October 31, 2014 § Leave a comment

In Spain, they eat lunch in mid-afternoon, not right at twelve. They eat for a long while, and then nap a little while longer. Then they might return to work, or they might not. They might instead play made-up games with their children on the living room rug, or go for a walk past the butchery and the park and the bread shop.

I like Spain.

I thought I wouldn’t be able to stand being an outsider, the way I felt in Dublin. In Dublin I could walk down the streets with a sense of purpose, look forward knowingly, shake my red hair in the rain and know that no one suspected my other-ness. Unless I spoke. And then all that belonginess faded away. You’re not from here, the bartender would say as he poured me my Guinness. Words that defined me, that seemed to send me back to my home even though I still sat on a stool in just another city center bar.

But in Spain, I stumble over the language. I walk while staring up and around. I bump into people and quickly say Sorry rather than Perdon. People smile at my efforts. Of course I’m not from here. But they appreciate that I try to do the simple things in their country, buy groceries and ask directions. They tell me how brave I am to live so far away, so far out of my comfort zone, away from my parents and with no one but my Spanish-speaking teenager roommates. Valiente, they call me. Tan valiente.

Valiente, I think. I like to do the things that scare me, I tell them. And when they don’t scare me anymore, I try to do something else.

I don’t know how to say all of that in Spanish, so I say it in English. And so they just smile and nod.


But as I sit on a bench in my new city, one bench down from the homeless man who waits for enough spare change to buy a beer, and then waits for enough to buy another, a bench underneath a chestnut tree that rains down on the calle below, I think, that means you’re always running. If you conquer the fear, and then conquer the next, you’re never in the same place. You’re on the move. And is running to conquer fear after fear just another form of being afraid?

The question confuses me. I watch the homeless man hustle into the bar across the street, his hands full of different colored coins.

I like the idea of meeting people once and never again, of perpetual movement, of being a certain girl for a certain period of time, an untainted memory. Stay long enough and the humanity of everything and everyone starts setting in.

And that, more than anything, is uncomfortable.

Eventually, someone in my head tells me, you’ll have to stand still. Something will force you to halt.

Death, I say back to it.

The homeless man is back with a Mahou. I can’t describe how unbelievably happy he looks. I wish earnestly it could stay with him forever. It hurts me, how much I want his happiness to stay.

But soon, too soon, his can will be empty. Por favor, puede Usted ayudarme? Algo para comer, para comer.


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