That Awkward Moment When You Like Your Own Writing

….but actually. So I think I’m going to continue posting my short writing exercises for Techniques of Nonfiction, mainly because they’re open-ended enough that they don’t feel like assignments to me. This is assignment numbah three (I’ll probably post #2 sometime this week, but I’m feeling very into 3 right now)

The prompt (which I interpreted super loosely) is “describe any landscape”:

Barcelona is that moment at night when the sky is just beginning to turn colors and the pigeons flock to the central plaza of the city.
Barcelona is the beach at the beginning of June, on days when we leave school and take the bus and then two trains down to the Barceloneta stop and walk down the street and straight onto the beach, shedding school clothes almost as we walk, and recounting urban legends of syringes found in the sand. I keep my shoes on.

Barcelona is the maze of the old town, that first felt sinister on the day we pulled up with five people and fifteen suitcases and my dad walked up to the apartment, walked back down the stairs, and said, to my mom, “Kathryn, I don’t know if this is going to work.” Barcelona is the look she gave him in return before picking up my brothers’ bags and heading up the stairs to see for herself.

Barcelona is the hectic tapas restaurants, full of tourists trying to order in English and ex-pats looking superior, as if that hadn’t been them a year ago, or two, or five, but it was them once.

Barcelona is the night bus, where I finally turned around to the group of loud college students doing their semester abroad and gave them directions to the bar they were looking for, in English, so they’d stop yelling.

Barcelona is a bench outside a Dunkin’ Donuts (mysteriously called Dunkin’ Coffee in Spain) where my boyfriend broke up with me, and, like the overly emotional teenager that I was, I continued to sit for the next hour or so, looking at the bright orange and pink letters alone.

Barcelona is a moment at night, with a different boy, when I went swimming at night. I stepped on a fish, and it wriggled beneath my foot. Barcelona is the feeling of two lives struggling against each other, Barcelona is the glow of green lights from a bar down the beach. Barcelona is a long walk down a street you’ve never seen before, drinking orange juice and falling in love with someone.

Barcelona is the time I dropped my newly acquired Spanish cell phone down into the tracks of the metro stop closest to my school. Barcelona is the mixture of Spanish, Catalan, and English I used when I tried to explain to the metro employee what had happened. My reflection in the glass of the door to her office showed the desperation in my face, which seemed silly when she smiled, grabbed a giant pair of grabby things that looked like scissors, and calmly extracted my blue and white Nokia from the tracks.

Barcelona is the feeling of terror I got every time I walked around the city with my youngest brother, then five, a feeling that I didn’t know how to care for someone so small and fragile in such a big and dangerous place. Barcelona is the feeling of relief I got every time we arrived home safely, Barcelona is the smile on his face whenever we went somewhere new, like the chocolate museum or the zoo or the playground near the beach.

Barcelona is the first sip of mojito, unintended, and prompted by my ex-boyfriend’s snide “she doesn’t drink” when the waiter came by asking for our orders. Barcelona’s bus system that night felt new and too bright and complicated.

Barcelona is stumbling barefoot home down the Paseig de Gracia on my seventeenth birthday, singing Lily Allen and feeling too safe. Barcelona is a feeling of being untouchable, unbreakable, unshakable, young and in love and happy.

Barcelona is the first time I understood what my Spanish classmates were talking about during lunch breaks at school, and exclaimed, “oh! You’re calling him gay!” And then shut my mouth quickly but smiled, because I knew Spanish!

Barcelona is my first Spanish oral exam, a long interview with Senor Ricos. Afterward, he looked at me puzzled and said, “you were speaking about half Catalan.” And I said, “but I don’t know Catalan!” so he laughed, and replied, “well, evidently you do!”

Barcelona is the tutoring center for impoverished kids in the worst neighborhood (on the “bad side” of the Ramblas) where the kids would translate their assignment from Catalan to Spanish for me, so I could help them. And then I’d translate it from Spanish to English, formulate an answer, translate the answer back into Spanish, and feed it to them, so they could translate it to Catalan and write it down in small blue notebooks.

Barcelona is the moment after graduation when the plane took off and I looked out the window, and watched the city getting smaller beneath me, and whispered goodbyes to everyone who I had loved, everyone who had loved me. Barcelona is the word “vivir,” Spanish for “to live,” tattooed behind my ear, Barcelona will be with me forever, Barcelona te quiero, por toda mi vida.

3 Replies to “That Awkward Moment When You Like Your Own Writing”

  1. Thanks, Cade. This is beautiful and beautifully written. It makes me long for a city I only really began to love as I was leaving it, and reminds me acutely of what it felt like to be, as Anne Michaels puts it, “eighteen on the clean earth”. Your voice has grown.

    Check out Anne Michaels’ poem, “There Is No City That Does Not Dream”, here: I think you’ll like it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s