Unexpectedly, a casual incident brightened my life. It was one of the most interesting meetings I had during a recent trip to my native province, Tucumán, located in the north of Argentina. There, I met Roberto Espeche, a local notary with a fascinating life history.
I met Roberto when I was in a restaurant with some friends. At one point, a tall man wearing glasses and a smile, walking and talking with some difficulty, approached the table. When my friends introduced us, the first thing he said to me was “Do you want to buy my book?”
Disoriented by such frankness, I only managed to sketch a negative response. Unperturbed, he continued: “It does not matter. I give it to you as a present. Somehow, I’m going to get my money back.”
Later that evening, Roberto and I were having dinner together at a nearby restaurant. It was a great dinner, with delicious dishes and accompanied by a very good French wine. Of course, I paid the bill.
That day, and in later days, between talks with him and with other friends, I was able to reconstruct his history. Roberto was born in Tafí Viejo, a small town near the city of San Miguel de Tucumán, the largest city in the northwest region of Argentina and the capital of the province of Tucumán.
From his childhood, he was a very good student and in elementary school, he became a standard-bearer representing his school group. His life passed without major incident until June 28, 1986, when he was only 13 years old. He had an accident that would change his life.
In a hurry to get to a training session at his rugby club, he ran out of his house, and, when trying to pass in front of a bus, he was hit by a neighbor’s car. She was terrified, thinking that she had killed him.
Roberto was taken to a sanatorium where, after three and a half months, he was discharged and was able to return home. He had suffered multiple injuries from which it took him years to recover. For more than a decade, he carried out rehabilitation sessions for basic functions such as walking, maintaining balance, recovering fine motor skills, and speaking without major inconveniences. However, the injuries in his brain caused a loss of his inhibitions, which has sometimes cause, even now, difficult social situations.
Years later, fate would again put him to a test. His beloved daughter Martina had a very serious accident where the 1-year-old almost drowned, and she was left with neurological lesions even more serious than those her father had suffered. But it seems that his experience had prepared him to be able to help his daughter reintegrate into family life, so important for her recovery; Roberto, with commendable integrity, was unceasing in his efforts.
All of these trying events generated in him the need to share the experiences in a book.
Roberto worked in collaboration with Jorge Daniel Brahim, editorial director of the magazine El Pulso Argentino, to create “With Perseverance: My Life as History,” a book that appropriately reflected his passage from darkness to light. More than 6,200 copies have been sold, an extraordinary figure if one takes into account that they are the result of Roberto’s personal efforts and his great talent as a salesman. Moreover, a more complete third edition has been printed.
I witnessed Roberto’s ability as a salesman when, on one occasion, we were having coffee in Las Palmas, a downtown restaurant. Roberto, as always, had a backpack with several copies of his book. At short intervals, he would get up from our table and offer his book to new clients when they entered the restaurant.
At a certain moment, I saw a couple come who I thought were professionals, since they came loaded with several books. I then said to Roberto: “Look, Roberto, that couple seems to be potential clients for you.” Immediately, he answered me: “Don’t worry for me, César. I am an insatiable salesman. I am like a shark, when I smell blood, I know exactly how to attack my prey.”
Another incident confirmed Roberto’s tenacity in selling his books. Some friends in common told me how, on one occasion, Roberto lost his balance and fell backward to the ground. His editor tried to lift him without being able to do so. A passer-by who saw the scene approached and tried to help in lifting him. For a few dramatic seconds, Roberto seemed to have lost consciousness.
As he opened his eyes, as soon as he saw a new and strange face, the first thing he said was: “Do you want to buy my book?”