Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Before the metro closes

We were sitting at the back of the cafe playing Spanish Scategories, the table littered with half empty coffees, fickle ball point pens, and two broken plastic hourglasses.
Letter "s":

1. Bocadillos
2. Personas de ficcion
3...

After the hourglass stopped halfway, we let 30 or so seconds go by before we offered our answers. Within each category, you name things that begin with the letter that was rolled. Answers could be in either language, with 2 points for every Spanish word versus 1 point for every English answer.

1. Bocadillos: "Salmon and cream cheese" "Sweet chicken curry"
2. Personas de obras de ficcion: "Scout" "Superman" "Sacajawea"
"Wait, Sacajawea was a real person," Leah objected.
Marisa raised her hand, her mouth in a set line "We don't know that," she said seriously, ready to protect her answer to gain a point.
The table exploded with laughter.

I'm always amazed at how strong the overall feeling of a night or a day or a moment can be. Walking out of Cafe Manuela to catch the last train before the metro closed for the night, we wandered down middle of the street making plans for tomorrow, tripping over each other, laughing.

It's hard not to feel nostalgic about leaving, though to feel anticipatory nostalgia is an odd experience. What used to be a name I told people to pin down my location, Madrid is now a switchboard in my head, lighting up with details of afternoons, favorite streets, and misadventures. Flying towards Madrid on September 6 I had no idea what to expect from the city, nor where it was located, nor what it looked like. I had flown out of London on a morning already cold enough to see my breath hang in the air. Flying over Great Britain the trees and green spread out endlessly, lulling me to sleep. When I woke up 2 hours later the landscape was stretched taut and brown for miles below the double-paned fiberglass window, and I couldn't find the city.

I had seen pictures of el Parque del Buen Retiro, Gran Via, and other main thoroughfares in the guide books I had perused, but they all gave off the same glossy, static sensation. In the cab, making painfully slow and grammatically strictured conversation with the taxista, hundreds of people I knew nothing about flew past the window.

"We're at Cafe Manuela," Kate told me over the general din.
"Wait, is that Margaret?" I heard Jen's voice ask.
"Yeah," Kate said.
"Tell her it's on the street we got lost on last night," Jen's muffled voice said.
"Okay, so it's-"
"On the street we got last on last night. Cool! Thanks Kate, I'll probably be there in about 15 minutes," I said.

Getting off the metro I wasn't quite sure where I was headed, but crossing the street some of the construction looked familiar, and suddenly it was as if someone had taken a giant highlighter and marked my turns. I knew exactly which way to go, slowing my walk down in my certainty.
Cafe Manuela's giant red doors and opaque windows stared dolefully at the street, sounds of Scategories leaking onto the sidewalk.

1 comment:

Marc H. Schutzbank said...

The streets of Madrid are your veins... amazing piece margie