Looking for a place to live. Looking for a job. You begin to doubt your judgement, you begin to doubt everything. You become imprecise. And that’s when you’re beginning to go under. You’ve been beaten, and it’s been deliberate. The whole society has decided to make you nothing. And they don’t even know they’re doing it.
- The Art of Fiction no-78 - James Baldwin
‘The gypsies will take everything you have’, he promised. ‘They’ll take your nose hairs and make them into Persian rugs. They’ll marry you to each of their children while you’re sleeping. You’ll never leave this city afterwards. But it’s a good place to be…the tapas are big and there are teterias everywhere.’
We left him in a crowded bar and made our way north to Albayzin. We would stop people and ask them for directions, all of them would gasp and sigh, shaking their heads and uttering insufrible, insufrible and suggested a bus or new feet. But it was true that it was harder with backpacks. I hadn’t had such an elephant upon my shoulders in almost half a year.
A man sat under a stone bridge stroking his beard thoughtfully and adding honey pollen into his dreadlocks so as they would hold together better. He smelt of the mountains. We stopped and asked him and he asked in bewilderment if we spoke any Finnish. No, no. English then? A little, yes. We had planned the trip badly, or bravely with spontaneity and had nowhere to stay for the night. Delfin had heard of a place called the el jardin colgante and the honey man’s eyes shone when he heard that we too knew of it.
Dismantlement. One by one, I dislocate my fingers unconsciously until I cannot hold our map any longer.
‘What are you doing?’, Delfin asks. I look down at my hands. I laugh - a strange sound like a mockingbird swallowing a mosquito.
‘I know this life too well, is all’.
Every firefly deserts me, rushes out of my mouth and ears. At last, I need another life. I begin to doubt everything.
Past the heavy gate, few acknowledge us as we enter. Dogs rush around snapping at mice hiding in the trees.
A man approaches us, slightly bent over as he walks and young full of years of cheap liquor. He leads us to a small house.
‘You can sleep here’, he says in a thick Italian accent. ‘Fuck everyone else, you can sleep here, they can find somewhere else.’ And he hobbles away.
We turn away and look around. The tree next to us contains a blanket hanging from a branch. A girl greets us and begins to speak of candle wax and flamenco songs. I cut her off -
‘Lo siento pero sabes donde podemos dormir por esta noche?’
She begins to laugh and points at the trees.
From the trees further on, there are people hanging upside down and held by rope attached to a branch. Jardin Colgante means ‘hanging garden’.
‘Es salud’, she promises, grinning broadly. ‘De sueños magníficos’.
Dozens of them up there snoring away.
A laughter comes out of me, causing me to jump up in the air in surprise. Even in my writing I couldn’t have imagined this. There are things that continue to astonish and awaken and in this, you are alive, you are here… and later in a teteria, a strength returns while Arabia shimmers and cries before me.
Drawing by Erica Il Cane