The Guadalquivir is hardly navigable now. After centuries of praise for its choke-chain connected gold-leafed towers that long ago bid farewell to Cortez and Bolivar, the remains of a shipping crane following the faded blue stripe that lined the rain-stained river walls merely pointed to the nostalgic decadence from which Seville was only beginning to recover. Somehow this kidnapped city, for which the old Man left the Sea in order to paint the face of Spain for the America, managed to retain its quixotic flavor through the historic life-blood of it’s slowly clogging artery, around which the Celine Dion-playing tocadores and the English and German accents of the tourist-laden former Jewish Ghetto fell away as if to make way for Seville’s real soul.
It was this old, decaying soul that brought me to Dani’s birthday party. I arrived late, in time to receive a drink from the birthday-boy (according to Spanish tradition), but late enough to see the bulk of the group leaving for the evening. Two Italian friends of Dani’s and mine, Vito and Lucciano, invited me to a party on their way out.
“Sure,” I said reluctantly. It was a Thursday and I did not have class the next day, but I was tired. I was also in Spain, I decided, and I ought to stop being tired and experience it. Hence, I affirmed my response and left with them.
“First, we have to go get some Hashish and some Vodka from our apartment,” Lucciano said. “Here, hold my drum.”
I benignly accepted the small, djembe drum and agreed to the proposal, since their apartment was not far away. They retrieved the necessary goods and we caught a cab to the party. It was much further from the center of town than I had ever been, far away from the Guadalquivir, in a poorer barrio with a bad reputation. These are my favorite parts of town, where Hemingway’s drunken arm had never reached nor would he ever have wanted to.
The taxi pulled up to the door of a run-down apartment, we exited and climbed a few flights of stairs. A rap on the door and a tall, balding Spaniard greeted us and welcomed us in. We congregated in the kitchen where the counter displayed a massive number of half-empty bottles of every type of alcohol imaginable, interrupted at one end by a girl spouting only one intelligible Spanish phrase: “La anarquía.” My Italian friends had neglected to inform me that we were attending an anarchist’s party. I was fascinated.
Upon our arrival in the kitchen, the girl and our host turned their attention to their new guests, particularly me since I was the only one who looked particularly un-Spanish. Then came the standard three questions:
A) ¿Cómo te llamas?
- “Peter, o Pedro si es más facil.”
B) ¿De dónde eres?
- “Los Estados Unidos, el U.S.A.”
C) ¿Qué opinas del Presidente Bush?
- “Yo, bueno, es dificil saber…”
I always hated that question because each interrogator was fishing for an opinion,
A reason to vent about their other problems through arguing facts that at that point remained as provable as not. Thus, I spoke ambiguously until they relented, made my acquaintance with them, poured myself some sort of odd vodka concoction and proceeded into the next room. I found myself a spot in the circle sitting on the floor, swaying the even sound of the drums and breathing in the thick hashishan air. After a few minutes, the girl from the kitchen entered and sat down next to me. She asked me about my opinions on American Foreign Policy again; I answered as best I could; and then I asked the one question that I had of her.
“You were talking about la anarquía in the kitchen. Why”
“Because I am an anarchist,” she said.
“I’ve never met a sincere anarchist before. As an American (as you would expect) I’ve never figured out how anyone could logically consider it. Please, please, please explain it to me.”
She proceeded to explain it to me. I asked questions, she explained. I posited doubts, and she explained. I explained Christ, she derided Him.
Her words, it seemed centered around the experience of pain. She saw how all governments, churches, and authorities of all kinds had rejected her, leaving her with no choice but to feel the same. A philosophy so illogical to the classic mind suddenly sheds its dark implausibility for an imagined light when produced by such pain. It was in her eyes; I could just barely tell through the haze, and the large scar that followed the soft surface of her jawing cheek merely pointed to the truth planted in those beautiful irises. I could not argue. Pain had run deep, filling her up like the silt in the dirty Guadalquivir, and all she could do was latch herself to the forlorn hope of future re-channelling. That's what anarchism was for her and the others there. "Things will be better when it's all gone and we're free," she said. Her apocalyptic words sounded frighteningly familiar.
The bank clock read 4:30 when I crossed the old Guadalquivir on my way home. I was thinking about the girl, how she explained her position not through logic, but through the experience of pain. I looked at the river. The water lay still, brown, and shallow. I remembered the girl and what she said.
“I suppose it’ll have to be re-channeled someday,” I thought. “The river, the girl, all of us.”
PLEASE ENCOURAGE AUTHOR,
LEAVE COMMENT ON ARTICLE Read more articles by Peter English or search for other articles by topic below.
Oh my, dear writer, this is mesmerizing. I could read the whole book---except for your first paragraph. Can you cut those long sentences into shorter ones? I know, I have the same problem. But, to make this reader friendly, I would rework that first paragraph. The rest of the story is dynamite just as it is. I especially like your ending summation. More, more, bravo!