15

Como un salto en el vacio
De quien no teme a la muerte
¿Otra noche en el hastío
De no poder entenderte?

He is even more like a map than when I first saw him two years ago. Street-long strides, eyes on the asphalt, ever-present hand in his fiery blond hair. Tranquil. Flammable. He is sewn of every fabric that loops the border of Europe, a patchwork sailor.

“I’m sorry; I must smell awful,” he says, “I’ve just run here from the Prado.”

He doesn’t. He smells like voyage and mended suitcases and earth. It is in his face, a gentle golden sunset, sitting alone, cross-legged, on a Grecian island, silhouetted, still.

He is a skyscraper inside a box, eyes that do not blaze but instead sustain; productive, not merely consumptive. Unexpected exit at Chueca. The doors and poles and stairs are mere playground apparatus to this rope master. I am a bumblebee in comparison, but unlike two years hence, it is different.

Y no sabes lo que has sido
Porque nunca es suficiente
Demasiado desafío
Yo no puedo ser tan fuerte

Balconies of lace. I never needed to relax into his presence. His well-worn smell and the golden reality of his face surround me, guide me.

Escalators through a simple and unconscious piece of history. Imagine. Quevedo at the butchers’. Stacked plastic pigs. A rainbow flag.

Water stop. Breathless supplies. “Joder!” exclaimed at the till.

We sweep through streets like a gust of wind. Infamous types. Hamburger laboratories. Each step unexpected. Purple falls and I can do nothing but follow. He talks out the dusk, talks out the night, his hands and lips a blur. Indigo has never arrived so quickly.

And the lights rise, rise, but they envelop you, embrace you, hold you close in a way that the icy London does not. There is no wish to overpower, dominate: instead an invitation, a beckoning.

He turns me towards the rotting cinema, unabashedly spilling out his naivety, the middle-class teenager who already craved the thrill of an explore. Skateboards gather around us. Innumerable cool sitting on the ground. Tables populated, alight.

Hiking strides through Spain. Statues fly past. Machu Picchu to climb. I don’t know what to expect. We ascend in the green darkness and then-

Golden stones. Luminous, incandescent mysteries – a relic, or a key to the present? I am ignorant.

The water, a crisp parallel twin. I leave him in my attempt to capture the proud, strong blaze of the history-less monument with its liquid counterpart. We meander over to the railings and the whole of Madrid rises up before us. Unfathomable, our future.

Si quisieras confiar en mí
Nunca es tarde, tarde, tarde
Necesito verte aquí

When we talk, further, about the heart, we realise we are the same. “I just don’t miss people,” he says, and I recognise myself in him. All we have been divided by is freedom and adventure, the golden eagle snatching its liberty months and years before. Catch up. My feet have kicked aside the twigs and leaves of convention and I am ready, bursting, bleeding to strike my own path. We talk of London and the green, green girl, false hopes of engagement evolving into shackles. We could have married them; we could have. But you and I are two selfish fireworks, seizing the space around us to move and change and fly. You already have your future – you were brave and bold like a brash red paint and claimed the life that is yours, made others bend like Egyptian reeds – but I stare at the fountain of sparks and know that mine is just beginning. I am not inferior. I am not narrow and dull. I am just as alive and glowingly bright and reckless intrepid as I am – I have simply arrived a little late.

I stand on shreds of past-life dreams. They whisper darkly: kind voices call softly; a baby squalls. But it is I who is real, not they. I am the one who glows like the temple before me, dazzlingly carved, out of place and proud of it, a sight to behold. My life is my own to make.

Todo el mundo anclado ha sido
Todo un mar para perderte
Todo el tiempo que se ha ido
Todo el tiempo estando ausente

We walk back through streets anonymous, his hands in his hair. He would be almost insufferable if it weren’t for his transparent eyes, which, by a scratch of the pen and a stroke of the keys, he places before us so that we may see. I have seen Iberian caves and glimmering seas – thálassa – felt the dust in my nails and her soft laugh and her toss of the hair. And for the first time, I begin to believe – I already believe – I am, I can be, just as good, just as capable – I am not inferior. I am on my way.

Travel, I learnt during my trip, is often punctuated by a series of chances leaped upon in fits of joy, coupled with countless opportunities spoiled, missed or blindly ignored at the time, and later regretted in moments of calm reflection. — diggings

Porque nada es importante cuando hacemos
Los recuerdos por las calles de Madrid – por las calles de Madrid. — Maldita Nerea, ‘Tu mirada me hace grande’

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