Mrs. Dalloway Said She Would Buy The Flowers Herself

This morning I made it out of the house early, leaving a cup of coffee half-drunk and the article in El Pais that reported that only half the over-80 population of Spain is vaccinated mostly unread. Spring has come, with a vengeance, and it’d be a shame to waste the morning on the endless fretting of the news.

There’s a quick way to get where I was going and then there’s a scenic route, and just because I could, I chose the latter, heading down Calle del Acuerdo (Agreement Street) toward the city center.

Still-cobbled Calle del Acuerdo pitches downward toward Gran Vía and frames one of Madrid’s most-famous landmarks, the Metrópolis building, to such perfection that one can’t help but be stricken dumb with europhilia at the sight.

Can one feel love for a place that isn’t yours, a place you can never really know completely? At 8:30 on a spring morning, when Madrid stretches and yawns and wakes up, when the churches are opening for masses hardly anyone goes to and the construction workers in fluorescent vests have stopped outside the cafes for a quick café con leche, it’s hard not to. At the end of the street, just before I turned the corner to plunge into the bustle of Gran Vía, I looked up at a building facade to see winged Mercury, god of commerce, eloquence, messages, communication (including divination), travelers, boundaries, luck, trickery and thieves peeping back as if in benediction — may your travels today be good ones.

Back home, the apartment was dirty and my list full of shoulds and oughts that need doing was long long long, but the morning said walk, so I did. Skirting the Royal Palace and the interminable construction surrounding it, across the Manzanares river and into the green space that long ago was some king’s hunting preserve and less long ago was the front lines during the siege of Madrid. And then finally back up the hill into the neighborhood, where the little wizened flower seller who sets up on the corner, who dresses all in black and is dropped off for work along with her wares by a guy in a Range Rover, (and who always charges me more, I suspect, than she does other people) was selling, along with her usual carnations, huge billowing masses of lilacs.

How could I resist?

I walked into our apartment with my arms full, feeling a little like Mrs. Dalloway, a little like a person I never once in my life up until now expected to be, a city-dweller.

…In people’s eyes, in the swing, tramp, and trudge; in the bellow and the uproar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment in June.

Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf