Madrid at Midnight

“Velázquez is amazing, but Goya—Goya is my hero.”

You said this while looking up to the names of Spain’s greatest painters carved on the wall in the entrance gate of Museo del Prado, the very building where I spent hours being awed by both of their many deeply inspired paintings just the day before.

“Do you think you admire Goya more because his paintings capture the essence of humanity?”

I asked this because you told me that your deeply held belief is that people have an ‘essence’, and they won’t be ‘fulfilled’ until they have truly connected with it. I wasn’t sure I was sold on this idea, because I always thought the self is an ever-evolving being.

Velázquez (well, his statue) was right there sitting behind us, minding his own business. It felt a bit like we had the whole building to ourselves.

At that point we have spent at least five hours talking to each other, althought it barely felt like a couple. Earlier that day, you suggested that we meet by the El Retiro Park main entrance gate at 8 PM—the one by Plaza de la Independencia, you added. Upon entering, take a left—said you’d be easy to spot.

You were. Somehow I knew I would be spending my last day in Madrid with the right soul.

We walked from one end of the park to another until we found a bench and were too engrossed in our conversation to even realized it was 15 minutes to midnight. The moon had moved from the left end of the horizon to the right, I told you. To which you replied, “You know it’s the Earth that rotates, right?” (Señor, and there I was thinking mansplaining was beneath you.)

We talked about how capitalism fucked us all, how it yielded an education system that numbs everyone, and whether when we meet again in 10 years we would’ve survived climate change. We talked about why people are addicted to religion, or any system that doesn’t require them to think on their own, because quite frankly, a world with too much uncertainties gets really scary really quickly. We talked about a lot of other things in between.

Alas, we had to move; some of the park’s gates were closed already (thank the universe we found one that wasn’t) and most restaurants were closing already even though we haven’t had dinner.

After being in denial for almost a good hour, we finally succumbed to the reliability of fast food chains that still open past midnight. We went to a KFC place nearby even though you took us to the wrong direction at first (it was when you admitted that I will always be right and if I wasn’t it’s all your fault lol). You hated crowds in general, so we took the food to the steps right by the Grand Via square and talked some more while munching chicken.

This time we talked about privileges, families, and guilt. And that the only way to deal with guilt is by using your privileges to help as many people as possible, the same way living people deal with their guilt towards those who passed before them by living their life to the fullest. Beware of the slippery slope towards the messiah complex though, you reminded me.

We didn’t get much sleep that night, and I couldn’t help but felt like we were literally in a Before Sunrise movie. Nothing about that evening was ordinary—you were a stranger but felt a lot like an old friend. I laughed a lot, and yet can’t get enough of our non-stop banters.

It was short but really sweet. The night did become good (what was it in Spanish again?) and I think for a brief time, our souls connected, which is always rare. For that, I am grateful to the universe.

Good bye for now, Seńor.

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