Monday, May 07, 2012

More about rats; and a lovely encounter

Soon after I got back from my first trip to Granada, just over forty years ago, I had a recurring dream of a bar just off the Plaza Nueva. It was a beautiful traditional bar that served excellent tapas, always full, always bustling, a place of intense life and sociability. I found it a hard place to enter, in my solitary state of shyness, and rarely, if ever, did. But this time, walking past a similar place, I remembered how in my dream I was searching for this bar in the narrow, confusing streets, and how it was tremendously important for me to find it. Because it gave me a glimpse of paradise. So we did go in, obeying this impulse, and we stood at the car, and I ordered wine, and we were drinking it and nibbling at the somewhat indifferent something they had served us, talking of this and that. Have learnt over the years it is best to stay positive, not worry about "passing"or not, never think about how people are taking or tendering me, remain friendly and polite, hope for the best and assume it. So it was my dear comrade, more clear-sighted, more courageous than I, who first noted the commotion at the other end of the bar, the staff emerging from the kitchens, the hilarity, the remarks being flung about whose words I could not understand. But there was no mistaking their mockery or cruelty; nor the arrogant disdain of the waiter flinging down our change as we paid and left. I had intended to write this entry as a denunciation. In my imagination afterwards I think I was going to take revenge by comparing them to rats, these cowards and bullies, these heirs of the vile machismo that made it impossible for a single woman to walk unmolested down the street. The heirs of the disgusting hatred that destroyed their city's finest poet. But that would not be true to the moment, which left me so frightened and ashamed it took me all my courage to leave my hotel room that evening, nor especially useful. I prefer to stay with the sentiments of my JESUS QUEEN OF HEAVEN who blesses both those who suffer persecution and those who inflict it. To stay with the memory of something that happened the next day in one of the sunlit city squares. I was alone for a moment, and a man in his sixties came up to me, very shyly, and started to tell his story. Of how he came from the province of Granada but had had to leave in the time of the dictatorship because there were no jobs to be had. Him and how wife had settled in Grenoble, and he had prospered there. But his wife had died and his children had left him and he was lonely. He said he liked the look of me because I looked kind and happy and that I was the kind of woman he would like to settle down with again. I thanked him for his kindness and told him I was sorry for his suffering, and he was deeply touched by that and when we said goodbye kissed me on the lips. I gave him something, something that touched me very profoundly too. We went off together, me and my comrade ("friendship is so much easier for women", he had said, sadly) off to see the celebrations for the Cruz de Mayo, and me and that sad old man will never see each other again.
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