13 June 2014

Love Letter To Madrid

The unknown is always more exciting. 

Like Madrid, for example. 

I don't know her very well. I visited her a few times, and each time in a different phase of life, with a different purpose. Each of these visits are like puzzle pieces that don't fit together. They are separate pieces, divided chapters, and fragmented memories. The different visits are connected to different parts of the city, and I feel like each visit was in a different city. It felt different each time. Or I was different each time. 

The first time I was 21, with two friends, stayed in cheap hostel in the barrio Santa Ana. Late nights (i mean VERY late), winter, cold, crisp, dark bars, bad paella, tourist bus by day, more bad food, more vodka until until 6 am. A dance with the nightlife of this night owl of a city, a taste of what could have been- but not enough interest to go deeper into its myriad of bars beyond the obvious bars. Not even a scratch on the surface. 
The second time was just a one night stop on the way to Cadiz, where I was going to study spanish. I was 23. I had pre booked a cheap room in another cheap hostel, barrio Santa Ana again but this time closer to Puerta del Sol. I arrived late, had a late tapas and beer, had a short sleep, and then went to the Atocha train station to catch my train all the way south. Something in me already felt like a seasoned traveller, although i wasn't- it was just that it had become my life, already then, to move around in environments foreign to me, far away from home. And i felt very at home doing so. I am a traveller by soul definition, and that truth was rising up and out of me, rather than being taught. It came from the inside and was discovered by me. 
The third time was such a bittersweet week of an ending love story. I correct myself. Not love story: more like passion on fire-story. We cooled the fire in Madrid, which might seem strange, as Madrid by night has a lot of passion, flavour and heat. But we had a silent week together in Madrid and we slept a lot, intertwined in each other and hotel-laundried bedsheets. It was sad and inevitable. We knew it could not and would not work. Our story had been a short reality in the south of Italy a few months before, and we just could not let go of it.
The picture above says so many things for me. And if he reads this, he will know, too. He knows that place on the picture. And he will know what the text will mean in connection to all of this. Only we know. 
I saw a different Madrid. The barrios that are cool, trendy, young, artistic. Intellectual. He had been studying fine art in Madrid before so he knew those parts of it. Lavapies, La Latina. Cava Bajo. When he went to work in the galley, I went to the museums. I went to see Guernica and I was touched deeply. I stood in front of it for a long time and I was frozen, staring at this never-ending story painted on a huge piece of cloth. 
I left Madrid after sitting in a tiny bathtub, crying over the melancholy of our broken future. It just wouldn't work. It ended in Madrid. 
The fourth time I came as a new mother, to visit the Swedish Embassy to make a passport for my 8 week old son. He could not have escaped his travelling mother, whether he wanted it or not. Born in Ibiza, Spain- but a passport was necessary so that we could get out of the country, of course, and start travelling together. 
I only realised afterwards how absorbing and uncomfortable those first weeks of his life were. Being completely alone with my baby for the first time was a wobbly and overwhelming experience. I wanted the challenge though. I wanted us to be independent and to trust each other, and as always, I learn to trust myself and others more when away from comfort zones. So off we went, three nights at a hotel in a fancy-ish area, near the embassy and Chamartin, the upscale area of the city. A whole new experience. A whole new Madrid. Having to stop in Retiro, breastfeeding. Having to learn how to shower in a four star hotel with a baby screaming, not yet experienced with distraction and manipulation techniques that you become so efficient at later in your career as a mother. Trying to eat in a restaurant with an infant as your dinner companion. 
I ate only thai food which I miss a lot and lied to the waiter each time; the takeaway is for the father of the baby, yes, working a lot today again. I wanted to see Guernica again, to have a kebab in Lavapies again and to sit in a sunny Plaza Ana, but nothing went according to plan with this little 8 week old setting the plans and also changing them each moment.
I wrote a little about my visit. The main impression I got was very different from the other times, because of this: BARCELONA. I have now lived in Barcelona, a considerably noisy city. But after a while there, you kind of take it for granted, that Spanish towns are noisy. That you're supposed to not yet be asleep at 2 am, because the neighbours are not, nor are the people down on the street. But Madrid is different. Madrid is like a pueblo. A HUGE pueblo. People walk slowly, and they Sleep. They are quiet in a different way. The nightlife is vibrant and exciting and loud, but it goes on in distinct areas, and outside of that, you rest. You sleep soundly and proudly, of course- it is the capital of the crisis. You don't stress- this is the capital of siesta and maƱana.  
The fifth time I came with my parents in law and my son, for a three day visit. 

I connected all the pieces of the puzzle above and as I walked the city, I realised that Chamartin, El retiro and La Latina are in fact the same city, even within walking distance. They are together. Not separate worlds. All the stories I had lived in different chapters could now be connected into a map of a city that I am slowly, over the years, getting to know. Lines drew from A to B on a map just like synapses are connecting in the brain. Aha, aha, and aha again. 
If I don't know hoe a city is structured, or how I walk from A to B, I still consider it unknown to me. And therefore exciting. 
Madrid was exciting and unknown. Spread out pieces of chapters. 
I booked a bright apartment in Lavapies, because I remembered walking in the barrio, looking at the pastel coloured reality, hearing jazz tunes floating floating solemnly through the air down onto the streets and thinking "I could live her, with this artist. I'd do anything; bar work, call centre… just to be together in this jazzy pastel coloured dream"

One side of the apartment was looking down onto an inner yard which had absolutely nothing except the white walls of two other apartment blocks. Only one single window had been cut out of these white walls and that window had red flowers in it. 
Swallows were diving in and out of this empty space with white walls and one window, and the distinct sound of early summer kept passing in, out, in, out. I don't know in which movie this particular sound was used as interface- but I know for sure that it's a movie I love. 
So the whole time that I spent in this Lavapies apartment had the soundtrack of a movie I love, but don't know the name of. 
Do you know the sound of swallows?
If you don't, it's like this: June. Light. Summer. Promises. That special light of beginning of summer.
Above is a picture from an inside of an Almodovar movie. Or... almost. A book cafe that has the same style of interior as all his movies. Complete with its own Queen. 

I ate cheviche for the first time in my life. We were recommended a Peruvian restaurant. It was delicious. 
We went to Guernica and my son and his grandparents saw it for the first time. My son was just a little bit less impressed than them. 
I walked my Memory Lanes with everyone in tow. I connected the lines on the map as I retraced my steps and pinned dots on my memory map. 
We went to a flamenco show and my soul was curling itself. In the break I took my exhausted son for a walk and ended up in the middle of Friday night Plaza Santa Ana. 
I slept good in the quiet soundtrack of a favourite movie. 

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