Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Blah, blah, blah

What is the worst part about returning to California to visit family and friends? Driving. I feel I spend most of my time driving up and down all the  freeways that end in 0 or 5s. Going west, now east, tomorrow south. I am in constant motion driving and gritting my teeth, thinking of how back "home in Barcelona" I don't worry about gasoline, jam packed lanes with over-sized vehicles, and a sense of never arriving to my destination because of dense traffic--I just hop on a metro or train and arrive at my destination in 25 minutes.

There's just one drawback to this alternative--the other passengers on the train. Most of the time riding a FGC train into Barcelona is not so bad if it's the weekend. Most wagons are half full. Now if you decide to take the train into Barcelona during a weekday, it's just not going to be the same experience.

The wagons are packed with university students, people getting to work, and South American nannies. All seats are taken and the wagon entrance is crowded with people gripping passenger bars, and that means you remain standing until the train empties somewhere between Gracià and Plaza Catalunya.

At first I felt lucky to quickly beat other standing passengers to an empty seat at the first stop after getting on the train. My misfortune lay with the person sitting next to me--a young university student who talked for twenty minutes straight to her friend who sat across from me.

I pulled from my purse a book by Salman Rushdie I had purchased for 3 euros at Gigamesh llibreria in Barcelona. This was my solution to not fixing my gaze on anyone person or spot on the train. It can get quite uncomfortable constantly shifting your gaze so people don't feel you are staring at them and also to avoid momentary eye contact with the person sitting in front of you.

I had just begun to read the first page of the book when the estudiant universitari next to me began to speak in Catalan. My ears were intrigued by her accent, it was very regional. I loved the way she stretched out her vowels and ran all her words close together, hardly a break in between them. She was not from the city. I wondered from which small, inland town she had moved from to attend university in Barcelona. Then she began to use her index finger to add emphasis to her comments, wagging it from right to left.

Her long lean hands reminded me of 17th century portraits of young women. The ones where young ladies of wealth and noble backgrounds stand regally dressed in heavy, dark, silk gowns contrasting with their porcelain skin, their elongated fingers lying languidly on laps or with hands and fingers spread out, suspended in the air at breast level. I could not read my three euro book. I was too distracted listening to her speak and zig zag the air with her cupped hand and index finger swaying back and forth.

But after listening to her explain for 15 minutes clothing bargains she found at Zara and H&M, I was molt irritada. I kept wondering when she was going to take a break from talking non-stop about her consumer shopping experience finding a purse, a grey cabled vest, and leggings. Then she switched topic and va parlar about her dislike for frozen fish and how she turned down a date because she was too tired to go out. I looked at the cool male university student with shaggy hair sitting directly across from her and wondered if he too had had enough of her incessant talking. I was no longer enchanted by her accent and was marejat by her loquaciousness.

The doors to the train opened at Peu del Funicular stop. A gypsy boarded the train and began to play the accordion and sing an outdated song. How he managed to open and squeeze the accordion was of great wonder to me because by this time the train was packed, body to body, including the aisles.

How I missed my car at that moment. Had I decided to drive instead of taking the train, I wouldn't be sitting here listening to the  bla bla bla and the accordion player sing off tune. I try reading my book, to focus on Rushdie's Italian character stealing from the drugged Scottish Captain. I look at the blinking lights that flash the remaining train stops and see four more to go until the bla bla bla next to me stops. Estudiant universitari gets off the train at Gracià, only one stop before mine and saunters off with her friend mouthing, bla bla bla. With only one stop to go, I quietly put away the Italian rogue with a stolen secret from Lord Hauksbank back in my purse and anticipate my return trip to be about the book and not on unintentional eavesdropping.

Where my journey began.

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