(These paragraphs are a sort of travel journal, which I wrote during a recent trip to Madrid).
Recently I have felt as if I were writing in a tunnel far underground. Images have been more important than words. I picture myself climbing stairs. Soon I’ll be on the sidewalk. Soon is not the same as now. Time seems to have become an obstacle in my mind. I do not want things to slow down, which my writing state of mind needs.
I wrote the sentences above in another language, my second one, which for several years, while I lived in Madrid, I dreamt was the one I learned first. Time moves differently in me now. I am in a different time zone, the one I lived in in Spain, where I arrived yesterday and will remain a week. The paragraph above was written in the airport in Frankfurt. Perhaps I felt far underground after nearly ten hours on a plane. The flight from Frankfurt to Madrid was delayed. A couple of hours separated me from my destination. Maybe the experience felt similar to climbing stairs. I’ve written these sentences in English in the lobby of the hotel where I’m staying in Madrid.
Walking takes time. This sentence has come to me after my return to the hotel from another long walk in the center of Madrid. Spanish sidewalks have become my friends again. Even in December, people are seated at tables outside bars, on the sidewalks, creating the sense of crowded spaces. I walked to my favorite bookstore this morning, Casa del Libro, on Gran Vía, which has been renovated since my last visit, and I was surprised when I reached the top floor to find the Psychology section on a different wall. My familiar friends, the shelves of books on psychoanalysis and on Jungian thought, greeted me in their new location. I walked back to the hotel along narrow, crowded streets with a book related to Jungian psychology. Time has felt slower since I left Casa del Libro. Later on in the day I’ll spend time with printed words, my familiar friends, on the page.
My days in Madrid pass as if time doesn’t know what to do with me. I visited the building where I lived, spoke with the building manager, and when he offered to show me my old flat, which is vacant, I said yes without a pause. During my minutes in my old home, memories of reading and writing both in Spanish and in English came to me, and I felt as if the past were becoming the future.
I walked around in my old neighborhood. I walked without purpose, or perhaps I was waiting for a purpose to find me.
The two paragraphs above have taken me longer to write than I expected. I’m tired. I’ve slept poorly since my arrival. Now I must leave the hotel for a dinner.
At night, while I’ve been unable to sleep, I’ve read some pages of the book on archetypal psychology that I bought on my first day here. And I find myself rereading the same sentences without comprehending anything, as if the underground tunnel has become reality in my mind. I’m trapped. I seem unable to imagine stairs that I can climb back to the street level, so to speak, to the surface of things in consciousness. Finally, last night, moments before I fell asleep, I felt calm, and I imagined myself walking slowly on a crowded Madrid sidewalk, as if I had the space all to myself.
I’ve struggled to reflect on my time in Spain several years ago in the form of images. I lived here for a period of time that didn’t feel too long until the end. And then I couldn’t leave soon enough. I’m writing these sentences in a bar while I drink a café con leche. I’m also listening to the conversations in Spanish around me. An image appears that seems to describe my years here in Madrid: I’m walking in an underground tunnel, headed toward a destination that remains unknown to me. I finish the coffee with milk and leave the bar. The hotel is nearby. I imagine myself running on the sidewalk and then walking slowly. Perhaps climbing inner stairs won’t be part of my immediate mental or imaginative future. Time doesn’t feel like an obstacle or as a friend. It simply is. Or maybe it has been a friend. I’m thinking now. I don’t feel trapped. And soon I’ll fly home.