Tlön, Uqbar, East Village

Forest Hills, NY

“You know, when I met you I thought your name was Luis Borges”, says Ryan, my new friend at the co-working space, “I think you’d really like him, he writes very cerebral fiction”, I feel a mix of awe at his ever more evident culture and shame at my not knowing about a fellow latin american who’s apparently a writer of import and sort of my namesake; however, Ryan’s kindness is conducive to me taking this mix quite well, so I nod and smile in acquiescence – and make a mental note to check this Borges character out.

A stroll to Strand is not an unwelcome journey, nor one I haven’t made frequently in the couple of months I’ve been here this time around: as a lone and mostly socially inept and woefully introspective traveler, my solace is in books these days – music waxes and wanes in protagonism here, but books seldom have. Borges is not obscure: I find a $7 collection of short stories in the staff picks tables, and being relatively (read, very) broke and dithering about whether I’ll like this guy or not, I eschew a more expensive and comprehensive edition in spanish in favor of this slimmer and somewhat cheaper option. My haul that day, in spite of my limited budget, can’t have been limited to this humble Borges volume, but, with apologies to the other books which I surely devoured in time, I forget.

An equally forgotten number of days after, as I slow roast in the August sun that shines with the disdain of a wronged subway rider and wait for the bus that will take me from alphabet city to union square, I find myself engrossed in the mysterious world of the first story in that little tome: “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”, about a fictional world that was painstakingly concocted by anonymous characters in such a fashion as to slowly take over the real world; a tale itself told in such ambiguous semi-factual terms as to also seem intended to distort reality. I’m enthralled. The rest of the day finds me looking forward to lunch break or leaving the co-working space so I can sit on the subway, or even walk through a park, engorging more of the strange fantasy fodder that Borges had such mastery in producing.

Borges was with me as I got to know Ryan and Ian better, as we taught computer science together in the co-working space where I met them. He was with me when Romy and I started having more adventures together: talking until late in that forlorn East Village room I was subletting, crashing in her friend’s place one night spontaneously and waking up to a beautiful bath of sunshine coming through the blinds of that strange abode, itself full of Escher and Bach, wherein I sat, on the floor, reading more Borges, reveling in the peace of my new friend sleeping and all my fears momentarily allayed by the more pressing concerns of the circular ruins or the garden of the forking paths. He was with me as I left the East Village to stay in Washington Heights and the Upper West Side, and I returned to Strand for the umpteenth time to buy the spanish edition of the Aleph. And the Aleph was with me, physically and figuratively, as I finally returned home, to my own reality, to being Luis Borjas.