I got to talking to some people at the bar. In English of all languages. Made sense, it being an English bookstore and all. It made sense, it being an English bookstore and all. I wondered why I hadn’t been there before. There was so much to do and I had lived in this city long enough, with books and papers surrounding and forming ledges on my shelves, you would have thought, you would would (intentional I tell you, intentional) think, that I’d have gone there at least once if not a longer and with greater distance.
I had once. But it was packed. I think I opened the door, even that, but that was about as far as you can get.
Then I turned away.
We are ancient people. There aren’t many of us who have been as around Madrid as long as we have. My friend who works there and I. No longer than the people who have been here as long as we have. We agreed.
But that I said when I returned the other night. Years after I said I would.
It was exchange night there, which sounded promising if it meant partner exchange, or more promising if I had a partner to exchange, but I hadn’t, and all people were interested in was my language, my mother tongue, something I had been forced to learn when I was three years old and hopelessly impressionable and lacking any power or will or decision.
I am still working my way out of that whole. I hadn’t planned on speaking to anyone in English that evening, but rather hoped I would be having a beer and wasting away the hours before going to bed. I had accomplished enough for the day. Seen a museum…walked the streets…experienced Madrid yet again…
Most Spaniards who were there to drink and practice their English were male and thus naturally disappointed by my presence, since the language intercambio was often an excuse for people to try and live out other dreams they had been working on for years. It was a tragic foothold for remote and desperate aspirations I tell you. One guy spoke to me because I had no choice but to stand between him and the beer tap and while he waited to be served, he told me about his job, which was far too dreary to pass on to you. I felt like killing him and putting him out of his misery and just might have if he hadn’t seemed so pleased with his dreariness. If…he hadn’t seemed so…pleased.
A great deal more interesting was a girl, were two girls in fact, who happened to be bouncing off a few conversations, they being some of the only females on the premises. One was notably prettier than the other. She had full lips, dark eyes, dark hair that kind of longish hair down to her shoulders, and she covered it teasingly with a white hat, which made her that much more interesting, which made here that much more interesting. I spoke to the other girl more, though. She didn’t wear a hat which made her less so interesting, but she had more to say. I told her about what I was doing because she asked me and because that was on my mind.
“A guide about Madrid.”
“Yeah, but a different kind of guide. About places I have never been to, places I haven’t been to in a ling time, and places I should visit more often…kind of in that order.”
“An alternative guide to Madrid.”
“Yeap. But one that includes everything.”
“That’s a big task.”
“You don’t know how.”
“How long have you been working on it?”
“About five days.”
That kind of killed it for me. I guess if I told her five months, she would have been more impressed, but I can’t really understand why. At one point it had to be five days, so what did it matter. She continued dubiously. “What’s your next goal.”
“The Temple of Debod.”
“What category does that fall in?”
“In the first.”
“I’ve never been there either. And if I have it’s been so long I can’t remember. I heard someone was murdered there sometime.”
“Is that right?”
Her name was Iris and her friend Diana. I got both of their numbers. We made tentative plans to go one day if possible if possible, we made plans. Just in case I got bored. Writing a guide by yourself can get so distressing at times.