I take the train to Barcelona. The train enters a tunnel. A baby coughs very lightly, an older man clears his throat. The tunnel, that’s where we all go, light or no light no one is to know. My amphibian throat gurgles, will the language spill out of me, it is a great accomplishment. The people to the right of me are joyously trilling their tongues, dancing their hands. I intertwine my fingers, rub the knuckles of my right hand into the palm of the left, elevate feet, try not to slouch into the seat. My right hand, usually a refrigerator, is warming up nicely, middle age but not only, you have to keep the blood circulating correctly. Out the window, a blur of trees and small mountains, good foliage.
In Gracia, at an American style bar, shiny stools, spicy memories, excited howls, rarely the whispers, and sometimes missing America, even though I didn’t love it when I was in it. Time compresses. The streets are narrow. There is no sunlight. The temperatures are not freezing, but it is cold and damp, claustrophobic.
The shops offer the hope of something different. Softer materials, a little more colour. The Argentinian has real empanadas, thin pastry, flaky & fragrant, it warms my stomach. I am not a vermouth drinker, but it is a Spanish specialty. I sit outside, wait for the waiter. The waiter takes forever to arrive, slumping and annoyed, why have you disturbed him, do you really want to order? I order the house vermouth; it arrives on ice.
The vermouth, very sweet, in a small glass with indented patterns, an old timer, you start to feel the body shifting. What have you done with the gift of human existence? Maybe I should keep walking.
Should I go inside to pay or wait for him? Is it better to pay inside or wait outside? Will I have to fight for his attention? I’ll go inside, but what if he comes back? No, I’ll go inside. Inside it is all clatter and clamour. Inside it is cramped and buzzing, the crashing of dishes, the toilet door broken, no soap. Yes, I will pay for it inside, get their attention at the counter, rather than wait outside forever.
Two young American women, one with a baby in a backpack, soft hipster clothing, the other with a backpack, no baby in it, soft hipster clothing, are trying to pay their bill. No, we don’t want a copy, she says. They are very loud and happy, super confident, where do they get it? I am not American.
I disappear into the Gothic. Look around for coffee. There is one in the corner with a free table, steam on the windows, cramped and tidy, probably warm and cosy. The coffee is tasty, warm bodies. You can pay first. Relief. You don’t have to get the attention of a waiter. Hotter and hotter, I have to take off my beanie. Only three tables and so many people standing, there is a clear path to the door. The Spanish lady at the next table is forever sighing, at least twelve sighs in two minutes. She is getting the frustrations outside of her. How to copy her? I have to learn to sigh better.
I walk out of the square down the medieval alleys. A little bag of chocolate covered peanuts. In Denmark the happiness quota is very high, they eat many pastries and burn the most candles. They believe in cosy. The Spanish are very social, excellent at complaining, but maybe they get it out of their system. Soon they will outlive the Japanese. Is it really an accomplishment?
I pop my head into the restaurants, no candles, bright lights, it looks like a morgue. Everyone is buzzing, faces pressed together, arms and hands flying. At a distance I feel the Mediterranean cultures, but up close northern European, a big fan of cosy. I keep walking. Down the stairs, through the tunnels, it is rush hour, the people piled together. I remember the metros of my former territory and many others. I do not miss it. I move back and forth between my hermit existence and moving back into a big city, but once I am there, in the city, I am ready to come back to it, the not-city, more quiet, less people, no metro, better air. The train lurches forward.
Sunday. I am knotted in the bedsheets and the sun is moving through the trees, above the castle. How do we cream our toast today? With buttery eggs and salted herring. Loving your body is going green. How to go green? You’ve got to take care of your eyes and teeth. You are not covered, usually, by the government. Lift the left leg and then the right, look out the window. I need to warm up, the house has no heating, and in summer it is boiling, the simple life is never simple, it could become simpler. I need more socks, something quilted, a little cosy. Watching To the Lake on Netflix. A snowy apocalypse. I like that kind of cold on the telly. Makes me feel cosy.