Sketches of Spain, Spring by Philip Scott Wikel
I caught a bus in front of the pensione and headed into the fields and orchards of southern Spain and three days without sleep. The sky was grey and I’ve always had this thing about grey skies, sleepy, inward, ponderous. Cafe con leche at every stop was more than a feeble attempt to defy my mood and, mixed with a pack of cigarettes, kept me at least somewhat focused.
In a cafe at the Huelva railway station I ate two ham sandwiches and went outside to read, but ended up writing a short poem.
blue fire lightning strikes desire in eyes
like red tide swells that fold & fall
then merge on the surface
wishing to be a flame
Sevilla. Waiting hours between connections. San Jose Del Cabo, that’s what it looks like. But that was another time. Just a few years ago, but another time.
A few streets away from the station I came across two Brits playing broken riffs for Spanish coin. He played and she smiled with a tin can, collecting. They’d been in Sevilla for about three weeks and were making something like three thousand pesetas a day. They slept in a van parked on the edge of town. “Lovely here,” she said over and over. Nigel offered me a turn on the guitar, then helped me muddle through a few chords of “Sweet Jane.”
“Where’re you headed chief?” he asked with a broad Lancashire accent.
“Morocco… Marrakesh. I’m supposed to meet a friend in Algeciras in a couple of days to make the crossing.”
“Not exactly the right time for a yank to be in Morocco. With the bombing and bloody ramadan you might better hold on to your fuckin’ head.”
“Yeah the guy I’m meeting in Algeciras. Talked me out of Bordeaux and Biarritz and…”
“The shops are opening up, would you like an ice cream.” said Nigel’s girlfriend.
Over ice cream they talked about strawberry season and how they’d done pretty well as pickers.
Some young Spanish girls were returning to their school which stood adjacent to the train station. As they passed, some smiled, their eyes like twilight. The ancestors of Mexican girls embroidered in the Americas with indian motifs. I smiled back, innocently.
Their latin lovers followed the line of their gaze, then looked at me with contempt.
I was hungry again so I set off across the main square in search of food. After walking the perimeter of the square I ended up in a sort of cafe across the street from the station. I ate a sort of hamburger and drank a coke and was stared at by a few very old people. They knew and I knew that I wouldn’t be there long and soon they would be free to talk amongst themselves and perhaps guess where the fair-haired man had come from and where he might be going and where they themselves had been but never where they might go again.
As the sun set over the Guadalquivir, a group of excited students got on the train and sat in the seats around me. Some of the girls smiled and giggled as they discovered the foreigner in their midst. The boys smiled and giggled at them. They were traveling light and I asked them where they were going and where they had been. One of the serious boys informed me that they were on a day trip to Sevilla to see the Museo Principal de Bellas Artes. Had I been there? Yes, but not this trip. I was in Sevilla only to make a train connection.
“El museo was ‘brilliant,'” said one girl.
I smiled and turned away and settled back and noticed two very nice looking women to my right. I smiled and they turned away to speak between themselves, as is usually the case, once you’ve shown some interest.