The entire day, I’d walked the lengths of Barcelona on tired, blistering feet. I was still getting over a hellacious cold, so I decided to take the bus back to my hostel. While I thought a mere week in the city was enough to acquaint myself, I stood corrected. I’d missed the bus stop and was too cheap to pay for a taxi. So I continued putting one foot in front of the other, hoping I’d run into a metro stop. Instead, I came across a bar called La Bruja, with bright red lights and an offer of cheap gin and tonics. It was an invitation I’d no desire to refuse.
I didn’t stay for long after my drink, but after talking to the bar keep, I found out that a bar I’d been wanting to visit was just a 20-minute walk from that joint. All I had to do, he told me, was pass through a drug addled part of town, hold my belongings tight, and descend some stairs, and it would be to my right. Sounded fair enough to me.
After dragging my feet for about 30 minutes, I finally reached Bar Marsella, pushing the creaky door open into the old, rickety bar. The smell of decaying wood, history, and ages-old shame rushed upon me as I entered. Within minutes, I was leaning back in an ancient wooden chair, staring at the crumbling ceiling, pondering my existence. I was tripping out that I was actually, finally, in Spain after dreaming of it for over half my life. My notebook was open, and my drink was in hand. But this wasn’t just any drink, and it wasn’t just any place. This was where Ernest Hemingway used to come and get lit on absinthe, back when it still had hallucinogenic properties. I waited for his ghost to descend upon me.
With the taste of liquor and sweetly masked black licorice lingering on my tongue, Hemingway’s presence failed me. So I walked back up to the one-manned bar and ordered another drink. I set it on the old table, contemplating the sugar cube resting on a tiny fork, ablaze, dripping down into the absinthe lurking below. It was kind of like me. Why did I always identify with the drunks, the misfits, the queers, the bums, the crazies of literature who turned their madness into raging, heartbreakingly beautiful poetry? My heroes have always been the fallen, the desolate, forlorn angels who take their pain and turn it into literary fucking magic. Hemingway was no exception. Spain came to embrace and honor him, but maybe this country is so beautiful in part because it is mad.
I sat alone at an older-than-my-dead-grandfather wooden table, still watching the blue flames hover above my drink, expecting nothing from the night. I didn’t care for interaction, I just wanted to get tipsy and have Hemingway’s vibes strike me with inspiration.
“Why don’t you sit with her?” I looked up and saw the bartender. He was pointing behind me to a blonde haired, dread-locked female sitting alone. Although I wasn’t much in the mood for conversation, I said hello. She was friendly enough, so I put my journal away and got up to sit with her.
Conversation was going well. Her name was Natasha or Katrina, or possibly something entirely different from what I remember. Katrina was from St. Petersburg, and as I am easily seduced by the unknown, her Russian accent left me relishing every word she spoke.
Without pretense or premonition, she put her hand on my leg and looked me in the eye. “I’m not usually attracted to girls, but there’s just something about you that draws me in,” she said. “It’s your energy- I, I don’t know exactly what it is, but it’s there.” I began seeing her in a different light; I was flattered. Katrina went on to make a variety of observations about me that I frequently hear while on the road, but almost never when I am stagnant. When I travel, I know I am a different person; I’m a better version of myself. She saw me as happy, energetic, magnetizing. “I want to spend more time with you, get to know you on a deeper level, enjoy the night with you…” Her eyes got smaller, zoning in on me, trying to determine if I’d understood just what she wanted to say. Never once did she look away. I began to think that my plans for that Barcelona night had just become far more exciting than I’d anticipated.
Suddenly, urgently, immediately, she got up from her chair and apologized. She darted to the women’s bathroom, and through the aged, cracked, less-than-opaque window on the door, I could see her dreads duck down out of sight, followed the unmistakable, wretched sound of someone puking their life into a toilet.
She came back to the table and was about to sit down, when she stood up again and rushed to the bathroom. Katrina did this a few times, not managing to say anything in between time. The last time she went to the restroom, she didn’t bother to come back to the table. She darted out of the bar, and I only saw a shadow of her hair flash by. I’d given her my card, but I never heard from her again. I didn’t expect to, but then again I hadn’t expected to meet her. I’d just hoped for a more audacious ending to this story.