I sat alone on Sunday afternoon and tried to work the words “cieno,” (mud/mire) “guadaña,” (scythe) and “amago” (feint or tricky gesture or can someone please come up with a better translation?) into a “poem.” My greatest regret in life is having thrown out the tiny camo notebook I used to hide under my pillow in grade school. In its pages I wrote poems dramatically lacking in depth and technique–in other words, not much has changed. I’m writing in Spanish lately not because I am trying to improve, but because I find comfort in my ignorance: I sense that the writing is trash but I don’t know that I’ll ever be entirely sure why.
The park in the photo above is in Suanzes. I suppose it’s the sort of neighborhood you move to after having children but, as with most things, I actually have no idea. Incidentally, it is a great place to go when you feel that you cannot physically endure one more gulp of city exhaust. I presume that much has been written about the price of metropolitan life and that many a human within Madrid’s gates has begged for some gaddamn peace and quiet. I never thought that I would count myself among their number, but lo and behold…
A few days into the New Year, my computer quite unexpectedly imploded and I spent over a month with no keyboard and no place to binge-watch Courtney Love interviews. Did I learn a lot during this time? I don’t know. Buy a hard-disk and back your shit up still occupies a spot on my to-do list. At the moment, however, I’m back in action! New laptop, empty bank account, same old me pretending my irresponsibility is a blessing, a modern-day tabula rasa.
Since autumn, I’ve been working 12 to 14 hours a day. For the most part I had embraced, at times even loved, this psychotic lifestyle. Just three days into Christmas break, however, it became clear that I’d been playing myself. Why have I been living this way? nudged its rebellion into my lazy days of flâneuse-ery and wine. Instead of running from job to job in a blaze of uncomfortable sweat, I spent hours in museums and at exhibits. I walked home in the sunset, with nowhere to run and nobody to call. I laughed my ass off in the middle of the street until four and five o’clock in the morning. And you know what?
IT WAS FRIGGIN’ GLORIOUS.
Work called, though, and she wanted me back. So let’s cut the caca and talk hopes and dreams. My New Year’s resolutions have remained pretty consistent since 2012:
Become self-employed and
Do a split
I have yet to accomplish either, but I like to imagine that when I do finally ease into that split, a successful business and the paperwork to sustain it will burst forth from my thighs. Fitness tip #1: find a way to stay motivated! All I’m saying, internet, is that I am reasonably flexible and have no problem working long hours.
I love you under the rain and under the clouds and after midnight on Tuesday nights. I love you at lunchtime and on Sunday mornings before the hung-over crawl out from under their bed-sheets. I love you even and sometimes especially when I don’t, forgiving you your excessive escalators and stale Saturday winds.
I ignored you when we met. Skinny from silliness and afraid of everything, you were too wild for me, full of chatter. Five years later I hauled my suitcase up the stairs in Tirso de Molina. There was a light rain falling. Men were shouting and selling: paragua, paragua, paragua! I was lost but didn’t care. I would remember this moment for many months, especially while listening to shitty guided meditations. We stayed in a one room studio in Arganzuela. For three nights a madwoman banged trashcans and howled “Arabian Nights” beneath the window.
In August you were deserted. Queens with pencil-thin eyebrows smoked in doorways and danced chotis and I couldn’t stop smiling. The metro back was empty but for one sleeping woman. I looked up at the ceiling in my airport hotel and wondered what was wrong with me.
In September I had a bed and nowhere to rest my head. Waking up to you made me happier than I’d been for a long time. Sure I was lonely but I was also awake. Friends and strangers came and went. Gran Vía was a trap. I stumbled through January. Some nights the windows shook.
Last March, J asked what was wrong with me: why did I have to walk so far if the metro was right in front of us? It must have been one of those early Spring days, still cold enough for a coat, everybody falling in love. It took me seventy-five minutes to get home and I listened to Nino Bravo most of the way. Here he is, singing his way down the Paseo del Prado:
And there I was, trying real hard not to spread my arms out and sing right along with him. Maybe I should have. I’m here now only because I decided to honor impulse, after all. One year later and many are the afternoons that I still feel like singing up and down your hills.
You’re tired. You want to stop, but you can’t. Lattes and sunsets and quirky glassware flash before your eyes.
If your breakfasts aren’t beautiful… do you exist?
If you don’t read poetry in sunbeams, do you actually understand it?
If you go on vacation and don’t document every moment of it, if you don’t spread your arms wide for a photo opp in front of the sea, did you really go?
Is the cure for depression and anxiety as easy as reading a Top 10 Reasons to Live list?
Generalized Embarrassment About Ultimately Inconsequential Bullshit:
You just washed your hair with shower gel for the third day in a row (lifehack: shower gel and shampoo are almost the same thing–you won’t die if you substitute one for the other on a poor or lazy day/week/month).
There are three empty water bottles under your bed and the only explanation you can offer is “pure, unadulterated laziness.”
You drank a can of Diet Coke and ate a slice of bread “for dinner.”
You’ve never had a manicure.
You went to sleep with your asymmetrical eyeliner still on last night.
The socks on your feet don’t match.
You’d rather spend an afternoon in an old man bar than at Kelsey’s new vegan venture.
WHY ARE THESE PEOPLE DRINKING SO MANY LATTES?
Life doesn’t look like this! Life is gross! Life is that old guy at the dark convenience store (they’re trying to save on electricity) who walked in smoking a cigar, asking for change. Life is the waiter with gnarly body odor you had today. Life is Eileen Myles writing a poem called Peanut-butter that begins I am always hungry/ & wanting to have sex. Life is that lady laying on the ground at the Paseo de Prado. Life is watching a manchange into his Quixote costume. Fine, whatever, it’s gorgeous, too. Life is gorgeous, but it’s not made of pastels or lists or aerial shots of eggs Benedict.
You fell into a scroll-hole on a lifestyle blogger’s Instagram, didn’t you? Whatta dummy.
Go outside. Respect the lifestyle ladies and men, anyway, for working hard and making a living marketing lives that don’t look like yours does. They must wonder what the fuck? from time to time, too. But that doesn’t sell.
For the love of the metro and the sake of my mind, I moved to Madrid. In Bodas de Sangre, Leonardo (the home-wrecking heartthrob) tells his lover: “cuando las cosas llegan a los centros, no hay quien las arranque!” When things reach deep inside you, nothing can pull them out! I sang that line into my steering wheel all summer long, knowing its truth better than most other things. It was a truth that I knew when I left home for the first time, when I escaped to Granada, and again 4 years later, having learned to live and love in another place, when I began to think mostly of metro cars, mostly at night, especially after wine. Not a single part of my body would shut up about it, so with some fear and plenty of nausea, I accepted the impossibility of quieting my feet.
So here I am. I live here now. “Madame George” lasts about exactly as long as the ride from my home to Alonso Martinez. I dream myself onto platforms, at the right station, onto the wrong train. I think I share a wall with an American. I can always tell us by our laughs. Strangers touch my ass every morning and I find myself staring into the backs of heads on the metro ride, which isn’t as romantic as I’d imagined it would be, but certainly has its charm, too (it’s that sense of community that comes from inhabiting somebody’s 8AM body odor).
When people ask “why?” I say:
“I just needed a change.”
Which is, of course, true. Still, my real life is not nearly dramatic as the one I live in my head. I suppose that is for the best, but this all felt very serious and necessary. Serious enough to take a Lorca quote completely out of context, at least.