It took 26 hours to get to Barcelona. The Chicago storms led to a two-hour flight delay, which meant missing my connecting flight, which meant sleeping on a bench and walking in circles at the Dublin airport for 10 hours. Fortunately, I made a friend on the plane who compared airline chicken consumption to chewing on a condom. We stayed up all night and she babysat me while I slept on the bench, to the disdain of the occasional businessman.
While drinking coffee in the terminal, a woman with yellow teeth, an eyepatch, and hands like tree roots from rheumatoid arthritis approached us and sat down. She asked where we were going. I told her I was going to Spain and she said,
“I almost moved there in 1979, but my partner drowned beforehand. That’s why you don’t mix swimming and bourbon.”
The conversation drifted from the death of her brother and seven friends to a cat with gas to a nonsexual partnership to vaccine-hating to United States-hating to general life-hating.
In regards to living in the States, she asked me:
“Who made you king?”
“Um, I don’t think I’m the right person to be answering that question.”
Blah blah blah.
So here’s the thing: I can be VERY stupid. I arrived in Barcelona at 10 pm without a plan. I mean, I had a few plans but cancelled them because of the flight delay and my lack of knowledge about when I would actually get in. And I was relying on people I never should have relied on. HUGE mistake. Lesson number one — have a place to stay, especially if you’ve only slept four out of 36 hours and have a giant backpack. I probably don’t need to tell you this.
But it worked out. I went back to the port, assuming I would find someone I knew (since the same group of people tends to hang out there every single night, without fail). I was too early. I sat on the steps with an energy drink and a beer until being waved over by a man from French Guiana (“No one knows where or what my country is. Not even the French”), who sat with a Bulgarian girl and a Swedish man. The Bulgarian girl made money with trained pigeons who were perched on a wooden stand. When interested tourists walked by, she would place the birds in their hands, then on their shoulders, then on their heads and invite them to take pictures. Once the pictures were taken, she told them it cost five euros.
The Swedish kid was a transient music producer who gave up 10 years of office jobs to sleep outside and roam around. There are a lot of us here.
As the night went on, my worry over where I would stay intensified. Would I ask a stranger? Would I sleep on the beach? Another bench? Would I stay up all night again?
My guardian angel swooped in. I met her during my last stay in Barcelona, when she took me under her wing as I peed behind a mural in a skatepark. She found me on the steps at midnight and eventually offered to let me stay at her house. We ate open-faced sandwiches on her bed and talked on the porch until a voice from the balcony below called up asking for cerveza and inviting us downstairs. We brought wine. The more extroverted man flirted hard with her as the other asked me questions to which I gave vague, sleepy replies. I drank a glass of wine, then another that was poured in my cup and on my hand and shirt, and drifted in and out of consciousness while listening to the Black Keys from an iPhone speaker.
My guardian angel friend inspires me. She told the boys that we had to go, that I was tired. They begged her to stay. “No, you must not leave. You can’t. Stay with us. It’s early.” (It was 5:30 a.m.)
“No, we are tired and we are leaving right now. Thank you for the wine and the company, but we are going.”
I long to be so straightforward.
I passed out hard in her bed. I woke up at 2 p.m. yesterday, booked a hostel, found the hostel, and rejoiced in the fact that I’m not as directionally inept as I thought.
Eduard, a friend I made through couchsurfing, met me outside the hostel at 6 and we walked to the market, which was mostly closed, then to a supermarket, then to his apartment, then to a hotel cafe found only by wandering down a nondescript alleyway. It was magical. The little square was virtually empty (compared to the rest of the city) and was surrounded on all sides by towering brick walls. Eduard and I wrote for two hours. For the first time in weeks, I felt real. I felt close to myself. I wasn’t acting.
And I was fucking proud of myself for staying at the hostel and not going to the port after Eduard walked me back. When I’m scared, my inclination is to find a man to make me feel safe. Sometimes all I want is a bed or a couch but I end up feeling obligated to offer sex in exchange. It’s not healthy. It’s not safe. It’s not even obligatory. But I haven’t done it yet and I don’t feel compelled to. Knock on wood.
Whatever. I’m sure I’ll make mistakes. NA resonates here: it’s about progress, not perfection. If I can spend at least a few nights alone, I’m making progress. If I can admit to wrongdoings without hating myself, I’m making progress. If I can appreciate and accept that most of my journey is unknown and unplanned, I’m making progress.
I’m tired of trying to control things. That’s not how life works. I mean, I’ve chosen an extreme method of figuring that out for myself, but maybe that’s what I needed… to be removed from the routine and consistency and safety of home, of my own bed, of a closet and cats and a TV set.
This shit is hard, not necessarily because of external factors, but because I’m forced to deal with myself. I have to validate and care for myself, making sure I get enough sleep and eat well and don’t smoke too many cigarettes. I have to be a, dare I say it, woman.
But also, yay!
But also, fuck.
Okay, I’ll check back in later this week, so long as my computer doesn’t get stolen 😉