The heat is overwhelming. A blanket of scorching air thrown over the city. The dogs wilt, I pretend it’s just like Malibu but… it’s not. Southern Spain. I’m driving to Nice this week, then on to Paris and Chamonix to pick up my stuff. I managed to leave things all over the place. Ditching supurflous stuff along the way. Lightening the load. Occasionally I look at Dude and wonder if I should ditch him… poor crippled Dude. His back legs giving in, he wants to catch up but he just can’t. I can’t. I can’t leave him behind.
At 5am, I took my coffee cup and the Little Dog. We sat quietly looking out at the wide open plain, great fields of sunflowers, traffic snaking here and there. Sitting outside the Cordoba Gate. What dramas happened here? Who was allowed in and who was kept out? The two large fortified towers flanking a Roman arch were built around the 1st century A.D., with Renaissance and Neoclassical renovations. It was designed to protect and reflect the great wealth Carmona enjoyed for hundreds of years.
A man arrives with his chestnut gelding. As the horse drinks from the stone trough he drenches the beast with a plastic bucket. How welcome that trough must have been to those who arrived (for hundreds of years) on horseback over this arid plain. Waiting for the great doors to swing open, waiting outside the Cordoba gate, waiting to be let in or not.
I am going to stay the weekend in Italy with Rachel. Near Pisa. She has a donkey and two beloved cats. At night Carmona is over run with scavenging cats. Hundreds of them, like rats in New York. They are too confident to be scared by me or the Little Dog even though he makes an occasional and pathetic attempt at charging them. Their backs arch, they hiss and show their claws. He stops a couple of feet away and makes his strange whimper.
Last night my friend Jose and I explored the ancient part of the city. At 10.30 it was still very hot. Then suddenly the wind comes from Cadiz, from the ocean… 60 miles away. You can taste the salt. We turn a corner and the welcome breeze fills our shirts and closes our eyes.
We were chronicling abandoned houses, with or with out se vende signs written on them. Taking note of the location of each. “Everything is for sale in Spain.” The realtor says. There are palaces and broken shacks, old towers and ancient islamic, crenelated walls formerly part of the old city fortification that crash into very ordinary houses and quite by accident these medieval battlements, parapets and mouldings are consumed and preserved.
Everything in Spain is for sale. They see me coming: the friend of the rich celebrity. The price of everything jumps $40k. They show me the same houses they showed other friends two years ago. Unlocking ancient doors, we wander through huge homes once occupied by many families. There are slim balconies, stone steps leading to terraces looking down on secret courtyards. There is pigeon shit and kittens mewing in every room in every house we saw. Abandoned lives: a simple chair, a faience pot, a richly embroidered matador’s jacket hanging on the wall. Left behind, like my luggage in Paris and Chamonix.
Jose asks me why I want to live in Carmona. They asked me about Tivoli and Malibu before. Why does anyone want to live anywhere? I don’t know. I could live anywhere and nowhere. I am transient. I am free of possession or need for possessions. I go where I am safe. It is safe here. I lived in so much fear in the USA. Fear of being caught without my papers. Fear of the state. I was not rich or powerful enough not to live in fear.
We wake at 4.30am. We siesta after lunch. The streets fill, the shops and bars open after 9pm. During the day Dude will not leave my friend, he hides under their garden furniture. I keep the dogs out of the heat as much as I can. The Little Dog is gradually (slowly) recovering from his facial paralysis. He’s still very droopy but he’s coping. He’s doing the best he can. I’m doing the best I can. I am covered with sweat and dust. My nose is crusty, my eyes exhausted. I am recovering my optimism.
Since leaving the USA I am not plagued with ideas of death, with dark thoughts, with hopelessness. I am not hurting myself by investing in old traumas. Not here. I don’t want to die. Not where there has been so much life for hundreds of thousands of years. I am a smear soon to be forgotten. My unpopular views on social media but dust. It’s incumbent on me to stay alive. To rejoice. America makes a man vulnerable. It destroys ones trust in humanity. I came to loathe so many people in the USA but I hated gay white men more than any other. They are vile and crude. They espouse ideas of love and acceptance but practiced hate and exclusivity.
Today we are having lunch in Seville with Spanish gays. I am excited. The gay men I meet here are so generous. They touch my shoulder, they embrace me warmly. At first I shrank from their kindness. I learned not to trust white gay men. But, I’ve warmed to them here. They understand. They understand what horrors I endured in the USA.