Barcelona by Johnny Magdaleno
Barcelona. While placing the glass to my mouth I remember the Metro in Madrid stops at 02:00. My watch tells me the hour is precariously close. In my wake lies the cleared pint and the sound of monedas clinking, rotating and settling on the bar. I’m knighted with sole proprietorship of the Madrid airport until 06:00—hours spent wandering around aimlessly and bothering night janitors with inconsequential conversation—when, suddenly, and in clockwork synchronization, floods of tired Spaniards and rolling luggage begin coursing through my adapted home. You’re all trespassing, every last one of you. After the 5th time the flight attendant asks me to put my seat up I tell her I didn’t know I was in a god damn police state. The city is raining. I avoid every American I hear on the buses, subways, trams, streets employed en route to the apartment. Months without romance steer me to ask the waitress at the café out to dinner, and, later in the evening, every girl I see on the street if they wish to ride a Vespa with me. Even now, sober, looking back, I do not believe this to be a strange petition. Our neighbors are piercingly loud and insatiably young. “God damn whores,” I shout, according to my mom and aunt’s account, in an untraceable burst of misogyny. “I’ll take care of them.” Something passes across what is now a void in my memory and within ten minutes I’m with the three girls in a cab shooting across the harbor in search of a club called Opium. Five minutes of waiting in line are sufficient to instill the realization I hate everyone there. I begin walking home before trying, unsuccessfully, to buy cocaine from a group of Lebanese men and getting my wallet stolen by a Spaniard who promises to teach me how to Salsa. A rotten soul and, perhaps worse, a terrible dancer. I blame it all on the Campari. Because of my recent obsession with the movie I only haunt bars where I feel appropriate drinking Cointreau and saying things like “One hears a great deal about Rick in Casablanca.” We enter the basilica during a wedding. Every irreversible vow echoes up towards the heavens and fills the high, vaulted ceiling. For some reason I am overcome and tears flood my eyes. The tired face of a humble woman stares down at me from a stained glass window. Her palms are open. Darling, I’m just as clueless. I see the problems in your eyes, waiting to be pulled away like ripe dangling fruit. Some people live for decades without ever truly being alive and Lorca was shot and buried in the desert and some men erase their bodies with fire and gasoline to protest government and some horses are still wild. Stained glass woman, we can no longer spend our time questioning the actions of others we find so bewildering. In a few days I will return to the African island, working as an editor, where you have no other option but to give the men with AK47s all your money when they pull your car over, and where a young Nigerian pulled me into his shanty market stall to help blueprint his getting into America. The two biggest atrocities of our time are war and making your mother cry but at the airport I will kiss her gently on the forehead and tell her: this is something I need to do. The church choir begins to sing and I contemplate the nature and character of the Rapture. Internally I come to the agreement that, no, the idea is not far-fetched. Not at all. What Christians posit is that, across a second, on a day unknowable, and without prior explanation, everything will change.
Johnny Magdaleno is a journalist, writer and editor currently traveling the world. His first collection of short stories, Bulls out of the Ring, will be released in Fall 2013.