1. Christmas in Seville

    Spain, December 2013 

    We took the train to Seville on Christmas Eve. I toted a wobbly suitcase I’d borrowed from Maria, who hadn’t told me about its broken wheel. It rolled for only a few seconds before having to be stopped, considered, and repositioned. It was one of those things you know you’re going to remember.

    In Seville there are no points of reference; streets narrow and coil of their own accord. Charlotte navigated, even with our maps turned at ninety degrees, because she’s the math major and her brain excels in ways that mine doesn’t.

    We wouldn’t be there very long, but we would see and eat and drink things and go to a flamenco show with bright purple lights and claps so roaring and sharp that even though you want to cover your ears you still want more. We sat below the stage and I watched the singer’s wide mouth and sealed eyes as he hollered in reverberating tones, up and down and across, like a castrated cow. Other things were happening, like stomps and frilled dresses and snapping necks, the sweat of a man in all black, someone in a chair with a guitar, but I watched the singer’s wide mouth as agony poured out of him, rich and sweet. 

    On Christmas Day it rained. It was the only day of our whole Spain trip that it rained. I had forgotten to pick up Champagne and orange juice the day before so I pulled my boots over my sweatpants and went out to get some. Nothing was open and the streets were empty. I wandered far enough that I found a shop and asked the nice woman at the counter in the little Spanish I knew if she had Champagne or where I could find some, but the answer was in the lot of Spanish I didn’t know so I bought two croissants and she wrapped them nicely in parchment paper and tied them with a bow.

    Charlotte didn’t care too much about the Champagne and was happy about the croissants. It was a taste of France. I think we both felt a little bad about having talked so poorly about the French earlier, when we were reveling in the rejuvenation of Spanish everything.

    I made breakfast for my family of five and after Charlotte and I were full the rest of it lay out all day and browned at the edges. We didn’t leave the apartment. We curled on the bed and drifted in and out of sleep, in and out of our phones and books, until at night we went out into the rain for a flamenco class, which wasn’t really a class but a thing in a hostel where a Spanish guy pushed tables and chairs out of the way and played a song on the stereo and did claps and movements and made us do them too.

    We flung across the room trying not to knock anything over. He lost his patience at our inability to spin, we being two six-foot-tall white American girls with little dancing experience and little capacity to capture the true essence of flamenco, which, as he insisted, was “not a dance, but a way of life.” I sort of just wanted to grab a beer and watch him swim through the air with his suave, burning limbs. 

    Charlotte and I stayed as the influx of Christmas travelers trickled in for the dinner the hostel was hosting, in which we were not allowed to partake consumption wise, as there was a limited offering for registered attendees. So we just drank.

    If you know how the brain works, you know that a memory is a pathway. When you learn new things, you create new pathways; you remember things by going over them again and again until the pathway is more like a street. You can make streets in your head on purpose. To keep away from bad memories, you just focus on other things. The things that you like. The things that make you better. I was going to remember the suitcase and losing the button on my pants and the way I held my arms close as the music played but I was going to remember more the man with the wide mouth and the orange trees and sleeping all day on Christmas with the window open and the way those guys smiled as I covered my bread with Nutella.  

    Or something like that. I was drunk, not having eaten. But it was good — it was Christmas. And Charlotte and I were together, thousands of miles away from our families and friends, tucked in a dark Andalusian alley on the third floor of a hostel that was not ours, the rain strong and smooth. We drifted through conversations with vagabonds and psychologically questionable veterans and Québécois with indecipherable dialects of a language we thought we knew, and all the girls and boys looked fine, generally, neither emptied and tired from the loneliness of displacement nor bright and merry with the promise of discovery and “self-actualization.”

    I was somewhere in between.

    rnh, 1-2-14


  2. Second Hand

    She’s been wearing me for five years now. I’ve watched so many people come and go; she can’t seem to make up her mind. How she has changed! And yet stayed so very much the same.

    I think I am her favorite, though I am plain and not particularly stylish and in some cases, like in the rain, not very functional. I absorb everything, including all those drinks and sauces she spills. More ranch dressing, really? But I fit length-wise and that’s all that matters to her.

    I have seen the most beautiful places. France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Amsterdam, New York, Seattle, San Francisco – the Golden Gate Bridge really is as spectacular as the photos. One time she took me to the top of Piazzale Michelangelo where she sat on the steps with her friends and drank cheap champagne over the rooftops of Florence. The sunset made the sky all pink and orange. She made me really love sunsets. She would always talk about how beautiful it was, the time of day when time slows, when the sky changes its mind and you can love without judgment.

    And the Eiffel Tower! How magnificent. At night it sparkles and glitters. We would go there all the time. Once, alone, in the middle of the night, she walked under the big beams on the way home and I thought she was crying but when I looked up at her she was smiling strangely.

    There were a lot of nights in Paris. When her old lover came to visit for Thanksgiving, she took him to the tower to picnic and I kept her warm. She ate a whole block of cheese nervously in the pauses, probably to keep herself from thinking too hard, because if she did she would realize that she did not love him.

    I sometimes hear her talk about warmer places she’s been: Africa, Japan, Hawaii, India. Imagine, seeing the Taj Mahal! Or spreading out on the sand in Kauai. How lucky those tee-shirts are.  

    I’m important, I remind myself; I am hers and she is mine. What would she have done without me that winter night she was stranded in Barcelona? Or when the fog would roll over the San Francisco hills? The many times she’s needed me, I’ve been happy to wrap around her torso and arms, happy to live my destiny as she lives hers.

    Still, she could take better care of me. I’ve been washed three times, maybe. She thinks the stains don’t accumulate, that they disappear eventually. How I’d love to be new again, and the dryer, so terrifyingly spectacular! But that’s where I lost a button, and instead of replacing it she just folds the flap over to cover the hole. It’s true what they say – indifference is paralyzing. Do people say that?

    Things started to turn worse. She’d stash me in the corner of bars while she danced, keep me in her boyfriend’s car “just in case,” forget me on the couch, crinkled and tired. I was sad because I didn’t get to see all the things that she saw, but mostly because I thought she loved me less. 

    And then one August afternoon she stuffed me in a bag and when I awoke we were at the Goodwill on Clayton Road. Somebody pierced me with a price tag and I never saw her again.

    Months later a teenage girl convinced her mom to buy me – because she’d grow into me and that, after all, she needed a black coat and she promised to fix my button and I was only five dollars. So they took me to their house and the girl hung me on a pink plastic hanger. Where would you like to go first? I asked as she put me in the closet.

    Time is lost now, and I wonder what’s happening on the other side, whispering to the others in the dark about the Louvre and Times Square and the boats on Lake Washington and imagining those tee-shirts on the beaches of paradise.

    rnh, 11/16/13

  3. Time slows: Why do this? No one really knows.

  4. "Teach me half the gladness that thy brain must know, such harmonious madness from my lips would flow // the world should listen, then, as I am listening now" (at Place Michelet)

  5. Stop it, you are so cute (at Loches)

  6. Ima climb you (at Tour Eiffel)

  7. Laughing, crying, singing and raging at a very personal favorite of mine—Local Natives. (at Fox Theater)

  8. at Alki View Point

  9. Sunday in the loin (at The Tenderloin)

  10. Brunchin (at Hayes Valley)

  11. 📖 🇫🇷🍺 (at Crepevine)

  12. [What a] succulent garden (at Downtown Palo Alto)

  13. Sweet find: $8 hardcover of “For Whom the Bell Tolls” printed in the 40s (at Pegasus Books)

  14. Pup walk (at Shell Ridge Open Space)

  15. Sunset on Folsom Lake @sscotterpop @pcap_ @dmeyers35 (at Folsom Lake)