Picture this- It’s nearly midnight in Sevilla, Spain. I’m just getting to my hostel when I hear a Jack Johnson song being played in the distance. As exhausted from my travels and at the end of my rope as I am (getting lost, train delays, aching feet, empty stomach, etc.) the melody pulls at my heartstrings. Even though I am tired, I don’t want to wonder “What if?” Something tells me I need to find where it’s coming from…so, somewhat reluctantly, I follow the sound to discover Jukebox Munich (pictured below).
And damn it, they’re good, and funny, and play songs I still love. I’m hooked. I drop my heavy backpack, tell my sleepy conscience to hush, and decide to stay a while. While sitting there on the curb listening to them, I meet Andrea, from Italy. He had a camera and an infectious smile:
We make small talk until it dives deeper into the darker parts of ourselves, and we tune out the music. After playing hours on end, the band calls it a night. Just as I’m thinking this is where my late night ends, someone makes a suggestion. And just like that, with a crowd of about fifteen, we all decide to get beer and hang out before going our separate ways home. However, it’s too early in the morning, and everything is still closed. We walk to the other side of the river, where a place was closing, but one of the locals convinced the owner to sell us beer for a euro. He poured them out quickly- red solo cups halfway filled- as if he was going to get caught.
So we go and sit next to the river, our half beers in hand, and next thing I know, we were talking about what our dreams were and who our siblings were dating, how we felt about having kids and marriage, language barriers and what we studied in school, all while the band carried on in the background. Andrea seemed taken aback when I asked him what his dream was. Moments later he finally brought it back up and said, “I want to do something with politics. I see so much about how old European tradition is fading away, and how the States and Italy and others have these problems, and I want to help fix that. Although I know that’s impossible.” It was such an unexpected answer and I could tell he didn’t share it with a lot of people. He asked me about mine. Why I was traveling. How I’m very different than what he expected from an American, though he knows we’re not all the same.
When the band finally had enough, and the crowd disappeared, Andrea, three Spanish girls (Júlia, Melanie and Martina) and I stayed behind, still mid-conversation. I discovered the girls were from Costa Brava as well, not far from Blanes! Júlia studied in Rome so she could speak some Italian with Andrea, and and Martina had previously lived in Canada, and all three of them could speak English with me. We ended up sitting on a street corner while they rolled cigarettes and spoke about everything from this side of the sun. I completely bared my soul to them about the fear of losing my parents, about being terrified that I would not find whatever it was I came to Europe to discover, how I felt conflicted with my “almost” relationship, fights with my brother, my thoughts on gun control and gay marriage, etc. You name it, we covered it.
Martina Melanie and I
It made me sad, even ashamed, to hear the stereotypes of Americans- just always thinking their way is right and that they are superior to other countries. I know this is a common stereotype, but I don’t want to be seen this way. While I love my country, I don’t think we are the best. I can’t disagree, however, that America has become wrapped up in fast food and television and so consumed by their own stress. The European lifestyle is about savoring– lunch and the company you are with is ENJOYED, not rushed. I wish we were that way. So many Americans want to go to Europe, but it is not necessarily the case with all Europeans. I find this interesting.
Martina was tall, with so much spunk in her personality that although it would be easy for people to perhaps not appreciate it or like it, it made me fall in love with her. She had no boundaries on her feelings, no apologies about her thoughts, or words. Her outstretched hands brushed yours when she laughed. I felt instantly comfortable around her, around all of them, actually. She just didn’t give a shit about being anything but herself and it caught me off guard how much I admire that in a person. I wished I could be so secure in my own skin, so unapologetically myself. She was so strong because maybe before she had been forced to be. Melanie was beautiful, with dark hair and light eyes, and quiet, not as fluent in English. She agreed to many things we were saying, and I could tell her spirit was young but on fire. The streetlights shone across Júlia’s tan skin and reflected off her nose ring. She had the warmest brown eyes. She could say anything, and you’d trust her. She confided to us about how her parents separated and she didn’t become close with them until after that. She said she realized as we are getting older that they are not the vision of what we thought they were, they make mistakes and have hard times and need us, too. We can’t force them to feel something or understand and change. But that when they finally realize it, we will be there with open arms.
Andrea told me he lives more than an hour away from his parents and at 25, this is his first time really traveling alone. He said he initially was nervous but felt he needed to do it. And how without that freedom, we never would have met each other. I realized he was right- if we were with our families or friends, we probably would never have thought to approach or speak to one another. He argued how we should really pursue writing or singing or painting, or whatever the hell it is that we want. Martina said it best- maybe it’s not even fear of failure that we are so scared of…it’s what happens once we actually GET what we want or have been searching for- will we take it? And then what? That is the big question, because we are always looking for and wanting something better.
We talked about how it shouldn’t be so hard to love one another. I really just wanted to break down…I was falling in love with these strangers, these new friends, and we were feeling something so much bigger than ourselves, talking about the world and although we knew and had only seen so little, we realized so much. Some people, they said to me, would never do what you did, they’re too scared, and you’ve already made the most courageous step you could. I don’t think they could ever understand how much I needed to hear that.
We laughed, too- talking about the “cobra” move in a club when a guy approaches you and you duck away. I learned so many tongue twisters in Catalan and words for things that I didn’t know had their own definition (all of which I have now forgotten). Also, that all Catalans talk about is shit. “My face is shit.” “My life is shit.” I was dying of laughter.
Finally, Andrea looked at his watch and realized it was 7:30 a.m. He suggested breakfast. So we walked around to find a restaurant but none were really open at 7:30 am, and if they were, they didn’t look that appealing. Finally, we stopped at the square, where we joked Andrea was Lord of the Flies since they all kept landing on him. We saw an older man painting the most beautiful picture of the cathedral. Took snapshots of us laughing and looking dead in zoning out from zero sleep. We finally stopped to eat, getting pan con tomate and jamón, and café con leche. Everything was so good and perfect and cheap and we just laughed because Júlia said it was her favorite birthday she’s ever had and that she didn’t even feel tired even though she had been up for almost a full day, and everything was fate that brought us together. And that since I had to leave at 2 p.m., why not spend every second together and make the most of the last time we have together?
So I checked out of my hostel early and they bought me a Red Bull and we headed toward Júlia’s car, which was near the corner of O’Neill’s restaurant that we had been sitting at and talking all night. She went to park it somewhere else because they were giving out tickets, but we ended up listening to “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore and “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke (which was so cool that, despite being from three different countries, we all knew) and driving the completely wrong direction to just make a circle and park the car again in the same spot, finally giving in to just paying the meter. It made me laugh because that’s precisely how I drive.
I convinced them to go to Plaza de España and I loved their reactions to its unspeakable beauty, because it was exactly how I felt when I saw it for the first time. We took pictures and sweated under the sun together, then got granizado to quench our thirst, and cool our throats. So refreshing and good! Headed back to the square by the cathedral and sat in the shade next to the building where a man played the guitar (probably annoyed by our incessant talking), and the horse drawn carriages were pulling in. They kept telling me I’d have to write the story of our night but I can’t think of one word to say about it. Even if I could think of a million, it wouldn’t do it justice.
I swear to you, we just couldn’t stop talking. Our conversation continued into handsome Spanish dads and why they don’t like bullfighting, and how Júlia’s mother makes her gazpacho for when she is hungover and gets home early in the morning and sleeps all day, how European lifestyle is just better and I just need to move here. Our feet were caked with dirt, Júlia’s nice once white shorts stained from sitting on city curbs and street corners and dirty pub chairs. Martina’s thick dark eyebrows danced when she talked, a wide mouth grin and deep voice, that went high when she sang or got excited, always joking. Melanie’s bright blue eyes reflecting with the sun, her dark curly hair bouncing as she laughed and shook her head at Martina. I cherished them…Júlia’s warm embrace and Andrea’s smile that lit up like a sunrise and their nose rings that I thought about getting sophomore year of college and the fact that they rolled their own cigarettes and could speak three languages and still be so incredibly beautiful after all the traveling and nights without sleep. I was soaking in every moment. I learned if you close your eyes and have a spoon in your hand, the moment the spoon drops you’re having the best moment of sleep. What about the best day of your life? I wanted to say.
And I started to cry right then and there, because I had never felt happier, or experienced a connection like this before, but also because I knew this was probably the last time I would ever see them again.
Perhaps we were only meant to have that one night, Júlia said.
Maybe she was right. Maybe it was so perfect, it could only last a day. But it was enough- in just those hours, they changed my life and healed my soul.
So this is for you, my dearest friends. Until we see each other again.
All my love,