April 10 (Day 29):
Alfonso XII is a narrow street that runs between the Fine Arts Museum and the Plaza de Armas bus station in Seville. The car tires on the cobblestones make the same noise they do in parking garages, and as a pedestrian, you are always looking over your shoulder for some miniature car, squealing round a corner on two wheels, hurtling toward you with tires aflame. At this small shop called “La Esquina” (#65?), we finally find hearty sandwiches for the broke-ass budget. (Euros) 1.50 for a tortilla bocadillo which is a hoagie roll with potato and egg omelet between the halves. Not necessarily gourmet, but veggie beggars can’t be choosy in Spain. Across the street at “Casa Ana,” you can get the same deal, and they also have medium-sized bags of potato chips for a Euro.
Admirable sack lunches in hand, we board our bus at Plaza de Armas and leave at 11. For an hour and a half it alternately snakes through alley/streets (the difference here is minimal) with millimeters of clearance or speeds full-throttle down the open highway for a few meters, shooting past red clay vineyards and strawberry patches until we hit the next glorieta roundabout and careen into a new set of alleys – oversized bus mirror grazing the oversized ear of a donkey pulling a man-laden wagon over cobblestones.
At the final destination of Matalascañas, we debus and climb over a dune. Above and below us, brilliant blue sky blends into bright glittery ocean. The town doesn’t make it onto a lot of maps, but it’s on the southwestern coast of Andalucia, surrounded on the inland side by a nature reserve. Sleepy retirees are drawn to the real estate. Though I’m sure the tone changes in the summer months, I prefer this lazy, laid-back, tops-optional, off-season atmos. Recent days in Seville have been rainy, and we are ill-prepared for the ridiculously pleasant weather. Luckily, underoos and bras double as bikinis while shed skins of pants and jackets make decent pillows if ineffectual beach towels. The sun is strong and warm but the water still toe-crampingly chilly, so when sweat-stung eyes can no longer nap or read, we make our way up to the umbrella-shade of one of the many beachfront, seafood-hawking restaurants.
Here begins the trouble in the form of parched sandy throats and icy smooth minibeers – cheap and irresistible. A few of these and the flush of a good buzz is indistinguishable from the flush of a light sunburn. We take a break and walk around town plazas for a bit, then decide on another beachfront joint. We want paella, but it’s out of budget range, so we share a plate of olives, a cheese bocadillo sandwich and more beer. Then our waiter starts to get all friendly; introducing himself as, “Antonio…like Antonio Banderas,” and Spanish cheek kissing and asking if we’re sticking around town for the night.
We’re not. We are sun-coated and empty-stomached and beery, and we’re now answering the questions of a barful of older dudes. So whatever: they are kind of funny, but we have to go. The last bus for Sevilla leaves at 6 p.m. Ash makes a last bathroom trip and walks in on one of the guys who hasn’t properly locked. He starts making jokes. I’m waiting and getting nervous because it’s getting late. We finally detach and speedwalk up from the beach. We’re a couple blocks away, so we start jogging, and as we get closer – maybe 75 feet away – we see our bus pulling out of the parking lot. Our jog become a flat-out run with flailing arms and shouts of distress.
We watch helplessly as it does not stop and instead roars off, leaving us drunk, sweaty, swearing and homeless. I jump on another bus and ask the driver, “Hey, is that the last one for Sevilla?” And he says, “Si…until tomorrow at 10:30.” A tour bus pulls in, but the driver says they came from Madrid and don’t stop in Sevilla. Fuck. We head back down to our restaurant, pull up a bar stool and continue drowning our slightly-shocked sorrows. A wine distributor with a bald head keeps chatting with us, and buys the rest of our beers. Antonio the waiter is trying his damndest to flirt with Ashley.
She takes a bathroom break and comes back livid. He has caught her outside, asked for “a kiss” and pointed at his cheek, then attack mouth-kissed her and tried to turn the event into a full-on make out. She is justifiably pissed and tears up the napkin with his mobile number as he’s leaving and makes obvious her feelings about his stupid jean jacket. This old crinkly man, Pepe, says he can get us a special deal at a hostel. He seems nice and not too creepy. He’ll walk us there and insure the price as soon as his drink is finished. But Pepe’s drink is never finished. Shit…Sun is setting (albeit beautifully and over some rock that is a 12th century lighthouse upsot by a earthquake or something like that). I’m drunk, Ash is drunker, and we set out like boozy Lewis and Clark on a hostel expedition.
We’re following vague directions and asking people along the way and walking for fucking ever and peeing on sidewalks, and it’s getting very frustrating. I’m grappling with the sudden position of being responsible and trying to remember beer-brained translations of Spanish advice and directions that came smack in the middle of what was going to be a carefree, drunken bus trip home. There are mosquitoes biting my sunburned shins, and there are off-kilter levels of inebriation. We hit a break in communication that leads to a mostly-silent walk back to the beachfront bar for assistance. The sun is disappearing, the air is getting chilly, and everyone is gone when we get back.
There’s a campground down the beach. I’m getting stuck on the idea, but Ash is pretty sure it will be too cold. We’re walking up from the beach again. Now she’s the one asking everyone for directions, but not once can she remember the name of the hostel (El Tamarindo), so she has to keep asking me. I’m grumpy and just want to go sit in a bar until it closes, then camp somewhere. Finally we stumble across the fucker (with no useful help from the townsfolk), and the mood relaxes slightly.
Inside the door, I tell the guy, “Pepe said we could get this rate because we’re students in Sevilla, and we missed the bus because it left a couple minutes early,” which is what he told me to say and which is all true except for the students part. Dude is like, “Yeah…no,” but it’s not so bad because he’s saying 40 Euros whereas Pepe said 35. It’s a nice room with no one else in it, and it’s only 20 Euros each, but I’m still thinking, “Man. Camping is free; 20 Euros is ALL my cash; and I still would like to get shitty drunk to cap off the evening.”
I’m stubborn and begrudging, but the guy swaps keys for money and leaves. I go in to piss (lying out in non-appropriate apparel means every time I sit on the john, I’m unloading a couple teaspoons of sand that have fallen from back and crack and accumulated in my roos); I come back out, and Ash is passed out hard. I decide this goddamn adventure isn’t over yet and head out. I assess my funds and decide maybe I’m drunk enough; I just want to smoke some ciggies and watch the ocean – the bars look filled with old men and couples anyway. I go to the nearest cigarette vending machine, but with the money I have left after hostel payment, I’m still 30 cents short for PallMalls or anything in the lowest tier.
I try a couple other machines, but I literally have 2 euros and 13 cents to my name (and my credit card which doesn’t work in vending machines). Someone directs me to the only Spanish hamburger joint I’ve ever seen, and I decide I’m just going to buy a couple off the staff. 95% of the Spanish population smokes 90% of the time, so I figure they’ll understand my predicament.
I tell this girl working there my abbreviated sad sob story
and I’m all sunburned and sweaty and greasy
and wearing my bandana and hoop earrings
and looking very Euro-gypsy
and i’m just asking to buy a few of her personal supply
actually just one or two will suffice
and i’m starting to feel very much like a desperate panhandler
and I realize I’m blurring the lines of need
So…this kind girl takes me aside and gives me her pack of Camels with four left. I hand her a Euro, which is a sweet bargain for her, but she won’t accept it. I get the impression it is, “No…you need these more than me,” implied.
It’s true. I also have no light, so she lights me up, and I walk off smoking my cigarette. I walk down to some concrete steps overlooking the ocean. I’m smoking and thinking deep thoughts – thinking how I should really write more self-intrusively and take on bigger projects – when my first ciggie runs low. I throw it down, but then I realize, “Shit…no more light.” I pick it back up and light another end-to-end.
I’m sitting and smoking and looking and thinking and letting the ocean do that brain-aligning it does so well. I decide my troubles this evening stem from ill-practiced patience and a difficulty coping with anything but my own schedule, planned and executed (however poorly) by me. I try to channel The Dude. I head back, and Ash is still sleeping. I’m not tired, so I read my book until I fall – sunburned, sandy and fully-clothed – into a restless sleep of bizarre, Burroughs-inspired dreams, hoping the natural light will wake us, so we can get back in time for Ashley’s connecting bus to Madrid.
Restless dreams give way to groggy morning. The bus comes and goes – this time with us on board. We wind back through dunes and scrubby pines and orange groves and narrow towns. I fall asleep in the outskirts of the city, and when I wake up, we’re at the Plaza de Armas bus station. The adventure within an adventure comes to a close, and we’re back in our familiar city – the air perfumed with orange blossoms and dog shit – with the key to our apartment and a powerful hunger for tortilla sandwiches.