The Desperate Artist (July 30)

The Castellana is, as the countess put it, probably one of the greatest streets in Madrid, and certainly one of the most important thoroughfares.  It gets its name from a fountain, la fuente de la castellana, that stood in what is now the Plaza de Emilio Castelar.  A small canalized stream drifted all the way down to the Paseo del Prado.  Most people aren’t aware of that.  Though the blueprints were drawn up around the beginning of the 19th Century, building didn’t really pick up until the second half when it was decided that the area around Colón and the lower end of the Castellana would be destined for the aristocracy.  Mansions were put up and fancy Parisian-style buildings were boldly and energetically put up.  That was where Concepción grandfather went to build a new home.  He had a villa constructed a little further up and across the street, where the family lived for several generations.  They owned it throughout much of the 20th Century, but heavy maintenance costs and disinterest forced the family to sell it in the 1980s to a bank…for and advantageous price.  Concepción was always a free-spirit, she told me, and though it was frowned upon at the time, and…although it was frowned upon at the time, she insisted her father give her an apartment another building they owned and rented out for her to make a life of her own. 

       “Even if you aren’t married?” He asked.

        “Even if I’m not married.” She said.

         She never did.

        She said it was the same place where were baby brother fell off a carriage and was crushed by the wheel.  She held his head until he died, she told me. She told me. 

        “It’s a shame about the news of that American girl.  They haven’t found her have they?”

         I told it I agreed.  “No, they haven’t.  And what’s worse is that I think I met her the very night she di…disappeared.  That’s weird.  I was almost going to say ‘died’.  Isn’t that terrible?  Why should I have assumed something like that?”

        “Because,” interrupted the voice of a young man dressed in a white polo shirt with the outsized insignia of a polo team stamped on it, dark blue Bermuda shorts and slippers on.  His hair was well greased back and he had a coffee in his hand.  “She probably is.  I told you Madrid is not a safe city.  Americans come over here thinking they can ust party it up day and night”…because they can, I thought to myself…”and get wasted and not expect anything to happen to them.  And there you have it.  She had a great time, but now she is died, no dead.”

        “Jaime.  You don’t know that,” protested his aunt.

         He probably does, I thought to myself.

        “Hello, my name is Jaime and I am quite hung over.  We were at a terraza on top of a building.  And then the usual up on Arturo Soria until…until sunset…ha, ha, I mean sunrose… and it was a lot of fun.  But you will have to excuse my English today if it doesn’t go.”  He added as he scratched his eye with his pinky.

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