Thursday, June 14, 2007

Goodbye, Spain, Goodbye

Over a year ago, when I moved to Barcelona, I felt like I was embarking on a brand-new life. I’d sold all my belongings and furniture; broken my lease; quit my job; and left the world as I knew it behind to join the person I loved in a country I’d never thought much about at all. When I arrived, there was no set end point. Maybe we’d stay in Spain after Andrew finished the MBA; maybe we’d stay in Europe. Moving to Barcelona was like standing at the edge of a vast sea of possibilities.

Indeed, it was a brand-new life. Long days in the city while Andrew was in class, long walks around Montjuic and then, when we moved in October, down Passeig de Gracia and La Rambla. Those walks made me love Barcelona. For the first time in what seemed like forever I felt inspired, finally in touch with that creative place that had seemed so walled off for so long; I’ve written 170 pages of a novel this year, and I think I have the city to thank. And the traveling: Andrew and I traveled determinedly, insatiably, at least once a month and sometimes twice. Venice. Romania. Southern Spain. My solo trips to Krakow and Galway and Edinburgh. I felt like I was seeing the world, and soaking in it by living here—yet tonight, our last night in Spain, it’s depressingly clear how much more there is to see, how many more places there are to go, and how different our traveling experiences will be from now on since we’ll be so much farther away.

It’s finally sunk in. It hadn’t, quite, until now; I’m not sure why. I think it’s because we have no next destination—we’re still in limbo, waiting to figure out where we’ll be in two weeks, three. I don’t have a next-home, a next-flight, in my mind, and so it has felt like Barcelona is still where we belong. It’s hard to feel like you’re leaving when there’s no clear place you’re leaving to. Yet here we are, our last night in Spain. Our apartment is bare and clean. Our luggage is lined up by the door, a small fortune in overweight and excess bags. This morning we hauled several bags of giveaway clothes to a Salvation Army, where the man on duty gave us the “What are these crazy Americans doing?” look that we’ve gotten to know well. We put a box marked “Gratis!” in our hallway; the porteria (doorlady) found this hilarious, yet she snapped up several books immediately. We loaded down a Spanish friend with our kitchenware and other things; he was horrified that we were giving so much away. Take them, we kept urging. Or else they’re going by the curb.

The things we got rid of didn’t mean very much to us, but it still felt sad to clear out our apartment this way. It may be a bit on the shabby side, with a truly awful bathroom and inadequate kitchen, but this apartment has been a place we’ve loved. It felt like home when we walked in, with its tiled floors and molded ceilings, and the terrace—the terrace has been a little oasis, a quiet nook of our own. This is a place that I’ll feel, rather than remember. I’m actually not quite sure how to leave it behind.

We managed to do a few nice things today even amidst the packing madness. We left the packing behind to have pots of mussels for lunch, then headed once more to the beach. In a few minutes, we’re going to dinner at the Bodegueta, our favorite tapas restaurant. It’s a nice place, with tables on the center walkway on the Rambla de Catalunya, and the food is good. But we chose this restaurant as our final dinner because it was where we had our very first Spanish meal together two years ago, when Andrew moved to Barcelona and I came with him for a week to help him settle in. It was my first-ever meal in Spain, and though I certainly hope it will not be my last, it will be the last for a while.

I am so very, very sad. In many ways, we are ready to go, having come to a natural end to our time here. But it is sad. So very sad. I have loved Barcelona. I have loved living here. I have loved everything about this year, about Spain, about this stolen year outside of normal life. And now it is over. The next steps we’re taking will be good no matter where we are; we’re making our first move together as a couple. But it is not easy to think about tomorrow, flying back on a one-way ticket that will take us a world away from La Pedrera, the sea, claras on our terrace.

We’ve had a good run. And we’ll be back; this is a country we love, a place that feels like home. But for now—this is goodbye, Spain, goodbye.

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