El mundo old

In Eshpaña for a conference on Chicano Studies, presenting a paper, "A brother in the desert: La obra poetica de Arturo Islas". This is my first time in Western Europe and it is wild. Punks, tourists, old men in suits, loads of blind people with canes, colombianos, other Latin American immigrants, Africans, Arabs, and the occasional eshpañol peninsular con raices aquí de verdad. I wasn't going to come here at first when I heard the news that I had a paper accepted at la Quinta Conferencia de Literatura Chicana but, igual y, I came, what with el dinero que me dieron y todo. Por un lado, me gusta aquí. Es bonito, the air is not humid and thick and sweaty, the wind blows, it is cool at night. Everything smells like a mix of freshness, cigarrete smoke, faintly sweet. Wandering from place to place in the Metro or in the tren, walking as if it was New York up and down flights of stairs in long, long tunnels, advertisements.

I came with a group of compañeras from the programa de español en la Uni de Houston. We started in Madrid and Alcalá de Henares. Then when this was over, two of us wandered Madrid and then in the 10pm alsa.es bus came to Barcelona para quedarse con un novio de esta amiga. The bus stopped twice in strange locales, one hillside with a convenience store that sold comida típica, bocadillos de tortilla, que es huevo con papa en un baguette. The doorways were made of thin see-through plastic tubes, a kind of curtain to cover the portal. And outside the pollen, thin white puffs, like dry snow, blew about in the wind, in the light from across the road, a bright light that illuminated everything, the bus, everything. One tall, thick, bulging blue jeaned eshpañol beauty seemingly cruising me, or I cruising him, but who knows, really? That feeling of, ¿is he looking at me? ¿is he? and if he is, qué bueno, and if not, he will probably enojarse y atacarme en una rabia de loco y machista. Me divertí bastante con la onda del dese.

As I was getting to, Barcelona: wide avenues, Chanel, Zara, design stores, hordes of tourists standing in line seemingly without reason, waiting for quién-sabe-qué each one with their pull-behind suitcases in the middle of the avenida alongside the Plaza Catalunya. Palm trees and German tourist girls in designer cutoff capri pants and gold, yellow, lemon green, women in veils with bright-eyed, curly-haired children and Catalán everywhere. The center of Catalunya, the would-be capital of the independant nation-to-be.

Like the lady's bag in the Metro said, Le centre du monde et partout. And that is how I feel. A bit disoriented by all the motion, a bit as if, oh yes, I live in a small corner of the world, comforted by my things, by the flatness, by the comfortable bilingualism and not tri or quad. And now it is as if, oh, look at this world, these old men on benches, these old women in stylish brown skirts with a fashionable uneven cut. These old ladies with their short hair in various shades of old - blue, green, grey and dirty yellow. These ladies on the widest sidewalks imaginable in a group of four, each one touching the other and each one rattling on to the other their stories, their moments, todo en Catalán, as hordes of international tourism afficionados storm by on the Ramblas, making their way to the sea and to the statue of Christopher Columbus, off all of us to the end of the city, to the end of the metropole to drown in the port or in the Straits of Gibraltar and if not there than to speed across the Atlantic and if not to drown in the Canarias or in the open sea to make it all the way to the other side of the earth and not to fall off and at all and then to be somewhere, to have made it somewhere, and then, there, to make it, to forget that mundo viejo, its ways, its superiority. To imagine ourselves somehow alone.

In the bookstores, piles of books I want to read, Nina Marie Martínez, Pedro Lemebel, so many authors, so much writing, piles of translations of literature from around the world, and I am reminded how little I know, how little more likely it is possible for anyone to know, o pretender saber, porque nuestras mentes son demasiado chiquillas y nuestras imaginaciones igualmente empobrecidas por las condiciones de la vida monótona y diaria. Europe brings out something in me and to be honest, I am fine with coming back. Fine with being American (in the continental sense), but fine with perhaps experimenting with largeness, with Whitmanlike Atlanticism.

Shut up, striver, go back to Telephone, there's nothing for you here but being lost, no cosmopolitanism that can save you, no way out, no break, no going away that will not ultimately end in going home. No escape from your grandmother, from the bench where her Negro washerwomen worked, no way out but back, no way out at all entonces, no way out at all. But still, the beat of Eshpaña, the neo-mullet hair cut, the way things could be, if only, if only, the Conquista, the Manifest Destiny had never happened, had never clashed in your land and created you in all your meanness.

4 comentarios:

awadhwa dijo...

Damn do you know how to write boy.

jp dijo...

thanks girl. nice to know this writing doesn't just drop into a void. jp

rozele dijo...

bozhemoy, you said it, awadhwa. wow.

and here i thought i even knew you could write.... wow.

Anónimo dijo...

Hi! Just want to say what a nice site. Bye, see you soon.