Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The 16 and the 61

The end of our street opens up onto the main avenue, making our walk to the bus stop an anxious journey. The closer we come to the intersection, the more likely it is that we'll see the bus rolling towards the stop, all of us breaking into a sprint, our coats flying behind us.

Depending on what time it is, we stand in the middle of the bus, holding onto seat backs and each other to stay upright, taking the corners at 60 km/hr. It is a rare day that isn't sunny, light flooding the bus and making it difficult to look at the streets without sunglasses, or getting a pastoral sense of reality.

The first circle takes us past the fountain, water shimmering and cascading as motos and cars make hairpin turns around it. Following the flow of traffic we barely fit through the crosswalk, women pulling wheeled grocery bags, men with the day's bread rolled in the newspaper. We stop at the bakery to pick up more passengers, the employees occasionally looking out at their reflections in the bus window.

Down past the elementary school on the right, a fruteria, the school on the left, the cultural center, a fruteria, a bazaar, the Chamberi market, the butcher's stall visible from the street, a new Mediterranean restaurant, and then the Mexican bookstore that heralds our arrival at Moncloa. Everyone gets off the bus, the doors hissing open. We stream towards the metro station, merging with another tide of people crossing the street and running for their trains in a manner reminiscent of a synchronized swimming number. We dart past the women selling colored socks, the men handing out the Metro paper, and bear right towards Parque del Oeste, the lawns filled with municipal workers sweeping up shards of wine bottles from the night before.

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