I Met a Woman Named Piedad in Barcelona…

… I guess in English you would call her Compassion. I ordered canelones and a caña, she ordered an escalibada pintxo (two of them) and a cortado and we got to talking. This retired Catalan told me how her “vice” had always been traveling and how many countries she had visited (and how she’d always chose a country that was not the United States… I was too sad to take the bait.) She visited a new place almost every summer of her life in her fifty years of employment at the electric company.

Every time she came back to Barcelona and could see the shores of the city from the plane, she thought to herself: “I’m home.” Me too. For many years, when I was flying back and I’d see it from the little blurry window… my heart would jump a little. I had lived in so many other places… Paris, Madrid, New York, Los Angeles, my dear and lonely Sant Feliu de Guixols… but Barcelona was always home. Until, one year, coming back from somewhere, maybe even Barcelona, just like that, the three lake city made my heart jump a little in mid air. The Colorado river made itself so handsome, glistening in the setting sun, even if he seemed a little tired from making the city happy by squeezing through yet another “damn.” Home. Barcelona was pushed back into the folds of my brain (but not my heart) and the “velvet coffin,” as some young artist calls it, took its place.

I have always felt like an impostor everywhere, but I knew I’d carved an actual physical impact out of this city; the Colorado river became, a little, my new Mediterraneo. Had I finally landed somewhere? I felt almost settled, an unusual feeling for me. Then, there it came, my father’s death stomping across the Atlantic; caring nothing about my home or lack of it. Back to Barcelona three times in a row, a descent into hell. Then came the loss of absolutely everything. Austin didn’t move a finger to save us; but nothing and no one can do anything about loss rolling over you like this. Home, family, town and country, business, and all of your tears. Loss. The Barcelona that had gone was about to become my own personal torturer in the hands of my sisters, as my mother prepared to follow my father to their new home. Another move, to city number eight. Hell frozen over, Austin lost. Seven not my lucky number anymore.

I moved, precious family in tow, to the most beautiful bay in the world. I made winged friends and one day while the little love birds brought rainbows to my hands for me to hold, my mother’s death finally came too. Back to Barcelona, back to a completely different kind of hell, one I didn’t know it even existed. I felt it most in the hallway, that wind again, a fiery monster that blew manic air into our hearts for daring to take down the convoluted theater of my mother’s life. No conjuring of mine would conquer it, how pretentious of me to have tried. Oh god how I tried, I eat all my fears and grew very tall and fat, I sang songs of water and blue again, but I was no match for the ghost of fire that had already swallowed my mother long ago. I never imagined it would survive her. Stupid. While I’m having my conversation with Compassion at the cerveceria over the canelones, the caña, while I rest for a moment in her kind eyes; while I fall in love a little with this motherly Catalan that has seen possibly thirty countries, more than I have seen, and that’s saying something… … meanwhile, my childhood pictures are rapidly stuffed inside huge, black, garbage bags; dragged away into the forever darkness through the windy, blood red hallway. My own kin.

It all happened so fast, or did it? It’s still happening, a loop inside my heart. I scream. I give up, in the now utterly dead passage to hell, I cry in the arms of the young policeman. All of them gone; my heart stops. The hall’s three pictures that received us every day lying to the visitors and cutting our hearts with memories; Ana and Eva, their crooked new teeth shown in laughter, sink in their advertising of furs; they are a vison of loveliness; my seven year old own face, in profile, is already dreaming–maybe of them–and I’m already leaving. I break them against the back of a chair, glass everywhere. The loop plays again. I hear words that should have never been uttered. Still unaware, as she talks about traveling and about the frisson of coming home, I do realize that nothing feels like home anymore. My mom is dead. Just. Fade to Black.

I can say I’m thankful that my mother pushed me onto the path of my freedom; because she did, the powerful wind from her wild heart blowing my direction, maybe just a little too strongly. I can say that I miss her, that I will carry her in my own heart forever, that I will keep breathing her fire. That I will be careful to tame it just so. That I will pass it on to my son. But I want to shout to whatever god and country is left that I want a home with all of this heart that has learned freedom the hard way. I’m not sorry. I don’t know where home is. It all got swallowed. So be it. But even as my great trip will also come one day, to one that has traveled so much and that hopes to depart with grace, maybe I can only travel for so many decades without admitting it: I want to go home and I would like my sisters to come visit me there. Or did.


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