Thursday, December 31, 2009

The 365th day

The man at the bike shop was surprised to see me walk through the door. Te vas a animar? he asked, looking out at the rain. "You're really up for it?"

“It’s not raining too hard," I said.

I picked the bike with the basket, paid seven euros and left my library card as collateral.

It was raining harder when I arrived at El Retiro. The bike was a little big but I managed. Squinting through the rain, I pedaled over puddles and around joggers. My boots were soon covered in mud.

The park was nearly empty and I could occasionally hear the sound of wet gravel underneath Charlotte Gainsbourg's voice. The rain finally stopped and the sun appeared through the dark clouds.

An old man was walking past as I rode by. I smiled at him. I've developed a soft spot for old Spanish men. He raised his eyebrows in surprise, took off his hat and mouthed "Hola guapa."


Sitting at the bar at Hernani, with a café con leche and a damp copy of Anna Karenina, I glanced at the group of tourists sitting next to me, consulting a guide book. There was something really cute about the way they pronounced street names and places. "We have to get to SOUL," one of the men said.

I opted against taking the metro and walked the long way home, past Banco de España, Palacio de Comunicaciones and down Gran Via into Sol, where the festivities were already getting started. Walking is the best way to really get to know a city. Walking is also the best way to clear your head.

Sore and tired from the two-hour ride and walk, I curled up in bed, trying to sleep, trying to shut off my brain. Everyone is where they should be tonight. At home.


At 11 p.m., I put on my coat and boots and walked back out into the empty street. There was a blue moon that night.

I didn't want to be alone. I wanted noise, the company of strangers and fireworks. Lots and lots of fireworks. So I headed for Sol, and was startled by several firecrackers along the way.

Sol was chaos. There was confetti, broken glass, prostitutes, drunken singing and brawls.

I laughed (and half-screamed) as my body was crushed and knocked about in the crowd.

You're never alone in being alone.

1 comment:

  1. i stumbled upon your blog via a cup of jo...

    last spring, a little over a year ago, i left my home for the last 20 years in texas to study in madrid for 4 months. by the second day there, i was already counting down the days until my flight home in june. every step of the way, i ached for texas and all the people i'd left there. sure, i made friends in madrid, but it wasn't home.

    but since coming back to the states, i've steadily ached more and more for the home i made in madrid. seeing your pictures of the palacio de cristal in retiro and whatever that building is in sol... brought back so many memories. i'm starting to forget the names of things, and it makes me really sad. seriously, i almost cried reading this post because there were places i wanted to tell you to visit but couldn't remember enough specifics.

    eat a napolitana con chocolate at the place that's right in front of the sol metro exit, across from the mcdonalds. the calle mayor exit, i think. go to el tigre, they have the best tapas in chueca. and visit anden 0... i'm not sure how often you take the blue line north of sol, but between the bilbao and iglesia stops is an old station that's been restored and turned into a little museum with advertisements on the walls in tile. OH and chocolate con churros at san gines... and if you like old books, there's a great little shop a ways up calle mayor, walking out of sol with plaza mayor on your right.

    now that i'm gone, the loneliness isn't a factor and i'm dying to go back to madrid. i spent far too much of my 4 months sitting in my apartment and i'm glad you're not.


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