She was staring with no shame right into my eyes. When I looked away she would squawk demanding my attention, insist that I stare back. Unblinking, she took in all she could, always winning the contest. Funny how social norms take away the wonder of looking into a stranger’s eyes trying for a peek into the soul. But there she was resting in her father’s arms looking over his shoulder, too young to know or care about such things as social norms. For a moment she let me forget all that, and I took in all I could of her soul, her spirit, which seemed so pure and honest. Beyond her and her father was the Mediterranean Sea with its blue green color and soft scent of salt, so different from the Atlantic. There is a narrow beach cut short by a bulkhead that supports a concrete pavilion that runs the length of the sea. On the weekdays it is light with pedestrians, but on the weekends it’s a river of flesh, some walking, others on bikes, roller blades, skateboards and scooters. Plenty to see and find something to laugh over. Almost like a circus, really.
When the child and father left, I took my leave as well. I went down to the beach and took off my boots and socks and walked along the breaking surf. Mmm, that water and wet sand felt so good. The sound of the crashing surf and distant laughter up on the pavilion. I still had the taste of olives in my mouth, fitting for the walk. When I got to the street for my hostel I walked up onto the pavilion and sat for a bit taking in what I could of the circus. The sound of Spanish and Catalan taking over the noise of the sea. At first I enjoyed watching the dogs running here and there trying not to miss a thing, sight or smell. The male dogs smelled where another had peed, growling then pissing back. Take that. Then the kids, most using wheels of some kind. The small ones sat and pushed with their legs.
Where I sat there was a winding concrete turn that went down to the beach. A boy of about four saw his opportunity for adventure and aimed his scooter down the hill. His father caught him just before he got up any speed for a taste of true freedom. He was not happy at all about it and wailed away. He kept trying to turn back and make the fun run, but his old man would have none of it. There was a girl of about ten on roller blades giving a go at the hill. She held onto the wall that went around the curve, learning with care. At times she would stop and stare over the wall at a girl of her age who was a true wonder on her roller blades. The girl peered over that wall with envy at those smooth moves. All the families happy to be together. It’s always interesting for me to see the cultural norm of touch. How much more touching than there is in the States. Brother and sister, sister and sister with arms round each other. So many couples holding hands then stopping and openly kissing. When you are greeted here it is with the cheek to cheek and smacking of the lips. Ahh, the differences, they make life.
I made my way back to the hostel. When I walked in I could hear the sound of sizzling from the kitchen, so in I went. The girls were in there speaking Irish. When I entered they talked to me in clear English, but when they talked with each other there was no understanding it.
“You cooking for the group?”
“No, just the two of us.”
“You’re kidding me. That is a lot of food.”
“Hey, we need the protein. We’ve been dancing all day.”
There was a group of students staying there that were mostly from the UK but some were from Spain and Germany. They were students of dance and theater attending the UNI. They had been there since September, and it was always interesting for me to hear what they were up to. For some it was their first time away from home. Since September they had gone from that distant group of people from different places and cultures to a close-knit family. So supportive of each other. I made salsa and shared that with the group as more came into the kitchen. Such random conversations, love it.
Some mornings I liked to sit outside this one café enjoying some coffee and Spanish tortilla. There were these ladies who sat at the tables close to the street holding court. Everyone seemed to greet them when they walked by. One man walking by said, “Hola Bonitas,” then blew them kisses. Other men came, one at a time, and sat with them for a bit, exchanging some laughs before heading on their way. What a hoot. There was a park across the street and some old boys were resting their life weary bones in the sun. I wondered what they were thinking about. Looking back on their lives? Or looking forward to the time they have left? For me my time in Spain had come to an end. Be home soon.