The afternoon my husband and I agreed to a trial separation I escaped to a yoga class. Afterwards, floating in savasana, muscles tingling, eyes closed, I listened to everyone leave the room, tip-toeing around my wet cheeks and occasionally hiccupping chest. One by one they left me Aloneness like little presents, candles in the corners, flickering pockets of empathy.
When it was finally too rude to lie there any longer, I went to the beach and sat looking at the water until my husband rang. Or whatever he was. I told him I’d be home in 5 minutes.
But the truth is, I haven’t really felt ‘home’ since.
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Two streets away from my little apartment is a restaurant called Noviembre (November). It has a bright pink curling staircase leading up to a mezzanine level which is part office, part kitchen. I never put any of the delicious smells it emits into my mouth though because Noviembre is un poco caro (a little expensive). They don’t mind me sitting at a table by the window all day on just a green tea though and it makes me happy to simply walk in. The walls are wood panels painted in alternating muted, pale shades of blue, green, timber and white. Higgledy-piggledy chairs, some thrones from an Alice in Wonderland world, some simple brown wood, sit on the painted wood floor. I suppose it’s only honest for me to also mention that the waiters are muy simpatico…
When I rounded the corner to enter here this morning I heard someone call my name. Turning around, there was Dani, standing behind a vintage red bike, beard and ear piercings waggling in greeting. Dani owns the Drunk-o-rama bar and leads a band called ‘Massacre’ (less death-metal, more 50’s throw-back than it sounds). His bar is my preferred pre-game, not least for the 1 euro beers and friendly people. Dani knows Victor and Sergio from El Ultimo Mono, Dave‘s regular writing haunt and it makes me laugh to see him standing outside Noviembre, chatting to Ale, my favourite waiter like old friends. It’s one big social circle here with the Spanish.
Wandering a corner to the cheese section (of course), I’m accosted by the manager. In every way the opposite of the check out guy, short with quick eyes, his face lights up as he starts chattering away like the cheeky little monkey he is. The first time we met I wanted a bottle of gin from the top shelf and he asked how it was he was supposed to get it considering I was twice his height.
I know it’s a small city, I know that’s why tourists don’t like it but I’ve never been friends with waiters or bar owners or supermarket managers simply because I always go there. It’s nice.
Sofie, a blonde internship student from Holland, is sunning herself on her balcony above Plaza de la Merced, fielding messages from whichever male has unsuspectingly come across her beautiful being in the past day or so. I sit on the tiles, rolling up my jeans, hoping the sun will start browning my white legs in time for the warm weather due to hit in 3 weeks. Flower smells are already exploding along my usual route to Spanish class; under the Mook castle, through a rose garden with fountains and along the harbour. I stole some purple ones for my dining table.
We’re bitching about the atrocious price of drinks at one of the clubs, Sala Wenge – 9 euro for a vodka red bull – and I declare I’m never going back there. It’s a lie though; I know this Sunday morning at 6am after Gangnam Style has finished playing, I’ll be hugging the manager, teasing the giant creature that is the bouncer on my way out and tap-tapping the few streets back to my apartment. There’ll be a half drunk bottle of something still on the coffee table from where Lola and I – an English expat working at the Embassy who speaks about 50 languages and has a wicked sense of humour – ‘got ready to go out’ (aka: drunk at home) until about midnight. That’s when bars open. Don’t even think about a club until 2-3-ish.
I lie down on my bed booting up the laptop for some writing and glance at the blue sky out of the window, the bright white of the wall outside glowing from the sun, a wonderful sweet, light taste of peace and contentment crinkling the corners of my eyes. It matches the sparkles I hold in my hand from what has now become a daily habit, the 5pm gin and tonic.
Not quite home yet… but not quite a strange city either.
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