I may be far from NY and the life I once had there. My Barcelona experience doesn't even resemble the fast-paced, illuminated, energy ridden concrete jungle of a life I had in NY. However, there are a few flashes- a few slight reminders of what it was like- and then there are a number things that are nothing like New York, but more reminiscent of the relationships formed by sharing experiences in “the very heart of it,” as Sinatra once sang.
I’d like to think that NY managed to leave a bit of its vigor inside of me- and that I, in turn, managed to transport a bit of that to Spain.
Here’s the scene;
My best friend here in Barcelona, my partner in crime- the one person I have found that shares her desire to learn with her desire to “live” in the same manner I have chosen- lost her father a few years ago. It’s not my place to say how, or relay any details about her or her father- but that’s immaterial when it comes to friendships. I never met her father, although I wish now that I had. All the same, being that we are all far away from our families and our former friends who were there for us when times got rough, it is an assumed duty to hold the hands of the ones we have grown to love- to be their rocks when there are no other rocks around.
We had spoken about the anniversary of her father’s death in passing. I remembered that she mentioned she would find a church, although not the most religious of individuals, and light a candle in remembrance and honor of her dad. Again, in passing, I mentioned that I would go with her- because I love her...because even if she would never admit it, in all her strength and all her restraint, I think she needed me.
The day came, a typical rainy Sunday when we met for a juice and the gym before studying for upcoming exams. We spent close to three hours together, talking about school, the weekend plans, people, and pretty much everything except for the personal significance of the date- a date that if there were anything in my power to do, I would go back five years and erase. However, my friend didn't say a word. Like I said, this one tends to be cautious with her emotions at times.
Anyways, totally unsuspecting and being a regrettably forgetful friend, I said goodbye, promising to see my friend in the taxi on the way to class the following morning, and walked away. As I turned the key in the door to my apartment, it hit me: My closest friend’s father passed away five years ago today. The blood drained from my face and my heart started pounding, not only disappointed at my absentmindedness, but only beginning to understand the hurt my friend was feeling at that very moment. I frantically called and texted, finally getting through when she told me that she had “found a church, thank you for remembering, I’m fine, don't worry, and I’ll talk to you later.”
I hung up the phone feeling completely helpless. I sat down and began thinking about what I could do later to ease whatever it was she was feeling- knowing all the while that whatever I did, I could never begin to take away her grief. Ideas tore through my mind, dinner? Flowers? Spa day? - I was at a loss.
And then I thought about it. I tried, although I know I could never truly grasp the enormity of her loss, to put myself in her position. And the only thing that would have provided me with any sort of comfort would have been simply- to know that I was not alone.
I rapidly scrambled around my room for a sweater to throw over my sweaty gym clothes and I ran out the door.
Where the hell was she?
I didn't know where to start but I was on a mission. Looking back now, I probably came across as a pious religious maniac- weaving in and out of the streets of my neighborhood- Exiample- asking anyone I ran into, “Iglesia?” “Sabes donde estan las iglesias?”
I was sweating- running- staring at my phone to see if my friend had picked up my inquisitive messages- and ducking in and out of the churches I had never stopped to notice before. It was probably the fourth or fifth cathedral I found when I threw myself into the wide stone entrance, eyes searching amongst the congregation with their heads all bowed in unison, listening to the Catalan sermon. I scanned the worshippers, listening to the rain pounding on stained glass windows and candles flickering off the intricate frescoes telling biblical tales I recognized only from hundreds of art history classes. Finally, I spotted the back of her head with her familiar pink coat resting across her back.
I ran up the aisle and slid into the pew. I looked at her- her face completely calm but her eyes moist with the few tears I’ve ever seen her come close to shedding. I set my bag down on the ground, grabbed her hand, and definitively told her “I’m here.”
We sat there in silence, hand in hand, with individual thoughts running through our minds. I don't know how long we were there for but I know I would have stayed all night, unmoving. I bowed my head and thought of my friend, and her father- I thought of so many things- loss and love and friendship, family and life. I will never know what she was thinking, but I’m pretty sure I have a good idea. The only thing that mattered what that I had found her- that I wasn't too late- and that she understood that I would always be there- to be her rock whenever she may need one (whether she tells me or not).
After some time, we walked out of the church together and my friend turned to me, hugged me, and said, “That was sooo Carey of you. Now go home and write about it.”
Now, that was better than any sort of response or sentiment she could have communicated. Soooo “New York”- a language only a few people know and recognize- a shared comprehension that bonds us even tighter than being scrubbed by two fat naked Turkish women on the dirty tiles of a steamy Hammam in Istanbul. Now that's something.
That day, sitting in the darkened church only beginning to comprehend the depths of my friend, I knew we were in the midst of creating a bond slightly stronger than before- stemming from much more than just the amusing mutual acknowledgement- that even after a year in Catalunia, we both have a little Manhattan left in us.