Travel is my down time. It's playful. It's fresh. I 'm both within and outside the experience. I'm posting a series of stories I wrote recently which extended the experience beyond the immediate beyond the obvious and allowed me to share my private mental adventures with my travelling companions and now ............ an intimate audience.
In Barcelona it’s 6am.
I like to rise early in strange cities and trawl the streets alone. It’s when you catch a city unawares. I love the sweet breath of dawn, the light creeping across deserted streets.
The sun is rising as I emerge from my sunless apartment. As I begin my early morning adventure along Calle Guardia (KA YAY - GWAR DIA) the sun, an orange orb, is perfectly obscured by a circular traffic sign directing it to keep to the right. The harbour lies somewhere east of my apartment. It’s my dawn destination.
The streets are deserted save for a few working girls on the main drag doing the late late late pre-dawn shift. A dark eyed brunette in a denim mini skirt blows a kiss my way and mouths an invitation that doesn’t test my Spanish. As I pass she pats my bum, checking it for a wallet.
I jump at the touch, startled, fear suddenly crossing my face. I’m taken off guard.
In my confusion I respond with an apology “Sorry” I say, “Not today. I don’t have any money”
Swerving to cross the road and escape I marvel at such a stupid response. It crosses my mind that it’s lucky she didn’t offer me her services on credit.
Suddenly I find myself a lone tourist on full alert in a street full of early morning shadows. Everyone on the street is dangerous.
My radar sweeps 360degrees.
A nearby tout senses my panic and shapes up to mock me, pretending to back away in fear. Momentarily I laugh, to myself, understanding that this is a game and I’m part of it.
Still I don’t relax. My senses are on red alert. I see everything. Smells and sounds become exaggerated. I experience each moment as a conversation inside my head. It’s funny, intense and dangerous – all at the same time. My adrenalin is pumping.
Once on the other side of the street I pass through deep shadows.
I don’t look back but know that my new friends are receding into the distance behind me. They won’t follow me, they know my pockets are empty. They will have turned their attention to breakfast and the days work to come with more lucrative customers.
A young woman in joggers and an aqua top the colour of the nearby Mediterranean glides past, blonde pigtail bobbing, footfalls slapping time to the IPod keeping her company. She’s oblivious to the danger.
I begin to relax, slowing my pace. My racing heart begins to settle as I approach the water.
On the harbour, ocean going yachts jostle with cruise liners for parking space. Their masts sway from side to side clacking and pinging out of time, creating a gentle hypnotic song. Vertical lines criss and cross and, ignoring gravity, climb skyward fracturing the view of the ancient city into multiple concurrent Picassoesque images.
As I emerge from the shadows the sun blinds me.
Having ignored the keep right sign it blasts me with its molten rays melting my fears.