I lived in Barcelona once. I left behind a job and apartment in Washington, and with the money I'd gotten from my ex for the house we'd owned together in Dupont Circle, I took an eight-month vacation, travelling here and there for nearly two months - Amsterdam and Paris, London and Berlin, Vienna and Budapest and Lucca, a week or so in each place. I ended up in Barcelona, staying for six months.
This was in the day of the peseta, and Barcelona was cheap. You could buy two kilos of tomatoes, two kilos of oranges, a couple onions, a dozen eggs and a wedge of cheese for about $2.50. I rented a room in the Eixample Dret not far from the Sagrada Familia, paying about $100 a month to Edu, a crazy Argentinian, who became my closest friend.
It was the strangest time of my adult life, those six months in Barcelona.
I loved it and loathed it, it was a trial to be so outside the culture and so alone and so purposeless. But Barcelona has endless charms that I couldn't help but be taken by. There is no place I feel stronger about. It is tied to the great crux of my life - meeting the husband and leaving behind the States.
When the husband and I returned last week for the first time in ten years, it all came rushing back: the smells, the light, the special tiles of the sidewalks, the cutoff corners at every intersection, the plane trees, the peculiar reticence of Barcelonans, the late dinners and later dancing, the alternately sluggish and hectic pulse of the place.
I missed terribly my friend Edu, who died nearly seven years ago. I couldn't even admit to myself that I was sad and a bit prickly and feeling very vulnerable and raw, as if I had suddenly reverted to the self I was when I lived there, on my long vacation.
Funny how a place can turn a crank in one's heart, ratcheting everything up, notch by notch by notch.
Stranger still, none of this was apparent until I sat here to write it all down.
The Swedish verb for the day is att återkomma. It means to return.