Note No. 15
June 15, 2009
Monday. While normally not a favored day of the week, today is different, because it’s that much closer to another grand adventure. On Wednesday, I pack my bags yet again to leave yet again but this time the load is not so heavy.
Destination: Barcelona, Spain. Significance to me: beloved home between October 2005 and December 2007.
Though my heart is light, it’s less like a feather and more like a dinghy on ten-foot swells. The feeling could be compared to seeing an old boyfriend with whom things ended but not because there was not a serious physical attraction or emotional connection; it was something else more complicated that brought the relationship to a close and so, when you are to meet again, there is trepidation: maybe you have changed physically and are worried what he will think but above all, you have both moved on with other people, yet you are nervous that there are lingering feelings for one another.
In my case, I have no doubt changed physically; the question is whether I have moved on or not. My reason for leaving was that my sister and her husband had bought a large building down in Mexico, a hotel, if you will, and they needed someone to manage it so that they could stay put in Georgia, worry-free and employed fulltime with other careers. With my job in Spain teaching English at loose, fraying ends and my living situation in a pretty unsettled state, it only seemed natural to take an opportunity I may never receive again: help the family that’s always helped me; learn a new trade; experience a new culture; oh, and live in utter paradise.
It sounds a lot simpler written down than it actually turned out to be. Little did I know, I was moving into an absolute mine field of energy, where a greater force always seems to be at work. One day, for example, you might awake to sunshine with a hint of spring in the air and when you see the elderly but aloof neighbor to whom you have never spoken, something inspires you to carry her groceries for her, which prompts her to give you a small, sentimental token to signal the start of a friendship, and later, the AC & fridge man actually shows up and fixes your refrigerator on the same day you have called him, and you iron and organize a huge pile of merchandise T-shirts and at the end of it all, when that golden globe is sinking toward the horizon and everything is done for the moment, you’re on the beach watching it with a friend by your side and sand at your feet. The next day, it could be hotter than inside a car sitting on asphalt with the windows rolled up, and there is a foul smell coming out of the house next door, which you discover is actually sewage dripping onto the very gate you have to touch to leave the property, and just as you find out that the plumber will not be coming to take care of it for at least another day, one of your guests loses her sunglasses in the pile of putrid water and simultaneously smashes her head into a sharp, metal corner, so that you suddenly find yourself performing First Aid on her bleeding scalp and driving her to the emergency room for stitches.
So it goes here. Things are either swimmingly in sych or spiraling into dreadful madness.
It’s not like I went into it all expecting a sunset champagne cruise or anything, but I also didn’t imagine that I would find myself writhing around and kicking the air quite often, or that I would endure burning tears of frustration more times than not, or that it would take almost a year before I might even start to feel at home here.
Then, things clicked into place like a joint snapping back into socket and life was suddenly good again. I came to see the island for what it is: a moody personality but one that gets under your skin, so that even though you may tread carefully, respectfully aware of the fiery side that could flare at any moment, you have a deep love for that passion that lurks beneath the tranquil exterior and keeps you out till the wee hours of the morning, dancing on the rooftop of some building; meanwhile, you also cherish the softer half, the one of waving palm trees and sea breezes that cool the persistent pearls of perspiration on your skin.
Having come to terms and fallen in love with my new habitat, I find myself a little stuck between two worlds. There is my former home, my one, true love, the place I remember rather romantically, conveniently forgetting that there, too, I went through fits of turmoil, because there, too, you can experience such extremes between euphoria and gloom. Like any big city, it’s exhilaratingly close, the constant whizz of traffic intermingled with looming structures of glass and steel, all of it enclosed in concrete with bits of green here and there, and wide open spaces to collect your thoughts alongside tight, cramped alleys to press them back inside of you, where they may swirl and fester until you have a burst of creative release, or simply run and leap onto the next train out of town, out to the quiet foothills or to the flat beaches surrounding the urban landscape.
Therein lies the paradox: you have the option to be surrounded constantly by people, by life, by movement and yet, you may pass an entire, lonely day without seeing a single person you know.
Then there is my current home, the polar opposite of which I have become quite fond, albeit for now. Seas of green and blue surround you and the buildings crouch close to the ground. The waves provide an endless soundtrack of calm, and days melt into evenings then into nights and back into days again, the tides coming and going, unnoticed, the ships sailing by in the far distance, the passengers likely oblivious that we are even here. Here we are, though, in the middle of each other’s lives simply by geographical default. A simple trip to the bank is a social event for which you dare not wear your grubby houseclothes, because you will be there for awhile and you will see everyone but the mayor herself and you will probably have to even sit down and face the teller and have an informal meeting about the latest problem with your account. Rumors enter your ears, whether you choose to listen or not, and you become as wrapped up in everyone else’s joy and sorrow as you do in your own. Tourists may come and go, but every morning, that sun rises over the Caribbean, the ferries begin their shuttle back and forth between land and rock, and a man named Fidel bikes down the street shouting the names of newspapers to sell.
It is a quiet existence from the outset but also one that demands so much of a person, it can end up seeming as loud and as stifling as the city, driving you at some point to get away, if only just to breathe some dirty air and come back. Thus, I look forward to leaving this place for a few weeks, so that I can step back into the controlled chaos of my old life and get a new perspective on things. There are still so many people to see again, including my own mother, who is going to meet me at the airport and partake in this journey with me, and I long for a little of the culture of citygoers: coffee sipped in front of large glass storefronts; evening art gallery openings; the fixed stares of passers-by that speak of anonymity and accomplishment. Not to mention, I long for the rich growl of Castilian Spanish to fill my senses like a warm hug.
Yet mingled with that sharp sense of excitement is a twinge of uncertainty, a flicker of fear. I am prepared to see and to be seen. I can’t wait to walk the streets I once took to get to the shop around the corner, or to sit in the bars where I would go for a glass of wine and patatas bravas, or to pass through the subway stops where I used to get on and off for a class here, a friend’s house there. Indeed I am ready to look at it all over again and to know if it’s still right for me or if I have moved on.
The worry is: if I have moved on, can I accept that?