(Car of a Cave Dweller-- in front of Granada's Old City Wall)
Even as it began, Spain was illuminating.
Three days prior to my departure, I found myself contemplating good and bad karma as I sat with an IV tube for fluid rehydration hastily stuck in my arm by a religious nurse with a dirty wig. Despite the wig, and the nurse's hormonal imbalance (as evidenced by the coarse hair growing from her neck and double chin), I found her excessively poor beside manner a welcome destraction from the havoc taking place in my gut. The evening before, something terrible trotted its way into my system. It forced nearly every ounce of fluid contained in my body to come out in one undesirable way or another, and, sometimes, in unison. Yet, in light of everything, I reminded myself that it could be far worse. My head swam as my body fought off the invaders. My fever caused me to envision a chaotic war between good and evil taking place in my blood stream. In the end, I was certain that the good would prevail. I was also certain that the purging would inevitably deliver me back to the light of day. I loosely pondered South American shaminism and the ritual of voluntarily taking a drug that would have the same affect of the bacteria I had unwittingly consumed. It made me wonder if there was a reason for this purging, karmic or otherwise? But in the meantime, I waited...and writhed with as much patience as one can muster when sick and alone in a dingy medical center in Jerusalem.
I would have at least considered weeping (for the hell of it) had it not been for the fact that I had already purged every ounce of body fluid available to me. And, of course, the nurse with the dirty wig had made it clear to me that I would not be released back into the Wild (streets of Jerusalem) until I could take my bladder (along with my IV) to the public facilities and produce a urine sample for her (and all of the hair on her chiny-chin-chin). So, there I sat waiting, with cold saline slowly dripping into my left arm to bypass my knotted stomach. Looking to the air-conditioning vent above me, I pondering my situation and prayed that I would be healthy enough to get up and walk out of there, let alone get on a flight to Spain.
But I made it. Because, I suppose, this is what I always do. In the end, I practically woke up in Spain. As many of you all know by now, it was a bit of a jolt at first.
My friend from college met me at the airport, and we took the train into Valencia. Once there, I quickly realized that I was experiencing a low level of very respectable culture shock. Everyone around me seemed so unlike Jerusalem...so relaxed...so laissez faire....so......Spanish. At the sight of two teenagers vigorously dry humping in the seat next to me, I quickly realized that I wasn't in Jerusalem any more. At the hotel, the desk clerk took one look at my un-American travel clothing (also known as my "punk" look of ripped skinny jeans, lace up sandals, and a long pink tank top) and pre-emptively spoke to me in Spanish. With every word ringing with crystal clarity in my mind, it felt like I had just walked out of a fuzz television screen and into a real-life HD system. As if I had never left the place, I found buried words inside my brain and dusted them off to bargain with a Spanish lisp for a cheaper price on the room. In doing so, I even managed to crack a joke to the desk clerk who took pity on me for the silly American guy who was recently afflicted by the very poor taste of lying to me in order to stand me up in Valencia. (Alas, unfortunately for him, no amount of intravenious soul searching will ever restore my desire to see him ever again.) Meanwhile, my dear friend--who has now lived in Spain for a year--commented with a touch of envy that she had no idea my Spanish was so decent. I gave the comment a genuine laugh, and replied that I had no idea either.
Silently, though, I wondered if Spain was like riding a bike?
Indeed, as the days progressed, and I was left to my own devices to travel and wander at will, it struck me that going back to Spain for a brief and completely innocent love affair was just what the doctor ordered. More than just a rediscovery of language skills, or an enchanting no-strings romp in the hay of the place itself, my time in Spain overwhelmed me with the sense that I had come to reconnect with the young woman within me who began all of her dreams in that very spot.
In fact, as I departed from the chaos of my college pal's jarringly dysfunctional married life in Valencia and ventured alone, on my own terms, back into the heartland of Andalucia, I left the recent traces of illness and unnecessary emotional disappointment in a ring around the hotel bathtub. And soon enough, somewhere on an overnight sleeping train on the way to Granada, I awoke to discover that I was traveling in the company of someone truly exceptional and lovely. A product of a past I knew all too well, this was a person vibrantly living in the present tense. She was curious and happy, easily lost and simultaneously found in the beauty of the moment and ungarnished thrill of simply living the question. I caught a glimpse of her in the tiny mirror in the train's sleeping compartment, I couldn't help but embrace her more fully for the quality and reassurance of her solid companionship.
It was such a love affair that I nearly got down on one knee and proposed marriage to myself while picking my way along the ancient city walls that overlook Granada at sunrise.
To be continued.