Half a lifetime ago, that night in May when the curfew ended and young people partied in the streets, El Pais published photographs of the bacchanal of heaving bodies congregated in Sol, Madrid’s center. One of which showed a joyous young woman up on somebody’s shoulders: beverage cup in one hand, white, green and black Corte Ingles (Spain’s largest department store chain) plastic shopping bag in the other.
M thought this was hilarious. Had she been coming home from shopping and been spontaneously swept up in the celebrations? Had Corte Ingles arranged this perfect product placement?
The truth was probably more prosaic: people tend to save their Corte bags and use them over and over.
Today’s estimated high is supposed to be 108F/42C. This morning, he and I left the house at 7, hoping to get at least something of a walk in before it became impossible to consider such a thing. We headed straight for the park, figuring it would be cooler under the plane trees.
It was. You could feel the slight, barely-there coolness to the air from a block away. Inside the park, the sprinklers were on. It was still comfortable — relatively speaking — in the shade. Off somewhere, someone was singing.
We know that sound by now — it means the night has been killed, well and truly, as Hemingway would’ve put it (his quote being: Nobody goes to bed in Madrid until they have killed the night) with a botellón (“big bottle”) of public drinking with at least a dozen of your most intimate friends.
By the time we looped around the park, the sun was up and the young people were trudging up the hill and homeward with — you guessed it — Corte Ingles bags in hand.
— Of course! M said. Now I get it. How can you carry a bottle and blanket without your Corte bag?
We’ve gone through gallons of iced Earl Grey tea this week. Lots of tomatoes, lots of melon. Five kilo bags of cocktail ice, close enough to my favorite ice in the world, from Sonic. Last night, we ate dinner at 9:45. We live here now, in a way we couldn’t have imagined two years ago.
When we moved here, I actually transferred the stack of unread books on my bedside shelf.
Until this week, they remained that way. But over the past few days, I finished For Whom the Bell Tolls and Fountains of Silence and started Travelling Light, Dandelion Wine, and Trouble No Man. (I can’t decide which one I want to settle down with.)
Maybe that’s accomplishment enough, for weather like this.