Like any other great break-up of the 21st century, myself and the city that I have lived in for almost half a year are meant to part. There won’t be yelling nor the false sense of hope that lingers in the days following the dismemberment of two hearts. Instead, we’ll say that we’d like to see other people and that we moved too fast, too soon.
I fell in love with Barcelona. At first, I regretted choosing it’s seemingly familiar European streets covered in smoked cigarettes and tourist shops containing goods shipped all the way from China. The people and their perfect pronunciation of a language I’d been learning since middle school, yet had never used to this extent, frightened me to the point where I would have rather stayed in watching American television than take a ride on the metro. I made it a point to avoid social situations like asking for a baguette at the bakery or questioning my host mom about where I could buy a new folder for class. As for studying at the University of Barcelona, I wondered why I hadn’t chosen an easier path for success. The life that I was so familiar with regressed; I became my adolescence, the kid who wore hoodies on hot, summer days.
My perspective of Barcelona has changed so much from those first few days after landing in Madrid, sleep-deprived and unsure. I’ve come to know Barcelona as the city of vignettes. It’s the Arab man down the street always asking to bum a cigarette on the block between Disputació and Gran Vía, or the old men who linger down the sidewalks contemplating their wrinkled lives with their palms fastened at the base of their backs. It’s the Spanish women on the beach laying topless on beach chairs while their skin turns a crispy orange or the Asian tourists crowding Parc Guëll. It became more to me than another city in another location, but a paradise of artists and their lovers.
Looking back on my previous posts, I realize that I accomplished a lot while I was here. While I couldn’t completely take myself away from American TV shows, I was able to walk around the city each day and explore each of its neighborhoods: from the Raval to Gracia, and perhaps a little of Poble Nou. I also worked on my Spanish and I’d like to think I acquired some pretty fantastic results. Surprisingly, since my Spanish was at a certain level, I had my first foreign fling with a slightly older man who I’d met on a night the sun rose. He’d bring me to hidden cafes around the city and we’d drink cafes con leche while I tried to flirt back to him in Spanish. Unfortunately, considering that my level of Spanish was not exactly fluent, it only lasted for about 3 weeks, but my love for the city only grew stronger.
Not only did my love for the city flourish during this time, but also my drive to write. I’ve always juggled around the idea of writing for a living, of having my own column in a major newspaper or of scribbling down lines of poetry on napkins only to be found as the next Frank O’Hara or Walt Whitman. Though with my dreams of success, I always thought I would fail and become an unskilled 30-year-old. Essentially, that I would end up living in my parent’s house because I couldn’t pay rent in New York City after hustling for most of my twenties at a dead end job and trying to finish a novel on the side that eventually would be turned down by every publishing company in the country and abroad.
Barcelona has taken that fear out of me. I’ve always looked at the people on the metro with tattoos covering their bodies and piercings dangling from the 14 holes in their ears and envied them. I envy them for having the balls to take that risk of infection or permanence, to venture into the front seat, instead of regretting it all in the back. Yeah, a piercing may hurt and be swollen for a while, but somehow things always seem to work out.
Perhaps my plans won’t work out, but at least I’ll have a story to tell someone. A story of life to some stranger or friend, or maybe even my future, adopted children from a remote village in Indonesia. Whoever it is, at least I’ll be able to share that experience of either failure or success that all began in a major port city in Europe, Barcelona, a place teeming with locals, tourists, and study abroad students like me.
And so, I begin my 20s after a year and a half of being too bored to know in which direction my life was headed. I’ve been told, through popular culture and personal history, that this age in our lives consists of a series of extremes. It’s a battle between heartbreak and love, abandonment and companionship, loneliness and friendship, breakdowns and celebrations, and good health and bad. Our 20s begin the whirlwind of our successively short lives. We’re only just bridging on the apocalypse of of life.
P.S. I mean, I am only 21