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El albergue

El albergue

Saturday, September 4, 2010

This town really, truly never sleeps


It’s 8 o’clock on Thursday evening.  Marisol are sitting in the kitchen eating dinner – gazpacho with toast followed by tortilla española and two slices of cold melon.  It’s delicious.  Past the flavor of garlic, the gazpacho tastes like cucumber, onion, and of course tomato.  It feels almost strange to eat cold soup, but it’s really good sopped up with the toast.  The tortilla española is like an omelet, with potato, bell pepper, onion, and tuna.  I especially like the little bursts of saltiness that come in the form of granules of sea salt.  I’m really quite full now, but the melon is so refreshing and delicious that I can’t leave it behind.  However, being quite full, we convince our host mother, Maria, that we can’t eat half of the tortilla that she gave us, so now she puts it in the fridge for us to eat tomorrow.

It’s 10 o’clock, and I’m watching tv with Maria.  I can understand just enough to get the general gist of the show, but they speak so fast that it’s a little difficult to get the details.

It’s 12 o’clock, and Marisol and I are almost ready to head out for a night on the town.  She’s been in contact with some other girls with our program, and we’re all meeting up to go to a club near the Puerta del Sol called Joy.  Apparently you have to dress up to fit in with the night crowd, so I’ve put on the new dress I bought in Valencia and done my hair in a style that I hope looks more or less nice.  A touch of makeup, and I’m ready.  We say goodnight to Maria, and we’re out the door by 12:30.  The restaurants in our neighborhood are closing shop as we walk to the metro station nearby, and it seems like most of the people have gone home, as most people with would should at this hour on a Thursday evening.  As we get closer to the Puerta del Sol though, the metro slowly gathers passengers, most of whom, by the looks of them, are headed out for the same reason we are.  We alight and mount the stairs that lead back up to the world, coming out in a square (the Puerta del Sol at last) filled with people.  We manage to get in touch with the rest of our group, everyone excited for their first night out in Madrid. 

I’m not exactly sure how, but we get into the club free, maybe because of a friend that one of the girls has already made….however that may be, it’s nice not to have to pay.  As we go inside, the ceiling of the entry hall is covered in small lights, like stars transplanted from the heavens.  Music flows around us, finally engulfing us when we step into the main room.  There are large screens showing a montage of music videos that actually have nothing to do with the music that’s being played, the bar is packed, and the huge disco ball hanging from the ceiling is adding its particular brilliance to the effects of the colored spotlights and the cigarette smoke wafting through the air.  The girls find out it’s going to be my birthday in a couple of days and buy me a soda after I turn down something a little harder.  In general I don’t really drink soda, but I feel more like part of the group holding my own glass.  We make our way into the crowd on the dance floor, forming our own little group and edging out any guys who might try to creep in on us.  It’s fun being out there, even though this club seems to be filled with foreigners instead of Spaniards and there’s plenty of dirty dancing to go around.  We get a little hot, so it’s up to the balcony, from which we watch the mob beneath us for a little while before going back to join them.

It’s close to 4 am on Friday morning, and the rest of the girls are tired of this club.  We head out, an indecisive gaggle, then make our way to a nearby bar that’s still open.  It sports shamrocks above the door, in my mind somewhat comically at odds with the Spanish bouncer who checks our IDs.  It’s just as loud in here as it was at Joy, but it’s quieter in the restaurant section downstairs, through which we pass as we make our way to the bathroom.  We hang out upstairs for a while, then leave to stop the inopportune conversation of a couple of Spanish men who want to tell one of the girls all about his favorite American TV show.

It’s about 5 o’clock, and we find ourselves back in the Puerta del Sol, joining the many other random groups of people waiting for the metro to open back up at 6.  We sit down by one of the fountains and chat as amazingly, none of us are tired.  I think it must be all the energy one feels in a club, plus the excitement of being out and about in a new city.  The two girls on my left soon find themselves drawn into conversation with two friendly Irish guys.  Then two Spanish guys sit down next to the girl on my right and begin to talk with the two of us.  Well, I mostly just listen, practicing my auditory understanding, although I add my input when they ask me a direct question.  All of a sudden, a fight breaks out nearby, and when everyone realizes that it’s four against one, a mob rushes over to break it up and keep the lone fighter from getting anymore seriously injured than he already has.  The police are there in a jiffy, but the culprits have walked off already.  One of our Spanish friends had joined the rush of salvation, and he comes back muttering about stupid foreigners getting drunk and then picking fights with other stupid drunks.   After recovering from the shock of seeing such violence, our conversation resumes, and we chat about everything from music preferences (the guys getting amusingly worked up when they find out we aren’t familiar with the music of some famous American musicians) to what we study in school.  They are a lot of fun to talk with, making jokes and teasing us and each other, and it’s 6 almost before we know it.  So now it’s goodbye, and our group splits up as we head off on the metro for home.  The metro fills with people, both late night revelers like us heading home and the early morning crowd heading off to start their days, and I realize that this town really, truly never sleeps.  By this point, I really have to use the restroom, so I’m glad when we reach the apartment. 

Now it’s almost 7 and time to fall into bed.  I guess I’ll take a shower when I wake up.

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