Correspondence from Spain

by Sally Sorte – Spain

As I drank my Colombian coffee stirred into leche semidesnatada (one percent), I opened the kitchen window and peered out at the courtyard over which my apartment building hangs its laundry. How are we going to dry our laundry on rainy days, or when the temperature falls below zero? I’m not really worried, as Spaniards have been getting dry clothes for years now somehow. Big, splattery raindrops slap down into collecting pools on the black tar below. Boasting their surface tension, drops precariously cling to the clothes lines, looking like strings of twinkle lights draped between windows. The second real rain in Spain and it makes me so happy!

On the metro there are no longer bare, sandaled toes to avoid, but wet umbrellas held at people’s sides instead. And coughs, warm jets of germy air bursting through the finger slats held over mouths. As I walk out the subway tunnel the black, tiled floor is slick on the left, where people are coming in, and dusty and dry on the right. I ascended the slippery steps of the metro exit and accepted a newspaper from one of the boys handing out the stacks of morning papers from free, small name editions—in case the pleasant splattering turns into a downpour and I need more shelter than my cotton sweatshirt hood can provide.

How will the rain affect the homeless? For some it simply means a change of wares as they sell “paraguas” (which means umbrella but literally translates to ‘for water’) on the street, catering to the seasonal market. For others I suppose the weather will spur inner-city migration to warmer, dryer doorways and temporarily abandoned construction scaffolding.

I turn the corner onto Calle Prim, twenty meters from my school, three rainy blocks away from the line four metro exit. I can hear a jaunty accordion from across the street in the tree-lined Paseo de Recoletos. Homeless musicians, paid on an instrument case by case basis, play the soundtrack of the city.

Yours from Madrid

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