Place Real in
Barcelona, a village square like there are many in Spain,
rectangular, surrounded by buildings usually not more than
three or four stories high, often with balconies just big
enough for two chairs, a withered plant and a bottle of
wine. Just off from the square’s centre there’s a dried up
fountain. Groups of backpackers hang around in the shade of
the few palm trees that the square hosts.
A homage to Catalonia, the book by the English
writer George Orwell, taught me that during the civil war
granite blocks were pulled out of this square and out of La
Rambla, the wide street behind the square. These where used
to build defense walls in front of the doors and windows of
the buildings surrounding the street and the square -
buildings occupied by the rebels.
I’m staring at the carved and worn down rocks and wonder who
put them back after the war.
Kate, a girl from Australia, studies the lines in my hand
carefully. She frowns. Her gaze shifts from my hands to my
face and back to my hands again. “You’ve got the hands of an
old man” she finally says.
I’ve turned 22 this spring and I really don’t quite know why
I’ve come to Barcelona.
coffee, Kate and i. She tells me about an American boy she
met this summer in Fort William, Scotland. He was climbing
Scotland’s highest mountain, Benn Nevis, on bare feet. Why
on bare feet, she asked him before departure. I’m doing it
for world peace, he replied. It’s a prayer.
The square is getting darker. Tourist groups scuff around
searching for a terrace on which they will drink, talk,
laugh, eat and maybe exchange travel stories for the next
few hours. After that they will disappear, through the small
streets at the sides of the square, into the night. It’s
what happens here every night, all summer long. A hobo
scuffs around the fountain and carefully searches through
the trash the backpackers left behind.
I take a sip of my gin-tonic and study, with a feeling of
lightness in my head, the palms of my hands.
in between boulders