pain.
—Did you call the doctor?
—Yes, but he said it wasn’t anything.
A couple of hours later, I start to figure things out. I’m the director of that company, which brings me a certain degree of joy. It is a construction company and it’s going through an irremediable bankruptcy. I find out that Nélida is the accountant. I don’t know what kind of relationship connects the two of us, she treats me with total familiarity.
When the auditors leave, I feel worried. We are being sued for tax fraud, which will end up putting me in jail.
I think about the reflection I saw in the mirror, and I imagine that I don’t have much time left to waste.
Nélida suggests that we go out for a coffee. I realize that I’m hungry, and want to eat. I order a sandwich. At the coffee place, she talks about my family, that’s how I figure out that I have two sons. It seems that one is in Spain, and the youngest is a problem child. That must be the one that was sleeping in the other bedroom. We definitely do not have anything beyond a friendly relationship. I feel calmer, surely it’s better this way.
I stay at the office for the rest of the afternoon. I receive calls. It’s incredible how I can follow people’s lead without them realizing that I don’t know who they are, or what we’re talking about. By six o’clock, I’m alone. Everyone has left. I wait an hour. I look through my desk. There is a phonebook. I can’t draw any clear conclusions from the names and numbers in it. I’m tired. I should go. On my way back, the traffic is terrible. It takes me almost two hours to get back. I’m surprised, that morning, it only took me 45 minutes. I have a headache.
When I get home, to my home, no one is there. I get changed. I’m wearing the same clothes as this morning. I walk out into the garden. It’s nighttime, it’s quite chilly. A gray cat runs out in front of me, climbs up the lemon tree and jumps from the dividing wall to the neighboring house. I sit on the bench in the backyard. The day’s memories start to fade away.