I wonder about that night drive across Spain.
Scotty and I had travelled together many times, so I reduce the journey to imagined, and entirely probable moments. A quick coffee in the corner of a petrol station bar, one hundred kilometres shy of Zaragoza; the innumerable specifics of life still pressing in, jostling to be the focus; the third or second last coffee, and the cup it sat in; a tall carousel of porn DVDs, the blinking lights of a cigarette vending machine; the simple clearing of a table by a beautiful girl – another human added to his time – exquisitely ornate and, like so many before, bountifully over engineered to the moment and the task. So much superfluous decoration and complexity. The sound of his footsteps on the grit strewn tarmac. His sigh before ignition. And then a few moments later, spied by the attendant behind the till, the blink of his brake lights at the petrol station exit, and a momentary pause before the discreet roar of the engine and the plunge back into the night.
Kilometres of road and erect signs are etched by the light of the headlamps. The air is not enlivened with illuminated insects. It is cold December air. He is already very alone. The constellation of strangers’ homes, lives twinkling at ground level on the mesita, and all shuffled behind as the ground is carved out at 120 km per hour, the disembodied murmur of Dylan. I imagine it being very tranquilo.
Lerida, Late. Another Catalan pavement. The bar opposite the concert venue, noisy and distant around him. Time compressed by exhaustion – blank spots – not forgotten but barely lived – filling all the time between transactions: the sips; the payments; the jacketing; the gloving; the oddly faltering steps. He might have grinned at his own clumsiness. The mind laughing at the body, before the body has the last laugh.
Tranquilo was the first word I learnt in Spanish. I was in the Barrio Chino with Rodney and someone else tagging along – maybe a guy called Phil. If Phil was there, then Charlie was too, probably. It was 1987, late September, and we were down on the street waiting to be let in to a stair. At the stair’s very top, just a flight below the rooftop terrace, was the flat rented by the American girl whose 30th Birthday we were coming to celebrate. Our ticket in, an Irish girl Rodney knew, and whose name escapes me, was already at the party. No one was answering the buzzer. We could hear a party above us, or the meeting of the sound of various parties taking place along the street. I was eager to get in. I leaned on the button again. It wasn’t possible to hear its effect, or be sure it was making any, over the noise of mopeds and scooters buzzing along the narrow street or the shouts, screams, murmurs, laughs, giggles and music. I stepped back from the door and looked up, hoping to find someone looking down from a relevant balcony. By this time Rodney had sat down and was rolling one of his liquorice paper cigarettes. Searching his pockets for a lighter he was obliquely aware of my impatience. Without looking up he chuckled, I might have thought merely to himself, but then he counselled me, ‘Tranquilo.’