Loneliness is harder to come by, and aloneness even more so. Lack of aloneness does imply a lessening loneliness, even though the Buddha-quoters and the life coaches of the Northwestern hemisphere would tell you otherwise. You simply must interact. That is, you must look at every multitudinous, flat-lining city mouth with the same stoic judgment discernment and measured appreciation that you’d give the every-once-in-a-while smile of the low-density burb-hood. Because in each case, that’s all you’re gonna get. The eyes may not smile, because that’s something momma didn’t teach the little one. She may have, instead, given lessons in omission. You, alone, simply must know when not to interact.
The southerners ask me of the northerners, “are they all so cold?” and I admit to turning away from that question from elder’s end of the New Year’s eve dinner table – an answer I couldn’t formulate, having concentrated all awe on soaking up Valencian townie accent and rhythm – turning to listen instead to the children of my era’s discourse on the current interpersonal drama, the crimes and conclusions. Tertulia, the debate of evidence and considerations, also counts as sobremesa, ‘above the table, on the table’ conversation lingering after completing the task of eat. I spy with my Midwest-eye, two concepts we might practice, at most, during a couple holidays a year. I spy with my Anglo-eye, two words we don’t have in English for sitting around and shooting the shit.
Sitting, staying put for long enough to talk, even if the TV is still on. Eating slowly and deliberately enough to have some and then some more, before all those plates are taken away and replaced with half a dozen more. That’s the reason for the season, if you count it all up, we’re all even; just delivering it in different tempos to the blood barrier, tripe into tripe, dissolving into little more than our capacity to keep speaking up about aching, cathartic truths. Pain manifesting as gas manifesting as shoving questions down into the belly of the server warehouse, the hard drive of all the things we’ve come to know instantly, streaming.
Lonely can still find me in the peninsula that never leaves well enough alone. Don’t misunderstand me, I love the frank-speak and brutal exactitude. I adore how the folks here invest time in percentages astounding in the bar and out on the sidewalk blocking passersby as they burn Lucky Strikes and and hurry nowhere, not even to the bottom of the glass. I relish witnessing the Tao of priority these people ride and their mindful presence regarding the dire implications of everyday crap: of the constant threats of water damage and thieves that enter sliding doors after scaling buildings by balconies; of the ugliness of a good cook and of the outrageousness of prescriptions costing more than $5 a month.
Maybe 3 year old on the bus tells you about her dog-cousin, Lana (Spanish for ‘wool’) the boxer that’s reached menarche, saying le ha bajada de la regla, ‘her bleeding cycle has descended.’ The little lady knows more about a woman’s blood than many North American 13 year olds. Her accompanying auntie, a neighbor of ours, called a policeman a chulo (close enough to ‘pompous, tough guy’ in this sense) while walking against a red light, which the officers took unkindly enough to park and follow her into the Spanish equivalent of a Gap flagship store.
These novelties observed and cherished could just be, might just be compelling in contrast to lingering vestiges of good ol’ protestant work ethic. These saturated images stand out against the distorted backdrop of my don’t-complain-get-on-lil-doggies puritanism.
Things here are clear enough though, and unlike that hinting and subtlety that evaporates from the grasp of the visitor to the US of A, nearly all is knowable in Iberia. Because sooner or later, someone will be “rude” or “direct” or “relaxed” enough to paint a decently vivid picture of what the reality really is. For real. Our 1st amendment ain’t got nothin’ on these people’s birthright. Don’t ask me though, about regional differences, for I is not quite yet done documenting.