Fiction or reality (a meeting with Martha Argerich)

To Lisa

I met Martha Argerich in Frankfurt, on Thursday, March 10th 2016. Or perhaps the day after, I couldn’t tell. It wasn’t easy to arrange that meeting as she lived in Brussels and I lived in Buenos Aires, and both of us used to travel around quite frequently. It’s possible that there was still a more fundamental fact that stood between us: she was a very famous artist and I was what is generally known as “Mr. Nobody”, so she didn’t have the slightest idea about my existence.

The meeting happened in one of the few places in Frankfurt where fiction challenges reality: the German Film Museum. In that place, there was a very elegant and very German bar. I was in charge of choosing the place and it certainly wasn’t a casual choice. It was one of my strongest arguments to convince Martha to accept my invitation: If I, a complete stranger, disappointed her, at least she would find comfort in having seen that place.

My other strong argument was the elaborated invitation letter that I had prepared, which was quite unusual. Providing a full account of what I mean here will require another story almost as long as this one and that would entail an unacceptable risk. Therefore, this explication will be put off for another opportunity. What I can surely say is that I promised her (if we met) to add to the letter a handwritten dedication.

The last of my arguments was perhaps the weakest, though still my favorite and I strongly believed in its potential. The woman that I was thinking about every day at that time had a striking physical resemblance to Martha (but with a generation gap), she lived in Frankfurt and was also invited to our meeting. Her name was Kati.

These arguments that some might say were “full of fantasy” emerged from the imperious need to support the cold truth, which was categorical but still insufficient: I really wanted to go to her concert in Frankfurt, on March 9th 2016 at 20:00, but I didn’t manage to arrange the flights, buses and trains (from Buenos Aires) to arrive in time.

Misfortunes, if one knows how to look at their consequences, have the benefit of opening new possibilities. And to me getting to meet Martha was this new possibility that filled me with motivation and enthusiasm.

The letter for Martha already written, the next challenge was to make it reach her hands, but also to make sure she read in time. One option to achieve this was to send the letter in an open envelope, exposing its peculiarity, so that, with a lot of faith in the intermediary, it would speed up the process. The alternative, which was what I decided to do in the end, consisted of a striking envelope (bright-coloured, although not yellow, with a subtle childish touch) with this supposed intriguing title:

MARTHA ARGERICH
If the content of this envelope is read today, it could become true.
If not, it won’t.

To explain which of all the abovementioned factors made Martha decide to accept my invitation would be a mere exercise of imagination and, to be honest, having a strong imagination was never really my thing. When we met, she mentioned that the letter had been “quite unusual” and this was enough to me.

The physical resemblance between Martha and Kati was quite unavoidably the first topic of conversation, which was an excellent ice breaker, and the mood became quite familiar very fast, giving room for a warm feeling, as if we had known each other for a long time.

This resemblance that Martha described as “unreal” paved the way for the topic that almost took over the whole conversation: the boundaries between fiction and reality. Perhaps due to my educational background as an engineer, in my opinion the author’s reality was the one that shaped fiction. Martha’s opinion was the opposite: it was fiction (and that included imagination) which drags and affects reality. Besides, Martha predicted that in a “very short time” she would have the opportunity to prove to me that she was right.

— I hope so. Time unveils the truth, although not always «in a very short time» — I replied with a smile.

— I don’t think that time unveils the truth — Kati intervened. — Instead, I like to consider time the best separation between fictions and realities. The essential difference between the two is consistency, one of Time’s daughters — she completed.

Kati didn’t clarify whether she considered consistency an attribute of fiction or reality. However, anyone who had been there would not have needed clarification.

The conversation continued until Martha said she had to leave. Saying goodbye in a cheerful mood, she confessed to us that our meeting felt like «part of a story».

— Those moments that seem to be fiction are the best of reality. It’s a thin line between those two worlds — she said reflectively.

I had already thought a lot about it, so I didn’t hesitate and said:

— It’s true. Quite often the line between fiction and reality is just a matter of choice.

Buenos Aires, February 29th 2016

Translation by Branka Milisic, branka123[at]yahoo.com
Revision by María Alejandra, LinkedIn profile
Original version (in spanish)