I miss you most when the weather turns cold. For most of my life, whenever the weather would get cooler, I’d think of football stadiums and Friday night lights, of church festivals and school carnivals, of homecoming dances and bonfires. Now, when I’m walking home and I feel the first bite of fall, I think about the Mirador San Nicolas, the granadino version of Friday night lights, I think of shivering under inadequate sheets in hostel beds, I think about a leather jacket I bought for twenty euros from that store across from Mercadona that did little to keep me warm but looked really good in pictures.
I never meant to fall in love with you. I thought I’d go to France: in college, I studied French, and, before that, I learned it from my grandmother. I came from a long line of French names, given and born into: Thibodeaux and Barousse, Germaine and Madeline and Gerard. I couldn’t have named more than three cities in Spain, I spoke hardly any Spanish. I had no plan.
It’s been three years since I’ve been back. On the whole, I’m happy now. The first year back was the hardest. I think if I’d known what that first year back was going to be like, I never would’ve left my piso in Almeria. It took me over a year to be able to listen to certain songs on my iPod without getting aggressively weepy.
I have lots of dreams about you. I’m walking around Huercal or Almeria or Cadiz and I know that it’s you but everything looks different. I’m not sure what the dreams mean but I’m happy just to be back.
I like to think that there’s a version of myself that I left behind there, that the ghost of 22 year old Madelyne is eating lemon poppyseed bread at that bakery around the corner from Puerta del Sol. I don’t really want her back, I’m happy with the Madelyne I have now, but I’m glad that she’s there. Take good care of her, her Spanish isn’t that great and she’s a bit too obsessed with Hemingway, but she’s a good kid.
I’d like to visit but I’m afraid if I came back, I wouldn’t be able to leave again. Maybe you could come see me instead? My favorite place to go in DC is the National Basilica. It is big and quiet with lots of nooks and crannies in which to hide. It has all of the grandeur and breathlessness of the cathedrals of Europe but it’s newer, and, as such, probably fewer ghosts.
I don’t write the way I used to when I lived there, when I’d walk every day to the park with my notebook and spend an hour or two with the peacocks, scribbling on trains and buses and microscopic tray tables on flights on discount airlines. The first year back, I wrote like I was drowning and it was the only thing that would save me but I still drowned. I told myself that I needed a break from the heartbreak of it all, of rejection letters and of coming close and being good but not quite good enough. It’s been two years. I like writing these letters. It reminds me that I like telling stories, that maybe I’m ready to tell some new ones. Ours will always be my favorite story.
Te extraño mucho, España,