Spain (The bag story)
June 23rd. In Nador, I ignore the hustlers; a mini cab to an ATM and the bus to Mallilla, the Spanish Enclave. With my backpack I walk across the Moroccan border back into Spanish territory. As I cross the border, I dance- in hindsight, it may have made the authorities suspicious. I eat floury fried Moroccan pancakes with sweet spread; I cheerfully float my way back into Spain. Spain feels so different, there is a fountain and I walk in it. I feel relieved like a weight has lifted off my shoulders, and yet, still a little unsettled. I find a map, head towards the port. When I hesitate at a street corner, some young girls approach me to ask if I need help. Outside the port is a service station, I buy a juice. Outside I realise it is milk juice. Give it to a man who is lingering around, annoying tourists like me. Realise, I am still in Morocco. Walk a few more steps past him, stop and look around. In Algeciras, a big port, there were a lot of trucks just driving around the port and not going anywhere. Lots of trucks are leaving without containers. I slowly connect the dots. Get into a conversation with another (annoying) man. He tells me, there are police, you can’t hitch here. (Of course not, it is a port. Ha.) He tells me very few trucks will actually go onto the ferry, maybe one. I tell him, I am one, I only need one. He tells me to hitch with a car, I nod and agree, walk away. He doesn’t wanna listen to me, I am young, I am female. I take note of the cars even though I suspect he has never hitched before and doesn’t know what he is talking about. In the port, suspicions confirmed- same price to be a passenger in a car as to be a foot passenger.
I dump my pack and sit. It is hot and the bag makes me want to stay put rather than explore, if exploring means I have to carry it. Upstairs for foodstuffs. I take off my shoes, they are dirty, my feet are hot and the shoes give me blisters. The Spanish waiter comes and tells me, this is a restaurant and I can’t be here without shoes. I scowl at him, stalk across to them and put them back on. Order a sandwich without milk. Send the crispy deliciousness back to the kitchen when it comes with cheese. Eat, as the sun sets through the large glass windows. I watch truck after truck drop its container and drive back into Morocco (that man was right about one thing…). The ferry leaves at midnight and I realise that even if I hitch onto it, it will mean being up all night.
At 11pm I cave in. I pay $110 bucks for a bed on the overnight ferry to Malaga, from the cute guy who walks with me upstairs. I am surprised to show my passport and pass through security. I walk down the long tunnel to the ship. At the entrance, he asks for a second ticket, I look in my book and it doesn’t seem to be there, only the receipt. I dump my bag and walk back. The guys tell me they gave it back to me, look around. I tell them they didn’t, they tell me they did, I look again in the book and I have it. Feel like a dickhead; walk back to the boat. Heave my pack up. The ship is luxurious. I ask the people at the desk if the rooms have a shower and they raise an eyebrow. They tell me I will have to share the room, like that’s going to be a problem. I can’t find the room- they give me directions. In my room is a woman from Morocco wearing a headdress, she asks me how I liked Morocco and I tell her, starvation, corruption, dead meat everywhere. She tells me, yes that is the problem of the economic. To me, it seems like so much more than that. She starts to get really into the conversation, I want to organise myself and sleep. When she begins to draw diagrams about Islamic things (?), I excuse myself. I have wet smelly clothes in my bag. I find a captain looking guy who says he will put them in the clothes drier for me. First, I scrub them. My feet are filthy when I shower. A really fat girl wearing bright colours arrives, I don’t speak to her. She arduously climbs the ladder to the bunk above me and I am amused. Clothes are finally dry, sleep.
Wake as the ferry arrives in Malaga. Ask for directions to a net café. Finally find it. Walking takes so much effort with the fuckin bag, when people tell me, it is only a ten minute walk, I think, are you crazy?!?! With this bag?!
I stop at one of the many Tapas bars open even this early in the morning; mushed tomato spread on toasty bread. Sit and upload pics and wonder where will I go, what will I do. Kim is online, she is in Madrid. Maybe I will go there. At the bus station I ask for prices. Find an Internet café in the bus station, start a conversation with a friend. Her name on facebook is ‘Painful emotions need to be released otherwise they will keep your happiness a prisoner’. I ask her, how? How do you release them? She tells me to find somewhere safe to let myself feel. I tell her, I don’t have time. I don’t have time to stop, there is so much to see and I only have one month left here. She asks me, What are you running from?
Outside, I unfold my blanket on the grass and sit down. I resolve not to move from the place until I have stopped running. (I wonder if I will need to pee). Until I know what I am running from, until I face what I need to face. I write for a while, and realise I am feeling like crap about myself. I lie down and fall asleep. When I wake, the sun is setting. I sit on my blanket on the grass for a while longer, write some more. The grass is getting damp. People are looking at me. A homeless lady stops and makes a conversation with me (because she is hungry?) She wants my money. I fold my blanket and return to the bus station, buy an overnight bus ticket to Madrid.
The bus arrives, next morning I awake to a lot of blood, period time. Wash my clothes in a sink and move upstairs. I have left my new, perfect, Moroccan hairclip on the bus; but at 6am, the company information desk is closed. Lie down and sleep on the chairs in the waiting room. The police repeatedly make rounds, waking everyone up and telling them not to sleep here. What is it with Spain being so controlling?? I leave, get the metro to some grass and sleep for a few more hours. The grass is slightly damp with spiky pine needles. SMS Kim to come meet me from an Internet Cafe- we decide to meet at 4. Spend a few hours talking to people, emailing, thinking about travel. I leave and find an organic store. Smells good, I am disappointed the books are in Espanya and not English. They have soy yoghurt and I wish I had more money. On the Metro to meet Kim, my bag is big and it is crowded. I have gluten-free bio muesli to eat with the yoghurt. When I begin to talk to Kim, I realise how much crazy stuff has happened. I use the toilet in McDonalds then we walk to a big park and sit on my blanket under a tree. I tell her I want to sort out my things; I want to get rid of something. I put my hand in my hangbag, and my wallet is not there. Instantly I know it is gone. I remember having it on the Metro, when I was eating, and not since. Kim watches me and wonders why I am not freaking out. She is like, are you sure? Check. I know its gone. I ask lost property, because as kim pointed out, there is a tear in my handbag. Ask if anyone found it but no, it’s gone. The people I ask make a strange hand movement, and say a word I do not know, ‘Robados?’. They are suggesting it was stolen. I realise perhaps it was, while my attention was on the tasteless bio muesli and yoghurt. I stop to look at a market stall. In a daze, I tell the guy, My wallet was stolen on the metro. Shrug. Kim asks what I will do, offers to lend me money. She has been Couchsurfing with a guy in Madrid and is leaving today- she texts him to ask if I can stay with him for the night. His name is Angel- G makes an ‘h’ in Spanish so it’s pronounced Uncle. Or something.
We have falafel and beer. While sorting through my things, Kim wanted the pretty amber necklace I bought in Morocco. I gave it to her, and now she pays for lunch. Kim has to get the bus at night, but first we go to find the girl a supermarket. She wants Interspar (?) but settles on a small Asian supermarket. We meet her Couchsurfing dude. He is in a hurry. He takes a photo of us with our huge backpacks and we say goodbye (for the last time?).
In the car with Angel I quickly begin to understand what she meant when she said he is irritating. His energy is scattered all over the place, he is a little bit controlling and he is a worrier. At his apartment, he gives me a room with the couch and balcony. He gives me a tour of the house, including showing me how to close the shower curtain with sunction caps so that the water doesn’t come out. Hah. He is well meaning and wants to please, but bossy. An odd combination. He prepares some food and insists I try salami. I eat a tiny bit- meat is still freaking me out big time. There are these cool lettuce thingys and we dip them in hommus. He pulls some frozen bread out of the freezer, swearing it is the best in Spain. He reheats it in the oven and when I try to eat it, it is so tough and chewy, I can only eat the middle. He swears it is good and when we clear the table, wraps it in napkins to keep for later. He wants to stay up and talk- I want to sleep. I try to teach him to play cards, apparently he never played before. WTF? He doesn’t want to. He goes to bed and I sleep.
Next day, sleep lateish. When I leave the room, I could swear he has been sitting outside the door all day waiting for me to wake up. Odd. Get on the net and start to sort out the credit card situation. Cancel the cards, speak to Western Union. He hovers around. We go to the police station, there’s a 2 hour wait. Post office to ask about Western Union and postage. Back at his place, I chat with Bridget on Skype. Thank god for her being around when I need to talk. Speak to a friend from Wollongong and hear news that Ariel made a baby before he left us. Eva is due Christmas day. Start crying. Dom writes me that there are some things he has done that he feels he should tell me, when he tells me, I continue crying. Angel comes in and thankfully leaves me alone when I tell him I need time. Over dinner, I cry. He is going out for a few hours, I politely decline to join him, fetch falafel and enjoy the solitude. Later, Angel falls asleep on the couch and for some reason doesn’t want to go to bed- he offers me his bed and I refuse. The couch is good for me, I am settled there. There are awkward moments when he stands in his boxers and tells me he wanted to kiss me. I say Okay, don’t respond, and he goes to bed. Late into the night I stay online, talking to the bank and wondering what to do. I wanted to write a blog about Morocco, but there is no hope of that now. Life is still throwing punches, the round isn’t over yet.
June 27th, we go to the police office to sign the statement about my wallet being stolen. The officers are nice. Back to the Post Office. I have the urge to send things home. I ask the pendulum when I can’t decide which, and mail home 2.5 kilos of my souvenirs, favourite scarf, and my diary. I give the staff the code and collect the majority of the contents of my bank account in cash. Angel stresses me out with how he is stressing out about everything. But things are getting done, it would have been much harder with out him, I try to be patient. Next, the doctor. They send us to the hospital where they can deal with things covered by insurance. The diarrhoea, which began in Morocco, has not stopped and it has been 6 days. I was hoping it would cease and desist of its own accord, but Bridge almost gives me a heart attack when she mentions Cholera, so I go. They wristband me, the young doctor pokes my belly and prescribes anti biotics. Angel has a two o’clock appointment and is on edge. Everything is done and dusted, and I want him to go and do his thing. He is going away and wants me to come with him. To my frustration, he insists he won’t make it on time. A manipulative move, worse still when he perks up and says, now you have time to cut my hair. In the garage, he has a motorcycle and insists I take a photo of him on it. At one point, I wonder if he is a little mentally retarded. There is a huge supply of paper towel in the shed; he has no explanation when I ask what one person could possibly want with so much paper towel. I fetch falafel from the shop across the street. I like the guy, tell him about my travel. He gives me free chicken and salad; I’m stoked, even though Angel is paying. Back in the apartment Angel is having a heated conversation on Skype in Spanish, some family drama. I eat and finish packing, then head to the falafel shop again. It feels so Moroccan and surprisingly, I like that. Yesterday a girl was smoking happy hookah, and today the men asks me to sit and offer me some. I accept, and enjoy the appley goodness. One of them is overweight and tells me he is sick. He has a headache, I show him where the pain is in the back of his neck. Tell him to drink water. I try to be patient while Angel gets ready to leave. Sit outside and watch the fountains, trees, and old men shaking the trees. It is a pretty area, where he lives.
Angel drives me to the big ass road. I am headed to Barcelona, via Valencia. He suggests a service station but I want an onramp. In the first lot of cars is a police car, which of course, stops. The two guys ask where I am going, I’m answering all their questions then realise (when they mention adding me on facebook) they are just flirting. I pull out my camera to take their pic and they leave. Next, a car with three dark skinned guys from…? someplace. They drive me a short distance and drop me at a Repsol. Not many cars are going. I approach a lady, ask where she is going, if she will take me, and she flat out says no. Ha. FML. There is a small dirt road next to the service station coming from god knows where, I call out to a guy, he agrees to give me a ride. He has a lady and a child at home. I tell him about my wallet; he points to the hole where his car radio used to be and shows me how his window no longer winds up. I laugh, a lot. He drops me at a servo when our roads diverge. Outside is parked a highway security car, ‘civil guardia’, I chat and ask where they are going. No luck, but as I wander around, they are pulling strings for me. A smile can go a long way. As I ask if there is any cutlery (I want a spoon to eat some of my bio muesli), one of them comes in trailing Sergio, who is going to Valencia and is going to take me. I grab my pack and we go, sweet as. As we leave, the owner of the servo gives me a super cold, big, fresh bottle of water. Sweet as.
The land has lots of varieties of coloured fields. It is hot, dry, red and rocky, similar to Australia. I take photos. The guy wears big aviators and we talk a little, then don’t talk a little. We stop at a service station- I am so excited because there is a microwave with bags of microwave popcorn!! And funky cups of powered coffee, when you open then and shake them they become hot and liquid. Craziness. I buy one of each. (And never get to open the coffee. Dammit.). Sergio asks me where I want to go in Valencia, drives me to the centre of town, say goodbyes. The Lonely Planet doesn’t have a Valencia map and that freaks me out. I walk across the bridge; people are playing sports in the riverbed which has been dry for ten years. I take photos of them and the sun, low in the sky.
In a cute square with a fountain and pharmacy, I get the anti-biotics. I hate them, but I don’t want Cholera. I ask some people with a map where I am, they don’t know either. Wander around aimlessly, hungry. A man asks if I am lost or looking for a hostel, some British girls overhear, they are staying nearby and I walk with them. There is space in their hostel, plus free Internet, I check in. Dump my bag, go and find food. Want Falafel, find a place, eat.
All I want to do is write a blog. Purgatory. Get out of me and onto a page what has happened, in Morocco and the previous 3 huge weeks. My head is full of people and experiences that I want and need to share. I sit at the computer and type. I eat, I bathe, I lay in the sun. I write. I am sitting still and writing until it is all out of me. I wash my clothes. In the early evening, I change rooms to one where I am alone and the bathroom is clean. I fall asleep on the floor. I find food and pay 9 euro to have some really awesome Spanish Paella. There is a square with a musician sitting and singing, busking, the crowd grows and grows to listen to him. Then the police come and tell him he can’t sing anymore. Fucking Spaniards. I am awake at 1am and start writing again. Around 3am guys come back drunk from partying and wanna talk, one of them offers me a massage: Greg, pommy. They are distracting, and at one point I accidentally delete everything I just wrote, annoying but I write it better the second time around anyway, includes less crap. Greg gives up on getting my attention and goes to bed at 430ish. I keep writing. I finally go to bed, get back up, and keep writing. At 2.30 in the arvo, I publish the first one, and by 430pm the second. Pick up my bag and leave.
(At some point during the writing, I thought about Mustapha in Fes, about leaving like I did. I did what I did, acted how I acted, because I was scared. Now in Valenca, I cry because I think I have missed the opportunity of a lifetime to connect and heal. Since leaving, I spend time daydreaming about how to contact him again.)
I get the tram out to where the autoroute is. On the way, there are crazy lollyshops, and of course I find some strawberry sorbet. Stop for a toasted sandwich and water near the fountains, then congratulate myself on understanding the tram system first go. The road to Barcelona is very very big. I am in the right place but there are so many cars and nothing to make them slow down. I know the place is all wrong but I stand with my thumb out for a while anyway. I pretend to be a aeroplane traffic controller and gesture the traffic to infront of me. Get some laughs, but noone can really stop here. Try with the university exit but no luck there either, some people shake their heads at me. There is a bus stop nearby and I get on, hopelessly trying to find change, to speak Spanish, to navigate down the bus with my huge ass pack. The bus is going along the road, somewhere. As it turns off the autoroute and goes into a town, I hesitate to stand up and press the button, unsure where it will go if I stay on. In the town, it stops outside a train station and I get off. Start walking, find some cardboard. Into a workshop for a permanent marker. I walk back along the road the bus drove down and stand on a round about. Some people tell me Barcelona is in the other direction-I get all confused, I mean, I know it is north, but this route goes south back to the autoroute, no?? End up holding my sign to cars coming from any direction and hoping for the best. I am in a small town not far from Valencia- noone is going to Barcelona.
A man drives up and back, passing me like 4 times, finally. He seems nervous and gittery as he talks to me in Spanish, I am not sure but I think he is asking me for sex. I need to pay attention when people teach me naughty words. I walk to the next car along where a guy is watching, he seems amused. Only speaks Spanish, I ask him if he can drive me to the autoroute. He agrees and we start driving. Next thing you know, we are on a dirt road in the middle of an orchard and he is stopping. Donde est autoroute?? He is pointing but I am not so sure. He keeps asking why I am alone. I keep shrugging my shoulders. When I lean into the car to pick up my bag he stands too close to me, brushes up against me. I raise an eyebrow at it, pick up my stuff and say goodbye to him, walking in the direction he pointed. His car pulls away, I am glad he is gone, but I am in the middle of a deserted orchard, outside the town. The autoroute is up ahead, but the middle part where the cars go fast. I walk towards it and jump the fence, ripping my new favourite white pants on the wire in the process. I stand looking in both directions for a while then start to walk in the direction of what I hope is Barcelona. Trucks honk at me. It is late afternoon, the sky is gorgeous, white aeroplane trails, oh how I love them. I see a phone battery on the ground and pick it up. A few minutes later I see a phone and pick that up too.
After a few kilometres, I reach a toll way, stoked. As I approach, the security sees my sign and tells me I cannot hitch here, point me back in the direction I came. Are they fucking crazy?? Dump my pack and sit on it, next to where they smoke, they ignore me and go inside. I try holding the sign subtly without them noticing but feel awkward and decide to chill out on the grass in the rest area instead. Short while later, I am making faces at the trucks and trying to reach them via telepathy, one pulls in. I excitedly run around the front to find that the driver has stopped to piss. He pulls his pants back on; I hold up the sign and say ‘Por favor…’ He tells me, he doesn’t have any problemas, do if I have a problema? I tell him no, and off we go.
He has a daughter and is divorced from his wife. He is going to Italy and onto Germany, or something. Sometimes I wonder if I should just stay in the truck and see where it goes. He offers me food, gives me a pear. I eat another one of the oranges from the orchard. He does a mandatory stop (trucks in Europe can drive for a maximum 10hrs). The truck is a noisy refrigerator. I go to the toilet, it is a squat toilet, what the hell?! Am I back in Morocco or something? The service station shop is closed, he asks again if I am hungry. He has all meat and cheese and yoghurt, I don’t want meat and cheese and yoghurt, but end up eating chicken pate spread on cruton toast. He can tell the pate is freakin me out, although I try to like it. I fall asleep sitting up and he tells me to lie on the bed. I do and he drives. He wakes me a few hours later, I have been drooling. We are at the service station outside Barcelona. There is a hotel here and he tells me to go to it, I say I will and even though I am tired, I know I won’t. He is apologetic to leave me here; he is concerned for me, protective and father like. Say goodbyes. Take his picture, of course. So many pictures, of the people who drive me and feed me and give me directions.
The hotel is 60 euro a night. The dude at the desk asks how much I can pay, and I say, 20? Not possible. Across the bridge to the other side of the autoroute- there is a trucker shower. First proper shower in a while, although the ground is feral, feels good. Put on my favourite white pants and black zip up dress. Wander around, the food is expensive, end up getting some toasted bread rolls with salt oil and tomato- love it! Buy some freshly squeezed orange juice for like, 8 dollars? The police are sitting and eating, I ask for directions to the train station. It’s a ten-minute walk and thankfully, when I act confused and they have trouble explaining, they offer to drive me. One of them is attractive, he is learning English and keen to talk it. It is 4am when they drop me at the train station, which isn’t open yet; they give me the police number and tell me to call if I have any problems. I unfold my blanket and lay down to wait. The station opens at 430, I check the train times, park myself on a bench and go to sleep. I wake to the train pulling into the other platform, dammit. Continue sleeping. Cross to the other platform, pay like 8 euro for a ticket, get the train into central Barcelona. Takes half an hour and the sun is rising. Out of the train station, into the sun and onto a random bus, wondering where I will find myself, what I will see. The bus drives for a while, to nowhere. I ask where I am, and they ask where are you going? I shrug, and laugh, get the bus back in the other direction. At a big square I disembark and take some pictures in the morning light. The Lonely Planet recommends a cool organic food place- Get the metro to Liceu in Las Ramblas. Walk around; there are lots of people. At Boqueria market the stalls are setting up, it is still fairly quiet. There are fruit stands, lolly stands, juice stands. All are meticulously detailed, brightly coloured. I buy a juice that is too expensive, walk further into the butcher section. There is so much meat- including rabbit bodies stretched out with the organs still intact, everything still has the eyeballs in.
I find the public toilets and then ‘Organic is orgasmic’- I reckon!! I put my pack down and just stand and watch them. All vegetarian stuff, some with cheese, but so many vegetables. It is not cheap and I need to make a wise decision about what to eat, so I stand and watch, occasionally asking questions. One of the guys moves comically slowly, comically carefully, as he unwraps the food and puts it on display. I laugh hysterically when he stuggles with some cheese off the top of one patty getting stuck to the bottom of the patty on top of it- I have hardly slept. I wonder if he is stoned. Eventually I can’t decide, don’t want one particular thing enough, so I leave. On the way to the top of Las Ramblas, there are animals for sale and I film the Armillas.
At the top, in Placa Catalunya are 2 big fountains. I walk around the grass, see a dog and a man spooning right where I would choose to sleep.
Instead, I slept next to the pigeons and hope not to get poo on my blanket. I wake up to two guys asking me what my name is, where I am from… I tolerate them for a while and then ask where a toilet is and leave. They tell me where, but I don’t pay close enough attention, I am still waking up, and have woken up HOT.. I walk into a cafe, feign to browse the menu then make a beeline to the loo. Do my business, change my clothes, wash my face.. Come out and look at the menu again. Honestly, I would like to eat here but it’s fuckin expensive. I order a water, take a seat at their insistance, stay an ‘appropriate’ (I hope) amount of time, and leave. A backpacker was showering in the fountain and I wanted to as well- but the aircon has cooled me down so I keep walking. At the bus stop, the official red barcelona tour bus is 21 euro. I debate it briefly and then decide to just take a random bus instead. Get on a bus, last stop is at the port and I get out.
Wander around for a minute. A girl is walking backwards on the escalator while her well put together mother takes photos of her. I sit beside the water, and then walk over the bridge- on the left instead of the right, disrupting the flow of traffic, staring into the water, gazing around. There are a lot of fish, big ones milling around the piers. This is different, to other places, to what I remember from Australia; can’t remember ever seeing a fish in Darling Harbour, let alone a big one. I peer over the edge and am scared of falling in, with my pack on I would probably sink and drown, plus all my things would be wet. (I have always had this fear of dropping things into the water- probably stems from a childhood watching my father drop wallet after wallet into Lake Glenbawn.)
I walk back towards town, past the huge statue of Christopher Columbus, watch two fattish tourist guys take pictures of it, and can’t bring myself to do the same. I don’t want people to see me like I see them now, with a camera between them and reality, capture capture capture. I sit under a tree close to some other backpackers for a moment, and eat- some of the leftover museli? Briefly consider sleeping here, then walk further, in search of grass. And on the other side of the statue I find it, strewn with other backpackers and young people lazing around. Can’t decide where I will be happiest and safest, out of the road of people… Find a spot under a tree and don’t know what side of the tree root I want to sleep on, make the pendulum decide for me. Unfold my blanket, MP3 in, backpack and handbag under the head, passport within an eyelash distance, sleep.
About 3.5hrs later, around 6.30, I wake up. A large group of people are next to me, getting bigger as more arrive with blankets. Everything is right where I left it, I stretch contentedly, blink my eyes affectionately at the group, roll over, and go back to sleep.
Half an hour later, I wake up. The group is gone, and there is a big empty patch on the grass above my head. Stand up alarmed, and look around. Where is my pack? I search my brain to see if I moved it… nope, definately left it here. I am in denial, but let out a yelp anyway. A couple are sitting nearby and I say- someone stole my backpack! They look alarmed and the guy stands up. It was definately here? uhuh.. Did you see who took it? Nope… There is a police car nearby and he takes me to talk to them.. They give him directions to the police station. The blanket I was laying on, the Lonely Planet, and my handbag with camera are still with me. As I fold the blanket I dimly register that I am packing up headphones with no MP3 on the end, and no sunglasses either. I am still too stunned to pay attention to the details the police give us and follow him, a little numbly, to the station. (That is, after staring in disbelief a few more times at the patch of grass.)
At the station, I thank the guy, take his pic, say bye. There is another Aussie at the counter in front of me, she has had her handbag stolen at the beach. Apparently it’s commonplace, normality. At the desk there’s a tall neurotic guy wearing a tourist information vest, he is helpful, albeit weird. I have held it together til this point, but sob a little as I try to let the reality sink in. The Aussie (Kate) gives me her number and the address of her hostel, says she and her friend have a spare bed, to give her a call. I am comforted by this info. Make the police report. Stolen- Mp3 off the end of the earplugs in my ears. Sunglasses. Huge ass backpack. Contents- all of my clothes, 2 pairs of shoes, favorite green dress. Passport and all the cash I received via Western Unioned 2 days ago. Cosmetics, toothbrush, deodorant. Tarot cards. Phone chargers, battery chargers. With me in my handbag, I have my expired drivers licence, the only remaining ID, and 5 euros. The neurotic guy gives me the address of the consulate, the address of emergency social services that may provide emergency accomodation, and sends me on my way. The social services place is closed; next-door is a police station- they tell me it doesn’t provide social services anyway. I tell the lady at the help desk (and a guy who is hanging around) what has happened in my best blase voice. Their jaws drop in a way that is a little satisfying. They ask me what I will do, I tell them I have somewhere to stay, walk out onto the street. As the sun sets, I make my way back to the Rambla. The Lonely Planet says there is another Organic, and that this one has massage chairs. When I get there, no massages. I look at the menu; it is expensive. I ask for their advice on how to best spend my last 5-euro. When they suggest salad, I tell them what has happened. They listen with sympathetic eyes, the waitresses ask me questions and translate to the people in the kitchen. One of the waitresses tells me I can’t eat it here, but she will give me food. The beautiful chef lady ladles deliciousness into a container and I am on my way. The food is better then what I would have gotten if I had of been a paying customer, I am in heaven. Back on the Rambla, I call Kate and there’s no answer, I leave a message. Finally find the address she gave me, Hostel Floras, 79 La Ramblas.
Inside, I try to explain what’s happened, ask for Kate. She walks in with her blonde, shorthaired friend. They are extending their stay- Kate’s friend goes to get money. Kate and the desk dude (Deepak) negotiate whether or not I can stay in their room, he says they have only paid for 2 beds of the 3. Kate’s friend returns with cash, Deepak asks for a key deposit of 5 euro, but she doesn’t have anymore. I offer up my last five- they refuse, apparently they are freaked out its my last 5 or something. Ha. Deepak refuses to let me stay in their room for free, Kate offers to pay. It turns out Kates friend doesn’t want someone she doesn’t know staying in their room, after what has happened. I tell her I understand, they go upstairs. I realise someone has just decided not to trust me; in the foyer I sink to the floor and cry. Different to the tears earlier today, these ones burn. Deepak gets uncomfortable, tells me to come and sit by him, tells me to stop crying, tells me I can sleep in the room with the girls if I stop crying. They don’t want me, they don’t want me. He tells me I can sleep behind the desk. He makes tea, asks if I am hungry. I’m not. It is late already, although I am exhausted, I sit up and talk with him. Indian, pretty nice. He shows me how google maps works like google earth, shows me what the Australian consulate looks like. Finally he tells me, just sleep here. He is still uncomfortable, worried his boss will fire him, but what else can I do? He points behind the desk. I am hoping there is a cosy bed like in the back of a truck.. But there isn’t. Just floor. He tells me it’s better than nothing, I spread my blanket. Lie down, close my eyes. He asks if he is annoying me talking on the phone, I say no, sleep.
In the morning, Deepak wakes me early. He is scared his boss will come. I am slow to move, I am tired. On his insistance, I get up, fold the blanket. He tells me to come back if I need to. In my backpack was the police report from having my wallet stolen. I need a copy for insurance. Its too early for the consulate, so I go a police station that can give me a copy. There is a big queue, I stand near the front. In the foyer, people are taking numbers and the man guarding the entrance doesn’t speak English. It’s difficult to explain across languages; they haven’t a clue what I am asking for. On cue, I start crying. A cute young guy comes over and asks me what I need. I tell him and he tells them. Turns out this guy needs a replacement passport, these are the people who do it. He translates for me, so they bump him to the front of the 2-hour queue. He is stoked. While I am waiting for him, I find a Net cafe and with the change he has given me, look up the area in Madrid. I have nothing to write in, I buy a little red book. Find Georgito again (pronounded Horhito, G is H in Spanish), he takes me and buys me breakfast, tomato on crispy bread with fresh orange juice. Now it’s me who is stoked. Over breakfast he says, they are sailing to France and then Croatia, leaving in the morning. He tells me, he and his friend run a luxury boat for a guy, they’re behind schedule. We are walking the same way, him to a bookstore and me the consulate. He talks excitedly; I am quiet (it is possible). He mentions that it’s a pity I don’t have a passport, or I could come with them. He gives me his number, tells me to be in touch. We part ways.
Use Horhito’s change to get the metro to the consulate. No fuss, the Spanish lady knows what she is doing, has done this before. Sends me to get a passport photo down the street. (I feel like a feral and wash my face in the consulate toilets; no one has a comb.) When I return she tells me there is a $160 fee. It’s Wednesday, 1st of July. She says it will be Monday before there is a new passport in Barcelona. I tell her, but I have a friend who is sailing to France…
Australia, January. Nel tells me, this journey was in place before you were born. You will meet a man, darker skin and more full then Dom, with a green shirt, sandals, and a leather necklace- your kindred spirit. She says, something about sailing in Croatia.
I don’t want to wait in Barcelona until Monday. I can go to Madrid to fetch the passport overnight, but then I will be in Madrid, and would have to pay to travel. It is possible the form could be expressed, processed, returned by Friday, but not tomorrow morning. I can’t decide what to do until I talk to Horhito. I fill out the forms. She will send it, and they will only process it if I send money. She writes me a letter requesting I be allowed to travel into France without a passport, and gives me a photocopy of the old passport. I make my way towards the dot on the map Horhito gave me. Walk down the Rambla across the bridge into the port. I stop and stare at the patch of grass where my bag was- it really isn’t there. A syringe is however; I take a photo and wonder if the people who stole my bag used the money for drugs. I walk alongside the water; the security tell me to walk in the middle of the walkway with the rest of the people. Get lost more then once, it is fucking hot and sunny. Little do I know, there are lots of ports in Barcelona, and the dot is in the wrong place. I walk into the reception of one; the lady looks me up and down, asks the name of the boat. ‘Big Bad Boy’, I tell her. Computer says no. I walk out, along the water in the sun for a while, no luck. I go back to where the lady was, go in via the side gate, use the toilet in the restaurant, and search for the boat (in the sun). He told me it is G28. There is A-E here, no G. Stare at the map and wonder what the fuck is going on. Walk around the shopping centre (in the sun). Ask for directions from a guy in a nice car, he tells me it is a long way away, to walk back across the bridge. That bridge…. how frustrating. He gives me a ride, about 5 metres, to the beginning of the bridge. Horhito calls and tells me he is waiting in front of the museum. I ask around, noone knows museums, or they ask me, which one? I don’t know. Find the maritime museum, sounds fitting, but no Horhito. Finally get a message from him, that he is in a restaurant in Barceloneta and I am welcome to join. Barceloneta?! I walk a long way, in the sun. Wish I had a bicycle. I wonder if I will have forgotten him by the time I get there. They have already ordered, I apologise for keeping them waiting, point out that this is not the dot on the map.
The captain speaks very little English, only Italian. He sits across from me, asks me questions. Feels like a job interview and I can’t understand the question. I do my best at guessing. Captain goes to the toilet and Horhito says, the Captain doesn’t want me on the boat. Tells me, things are rocky with the new owner and he doesn’t wana risk it. I hold my composure, they order me food. Make polite conversation, try to relax. They have to go work, tell me to meet them later, tell me to order dessert, leave. As soon as they are out of the restaurant, my head is on the table and I am crying again. For real, again. I have been examined and found lacking. Throughout the meal horhito and the cap complained about the restaurant, but now the waiter is at my side asking me what is wrong, what he can do to help. I tell him, everything is stolen, but that’s okay, I am just a long way from family and friends… and the man who just left? He decided not to help me, not to trust me. The waiter brings me strawberries. (I asked for it with sugar, and he hands me a packet, they were kinda right about the service…). The waiter tells me to come if I am hungry, he promises me free food, gives me his number. He says he knows some Australian friends, that he will call and see if I can stay at their place. He is getting out his phone but I tell him, don’t worry about it for now, maybe I will come back later. (I will come back, but not to stay with some people he knows who happen to be from the same COUNTRY as me… recent experience tells me that doesn’t account for much.) I thank him and leave, with directions for the beach. My clothes feel disgusting and I want to wash.
At the beach, there are people everywhere. All I have is my handbag, with passport copies and camera. I place it as close as I can to the water. Stand into my knees and wash my clothes without taking my eyes off it. The water is a beautiful temperature and I want to swim through it. Instead I glue my eyes to my bag, take off my dress and pants and start scrubbing. I want to wash my face but dare not put my head under. I hold my clothes over my head and squeeze the water onto myself. I wish I could ask someone to mind the bag, but I don’t know whom to trust. I wish I had of left it in the restaurant, and now I am half naked with wet clothes and won’t walk back through the square. After the clothes are scrubbed, I empty the contents of my handbag into my purple plastic bag and wash the handbag as well- it was also way gross. I scoop up sand particles and rub them between the material. A lady thinks I have dropped something, but it is someone else’s felt bag floating through the water. I pick everything up, rinse in the showers. I wring out the clothes, carefully spread them across a bench in the sun, lay down with them, and sleep with my hangbag wrapped around my wrist.
…The sun is moving across the sky, I wake periodically and move with it. Eventually, it leaves the ground completely, angling across the sky, and the clothes are still wet. Now what? I hang everything from the tree near the bench; perhaps I should have done that sooner.
A dark skinned youth, male, sits near me and tries to start a conversation. Morocco is still fresh in my mind, when he asks where I am from, I am defensive as hell. I don’t give him much, but he keeps making conversation. Asks me if I want to go out, tells me he is a DJ. I tell him I am not interested. After a while, I walk over to the sand where a man is building a sandcastle- he tells me it is an ashtray. I think it’s hilarious, and go to take a picture. But my camera battery is flat. A woman who has been lingering around like a bad smell, possibly drunk, possibly mentally ill, follows me. She doesn’t speak much English but tells me I have to give him money for taking a picture. I tell her, I don’t have any money. I didn’t even take a picture. When she doesn’t let up, I start raising my voice at her. I march over to my bag, grab the police report written in Spanish, and shove it in her face. I tell her, I have nothing! She finally understands, starts to laugh, tells me to come and talk to her. I am close to tears, ignore her and go back to my bench. The conversation attracted the dark skinned youths attention, he asked what has happened. I am close lipped. It is getting dark, he asks me again to come out with him. Tells me, he is new here and hasn’t made many friends yet, that it is all about who you know in the work he does. I tell him I am waiting for my clothes to dry. Tell him everything was stolen yesterday. He offers me a t-shirt. I am hesitant, given the conversation so far. But I go with him. On the way, he wants to buy me a toothbrush. He tells me, he would hope that someone would help him similarly. I say thank you no, just the shirt.
Josh lives with his brother, they have wooden floors. He dishes up some food, it is fish, I eat rice. He gives me juice. He is chatty and puts on some of his music. I am impatient- I want to go meet with Horhito, I want to sail to France. He wants my company. He finds me a black shirt and some cargo pants that tie up. I am so excited about the shorts, Dom would love them. I wash my feet, he gives me some deodorant. He is still sitting on the couch, I want to be moving. I mention Internet cafe, I tell him I want to go. It feels like Morocco, I don’t like it. I am suspicious and guarded. He offered to help me, was he hoping to buy my company? I told him I had to go, I told him I want to use the Internet to speak to my family. I have to get things sorted. He tells me, why leave? You can stay the night here, I will sleep on the couch. Relax, he says. But I just wanna get out of there. We walk to the metro and kinda fight along the way. I didn’t realize how much I was holding in, I had been silent. At the metro he gives me his number, tells me to call if I need to. Again asks if I might want to go out later- he just doesn’t get the point! I have too much experience of this, and too little patience for it. I am relieved to leave him. Stop at a department store and spray myself with perfume, before I make my way back to Barceloneta.
And by that I mean, make my way, and unmake my way, and make it again- I am beginning to suspect I am capable of getting lost in my handbag. My sketchers have been giving me blisters ever since I first got them, and they make my feet hot. I am forever taking them off and walking barefoot. My feet hurt and I am impatient. I want the boat; I want to talk to them. Finally, I find G. Horhito is outside it on the phone. His eyes light up. Probably suprised I am still alive given how long it took me to get here. I spread my blanket next to the water and sit; he wants to show me the boat. It is gorgeous, I feel awkward as they give me a tour. Horhito has polished the owners room and is protective of keeping it clean, cute. I use the toilet and impress them with my intelligence when I figure out how to flush it. Horhito showers. The captain gives me a drink, asks me more questions about myself. He is trying to be kind, I think. Either that or I am on trial. Probably just being kind. Horhito dons a gorgeous blue shirt. They are hungry, and exhausted. I have already eaten but they feed me again anyway. The captain will say my name, like he is going to say something, and then nothing. (To this day, I am at a loss as to what he wanted to express). Over dinner the passport question comes up, I tell him I have letters and a copy of it, he is not impressed. There is a prolonged awkward silence, which gets even awkwarder for me when they try to change the subject. On the way back to the boat, Horhito questions my decisions. He says, you have a problem and a solution, why not put them together? Seems simple to him. I tell him, which problem are you trying to solve? The passport problem here in Barcelona? Or the Angela-is-meant-to-be-on-the-sailboat-to-Croatia problem. Truthfully, I was counting on the cap changing his mind, I was hoping to charm him, but I didn’t understand him, so I couldn’t. I grab my stuff, thank the cap, and leave. Ask Horhito to come sit by the water with me. We talk for a while, he is exhausted but I could sit here all night. There are people on the deck of the boat opposite, I started a conversation with them earlier when I confused the South African accent for Australian. They are leaving for France soon as well, I have the opportunity to ask them to take me, but I don’t. (Perhaps rejection made me shy, for a minute.)
I walk back towards La Rambla in search of an Internet cafe. By now it is getting really late and they are shut. A guy approaches me as I walk down the street, I ignore him. Excuse me miss, where are you from? What’s your name? I tell him Sorry no, and keep walking. He asks again, I speed off into the distance leaving him to eat the dust off my heels. Then stop. And turn around. And all up in his face, I say, Why? Why do you do that? Why do you talk to me, when I made it clear I didn’t want to talk to you?? He is taken aback, but only for a second. He tells me, he wants to talk to me, I am alone and something about looking sad, and working… He has dodgy English, and I have dodgy Spanish. He asks me if I want a beer, I say no. But I do want baklava. In a kebab shop, he buys me one, and then another even though I say no. I keep my guard up, don’t tell him my situation. (I reek of vulnerabilty.) He offers me to stay at his house anyway, promises it will be ok. By now, it is 3am and La Rambla is quite a walk… I go with him. On the way, a group of men carrying what looks like a sawn off shot gun, and or a spear or a bat…? People with weapons, you get it. I am glad I am not alone right now. He lives in flats, we enter and he is whispering. I ask the pendulum if I am safe, it says yes. (I doubt my father thinks this is a fail-safe mechanism of testing my environment). The place is full of sleeping people, I ask where the couch is. I find there are people on it already, breathing heavy and sound asleep. He points to his bed, himself to one side, me to the other. I shake my head and tell him, I will sleep on the floor. He starts swearing to all kinds of gods, telling me he is different, telling me he is Indian, and repeatedly tugging on his earlobes. (WTF??). I stand my ground; one of us is on the floor. The room is cramped and I don’t like it. He says ok, I can have the bed. I sit on it and get out my blanket. I look over and he is leaning his back against the wall, still in his clothes, arms folded across his chest, eyes closed. Is he trying to make me feel bad that he is on the floor? I almost laugh out loud at him, maybe I do. Tell him, if you will be like that, then I will sleep on the floor. He starts tugging at his earlobes and swearing to the gods again. I can be a stubborn cow, I almost leave. He fetches a big thick blanket. It is perfect for me and despite his presence; I look forward to sleeping on it. Then he says ‘just one kiss?’ reclining on the bed like some kind of superstar or Hindu god, one who will have huge earlobes if he keeps swearing bullshit like that… And the weirdest thing of it all is that he reminds me of my little sister Taya, with how he talks, how he walks. So, I am up and out the door without a backward glance, back into the hands of the city, sometimes outside is a safer place to be. I ask a homeless guy if the dudes with guns/weapons are gone, they are. He asks me for a cigerette, I still don’t smoke. I sheepishly ring the bell at La Ramblas, Deepak isn’t incredibly happy to see me but tells me to have a sleep anyway. And I do.
This time he lets me sleep a little longer. After some puppy dog eyes, he offers me a bed someone has just checked out of, for 45mins in the morning, before get up get up get up! He’s really worried about his boss. Thank him and leave. Buy some fruit salad. There’s a big ass net cafe around here somewhere. Good news- I have an email from Mustapaha! Hallejuah. Yesterday Bridget Kuster, my New Zealand African goddess, messaged me with the address of the consulate and the offer for her to send me money. She sends me 200 bucks for PASSPORT and some food. Thank god for Western Union. Although the Spaniard at the consulate has assured me the letter verifying my identity will be sufficent, the lady here won’t give me money without a passport. I sit down on the step and sob for a while. Sometimes I can be really dignified when I cry; this is not one of those times. A girl in a dress asks me what is wrong- she tells me it is possible to change the name to someone else- that she can use her passport to collect the money. But this will requre me going back to the net cafe, contacting Bridge, getting her to contact Western Union… I hesitate (she who hesitates is lost). Her boyfriend doesn’t want to wait around and they leave. I go to another Western Union, boldly walk in like I didn’t just get knocked back. I hand the teller the form like there isn’t going to be a problem. He takes a while to process it and I bite my nails. When he hands me the money, I burst out crying in relief. (When it’s good, I cry, when it’s bad, I cry. When its rainy or sunny or…) He is suprised. Nice guy. I thank him and take his picture. Deposit the money to the ‘new passport fund’ at the bank. At the entrance, there is this funky glass chamber you have to stand in and wait while things whir around, reminds me of Inspector Gadget or the CIA or something. After the bank, back to the phone box. Call the Embassy and ask Spaniard lady to process my passport. She says it won’t be possible by tomorrow. I call the consulate, they will do what they can, tell me to call back at 4. I use the Internet while for a while, my parents message they are putting money in my account. The balance is $477 DEBIT. Someone has overdrawn my account. I call the bank, tell them it is fraudulent; a dispute will take up to 46 days to process. So any money coming from family won’t reach me in the meantime. Call Mastercard, ask for a Emergency replacement card anyway. They tell me the card won’t work in ATMs. Whatever, for the moment I have money. So of course, I buy an icecream.
I have about 30 dollars. Wander around. For 3 euro, a pink shirt, ‘Create your own style’. These sketchers are driving me fuckin craaaazy, 1.70 euro gets me a magazine with some white cane thongs attached. Ditch the mag on a cafe table. End up at the beach. People are building sandcastles again, but these ones aren’t ashtrays… They’re actually really good. I sit down near two guys building a man reclining on two wine barrels. It is late afternoon; one of them is smoothing the details with make up brushes. He works on it relentlessly; his is shirtless and crazily tanned. As time passes he becomes more theatrical with his movements, as though aware of my attention. The other has a black labrodor near him and I try to call her over… Always puzzles me that I need to make different noises to animals in different countries, the seeming normality of ‘pup pup pup’ is not natural. They talk for a while as I sit with my feet in the sand. I interrupt- Where are you from? They’re speaking Czech. Mluvim malo cesky; they can’t beleive it. It’s been a while and I struggle to find my Czech words. Honza moves closer to me and we sit and talk, sit in silence. He has bright blue green eyes. Eventually he asks where I will sleep and I shrug, he points to the sand and I shrug. He minds my bag while I run to the water and happily swim. I was wearing my swimmers when my bag was stolen, and for the moment that pleases me. More people appear and sit nearby, he introduces me. They offer me wine from a plastic bottle. Who are these people? I am just happy to sit for while. They offer me paella- tell me a resturant nearby gives free food at 6 and 12 oclock each night. I’m stoked. There are many people on the beach late into the night, even on a Thursday night. Right nearby is a beach bar full of partiers. At around midnight, Eric begins to move all the things from the sand to the shore (cement). Under an umbrella on the sand, they have bags. Eric is the oldest of the group, with wild curly hair. He is the most bilingual. The boys only speak Czech, but Eric seems to be able to speak Hungarian, German, French and Spanish. Honza tells me the trucks are coming. Bright lights flood the area and the people start to disperse. Huge tracters come down the walkway and onto the sand; they are cleaning the beach, flattening it. Honza tells me they will bulldoze the sandcastles, that they repeat this every night. The police presence is strong and dust fills the air from the dirty, disturbed sand.
As time goes on, I start to realise a few things. 1) These guys have chronic substance abuse problems, wine flows. 2) Eric is the ringleader, like the guys are the lost boys or something. 3) Most relevantly, they seem to live on the beach. After the dozers are gone, the beach bar closes. One by one, the guys pass out on blankets on the deck. I sit and talk with Honza. He gives me a wooden box to put my pendulum in; it fits well in the purple bag, a nice gesture. Someone asks if Romain is sleeping, I can feel his presence nearby. He is sitting on an electricty box (or maybe its a garbage bin?) waiting for my attention. We walk along the beach. He draws a big loveheart on the sand, I walk across it and write ‘footprints across my heart.,.’ I spend some time building a yin and yang. I look across and he is building a ridged huge ‘Angela’ in the sand. (I think he likes me). We lay on the sand and I am falling asleep. He fetches blankets. He has crazy warm skin and I am asleep again, despite the noise of partiers, on the beach all night long. Next morning we wake in the hot sun. I am impressed, the guys are already building. I had left my cargo shorts in Erics care and my last 5-euro note is no longer in the pocket. I wonder if it was him. For breakfast, Eric makes a spread, of crunchy Spanish baguettes, with coffee made from sachets of powder. We have it with tomato and cucumber. Romain is wearing a hat, I tell him I like it and he gives it to me. More talking with honza- my Czech is coming back and so is his English. Occasionally -‘Eric! Jak se rekne Cesky..?’ (How do you say in Czech…?) As time passes, however, I begin to realise that perhaps Eric doesn’t understand English as much as I thought, or French or Spanish.. Perhaps because he starts answering such questions with a nod and ‘yes’. Ha.
Walk to the consulate. My passport is there, what a suprise. Stupid Spaniard telling me the impossible. She doesn’t like to be wrong and is far less friendly today. I ask some questions, leave. Stop at an expensive chocolate store, briefly make conversation, but I really just want to eat a tester. Back to LA Ramblas, to the hostel to check if they have received my credit card. Deepak only works at night, they tell me they haven’t. Back to the phone box to bang my head against the brick wall that is Mastercard. After a long delay, they tell me that the card was sent and received this morning at 8am. Back to the youth hostel, who apologise and tell me they do have it (It has Deepaks signature on it.) I am stoked. Head to a supermarket and shop for about an hour, maybe 2. Agonise over every decision. Moisturiser, deodorant, undies, sunscreen. Toothbrush and toothpaste, shampoo, no conditioner. Swimmers, a coconut and a small blue towel. Batteries for my camera. Decision after decision, despite a growing sense of uneasiness. At the checkout, the bill is a lot; I had a lot to replace. And the card doesn’t work. I tell them, try again. The guy behind me chimes in that his mate had the same probelm- I tell them Mastercard said it might do that and to type the numbers. They tell me, increasingly irritated, they know their job and that isn’t possible. Of course its possible, but the card still doesn’t work. I leave empty handed. My undies are wet from swimming. They are irritating my skin. I take them off, but the damage has been done. My legs chafe and every step is agony. At a few pharmacies I try to buy some talcum powder or nappy rash cream. No bueno, card doesn’t work. Dejected, I tuck my pants between my legs and waddle back to the beach.
It’s late, maybe 11. I have been absent a while with no explanation. Tell Honza I have had a horrid day. Romain is getting increasingly irritable towards Honza the more I talk to him. Jealous? They are both typical Czechs; Honza of the alternate guy variety, and Romain of the cute boy type. Romain is attractive, but impatient with his inability to speak English, it makes him uncomfortable. Like one of the other guys, he is missing 3 front teeth. They look rotten and it freaks me out a little. Certainly doesn’t make me want to kiss him. I choose to sleep on the beach with the boy who is enamoured with me, away from the other men. Because I know he will feed and protect me. How primal.
Early Saturday morning, I wake in hot sun, swim. Choose to battle with the money problem again. Bank to bank I go, they don’t take Mastercard or don’t know what I am talking about. They are dismissive and I can’t take it. I want to rent a bike. I show my Spanish note explaining the situation, designed for the bank- as a result the dude thinks I am asking him for money. The card is declined, and I cry because I want icecream. Word must have gotten along the grapeline, because next thing, Romain is presenting me with a cardboard carton of delicious, creamy, icecream. Mam allerge mlecne vyrobky.. He doesn’t understand, pushes it towards me and walks off pleased with himself. I sit holding it helplessly while it melts in the beach heat. I pull Honza aside and tell him, he translates. Romain is embarrassed and throwing his arms in the air. I eat a tiny bit, take it around and feed it to all the men. They want me to have it but I force them to eat it. I am frustrated, get my white skin out, I grab a big shovel and shovel sand for a while. I am wearing my ring and it blisters my finger.
Eric thinks there may be banks still open (it’s a Saturday) in Las Ramblas. Eric gives me the good bike and I pedal off with the wind in my hair. And the banks are closed. I use the interwebs for a bit (I bought a lot of minutes the first day). I go into the exchange place and ask to withdraw money. They can do it and are open til 10, but the card is declined. Call Mastercard and tell them their card isn’t working, talk to the Commonwealth (Please Hold- Fuck you, I want an icecream). The card is supposed to be automatically activated and for some reason that didn’t happen. Back into the exchange place, use my new passport and withdraw some cash. Yay! At the supermarket, reselect the things I want, minus the swimmers and the cocunut. Strawberry Sorbet icecream cone. At the beach the sun is setting and I run for batteries to take a picutre of the giant aeroplane. I have bought a (kinda expensive) new white dress, I put it on and there are whistles. I sit on my blanket and soak my clothes in a bucket with the new washing powder. Brush my teeth. Honza and I lay and talk while Eric runs around swordfighting with small children and Romain takes (blurry) photos. I buy two cold Heinekens for the boys (Romain is grabbing at them before I can even give them to him) and an ice cold Spanish Mohito from the beach bar.
I wake in the sun, swim, shower. Rinse my clothes and dry them on the umbrellas. Build a shade in the sun with my blanket and sleep the day away. Time passes on the beach. Honza carries buckets of water back and forth from the tap, occasionally I follow him. My bag now has a passport, credit card and money. I guard it more ferociously, especially since my Lonely Planet and pendulum have gone missing. Without fuss, without a backward glance, after this long journey, they simply disappear. After a brief perusal at the last place I saw the pendulum, I don’t bother looking for them. The Moroccans (?) roam the beach like ghosts and things disappear. I hold a small hope that Eric, all-knowing Eric, has put them somewhere. It’s improbable. In Merzouga, the boys in the desert had tied their ring to a string in the same way I used the blue sodalite pendulum. So now, without further ado, this is what I do.
I am asleep under a tree on the cement. The ground is very hot in spain, so is the sand, it burns everyones feet. A small girl is standing screaming, alone, barefoot. I put on my sandals, run to her, scoop her up. Someone else is asking here where mummy is, she doesnt know. I have hold of her and all my things, I walk across the sand asking ‘Donde??’ She points and I walk. I put her down in the shade to rest for a second- where is my ring?? One by one, everything is being stripped away. I scour the sand, look up and the little girl is gone. Back underneath the umbrella, a sliver of silver. I put it back on. Everything is being stripped away, but maybe not that, not yet.
I ride into Las Rambla on a bicycle with no brakes. Romain makes a fuss about me being careful, to begin with I think he means of the bike being stolen, then I realise he doesn’t want me to hurt myself. Aww. Afterwards Me, Honza and a friend swim out to the breakwall. The rocks are slimy. I want to back flip. There are so many fish and crabs, it freaks me out. Me and Honza lay on the stones in the sun and talk, me in Czech, him in English. He hasn’t been here so long. He chooses to live on the beach, tells me money makes things complicated. Things make things complicated. He is happy. I like that.
I am going to Paris. Word gets back to Romain and Sunday night, he screams at the sky. Porkay Angieeeeee Porkaaay… I raise my eyebrow at Honza and reiterate that Romain reminds me of a small child chucking a tantrum. The drunkeness has worn so thin. An aussie is on the life guard tower, he says something amusing.. ‘Attention people, stop drowning, I’m chilling up here’. Some drunken girls build a large penis in the sand and then whine when a perve starts taking photos of their asses as they bend over it.
I don’t want to sleep near Romain anymore, but not near the other men either. I deliberate for a long while with Romain insisting I sleep with him in the sand. I want to sleep in the sand, but alone, and I don’t feel safe here. Eventually I sleep next to Honza.
Monday morning when I wake, they’re already building a Mickey Mouse. It is time for me to go. Honza gives me a small backpack; everything fits in it well. I give him the tub of laundry powder, additional toothpaste, and my bronzer brush. He lends me a razor to shave my legs. Apply deodorant and I feel human again. Before I go, Romain and I talk. His father died three weeks ago, his sister arrives tomorrow. He tells me he drinks to numb the pain. I tell him in Czech, I have been here. That won’t help, nothing helps. I sing to him ‘No amount of coffee, no amount of crying, no amount of whiskey, no amount of wine… Gotta have you‘. I get it. I cry for him.