We’d taken a discount flight to Spain, which meant we’d landed at the discount airport. And discount airports always seem to be at least two hours away from the city they claim to be attached to. Barcelona my ass.
Our thumbs got us to a traffic circle got us on a whiskey truck heading to the city. There had been lewd gestures from cars, and we’d lost two hours somewhere beside that circle, but when we got dropped off right at the harbor it didn’t really matter. Barcelona! Barcelona Barcelona Barcelona! You handsome rake, you.
But when I tried to call the friend who lived nearby there was no answer. And no answer, and no answer, and still no answer after the tenth call and the third visit to the call shop. In between phone calls we napped on a wooden platform on the water, catching up on what we’d missed “sleeping” at an airport in Germany the night before. We needed a new plan. It would involved going back to the call shop, but this time when we left we had a list of squats in the area whose addresses we carefully plotted out on the free map we’d gotten from a tourist info stand. Backpacks slung over shoulders we stomped off into the heart of the city, eyeballing rooftops that we could sleep on if Plan B ended up turning into Plan C.
“I can’t bear the thought of talking to a stranger right now, do you think you could handle the talking?” I asked when we stood in front of the first front door. She could. She knocked on the door. A black-haired, black-clad man opened the door. She asked him if we could stay, explained. He said he needed to talk the rest of the residents first, to wait in the foyer while he asked. The house was all columns and dark wood and high ceilings atop intricate molding on stone walls. Gorgeous. He came back down the stairs and said the guest room was all ours.
We followed him up every flight of stairs to a room lined with mattresses and blankets and pillows folded neatly on each. We brushed our teeth and put on our pajamas and played truth or truth (the lazy man’s truth or dare) for the rest of the night, glad for squats and spontaneity and the trust and kindness of strangers, glad for the existence of a little pocket of culture where showing up at a strangers’ door and asking for a place to stay is considered normal behavior.
In the light of the morning the house seemed even more magnificent. We wandered downstairs, through the radical library, past the kitchen, and out the backdoor into warm sunlight, and we saw this:
It was the stuff my apocalyptic dreams are made of: half jungle, half garden, falling apart furniture scattered around places where people had sat drinking beer several nights before. And at the back of the garden, crumbling mosaic-tiled benches and walls, all the more elegant for their decay, beautiful in a way they never would have been in any other time or place.