My Days in Bar(th)elona

My phone alarm goes off at 6am, but I’m already up to anticipate it. The next alarm will go off at 7am. I can try to sleep some more, or I can wake up and start my day. It’s Sunday, and I’m on vacation in Barcelona, but I’m still acclimated to my Doha schedule—and Sunday is the beginning of the work week, not the end of the weekend

My Airbnb room is dark, much darker than I am used to at this morning hour. I haven’t gotten around to buying curtains for my apartment bedroom, so light fills my room at around 5am. I lay in bed assessing if I have the capacity to sleep anymore. Doha is only 2 hours ahead of Barcelona, so I am not jet lagged. I departed from Doha at 1:35am on Friday and arrived in Barcelona at 11:30am. I didn’t get much sleep on my flight, too many restless toddlers during the overnight flight; plus, I kept fighting for the armrest with the passenger sitting to the right of my aisle seat. Still, I took a siesta shortly after arriving in Barcelona and went to bed early after exploring the city surrounding my Airbnb, my home for the next 10 days of my vacation.

You enter my thoughts as I lie in bed. I know from experience that this is the start of a precarious road. I don’t allow myself to indulge in more thoughts of you.

What will I eat for breakfast? One appetite distracting another. For the past two days, I have been feasting in Barcelona—tapas, seafood, and inexpensive alcohol. Maybe I should try and save a few Euros and cook myself breakfast. At the supermercat around the corner, they sell eggs, bacon, and microwavable rice. I could purchase these items and have breakfast for the next two days. Or, I could cook breakfast and share with V, my Airbnb host.

V has been living in Barcelona since the age of 19. She is half Bulgarian/half Australian but a resident of Spain. She speaks in a high voice and has a sweet, hospitable demeanor. However, she is also a Muay Thai kickboxer, which is evident from her sculpted thighs and shoulders. She looks perfectly capable of delivering a knee strike and following up with a tiger uppercut.

Tiger Knee and Tiger Uppercut Super Combo by Sagat

V is also quite crafty, and her cute flat showcases some of her industrial handiwork—curtain rods made from plumbing pipes, an old sewing machine stand repurposed with a sheet of glass into a table, recessed entertainment shelving made from press board. She told me that last year she quit a job and had knee surgery. Now she works part-time and is studying to be a criminologist so that she can become a police officer. She rents out a room on Airbnb to make extra money.

V’s pug, Calibur (short for Excalibur), also occupies the flat with us. He is 10 years old, completely deaf, and smelly. However, he is as friendly as he is ugly. When I first arrived at V’s flat, she was at work, so I had to retrieve the house key from the neighboring café. V’s flat is in an old building—most of Barcelona is old buildings—and it took me awhile to discern which lock on the door I needed to use because over the years different locking mechanisms have changed and were never removed from the door. After fumbling with the different locks, I finally solved the puzzle and opened the door. Calibur ambled out to greet me, and after I finished scratching his head, he went back to napping and snoring loudly on his dog bed in V’s bedroom.

I get up from bed. Ugh. Instead of thinking about food first thing in the morning, I should be thinking about core exercises! I’m on vacation, though; a workout regimen will begin once I return back to Doha. Promise. I put on my clothes from the other day and quietly exit the apartment, trying not to wake V or Calibur from their slumber.

I wanna go where the beach is warm/ And I won’t get stung/ And I won’t get stormed by/ Memories of you –“Is This How You Feel?” The Preatures

It’s 7:20am. The sun hasn’t come up. It’s twilight outside. The sidewalks are empty. I spy a café across the street. Probably would be a better idea if I ordered some breakfast and a coffee instead of clamoring in V’s kitchen while she tries to sleep. The walls in her building are so thin. I can hear Calibur snoring in V’s bedroom from my bedroom.

I study the sandwich board outside the café to place my order. I want a petit breakfast sandwich with a coffee. When I have practiced the name of the menu item, I step up to the counter and employ my garbled Español. The server gives me a breakfast sandwich with some type of pink meat and cheese. However, I want the sandwich with the marbled red dry-cured ham. Excuse me, jamón? She understands and exchanges my sandwich for the one I want.

I walk outside with my sandwich and shot of espresso to sit at one of the side tables. Two girls are near the entry way. They look young and rough. Their clothing is ruffled, their hair is stringy, and their makeup looks old. One of the girls speaks to me in Spanish. I don’t know what she’s saying, per se, but I know that she’s trying to bum a cigarette from me. Sorry, no tengo un cigarette! She goes back to shivering and sharing a tallboy of Estrella Daam with her friend. They are figuring out how to finish their night while I am trying to figure out how to begin my day.

Hmm. Maybe I should write my blog from the café? If I try to write in V’s apartment, Calibur will probably bother me. After finishing my breakfast, I walk across the street to retrieve my laptop, come back, order an Americano, and park myself at a table in the front corner of the café. I can see the two party girls from the front window. They managed to bum a cigarette from someone and are passing it back and forth.

I am not jealous/ of what came before me. /Come with a man/ on your shoulders,/ come with a hundred men in your hair… –“Always” by Pablo Neruda

Yesterday, my exploration of Barcelona began in earnest. From my Airbnb on Estrella Urgell, I was able to visit Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), enjoyed an exhibit of the work of Rosemarie Castoro, and walked to La Rambla to purchase some souvenirs and visit the Museu Eròtic de Barcelona—a friend in the US requested a postcard from here. Next, I stopped at Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria to look around and ended up trying a raw oyster and eating a cornet of fried baby calamari. Then I doubled back to the Center of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB) before heading home. I stopped by the café next to V’s apartment and ordered a glass of vino and ate a complimentary tapa.

When I arrived at home from my day’s walkabout, I received a WhatsApp message my former student who lives in Barcelona. She was making plans for me to accompany her to her parent’s home in Girona so that I might join them for dinner. I am so looking forward to this opportunity.

(anywhere/ i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done/ by only me is your doing,my darling) –[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in] by E.E. Cummings

Barcelona, I could so easily fall in love with your old-world charm. Your octagonal blocks and blocks, most concealing a patio interior; neighbors stacked upon neighbors, talking from open windows across the courtyard. I could become lost in your pedestrian traffic—never needing a car to traverse across you—wandering your storied, graffiti-laden streets; stopping at random restaurants; ordering a coffee or a pint or a glass of vino before resuming my walk. Still, I know my time with you is fleeting, and I must make the most of this dalliance.

This experience makes me feel young again, kindling the embers inside of me. You inspire me. I want to sketch and write poems again. I want to work out and improve myself for you. I want to plan adventures and go exploring with you. I want to dine and drink and dream next to you. I could lose myself in you.

Yet, I am old man. I know where these thoughts and feeling eventually lead. No bueno. Best to not fret too much: enjoy the beginning of the journey and not anticipate the inevitable end. For now, you are mine and I am yours.

[YOU KNOW WHAT THERE IS] by Rosemarie Castoro

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