ain’t that some shit
I wanted to be ephemeral. To have stepped into your dreams and loved you for only a night’s worth of happiness because that kind of love only lasts for an hour or two.
Teaser for Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends.
Music: In A Notebook by Goldmund
A Talk With A Stranger (from whence it all began)
I wish I had asked for his name when we first met. With these kinds of meetings, it almost always happens that if you don’t ask at the beginning, you never get the chance. I was traveling alone in Valencia, far from my home in France and even further from my usual Friday night crew in the States. Ex-pat pubs never interest me much and I usually opt for a local dive bar where the drinks and tourist advice are cheap—a couple rounds on the foreigner and you can get a full day’s itinerary to the insider’s city. But after feeling so new all over again in a city that I once called home, I was in desperate need for something familiar. The Portland Ale House waved me over with its stars and stripes, bad punk music, and pinned football jerseys. One step inside and I knew that this was Americana.
I hadn’t planned on the bar being empty and almost regretted my decision to come as I listened to my hello echo to the back kitchen door. Since I was already there, I nestled onto a stool and waited for the barkeep. Mike turned out to be a kind Oregon soul, willing to converse with me for a few minutes while setting up. I felt young and out of place, not wanting to be alone in a bar that, at that early hour in the evening, would have settled for any retired worker coming in for his daily whiskey. It was then that the stranger walked in, tanned skin and portly. He was the kind of man I expected to see, but not exactly whom I was hoping to meet, though he had a kind smile and wrinkles around his eyes that noted fatherly wisdom. Sitting two seats down from me, he shared a familiarity with Mike that extended beyond business, though this visit appeared less like pleasure.
With more silence than my half a beer could handle, I finally asked a seemingly silly question. “Excuse me. Are you Valencian?” He smiled softly and replied, “I have lived here for over 30 years. My children are Valencian. I am not.” Unsure of how to carry on, I asked how many kids he had and was surprised by how happily the number fifteen rolled off of his tongue. Fifteen—ten boys and five girls. They would have had more but two died at a young age and money was tight. He spoke with such earnest like an old uncle who never sugar coated life, sometimes exaggerating to make sure you understood it would be tricky.
Our conversation was dominated by his memories of growing up in Equatorial Guinea and later moving to Madrid for university. The central theme was turning out to be that he could fall asleep anywhere and at any time. There was the news worthy event in his car during a midnight bull run. Another with a girl in the passenger side after a night that was too long and too fun. In the evening at a stoplight after a long day of work. And I found myself drawn to the ease with which he spoke about his life, honored that he felt comfortable enough to share with me stories of his youth that he confessed he had never told his own children. I wondered when was the last time he had thought about those memories or if he ever did at all. I wanted to ask why he thought he could trust me with these tales.
When the conversation turned to me, I felt like I needed to give him more but my life was miniscule when placed next to his. He asked if I was married and I chuckled, saying there was so much I wanted to do before that. I told him I wanted to study advertising, return to Valencia, write more, travel more, and see what life is like on the other side of the world. I had a whole mess of desires in my head but the only thing I was sure of was that I wanted to avoid the day in and day out, which I know almost nothing about and with which he is all too familiar. Then I told him I wasn’t sure when it would all happen because I had expectations and responsibilities waiting back home—a standard dream big, act small defense. He paused to think and then he said it: “Decide what you want to do and do it now. Move to Spain, go to school, do whatever you want but don’t wait.”
His advice was nothing new. Carpe diem; I’ve heard it all before. Yet there was something in his voice that said, I wanted to do a lot of things, too, but now I can only tell you what I missed out on. Figure it out.
Suddenly we fell into the rare comfortable silence that often ends a conversation between two old friends, not brief acquaintances. He sipped his soda and I started prioritizing my Top 10 Things I Want To Do List, deciding what was most important to me and what could wait. At the end of it all, he stood up to talk to Mike again, shaking my hand and saying “Nice to meet you, Señorita. I hope to see you around these streets some time soon.” And then he walked away, completely unaware that he had helped me back onto my path on a day when I felt utterly lost. I only wish I knew his name.
An Open Letter to the Women in My Life
You are resplendent. I am in love.
If only you could understand the amount of truth and honor there is in every single one of you. Some say they are lucky; I say I am the luckiest. To tell all of you this every day would be a dream, but alas we cannot be in all places at all times. Such is the way we live—in different parts of the world, wishing always to be sharing a table of fine food and wine.
Often, I am in speechless awe of the magnitude of your intellect and the grace with which you float above this earth. Ethereal is the proper word I am looking for. If you were to ask anyone who has met you, I am sure they would say you embody the joy of living and they were enlightened by merely having spoken with you. Anyone who says otherwise is lying or an idiot.
Your wit, oh the wit that leaves me crawling on the floor in fits of the most unlady-like laughter, makes me proudest to know you. Because who are we if we cannot make another smile?
And who are we if we cannot say I love you to those we do? Fear paralyzes us in the most distinct ways, but we should not be afraid of keeping those near to us by our side. For this I say, I love you. Thank you for lending me your minds and beauty, if only for a brief moment.
With all my love,
On growing up
I have forgotten what it is to be home,
to love in bed and drink comfort at noon.
Anywhere is a place to sleep now,
to lay down and rest on stones.
Let us consider that some things don’t last forever but especially the hazy grey mornings of a coming spring.
A woman named God was erasing the city
We fucked and ate ice cream while tiny white infantry men barricaded the doors. Radical snow piling in heaps and taking a stand against mobility. Soon a warm wind came through the cracks and I shivered. Brushed its tails just above my hips, sending pine needles through my belly button and out the top of my head. This is what Christmas should always be. Fresh. Unpredictable. Filled with happy bellies.
From inside it looked like a woman named God was erasing the city. There wasn’t enough light to see what damage had been done. For all we knew, tomorrow would mean bright skies and blank slate office buildings. But I remember the only thing we bothered to ask ourselves was whether there would be enough sprinkles for sundaes.