Holaaaa Chiqui,

I’m late in writing again. Sorry about that. You’re getting hipper by the day and I, come fall, may find myself priced out. 1100+ days between us and many of my worries are the same. I wonder at the bags beneath my eyes, my ill-fitting clothes and my adequacy. We are still a lop-sided pair.

On Saturday morning, the upstairs tenants are fucking away. I blast meditation music and laugh. This is the longest I’ve ever spent in any one place and I know things now: how to fix a toilet, the best time of day for a sun-drenched nap, the way that woman sometimes screams jooooodeeeeer. I know how to keep the wind out–most of it, at least. I know when my wall-mates change, their sleeping habits and favorite songs.

Down on the street, however, I’m having trouble getting used to the new additions: yellow lights, frequent vocal fry. Come on, let’s get whoppers, a Kelly or a Hannah says. I’m aware that I may be part of this problem, OK? So you don’t need to say anything about it. The newsman is still there every morning at least, and likely long before I think of opening my eyes.

Things change, of course, and many of them for the better. Now, I work in a place where people are familiar to me. They worry about money and they wash their own clothing. Last week, a child told a story about the gorillas living in her grandparents’ garage–no one questioned the verity of this, and the presentation moved smoothly along. Well, as long as they are familiar gorillas, of course it is OK to approach them.

Tirso’s blooms are perennial but I mostly forget about them in the winter. Their openings and closings are measured, unlike mine. This is something that I am working on. Many are the mornings, afternoons, evenings that I have crossed this part of you. Sadly, happily, alone, accompanied, barely there. Today I bought a bunch of leaves and a bouquet of purple and white flowers. I don’t know their genera. I was also carrying a bag of groceries and a two-foot tall calathea.

“¿Puedes con todo?” the attendant asked me. “Can you handle everything?”

I think so. If you could just hand me the plant…”

On mornings like this one, it is a privilege to handle all of this.

Happy 3rd anniversary, Madrid. It is good to really see you again.

Love,

Seo

Top 6.5 Reasons Why August is Madrid’s Best Month

In few words: it is the city I never knew I needed.

In more: This month is hands down Spain’s best kept secret and these are the reasons why:

  1. There are actually seats on the metro. That means that you can easily escape both unsavory body odors and screaming infants.
  2. Grocery shopping is no longer a fight against stressed-out parents, guiris, and self-righteous abuelos*. It is a luxurious experience, in which one can ponder lemons and compare pastas without being pushed.
    *I love my elders, but they cut in line all the time.
  3. Temperatures are way more comfortable than they were in July. Think: going from suffocating in Satan’s armpit, to dancing nude on the tippy-top of Jesus’ index finger.
  4. Lavapies and La Latina have street parties. That means that you may see any combination of the following: full-on suckling pigs roasting next to the post-office, men dressed like lady chulapas and dancing chotis, a gypsy selling melons from a wheelbarrow with the following invitation: “wow, I have huge melons here,” and more.
  5. The sunsets are sexy as fuck. Sunrises, though? No idea. Never seen one.
  6. People seem calmer and more open. As in city-wide blackouts or massive snowstorms, there is a sense of implicit community between those who have stayed behind.  –> 6.5. On the flipside, though, some people have just gone completely mad. Yesterday the supermarket security guy was frisking a man and, upon pulling a bottle of rosé out of his pants, began a very intense interrogation which consisted of just one question: “you’re hungry for wine, are you? hungry for WINE?” I dont’ know if this is a positive thing, but you won’t want for people-watching at any time in Madrid.
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An empty Mercado de la Cebada, August 2019.

I Just Wanna Walk Around

I was sent to the outskirts on an errand on Friday, where I was gawked at by a large man in a straw hat (twice), witnessed one fight, observed three oldies gossiping in front of neighborhood graffiti, and then reluctantly returned to posh-ville.

Suspicion re-affirmed: I’m not made for the office life, and you probably aren’t either.

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Headless hunchback in bell-bottoms, Barrio del Pilar

It’s Complicated.

I’m sorry.

I started taking things for granted, spending more time away, forgetting to open my eyes.

I should have written you nine months ago.

Out West, I worked with an Uruguayan. He was mostly silent during work hours, though sometimes he would recommend a film or crack a joke. When he’d had enough, he would remove his gloves, stash his scissors, put on a jacket, and walk out to the deck to watch the fog roll in. Usually, we followed. When he did speak, it was captivating. His rants against the Parisians (there is such a thing as “too polite”) and speeches on the benefits of ginger (it’s an aphrodisiac) could have filled novelas. When we spent a night at his one-bedroom city sanctuary, he gestured towards a loft bed: “That’s where Di and I used to sleep- in the beginning, of course, when love meant we didn’t need space.”

This year, the bed no longer fit the both of us.

inpieces_fayolle4
by Marion Fayolle

I needed silence and to catch my breath. Your energy, the one I had dreamt about, began to exhaust me and I started to worry that you and I were terribly mismatched. You shouted and murmured all day long; I sought balance but conformed, always with one foot in and one foot out the door. My tall chiquiño suffered the same way: he couldn’t recall which potted plant it was that had almost killed the doorman, nor when. He was chatting away about it, but I was late.

For the past nineteen-some months, I have run through and away from you. I can hardly recall the fall or the winter. It seems just yesterday that we were beginning again, the living-room empty, two bright orange folding chairs holding a place for the even uglier second-hand sofa I was about to buy. Now, we know each other well and not at all. Familiarity breeds discontent, if one is not careful. I stopped going underground until last week. Unsurprisingly, you were full of the same characters–they were just sweatier. The crazy woman who looks posh was still crazy, still looking posh, and still making animated faces at her Instagram feed from La Latina to who-knows-where. The modern-day-Goya-portrait-in-a-suit was still rotating his dress-pants  from blue, to black, to purple, and back again. All of us, every morning, were still stupidly racing to be the first on the escalator, eager to ease back into our office chairs, or at least avoid a dressing-down.

My claim is that I no longer have the time to love or enjoy you. As I dig moats into the sand on a Northwestern Nudist Beach, however, the thought of returning to you still feels in many ways like going home. We’ll change some stuff. I’ll work less, or not at all. You’ll be as open as ever. The train will feel like it’s going somewhere again.

I know we can work on this, Madrid. Happy belated anniversary ♥

City Pissues: Brushed by a Wing

I ducked, narrowly dodging one Captain Sparrow and two medieval wenches. Gray-bluish-white flashed before my eyes, I uttered a single “dammit,” and pedalled on.

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Their home.

Thirty minutes later, I parked the bike and began making my way up the street. Madrid was uncharacteristically breezy this evening, Plaza de los Carros was full of mid-week drinkers, and seeing San Isidro Church pressed up against the sky got me thinking about a cheesy quote I saw recently: “remember when you wanted what you currently have.”

And it was happening again! This time there were three of them, all in a row: a flourish of fat, monochrome bodies rising off the ground, and the distinct brush of dirty feathers against my bare shoulder.

If hating pigeons is generic, I am basic bitch #1. There isn’t room enough for the both of us in this city.

Anyway, I suppose that this is, along with impatient metro-patrons and post-Saturday piss-whiffs on public streets, part of what I signed up for when moving to the capital. I wanted this, really, as much as anything else.