From the beaches near Barcelona to Foixarda to the canyons outside Perpignan, I spent a good portion of my trip to Europe with climbers. It was delightful.
I sit cross-legged on a mattress while the rain drips in staccato melody from the eves, charged on café con leche and sleep deprivation. I took to the streets shortly after 6 this morning, wandering towards the old city, watching the street sweepers and a pair of lovers kissing passionately under an arch. I watched the bakers wiping their windows in preparation for opening. The streets into the old city ran narrow, smelling of urine, yesterday’s graffiti next to stones that had been there since the Romans came. I got lost, several times, although I told myself that being lost was all a matter of perspective. When it started raining, I sought shelter in a café-bar, ordering coffee and a croissant in terribly accented Spanish, and I pulled the croissant apart and sipped the coffee, and both were excellent.
I found my way back to Santa Madrona street around 8, and let myself in with a three-pronged key. Ismael was still out; there was some party he’d arranged, and he’d invited me, but I’d fallen asleep before he’d even left. I lay down in the quiet and wiggled with joy. Odd, I thought. It was partly the familiarity of the space, with its narrow, tall windows; narrow, tall doors; narrow, tall passageways; the buzz of mopeds, the cobblestones. It was partly the unfamiliarity of the space, and the feeling of discovery, of exploration. Europe does this to me. I lived here, and the nostalgia, the possibility, the anonymity, surrounds me in womb-like, concentric rings.
I came here with colleagues, and I left them at the airport, and took public transportation to a couch surfing host while they got a taxi to their rented apartment. This is less about budget than it is about feeling the city as it really is, the smell of piss and the heat of the subway and the broken English of someone who welcomes me and immediately hands me a key to his apartment so I can come and go at will. He has crooked teeth and is careful to tell me not to wear shoes in the house. He tells me he doesn’t like America, although he has never been there. I tell him I live in a town where there are mountains, and he tells me he loves the mountains.
I think back to the mountains of the place where I live, and I think of how nearly everywhere I go there, I know someone. It seems at times like a cozy, beautiful house of cards, Sandpoint. Mortgage, job constraints, the conflicting personalities of small-town life. Tidy, now, but one flick, and it could all come crashing down.
Late. I am tired, and have blisters from walking far in the rain.