Fin de semana
By Parson Thru
Friday morning 06:30.
First alarm goes off.
I check whatsapp messages and send a quick Good morning!
Thirty minutes to shower and get down into the Metro system. Timings are approximate, as my student’s never on time.
It takes an hour, almost to the minute, to reach Fuente de la Mora: two Metro lines and a tram (Metro Ligero). I lost a few minutes this morning finding my way through Fuente de la Mora station for the first time. I planned to use it a month ago to meet N coming into the airport. In the end, her flight landed early and I met her in a café in town after my lesson.
Fuente de la Mora’s a stop before the one I’ve been using since January and it’s closer to the client’s site. I surfaced and picked-up a landmark: the boundary wall of the railway line into Chamartin on my left, an insurance company building on the right. Perfect. I arrived at reception bang-on eight.
There was another English teacher sitting on the sofa when I arrived. I’ve seen her before. She usually meets her student as he walks in from the car park.
The receptionist was busy, so I wrote my details into the security form. It’s become a routine. She smiled, we exchanged Good-mornings and she handed me a pass. I sat on the sofa to wait as the other teacher disappeared off with her student.
It’s always nice watching people arriving at the office and knowing I’ll be on the move again in an hour or so. You also get an understanding of how many times a day a receptionist says Buenas dias or Buenas tardes.
The receptionist generally pops out of the rear door for a cigarette, within earshot of her phone. Around now, it’s usually my student calling to say she’s arrived. We’ve got into the habit of starting the lesson with a coffee. It’s her routine really. I’m just along for the ride.
The phone rang. I heard the receptionist say the name of my student and I stood up. She put the phone down.
“She’s on holiday.”
“Si. She’s on holiday. She told the school.”
“Really? Ok. Thanks.”
I walked over and signed myself out.
I grabbed my rucksack and turned to leave.
The receptionist called me. I was still wearing the security pass.
I emailed the school. They got back pretty-much straight away saying they hadn’t been informed of the cancellation. I only get paid if students cancel within twenty-four hours or don’t turn up at all. There’s likely to be a tussle next week when I ask for the signature.
I decided to take a bus into town. It’s pretty-much the full length of the route from the Virgen del Cortijo. I’d promised myself breakfast. There was no hurry. I might as well take the scenic route.
The number 150 was almost empty. I took a seat with a view and settled down for the ride. It gave me a chance to recce bus routes around the commercial district, connecting what has become a busy schedule on Thursdays. I’m struggling to hit the schedule using the Metro.
As I looked up, I saw the imposing edifice of one of my clients pass a few streets over to the left (Spanish for building is edificio). I couldn't see where the other two were and gave up looking.
The driver’s radio was playing Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”. Passengers flowed on and off as we lurched between stops along the wide thoroughfares. Some had small children in tow, possibly dropping them at a school or nursery. I moved my rucksack to make room for someone and the water bottle fell out and rolled along the aisle. I recovered it from between the feet of a girl. Awkwardness is multiplied when you’re a foreigner and you don’t speak the language.
Bowie couldn’t displace Dylan’s “Desolation Row” from my crazy internal jukebox. I’m still working on trying to memorise the lyric. All ten verses.
I pulled the Kindle out for a while and read a few pages from Kerouac’s “Visions of Cody”. It’s beginning to feel a little like an obligation. I feel as if I need to keep going with him. I don’t know how many of his books I’ve read – some more than twice. It’s become a quest for thoughts I can identify with. Having found so many, I’m searching on for nuggets among the outpouring. They’re in there somewhere, and when I find them it’s worth the search – for me, anyway. It’s a kind of affirmation.
The bus-ride into town’s a long haul at this time of day. I switched to reading Facebook. I’d commented during the night about how depressing it’s becoming reading the news on Facebook (my last redoubt in terms of following the news). Not so much the news itself, but people’s comments. There’s a lot of hatred and intolerance. I worry that the prevalence of such a medium is polarising opinion and nurturing extremism.
I found myself thinking about yet another petition post. I can’t see what signing petitions against things like the success of Donald Trump is going to achieve, other than boosting revenue for Facebook and their friends who sell mobile broadband. The whole thing reminds me of my teens, attending meetings of the National Union of Students at St. John’s College in York and voting on motions of support for the Chile Solidarity Committee. Pinochet must have been kept awake at nights by that one. It’s like signing a petition against the Black Death. People are deluding themselves that they’re resisting something. It’s not resistance. Petitions against Trump are not going to achieve anything other than give some people justification for why they support him.
Trump is using a media machine that was created and is operated by other interests in order to achieve their ends. They must be panicking right now. In fact, reports show they are. The machine is out of control, or, rather, out of their control. How embarrassing.
Well, I made it to the café for breakfast. It’s kind of French – nice pastries. It must be four weeks ago today that I walked through the door and spotted the back of N’s head for the first time in three months. She was sitting with her rucksack beside her and an empty plate on the table. I walked up and planted a kiss on her head.
Four weeks on and the café is much busier as the tourist season kicks-in. There was a queue for tables. I grabbed a stool at the counter and ordered café con leche, tostada and zumo de naranja (freshly-squeezed orange juice).
There was a man across from me making calls on his phone, one after another. Each one seemed to go to voice-mail. He left long messages and moved on to the next number. He must have gone right through his contacts in the time he was there.
A woman came and sat opposite. She was smartly-dressed, wearing a colourful scarf around her neck – the temperature’s dropped again here and it’s raining. I couldn’t help drawing my orange juice closer as she coughed the accumulation of a lifetime’s cigarette tar across the table. I should be ashamed. I blame my mother’s genes – over-sensitivity.
Breakfast was good and I've got the day to myself. Money’s tight just now, but I think I’ll buy a ticket to the Reina Sofia or Prado. I have an urgent need to stand in front of something that reminds me I’m human.