“Rothio, make sure Leah gets up,” Tara says. “Leah you better get up.”
Leah gets defensive, “I’ll get up, stop! I’m only late to things that don’t matter.” It’s late & we are momentarily silent. We hold on tightly to the end of the night that smells of both fresh air & mosquito repellant.
The sisters don’t know what to make of me, possibly wondering, is she like her cousin, or is she like us? I don’t assure them, as they just kind of stare at me through half lidded eyes. Flies buzz around the cured pig leg covered by a kitchen towel that has its own stand in the center of the dinner table.
They want to leave for Granada at 6am to escape the heat and tourists that are likely to be in full force later in the day. Little do they know that I like punctuality as much as they do. Minutes later I compulsively set my alarm for 5:15 under the table. I’m happy here in tiny Mojácar, but am excited to see one of the bigger cities in Spain. Just like everything on this trip, it’s much more than was ever promised to me.
“I’ll make you a breakfast and coffee, and you can eat in the car,” Ro says to Leah.
“Yeah, I’ll be fine, I’ll eat in the car.” Leah snaps like she is so easy going when we all know she’s rather have breakfast in bed amidst fluffy pillows after waking at 10am.
“You can both sleep in the car,” Tara finishes.
There are a lot of bosses here in this hot kitchen, & I say goodnight. My heels go clip, clip, clip as I descend a set of Spanish tiled steps and enter my room. I turn the ceiling fan on & get wrapped up in the crisp white sheets that smell of foreign laundry detergent.
Granada tomorrow, I think as I fall asleep. It is still surreal & a miracle that I, someone who was born in California & has never been to Europe during the previous 40 years of her life is laying her head down on a pillow in Spain.
We wander around the Alhambra separately at first, Leah & Ro have argued after we entered & Tara & I want to give them space. We come back together slowly, Leah & Ro make up. We are tourists, except for Tara. We go eat lunch.
They serve this watered down beer or wine at every meal in Spain, even at breakfast if requested. There is a scarcity of water in Southern Spain & most people won’t drink the tap water. For breakfast they eat toasted sliced baguette smeared with tomatoes & olive oil. I’m grateful for Tara who makes a really strong coffee before the rest of us get up. I wake at 9 or 10 & head up for coffee. No one needs me here & I sit & mediate on the stoop of my bedroom door that opens up to a patio filled with bougainvillea. The bees & flies hover but they don’t bother me. I am lazy & I lay by the pool reading for hours.
It’s hard to not feel conspicuous as an American in Spain. They know. I’m surprised when I tie my hair up, the locals start talking to me in Spanish. First flattered but then deflated as I inevitably have to confess, “No español.” I feel a bit sad as they walk away. I’m useless to them.
I stayed in a hostel the last day in Santa Pola, close to the airport. I tie my hair up & I stroll around. I didn’t make eye contact with anyone & pretended that I was a Spanish snobby person. It was Sunday & most of the shops were closed. I went into a chocolate shop & pointed. I ate the chocolates in my room, watched Narcos on Netflix & tried to convince myself that I know most of the words.
We drive to Vera. Its days after Granada & it’s the end of my trip. I am sick & cant eat any more seafood. Images of the dying mother octopus kept running through my brain as I crunch down on fried tentacles. I stop. I begin to just eat granola bars which could be either hindering or helping my situation.
But before, the second night down a tiny street in Mojácar we find a restaurant. Tapa after tapa laid out for us. Fried eggplant drizzled with honey. The best sizzling garlic buttery shrimps I’ve ever tasted. Manchego cheese with marcona almonds. Fresh bread everywhere. That jamón.
But back to packing up for Vera on the last day to take a car to Alicante. Leah, Ro, & Tara are dropping me off. Tara is native & Leah & Ro will stay, traveling through Spain for 2 more weeks. We arrived too early & parked by a tired looking Chiringuito (little bar) in a street that looks like it has seen too much life. A lady shouts & cries to a man in a parked car. The streets more creepy as they are mostly bare besides these two. everyone still in their siesta.
Everything in all of those small Spanish towns so pale, white, always these white buildings. Here it felt like all of the good feelings had been wrung out of the streets, leaving behind only loneliness & desperation.
“Like walking onto a Quentin Tarantino set,” I told Ro & then my cousin later.
“Ro!” Leah yells. “Did you hear what Sis said about Tarantino?!”
“Yes,” Ro answers.
“Aw, dang it.”
We walk into the bar & things feel more as though we had walked onto the screen of a scene gone wrong. Long beads serve as a doorway & they chink against each other to announce our arrival. Suspicious looking men congregate at one table (not everyone being asleep) & stare at us boldly as we walked in.
My stomach turns & I run to the bathroom. I’m grateful it’s clean. When I come back they are laughing at me.
“Sucks for you!” says my cousin.
At this time the siesta-ees began to stir, popping into the chiquierdero for one version of coffee or another. Cigarettes. Tired & sullen looks. Not one woman, just old & very tan Spanish & English men that looked like they had stayed up for a total of 500 hundred nights straight. A very accomplished woman served all of them helped at times by a fat teen aged boy who looked like he’d rather be anywhere else. The whole time a man looked on from a doorway on the the other side of the bar, but made no move to help, even when the lady got busy.
“Which one?” voiced Tara.
“That one right up there,” answered Ro & then to me & Leah, “that’s the liquor my grandpa drinks. It’s very dark & red.” Tara & Ro are half sisters & it would take charts to keep up on their bloodline.
I was beginning to hope our blood didn’t run dark & red as we lingered there, but we are fine, I am only a American tourist, a bit sick, dramatic & paranoid.