Barcelona wants independence from Spain. Just like Scotland tried and failed to do from the United Kingdom. I witnessed a rally for both causes by pure happenstance. On a double decker bus tour, I spied a massive gathering in Hyde Park in support of Scotland’s independence en route to the other touristy sights at the beginning of my trip. Near the end of my stay in Barcelona headed to the 55 bus to Mount Montjuic, I overheard some scathing words about America from enthusiastic locals clad in yellow and red touting nationalist flags. None of those politics are mine or have anything to do with my existence.
I feel both relieved and alienated from inside of the bubble I live in. Yet this protective orb of clear polymer has formed over years of bitter mistrust and betrayal is slowly starting to disintegrate.
Its no coincidence that I observed two different places fight for their independence on my journey. That’s what I am here for, after all, alone on this European trip. I am here for my own independence: to be a fully formed person outside of the familiar and familial. To win a private battle between my internal and external lives; I use the word lives as a people pleaser I’ve adapted quite a few different ones. Putting them on and taking them off whenever the situation called for it. I am free from the role assigned to me. I had to be the one to prick the membrane of my bubble; like Barcelona and Scotland, its time for me to attempt a full-scale separation from the old world.
Barcelona is pure beauty, a warm sugary sweet type of deliciously dirty decadence. Lacking the mystery of other cities, this city wears its dichotomous identity on its sleeve. There is a Picasso museum 10-minutes from a nude beach. (During my stay I caught a glimpse of a man resembling Pablo’s elder self splayed on a towel in all his naked glory, knees opening and closing to air out his undercarriage, and feel the warmth of the sun on his peen. Bit on the nose, Barcelona!) The Gothic district contains Roman ruins and medieval leftovers adjacent to La Rambla, overcrowded with tourists with large cameras hanging off their necks, lined with pickpockets and prostitutes yet minutes from an H&M retailer. A walking tour helmed by a gorgeous Englishman filled in the gaps, pointing out scenes from Vicky Cristina Barcelona and the Spanish Civil War, effectively detailing how the ancient and the modern coexist perfectly in this magical city. Although, there is a faint scent of something sour, a hint of urine and feces float in the air of cobbled inclined streets: the Barcelona smell.
A pattern begins to emerge in all of the major cities I’ve visited on my European tour: the erotic and erudite exist in equal measure. They feed off of each other. They beg, borrow, and steal from one another. One begets the other. One cannot be as affecting or startling without a charged atmosphere of menace and romance. Art and sex do not live in vacuums unbeknownst to themselves. The intellect is stimulated to the extreme as is the sensual. Nothing is hidden or eluded to. America begins to look like one big nunnery.
I am practiced at unpacking great pieces of art and interpreting and producing a solid thought, criticism, or academic correlation. I can do that. But the dirty, passionate, and sexual side of these gorgeous countries, I fall short. I want to understand how both parts can live in harmony. I know they do. I’ve witnessed it first hand but I don’t have the confidence to reach out and grab it. Like a word sitting stubbornly on the tip of ones tongue: I want to know it all and am frustrated with the delay. The Partner. The Romance. Not Gone Girl. Not perfection, but a real passionate and mutual relationship with someone great. Not another narcissistic dude. Not another asshole. Not a super model. Not a well-to-do finance sort. A real man so I can be the real me. No performance or parade- the real thing. No matter what it looks like from the outside – I guess it’s about time I got over the superficial.
I honestly feel that looks are the smallest part. After travelling and having the pleasure of viewing the faces and bodies of the most genetically gifted humans ever created, it is obvious so much of attraction is a fantasy. We can agree on the beauty of one or another but to be attracted, really and truly chemically bonded, is a rare and special thing. Often, it comes from nowhere and is impossible to consummate. There seems to be an obstacle in the way, be it, time, location, or emotional availability. A million little factures must coalesce at the exact right time for the real thing. Uncontrollable and fragile like a single teardrop. Intangible outside of the moment; a fluttering spec of dust blown around to land, almost translucent, around the boarders of the physical world. That’s the real thing.
The words “real” and “self” seem ambiguous and impossible to define. Is it even truly possible to be your entire self? Is it possible to love your true self and love the truest part of your partner? Is wanting the real thing even possible or is that just a repeat of what I’ve read, heard, and watched over the years? Is romance possible?
I leave Barcelona with a hole in my heart but freer than I’ve ever felt. I must return. There is so much more to see. How can I stay in Spain? I’m not done. Not by a long shot.
On the AVE rail (the initials cleverly translates to the word, “bird”) after five short days in the Kingdom of Aragon, I’ve managed to find a cheap ticket to Madrid at the last minute. An older couple facing me on the train looks happily married for decades or so it seems. They used to be extremely beautiful in their youth. You can still see the remnants of big bright eyes and irregular face shape that holds awkward, yet aesthetically pleasing angles, Jolie Laude just like me. A mirrored image of the future: man and wife on a train between two worlds. They fall asleep within minutes. I stare out the window watching vineyards and impoverished towns pass me by.