far too much writing, far too many photos

After days of getting ready, I found myself awake early yesterday, body keyed up from the prospect of many hours spent dragging too much luggage too many miles. Resisted the nudging of jangled nerves to jump out of bed at the hideous hour of three a.m. and stayed put, drifted in and out of light sleep until close to six — still an ungodly hour, but not as brutal. Slogged through the tasks left to be done, experienced the customary sensation of time speeding up as the hour of departure approached, me trying to move faster, work more efficiently as I felt the velocity of linear time gathering momentum. The taxi was due to show at 10:45. At 10:35 the phone rang, I launched myself at it, heart in my throat at the thought that it might be the taxi driver calling with bad news. Instead, I found myself talking with the Town Clerk. The taxi had just been there, she told me, the driver woefully lost and seeking guidance. (Small town life: the Town Clerk calls to let you know the taxi’s en route.) “I gave her directions,” the Clerk said. “She’s on her way.”

Grabbed luggage, stuffing the remaining odds and ends into the remaining open zippers. Dragged it all outside just as the taxi pulled into the drive.

We got underway, the driver mentioned taking an alternate route near Montpelier to avoid roadwork underway in town. I had the feeling a completely alternate route might be a good idea and suggested taking back roads the whole way. She seemed underwhelmed at the thought, we stuck with the normal drive on Route 14. A few miles along we found ourselves trapped in a line of vehicles behind a small caravan of line-painting trucks, everyone moving at the blinding speed of 5 mph. I reminded us both that we’d gotten going early, that the bus wouldn’t arrive until 11:30, we wouldn’t remain behind the paint crew forever, all would be well. All of which was true. At the next town along, the trucks pulled off to let traffic pass, normal life resumed.

At one point the driver asked where my trip would be taking me. Madrid, I responded. She looked over blankly. The capital of Spain, I added. Ohhh, she said.


We pulled into the station at 11:20. Seconds after I paid up and the taxi pulled away, the bus showed — the first and only time I’ve ever seen one arrive early. Minutes later, I was in a window seat, Vermont countryside passing outside

The bus made the usual stop in White River Junction to discharge passengers, taking half an hour for cleaning/maintenance. I found myself eating lunch in the stations’s Chinese buffet restaurant, gazing around at a packed house, the largest, strangest collection of overweight, out of condition folks I’ve seen in a long time.

Made Logan Airport in plenty of time, was informed at check-in that the 6:20 flight would be delayed. Did the long, slow security checkpoint thing, the security people not appearing happy to be there. Found the boarding gate, settled into a chair next to a good-natured, intelligent older woman from Minneapolis-St. Paul on her way to France, we chatted. Her flight (also delayed) eventually boarded, the crowd waiting for my flight grew as time passed. At 7:30, we began boarding, nearly two hours after original take-off time we were in the air, me savoring the sight of the nighttime earth below falling away, the sensation of gaining altitude.

The flight staff were all attractive Spanish women, I began speaking Castellano the moment I stepped into the plane, my little brain making the switch automatically. They handed out Spanish newspapers, I grabbed one, began reading. A heavyset couple with a baby had installed themselves in the row ahead of me, just across the aisle. Minutes later, the little one began crying, a sound that became part of the soundtrack for the flight. (Don’t babies ever lose their voices from overuse?) The mother — a woman with a lovely face — gave the child plenty of attention, occasionally had a quieting effect. But not usually for long. It had been a long day, I was tired, not feeling very patient — I pulled out earplugs, stuffed them into the appropriate orifices, the miles passed.

The upside of the delay in taking off: it meant I would not have to make the metro ride into Madrid’s city center during the rush hour mob scene. A long wait at passport control and a much longer wait at the luggage carousel ensured that. Once I’d claimed baggage (the body bag feeling so heavy it had me wondering if I’d packed scrap metal) and begun dragging ass out of there, I found that during my time away the city had finally opened up the new metro station. (The city had opened an enormous, sprawling terminal last year long before the metro had been extended to serve it, complicating the trip into the city like you wouldn’t believe.) I gave thanks, headed underground. Three trains later, I emerged into the open air of the plaza down the street from here, rain falling, voices speaking Spanish all around.

Clouds cleared during the afternoon, sunshine filled the flat. The sounds of daily life drifted in open windows.

It’s good to be home.


Yesterday morning, northern Vermont:

Yesterday evening — Logan Airport, Boston:

Today, Madrid:

EspaƱa, te quiero.

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