The City of the Sea People

I haven’t seen the sea yet but I know it’s nearby.

Anchors on ankles and waves on wrists give the game away. Girls with bodies as waxed as their boards push by. Boys flip and flop, but stay in one place: they’re chilling, bro. They talk about the sea as though it were a drug: with a heavy dose of respect, a tinge of fear and an evident addiction.

Not even the tepid waters of the Mediterranean could ease the July heat in Barcelona. It’s a wet, heavy heat that forms a barrier not unlike a strong oncoming wind, slowing down the pace of life to a barefooted wander. So that’s what I did this month in Barcelona: I wandered. I got lost in the windy alleyways of the Born district, I was led by locals through the greenery of Montjuïc, I metro-hopped until my travel card ran dry and I walked the coast without a plan. I traded in my maps and guides for Catalan kindness.

The more time I spent with the locals, which, as the necessity of sleep was overruled by the exhilharation of wandering, became around 20 hours of my daily ration, the more I adapted: the longer I left the salt festering in my hair, the less I worried about tan lines, the more I relaxed. You know that feeling of panic when you’re floating in the sea and you’re obsessing over what creatures might be licking their lips at the sight of your ankles or over your fear of the rising waves or over the possibility that your legs might tire of treading water before you make it back to s
hore? You might not but I definitely did. Until one day when I was bobbing up and down in the Mediterranean, I realised that the only thing I could focus on was the hypnotic ripples on the water’s surface.

All throughout July, I looked around me and saw people living life. They were soaking up each day, drinking it through their pores until they felt it in their bones. In Britain, there are days when I wouldn’t even make eye contact with a stranger in the street. In Barcelona, I got on the back of his motorbike just to feel the droplets on my face as we raced down the backstreets. No questions asked.

August comes and they plan their migration to the north where the waves are bigger and the sun is cooler. I’m heading north too, but I’d like to think that what Barcelona gave me, I’ll take with me as a souvenir.Anchor | Monica Burns


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