There’s a nightclub around the corner from our apartment in Spain that gets rolling around 3 a.m. The music pumps rhythmically as if from middle earth and drunk, happy Spaniards go botellon, which means “an impromptu street party with your own bottles of booze.” Todd, my brother-in-law, suggests we buy a large, thick block of foam to stuff in our bedroom window at night for sound proofing–at least until summer’s over and the crowds disperse. Todd’s a surgeon and very smart, but there has to be another way.
It was a 21-hour journey from Los Angeles–uneventful except for when our cat Smokey clawed his way out of his carrier somewhere over the Atlantic and made a break for First Class. The Air Berlin flight attendant shook me awake, white fur besmirching her blue uniform, and asked politely if I could get him the hell out of there. I managed to do that without getting my hand scratched and now Smokey seems to be un gato muy contento.
Being in Spain is as much of a dream come true as my mom’s death was a nightmare; there are no memories here except happy ones, and the rhythm of the Spanish lifestyle–oriented around afternoon siesta and late, lazy nights–feels both decadent and healing. No one seems to care about where they’ve been–only where they are right now.
Somewhere in these first jet-lagged nights, staring up at the lattice of beams that compose the ceiling of the converted 18th century building where we now live, I’ve had a mini-epiphany: moving to a foreign country is more about allowing myself to change than about wanting something different. It’s about unraveling past emotional DNA and letting it twist into something that works in the present. Human nature tends toward stasis–the status quo, that with which we are comfortable–and it feels good to upset the apple cart and experience how life redesigns itself.
And so I am grateful for small things–like guessing correctly which drawer my socks are in. Like my sister unpacking and putting away the fifteen boxes of stuff we sent from L.A. before we arrived. Like the richness of chicharonnes–fried bacon (which I love)–and the intricate, mildly gross beauty of the street “caracoles”–live snails the Spanish buy in bulk (which I don’t).
At 4:17 a.m., I’m awakened by the thumping discotheque and people partying loudly in the street. Standing at the open window, the 12th Century castle that is kitty-corner to our apartment casting a golden glow over the cobblestones of my new street, I participate silently, happily, in the revelry below. And then Adrian walks out of his room, rubbing his eyes and crying just a bit. ”I missed you,” he murmurs, half asleep, and I scoop him into my arms. Together, we watch the scene, his little warm body against mine the only thing that feels familiar in the soft Spanish night.