Hello Madrid

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I’m back in Madrid for the first time in nearly five years. It seems almost impossible that it’s been that long. I have a nervous energy that’s similar to calling an estranged friend.

“I’m sorry, I should have called sooner…” Anything to blurt out to break the ice. A guilty energy.

To my surprise I’ve missed the city. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy my time in Madrid, it’s that despite all of the time I spent here, I never felt like I lived here. I was too involved in my studies, in a relationship, in a bubble, to ever really feel a part of something. So it’s surprising when I feel the excitement of familiar sights. Unlike Prague, or Chicago, it doesn’t carry with it the weight of ‘what could have been’. I was never going to stay in Madrid. But as a result it’s light, and lacks the hollowing feeling that normally accompanies me to my old homes.

This is familiarity without the existential baggage, and I need that. I can’t remember if I was happy when I was living here, that was a strange time. But I’m happy now. Returning to a place without expectation is a rare and enjoyable thing.

German Sarcasm

Posted on 1 min read 60 views

I watch the table in front of me bark orders at the waiter. He scrambles backwards into the kitchen. After he’s done filling their requests, he circles to my table. He bends over to clear the plate in front of me. I’ve eaten everything, there’s barely any indication that there was food on the plate.

“How was the meal?” he asks, in clear English.

“Terrible. I want my money back,” I respond jokingly, before I can realize where I am.

A look, not of horror, but resignation crosses his face. Shit. My mind goes to an Economist article that talked about the difficulty in conveying sarcasm in Germany.

“I’m kidding, I’m kidding,” I say quickly. “I meant it as a joke because I ate everything.”

There’s no light of realization that crosses his eyes. It seems to still be lost. I try again.

“It was really good. Thank you.”

“It’s the house specialty,” he says quickly as he clears the plate. He leaves in a hurry, which doesn’t seem sheepish, but an escape from the conversation.

I can’t blame him. Despite my best efforts, I’m probably as much work for him as the table that’s been snapping their fingers at him all night.

That Taste in the Morning

Posted on 2 min read 59 views

I haven’t listened to any music for over a week. I can’t remember the last time I went a day without filling every quiet moment with background noise. But now it’s silent and I can’t bring myself to listen again. Lyrics from different songs continue to run through my head: “Black eyed angels swam with me”; “I think the thing you said was true, I’m going to die alone and sad.” But the thought of listening to music makes my head split at the temple. Melancholia. How cliché, I’ve hated most of the things I used to love lately. Except for the things I used to fear, now they seem manageable.

I’ve always thought of myself as an anxious person. Not “depressed”, just anxious. Big distinction: different medication, different symptoms. And up until now that would have been true. Or close enough that it wasn’t lying to tell myself that. But whatever has come back, the insomnia that has gripped me at night is one of rage and frustration. I used to scribble furiously in notebooks in the middle of the night, and now, instead, I want to scream and tear down the walls.

Melancholia. It hasn’t fully taken hold. The music will come back. I’ve already started to retreat into many of the things that I know well: novels, work, family, video games, and relentless activity that borders on a fear of repose. I’m still feeling hunger. That’s a good sign. But I have a taste for melancholia now, and it has a literal taste: the muddy paste that forms in your month while you sleep, that you can actually taste for a few moments once clarity returns, but before you can chase it away with water. That taste stays with me now.

I don’t know whether to lean in, in the hopes of pushing through to the other side. Or to ignore it, and starve it to death from a lack of attention that it desperately wants.