It is my favorite time of the year. Spring is about to give birth to summer, and Madrid is quickly moving towards the height of its seduction. It’s a Saturday morning, and the sun is pouring in from the slanted window above my head and onto my face. I can see the red backs of my eyelids and I open them to a glorious royal blue sky. There is a slight, cool breeze coming in through the crack in the attic-like window, the fading dregs of winter, and I feel a few of my long hairs dancing and tickling my face. The apartment is quiet, and I slowly pull myself up into a satisfying stretch.
I walk down the creaky, narrow wooden steps and into the disaster of a kitchen. It looks like my male roommates decided to indulge in a few late night snacks and beers after the football match. I remove a stack of plates from the sink so I can fit the coffee percolator under the faucet. I have never been a morning person, but something about this city, and the fact that everything is getting warmer makes it easier to wake up early on a Saturday. Even with a messy kitchen, I can’t complain. I wander out onto the terrace as the coffee pot is heating up. The day is absolutely beautiful, and I can feel the warmth of the sun on my back and shoulders. I can just see the beginning of the sierra in the distance; the blue mountains a dull, hazy grey contrast to the vibrant sky.
While starting on my second coffee on the terrace, I open my ipad. Twenty seven facebook notifications. All messages from a group of expat friends here in Madrid. Most of the comments are rubbish (as my British friends would say). Hilarious rubbish, though and I find myself giggling out loud. We are all broke English teachers trying to “suck the marrow out of life” as Thoreau once put it. One of the things I love most about my group of friends is how different we all are. We come from all over the world, and have different ways of expressing ideas. My British roommate calls a ham sandwich a “ham buttie”, but would deny the fact that we are roommates. To him, we are flatmates. My other flatmate, if you will, calls a banana a ba-nonna. And I wont even get into how many times I day I hear the term "wanker." The two girls that live here are very lively, beautiful, and bubbly Americans. They keep me feeling young, and always have plans and ideas for creative group activities.
I walk back inside and smile as I observe the paintings on the wall of our living room. Months earlier, I had a completely different set of roommates. They have all moved back home now, but the paintings on the wall are a reminder of the good times we had together. On one of my favorite days the summer before, one of my roommates knocked on my door on a Saturday morning and informed me that I had to come downstairs “right now” as we were having a painting party. So, we spent the day together painting canvases, all of the results completely different and unique. Then, we went on a tour of our own city, a cable car ride, and trip to the most popular Mercado here in Madrid. For a flash of a second, an unhappy thought comes to me. The reminder of how fleeting this lifestyle is. Most expats come here for a year or two, teach English, travel, enjoy the culture, and move back home to find a different job. I quickly erase this thought, and focus on what I want to get done for the day.
Upstairs, I pull on my running clothes, and grab my ipod. Running is my therapy, and this is the best time of year for it. I head out of my apartment and onto the crowded main street of the neighborhood where I live. I’ve been averaging about four miles a run these days, but today the weather pushes me to go a bit farther. I try to erase all thoughts and worries from my head and focus on each step.
After my run, I wander the streets for a while, grabbing a coconut water from a shop for the walk home. My problem with running these days, is that I like to run on the interesting and beautiful streets that happen to be quite a ways from the neighborhood where I live. By the time I have usually finished my run, I am miles away from home. So, usually I try to walk home rather than take the metro. Depending on where I end up, this walk can sometimes take an hour or two.
I open the door to my apartment to find the living room full of my roommates and some friends who have come over to watch a football match. One of the guys makes a snarky remark, and I roll my eyes, but turn around and smile as I walk up the stairs. I love the brotherly relationships I have with these guys. Upstairs, I shower and then pull on a pair of bohemian harem pants and a tank top. I love how I can get away with wearing whatever I want in this city. To me, walking down the streets on Spring and Summer nights is so much fun for people watching. The tanks tops, top knots, maxi skirts and crop tops add to the sexy, feverish energy of the city. Freedom of expression has always been an important factor to me, and here, I find, I am at my most confident.
After the game, we head out of the apartment to the city center. Madrid is bewitching in the summer. The air is a hot, thick, enchanting veil that presses against our bare, golden limbs. There are around thirty of us that eventually end up together in our favorite bar in the Malasaña neighborhood. I take part in, and listen to various conversations ranging from philosophical to hilarious, but mostly just hilarious. Hours later, after sitting in a square drinking beers purchased from street vendors, playing cards, dancing, and getting kicked off of the square’s playground equipment, around nine of us remain.
As we start walking towards the metro, I can see that the sun has started to light up the sky in a brilliant display of pink, orange and shades of purple. I look around at these incredible people and in this moment I feel that everything is right in the world. Our hearts were brought together by chance, and for this I am truly grateful. We understand each other sometimes, and sometimes we don’t. But each of us, in small and large ways has helped save one another. Some of us are running from aspects of our lives, others running towards something. But for an infinite few seconds I feel like I have understood the point of all of the running.