When we hear of the “perfect day” we generally think of the time at which most activities are done – the daytime. However this perfect day doesn’t just start when the sun rises, it started right as Saturday turned into Sunday.
If we were to start the movie right as the clock struck midnight, the film would open in a drag bar.
This drag bar housed some of the friendliest people I’ve met so far. The queens would interact with the audience and pulled Nola and I up on stage at one point to dance with them. Locals would regularly come up to us and just start talking, which is how we met Dario. Dario was at the club with his partner, his mom, and his mom’s partner. No matter how sweet both of the relationships were, there was no getting over the fact that the mother and her partner looked identical. The haircut, classes, meticulous body movements, everything down to how many buttons they had undone was identical. Discreetly laughing about the similarities of the couple was the catalyst for the next interaction of the night.
Rafe and Jairo were both 26, and had just graduated from med school, or so they told us. You never really know what to believe or not, but what I did know was that they had been living in Madrid for the past 10 years and knew exactly where to go. They were, and still are to this day, our official hub of information on all things Spain. They showed us to a discoteca just two blocks away in our same favorite neighborhood. It was a gay bar with the best Spanish music playing, a cheap front, and a boy who was doing everyone’s glow-in-the-dark makeup. Rafe and Jairo said they enjoy gay bars more and when Nola asked if they were gay, they responded, “We take whatever we can get”. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard someone describe their personality like that before. Rafe and Jairo also proved themselves worthy by regularly fighting off unwanted attention from men who come to male gay bars to prey on women when they feel safe.
As we started to sober up and the caffeine began to wear off we came to the realization is was 4am and we had not eaten since 10pm. Nola, Salem and I left the club to find an open pizza place just a block away. I don’t generally like pizza because of the grease, but tonight was different. Looking back, I’m not sure if the pizza really was incredible, if I was just starving, or if it was just the right amount of carbs to soak up the last of the alcohol in my system. No matter what it was, the three of us have made a pact to never go back to that restaurant because we don’t want to taint the angelic memory in our minds of the best pizza we’ve ever had.
We split up to all go home after finishing the heaven-sent pizza with the unspoken knowledge that we would meet up again very soon. Walking home in this city is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. At only 3am the streets are still crowded but still incredibly peaceful. Although you are surrounded by people, they are all concerned with their own groups, not you. It makes a wave of calmness wash over you, and although you’re surrounded by people you feel an overall sense of the good kind of loneliness. The kind of loneliness that makes you introspective. The kind of loneliness that makes you remember when you were 17 and thought your life was completely over, and then makes you realize that now you’re 20 and feel like you’re life has just begun. A rebirth in the most Joseph Campbell way possible.
I soaked in the silence as I showered that night. There was no music I wanted to listen to, nothing I wanted to think about except that I finally felt like I was at the start, not the end. And at the start of the day I was, as this was nothing but the beginning of one of my favorite days in Madrid.
Maeve and I woke up at 11am Sunday morning, plenty of time to get breakfast from the café on our corner and make it to the world-renowned flea market. We knew it would be crowded, but the sheer enormity of the market was astonishing. We were there for 10 minutes before Maeve muttered our first words, “this is so overwhelming”.
We consciously decided to snap out of the awe. We aren’t tourists after all, we have a Madrid address! Maeve was looking for jewelry; me, clothes. She ended up finding a stunning starfish necklace with purple and blue pearls for only $10, and I found my new favorite top and skirt for $12. We walked by a stand selling posters, and a drawing of a Vogue cover caught my eye.
I’ve only been in Madrid for a couple days now, but the “work to live” mentality was already pulling me in more than I’d like to admit. With each hour I stayed here, the more I wanted to ditch finance and follow my lifelong pipe dream of working in the fashion industry, a life goal of mine to shoot for Vogue. The longer I’m here the more I learn that’s possible. So I bought the Vogue poster, and I sat it on my nightstand to remind myself that it’s okay to channel my work ethic into something creative.
Europeans love their carbs. Or maybe I love the European’s carbs. Either way I’d had far too many, and Maeve and I both agreed that Acai bowls were the way to go – there happened to be one just a half of a mile away. Although it had absolutely no reviews on Google I will leave it one now – it was the absolute best acai I’ve ever had. I am utterly convinced that the shop was a thing of magic, since no matter how many times we’ve tried to find it since, we have been unsuccessful.
We met up with Salem at the restaurant and walked to Retiro Park to meet Nola. It was a far walk, but there was a nice breeze and I was wearing a dress that kept me cool. As we walked, I zoned out of the conversation for a minute to look at the clothes we were wearing. Generally, I would go out with friends who always had the perfect outfit, and no matter how much the night changed as it went on, they always had the right thing on. I always struggled with this – not having the clothes I needed, then being insecure when I looked out of place. However over the summer I started to hone my creativity into fashion. It’s something I was always teetering on the edge of, but never fully committed to. In Europe, I’ve fully committed. It’s kind of impossible not to, with how well everyone dresses. So as I walk with my two friends and meet up with a third all wearing the perfect outfits, I look down at the deep neckline, white, flowing, short dress I got at a thrift store in Barcelona for $10… and I feel my high school-self inside of me smiling.
Meeting at the park after a night out only means one thing – Digression Session. Who tried to kiss who, what we liked and didn’t like about the club, if any of these people we had just met three days ago surprised us, anything is fair game. We sat for four hours talking before the strenuousness pushed us farther and farther into starvation. It truly is the scientific method, and it truly is exhausting work.
So we found a place for tapas. A little outdoor restaurant right next to Maeve and I’s apartment. We ordered bread, tomatoes, shrimp, special cheese, and sangria. I know I’ve spoken a lot about food here, but in reality I’m not the biggest fan of food in general. I’m a picky eater and was gifted a sensitive stomach from my mother’s side of the family. So know that when I compliment food, it truly is delicious food. Despite almost burning my entire mouth, the shrimp was absolutely exquisite. I truly don’t know any other way to describe it. I have lived my whole life not caring about foods, I don’t get how foodies write entire blogs on the food they eat, and clearly I don’t have that kind of talent myself.
Since the first day of school was the following day, we all had to return to my apartment to get on our computers and make sure our schedules were figured out. Our program tried to arrange schedules for us, but every single student had to completely rework their schedule two days before classes started. It was a complete mess, and even after a week and a half I was not registered in enough credits to actually be a student. Even though we were tired and wanted to go to bed, we have an unspoken agreement that no night is complete without some kind of chocolate dessert. Again, Europeans love their chocolate… but I think it’s more that I love the European’s chocolate.
We went to a 24-hour churro shop to get chocolate-covered churros. We ate in silence mostly, as we were tired and there was the sudden realization that this day we had just spent together was our last day of summer.
Usually on the last day of summer I feel this impending doom wash over me, like my freedom is being taken away. The previous two years I’ve been so upset about this it’s made me physically ill. I sit in this booth, surrounded by friends who have grown to an almost family ranking in only a week of knowing each other. I look out the window on one of the busiest plazas in Madrid and see the hustle and bustle of this new city. I don’t feel the impending doom that I normally do because this day didn’t feel like an end to something. It feels like a start.
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