LOVE LIKE WINE DOESN'T TRAVEL WELL
Colin Field. Semana
Santa was approaching quickly and Seville was the place to be.
London is not a
city to be lucky in. Everyone seems to be down on their luck in London.
I was no different; living in a tent in Wormwood Scrubs, East Acton,
with a whole range of riff raff: french gypsies, new age travellers,
european hoboes. We were all broke and looking for work. I had been
lucky enough to find a job as a bicycle courier. But the night before
my bike had been stolen. From right under my nose. I think it was one
of my new so-called friends. A week earlier I had arrived in this filthy
but lovable city, virtually skint after arranging to meet her here.
And live with her.
I was hopelessly in love. Yet, upon meeting her below that lonely statue
of Eros, god of love, amongst the black cabbed busyness of Picadilly
Circus, I knew something had changed. Double deckers whipped by, choking
out their blue-black diesal, the flickering neon bulblights taking on
a gloomy hue, we sat sadly; two lovers knowing the end was near, vacantly
watching the punks, sleeping, drinking, smoking, while a constant pulsing
of tourists flowed in and out. Snapping shots of the infamous congestion;
our sad faces captured forever in their cliched souvenirs. She had met
someone else. An italian.
I had just crossed the Atlantic for her. I walked the fifteen kilometres
home, throwing the necklace she had given me one lovely day in Spain,
into a rubbish tip along the way. A symbolic gesture in which I attempted
to free myself of the loss I was feeling. But it would not be that easy.
I had left my home and family for the idealistic belief in a perfect
love. In our cultural mis-communications we had each imposed on the
other our own ideals of perfection. The naivety of young, cross-cultural
love. I realized I had never really known her. I had fallen in love
not only with a woman, but a city. And the two were inseperable. I knew
my misfit friends would soothe my spirits with a hobo's lively eye and
a bottle of cheap British cider.
After cycling through West Africa and Morocco for four months, the ferry
trip back across the Straits of Gibraltor and into Spain was easing
on the mind. The bright green of a European spring and all her intricate
luxuries had been dreamt of continuosly for these past sixteen weeks.
Behind me lay the dusty pestering streets of William Burrough's Interzone
some forty years on. I lay on the rear sundeck, admiring the Moroccan
flag flapping violenty; her red with enchanting muslim star, contrasting
against the perfect deep blue sky. I was looking ahead to a few weeks
of selfish indulgence. I awoke to the sounds of the port city, Algeciras,
and knew the next few days would not be easy. I was in a rush to get
to Seville. Semana Santa was approaching quickly and Seville was the
place to be. It was 270km away. 270km of the most boring landscape Spain
had to offer.
Long hills that seemed to wind up and up endlessly stood between me
and the city. There was something more than Semana Santa pulling at
me. From Algeciras I rode west to Tarifa before heading north to Seville.
Tarifa is famous for having the best windsurfing in Southern Europe.
Unfortunately the reason had only just dawned on me: wind. The mountainous
coastline fouught with me at every pedal stroke, the wind slowed my
descents; it was an epic struggle. I was lonely and miserable. In Africa
I would often reach a quiet rhythm; a meditational state where my spinning
legs were a mantric metronome, the dry mud village scenery merely feeding
stimulus to my dreamy visions; village children and shepherds waving
from off in the distance. Silently beautiful. But now I was in a rush.
It was as if stepping from one continent to the next had instantly changed
my outlook. No longer was I in a continent where people had no money
but plenty of time; I was in a continent where people had plenty of
money but no time. I was affected upon contact. After twelve hours in
the saddle, covering nearly 140km, I sat down on the roadside to a humble
dinner of sardines and bread. Night fell quickly, I laid down my blanket
under the cover of some lonely cork trees, watching the bright purple
sky as it faded to black and splattered with stars. I drifted into troubled
roadside dreams while thinking of my real reason for rushing to Seville:
Cristina. The woman I had met seven months earlier on what was supposed
to be a short visit.
I remembered how much I had loved her and the city.
E-Mail from Seville (October 10)
Hey y'all! Sorry about the generic E-mail. I am currently stuck in Seville.
It is such a great city with incredible nightlife. Last week I partied
with thousands of Spanish students in Plaza del Salvador. A huge open
air square where everyone drinks, smokes and laughs before heading to
the nightclubs. And to think we can't drink in public in Canada! The
women are amazingly beautiful, and friendly to boot. I've met a great
woman, Cristina, who is a flamenco dancer and she is making it extremely
hard to leave here. I'm such a sucker. But it really is a romantic city.
I can feel the old road calling my name again, on to Morocco and West
Africa, and I feel like I'm in Lynyrd Skynyrd's song 'Freebird.'
"Bye Bye baby, it's been sweet lyin'..." I may have to come
back here after Africa! Anyways, hope you are all well, Adios Amigos!!!
Awakening to the sound of a semi-truck roaring by, I began packing my
panniers knowing another exhausting day lay ahead. But the goal was
extremely clear. Mile after mile of vast agricultural Andalusia passed
slowly by. The mile markers my only source of entertainment. An entertainment
I viewed with love and hate simultaneously. At times the kilometres
flew by, but, for the most part they passed with a painful slowness.
My lethargic stubborness pushed me on and just before night fell, after
a 130km day, I could see the outskirts of my favourite city. I was exhausted
and exstatic. I had awaited this day for months. During Semana Santa,
people from around the country and the world, flock to Seville to witness
the great floatlike pasos lifted through the cobbly tight streets. Famous
effigies of Jesus' crucifiction or the Virgin Mother in scenes just
before the end, tower above the crowd as they are lifted and carried
along; a form of penance for the carriers. These one float parades go
all day and all night, old and young in attendance in the week before
easter. For a week I met her every night at the cathedral. The beautiful
Sevillan church towering above me, the arabian Minaret of the Giralda
dwarfing me I would sit waiting; resting on great ancient chains that
surround the building. Cigarette in hand, I would watch lovers strolling
by, meandering through the character laden reality that is Europe. Character,
character everywhere. In everything. And the lovers were always beautiful
and for once I had no qualms with public displays of affection. The
city was too romantic to scold it. Horses would clippedy-clop along
with buggies of tourists, while a struggling musician would blow sad
familiar notes on his sax; sending echoes softly bouncing amongst the
ancient cobble-stoned night.
She was alway late, but I didn't mind. I had nothing else to do. Sitting
within sight of some of the most beautiful structures in Seville, the
warm night breeze blowing softly, I was happy just to watch the Spanish
world roll by. I reflected on friends who would complain about how long
it would take their wives or girlfriends to get ready to go out. I would
always say to them, "At least you have someone to wait for. Be
thankful." And I was. Then I would see Cristina. She would walk
slowly over, and my smile would grow genuinely. Her dark brown hair
falling gracefully around her face, her pouty lips serious and driven.
A quick °ola" with a kiss on each cheek before I began falling
further in love with her troubled english. Every night her beauty would
surprise me, in her european styles of tight shiny black pants and tight
shirt, great clickety clacky boots, whose sound themselves could turn
me on. Some gently coloured scarf hanging lazily around her neck a thigh
lengthed jacket of shiny black leather. We would soon be walking the
twisting sevillian streets, me thinking all the while, 'I am the coolest
person on earth.'
There is nothing that will ever compare to walking the streests of Spain
with a beautiful lady on your arm. Nothing. We would take romantic strolls
through the labyrinthine streets, the old jewish quarter, Plaze del
Salvador, past magnificent court yarded gardens. Ocassionally we would
stop and listen to the music wafting through the night from off in the
not too distant past. And the night would always end with a peaceful
smooch on the stairs of city hall, as we awaited the arrival of her
bus. The Carboneria was a flamenco pub in the old Jewish Quarter, where
every night flamenco singers wailed away painfully, straining their
throats and veiny necks while the guitarists picked and slapped away
at strings. Ad hoc performances of Sevillianas would spontaneusly erupt
amongst the younger crowd who were full of a deep culture I had never
witnessed the like of in Canada. Old men with little caps and cigars
would clap complex and happy rhythms in time with the music, raising
their arms with a careless, "Ole!" Red wine flowed freely
and cheaply and I sat staring into my beauty's eyes. She had just explained
to me, in her stuttering english, the significance of Semana Santa and
asked, "In Canada, what you do for Semana Santa?" Flabergasted,
I searched for the words while images of the Easter bunny kept thumping
across my mind's eye. The realization that I had spent my childhood
looking forward to Easter because of chocolate eggs that bunnies laid
seemed shocking in my present surroundings. Here the historical and
cultural depth of europe made my Canadian home seem extremely pathetic
and shallow. I was forced to explain the significance of the Easter
Bunny. Yet I don't think there is any significance to it.
Then, walking through streets, always lost, always found, constantly
blocked by the Sevillian Semana Santa, great pasos floating mysteriously
by in the incensed sparkiling night; mass crowds formed everywhere while
a thin trickle of masked adherents slowly, silently, with great candles
in hand, moved through the silent crowd, like blood pumping rythmically
through a vessel. The procession would pulse as each floatlike virgin
or son of man would be lifted then set down as the men gained strength
to lift and proceed with the monument.
Crossing these veinlike processions was difficult and frustrating; the
crowds were thick and stubborn. Hand in hand Cristina dragged me along,
she was fumblingly drunken, her sexy european boots beautifully impractical.
Blistering her temper and her feet.
I saw a virgin slowly float by ghostlike. In my stoned daze, I watched
silently in a state of mental purity. Merely five feet away, I stopped,
and looked behind me, my hand in Cristina's, as she urged me to move
on, through the crowd. Away from the pasos and on to the discotheque.
The innocent virgin, lifted up and drifted, without a sound, not a noise,
only to disappear behind the cold Sevillian building on the corner.
The holy virgin sunk into the silent throngs and the yellow ancient
bricked night of Seville. Around the corner from Plaza del Salvador,
where I met her, is a bust of Cervantes. His infamous character, Don
Quixote is a permanent source of entertainment to me. His deluded fantasies
in which he fights dragons and windmills, all in the name of chivalry,
are absolutely hilarious. All for a woman who barely knew he existed.
We stopped and I told her how funny I thought the book was. She knew
the stories well. They were a strong element of Spanish culture, but
she had been forced, in school, to read the book in old spanish. And
I suppose the humour was lost on her.
© Colin Field. 2001
*This is Colin's first article for Hackwriters if you enjoy it email
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