floor, under the table. We would take turns sleeping.”
Noah’s eyes are wide open. You can have enough cousins to fill an entire apartment like this one?
“But where did they come from?”
“From San Pedro de Macorís, in the Dominican Republic. My whole family is from there. Five generations of Guzmáns in an unbroken line. My greatgrandfather founded the city, and today all my cousins are leaving for New York or Montreal.”
“They don’t like San Pedro?”
“Oh, no, nothing like that, they adore San Pedro. But you can earn a better living here. Now my grandmother Úrsula has been left all alone in the family house. Ninety-three years old, as hard-headed as a tortoise. She’s never travelled more than five kilometres from the sea. Well, this would be your room. It’s not very big, but …”
Noah steps gingerly into the room.
Not very big?
This one room alone contains as much living space as all of the old silver trailer. He feels like a cosmonaut who has gone out for a walk around his Soyuz and discovers the void in every direction: millions of stars, infinite spaces, and pangs of nausea. He holds onto the door jamb.
“So tell me, why have you come to Montreal?”
“I’m here to study archaeology,” Noah gasps, wiping the sweat from his neck.
“Archaeology? Cool! I’m going to have an intellectual for a roommate! Listen, if you want the room, it’syours. Ordinarily, I would ask 170 not including electricity, but in your case 160 will be fine.”
“When can I move in?”
“Right away. Do you have a lot to move?”
“Everything is in here,” Noah answers, patting the side of his backpack.
Maelo looks at the pack and smiles.
“We’re dealing with a genuine refugee! I’ll lend you some sheets.”
The mattress is lumpy, the pillow completely flat, and the quilt is studded with starfish, but none of it should prevent a good night’s sleep. As soon as the bed has been made, the apartment-sharing arrangement is finalized with the payment of the first month’s rent, an outlay that reduces Noah’s wealth to the square root of zero.
Here is a crucial question: How will Noah manage to fall asleep in such a huge space?
Lying amid the starfish, he can hear the air throb around his bed and the tiniest sound wave bounce and amplify on the walls. He has never had a space that belonged to him alone—except the pygmy-size bunk bed in the silvery trailer—and he doubts that he will be able to fill up these thirty cubic metres of outer space with his meagre assets: three road maps, some clothing, a pad of letter paper and an old book with no cover.
In sum, he feels unworthy of occupying this place, as if he were afraid of wasting something. But what exactly would he be wasting? Space? Cubic centimetres? Emptiness?
Can emptiness be wasted?
THE NORTHERN BLUEFIN TUNA
is an astonishing animal.
A good-sized female can lay as many as twenty-five million eggs at a time. This profusion testifies to the voraciousness of the tuna’s predators. Each microscopic larva has no more than one chance in forty million of reaching the adult stage, eight years hence. The survivors grow into superb creatures—a fifteen-year-old tuna can easily measure three metres in length and weigh in at three hundred kilos. Some individuals, though rare, can weigh up to seven hundred kilos. Such specimens are called, rather perceptively, Giants.
Tunas are gregarious and tend to gather according to size: the smaller they are, the more densely populated their schools will be. Conversely, the Giants often swim alone. They are wonderful swimmers, and from one season to the next they migrate over unimaginable distances. They spend the summer beneath the Arctic Circle, and in the winter take refuge in the tropics,travelling from one hemisphere to the other as easily as a city-dweller changes neighbourhoods. Some specimens tagged in the Bahamas have later been sighted in Norway and Uruguay.
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