far too much writing, far too many photos

Something odd’s been going on in class (something besides Alicia’s sustained campaign to drive us around the collective bend with the subjunctive verb form). During my first day with this group, Tuesday of last week, one individual apparently decided they didn’t care for me and have given me that message in subtle ways ever since. It’s most apparent first thing in the morning –- this person usually arrives late, they enter, hellos are exchanged, they ignore my hello and ignore me until sometime later in the morning. Even then, they generally acknowledge me as little as possible. It’s subtle, so that I’m sure no one else has noticed it, subtle enough that the individual could deny it if confronted.

There’s no obvious reason for it -– could be ’cause I’m an American, could be ’cause I’m in an older age bracket, with graying hair. It could be for hundreds and hundreds of reasons I’ll never know about which have nothing to do with me, at least on the surface. And whatever’s going on, it has nothing to do with any consciously provocative or intentionally offensive behavior on my part -– there’s been none of that. There have, in fact, been a few moments when something I’ve said or done has made this person laugh in a nice way, but those moments have been few –- they prefer to keep me off their radar screen.

And what the hell — they don’t have to like me. Sometimes people don’t. Hard to imagine, I know (kaff, kaff), but there it is. That’s life. It may simply be what’s called chemistry, the galaxy of intangibles that come into play between two individuals. It may result from reactions a person has to something about me, how I look, express myself, eat, dress, walk, laugh, tell a joke, sneeze or tap dance. It may be that I actually did screw up in some way or mishandle something in relation to a given individual, with a strong, unfortunate impact. Or it may be a result of things that rise from the emotional or psychological universes carried within another individual, having no connection with me at all, so that I’ll never get the barest hint of what may actually be at work.

This classmate of mine is not a bad person, not by any stretch. They’re impish and bright and energetic, with some very sweet qualities. They provoke a lot of laughter, and other people in the class enjoy them. I enjoy them, too, at times. They may have issues they’re carrying around (and who doesn’t?), but I’ll never know, and it’s none of my business anyway. Tomorrow’s my last day in class for this time around and I will probably never see this individual again. Which is okay.

I write about all this ’cause I found myself on the receiving end of whatever this thing is in a fairly strong way today. Not my idea of a great time. Luckily, what I do with it is up to me, and I chose not to carry it through my afternoon hours. After school, I went to the gym and let my body work this and whatever else it wanted to out of its system.

Another beautiful July day -– sun rising late, as it does here; morning air cool; sky blue and cloudless. Warm enough in full sunlight to get one sweating, but comfortable in the shade. No humidity, a bit of a breeze. Ideal, at least to my way of thinking. A good day to park oneself at a sidewalk table for lunch or liquid refreshment.

My gym is in the barrio of Salamanca, it’s a hike of several blocks from the Metro to the gym. Along the last stretch, restaurants and taverns set up tables/chairs along the sidewalk at lunchtime. I left the gym just shy of 5 o’clock today, late enough that any one of these places could have legitimately refused to feed me, lunch usually winding up around four. There were still diners at tables in front of the joint nearest the gym, I planted myself at an empty one, and the waiter — middle-aged, grizzled, a roll of stomach hanging over his belt, bifocals perched on the end of his nose — graciously took my order.

Something else to love about Madrid: the quality of the food is generally high enough that the chow in an establishment like this –- a beer joint (una cervezería) -– is pretty good. Haute cuisine, no. But the roast chicken they served me today was tasty, and tender enough that the meat slid off the bones with just the slightest encouragement from my fork.

A balding 30-something -– maybe what would be called a pijo here, the Madrileño version of a yuppie -– planted himself at the table next to me, ordering a café. It arrived, he pulled out his teléfono móvil to call a couple of people, engaging in the phone version of back-slapping, loud-laughing business conversations. As he talked, I noticed cellphones popping up all over the place, most notably in the hands of a man and a woman standing in the doorway to the lottery shop (”Loterías y Apuestas del Estado” -– Lotteries and State Bets) next door to the cervezería. Both people talking intently, the woman holding a still virginal lottery card. Maybe consulting with someone about what numbers to play. Maybe checking on local Gamblers Anonymous meetings. Immediately over the door to the shop I saw something I’d never noticed before -– in official letters, clearly meant to be there, were the words “Lotería Primitiva.” According to my Spanish-English dictionary, the word ‘primitivo/primitiva’ means both ‘primitive’ and ‘original.’ ‘Original lottery’ would make way more sense than ‘primitive lottery,’ wouldn’t it? I’ll find out — this is too good to let go by.

The 30-something finished his café, paid up, took off. A paunchy male 50-something in a necktie, white shirt and suspenders immediately threw himself into the chair, ordering café. To the other side of him sat a pretty blonde woman, he struck up a conversation. She turned out to be American, from San Francisco, here studying Spanish for college credits. The 50-something drew her out, she turned out to be a prime example of something strangely common: an American speaking Spanish as if they were speaking stateside English, only with the words spelled differently. With no Spanish accent at all, as if they genuinely can’t hear the difference in the sound, in the way it’s spoken. The verbal equivalent of tone deafness, maybe. And surprisingly common.

But I blabber.

Off to homework. Later.

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