A story about a young woman who leaves newly-freed, 1970s post-Franco Spain to see the world.
Published in Quadrant (2014) and as a zine (2013) by me. Gorgeous cover as shown by the talented Alisha Jade.
In 1976, it was a good time in Madrid. Franco was dead. The city, the whole country was coming out from underneath his heavy hand. I was nineteen, full of energy, full of desire. Like so many others, so many other young people, I had fled to the capital from the small town in which I'd grown up, from the sun and the seasons and the sheep on the dry, rocky hills. I had come hungry for my life to begin, to explode. And it did.
In those days, in Madrid, every night there were parties on the streets – literally. We used to say to one another, me and my generation – it was the catch-cry of our time – 'Tonight, everybody in the street!' We used to shout, 'Madrid, you kill me!'; and, at the top of our lungs, 'Madrid never sleeps!'
It was a time of freedom. And I was like a little bird. I flew here, I flew there on a whim. I had no ties, no invisible strings tied to my feet to keep me from moving. I flitted. And flitting, I fell in, at one time, with some punk-rockers on the east side. At another, I stayed with a group of flamboyant transvestites who I adored, and who adored me – the only one amongst them with real breasts, they said. They adored them too, painting them in intricate designs before the parties we went to.
Then, when I was bored of that, I crashed for a month on the mattress that belonged to the girl – she was away someplace else – who had famously taken off her clothes earlier that year, just for the fun, on top of the statues of the old heroes Daoíz and Velarde in the main square. How the crowd of us had cheered her on when, inch by inch and with great humour, she had revealed her proud, beautiful body. How we had screamed in our joy.
Like this. Madrid was like this. And at the end of my first year there I met a troupe of street performers who, though I did not know it then, would change the line of my life. I joined them, an apprentice, learning to juggle and clown, to paint my face like a ghoul or a doll, a waif, a wolf or a fire spirit – to embody the characters I played. I was also learning to walk on stilts.
There was one boy in the group – an aerial acrobat who danced with ribbons and silk. His name was Felo. He was like a flower, for me. Fragrant and fragile and sweet, almost not of this world. He had shy, cupid lips and a trail of pretty boyfriends always behind him. I, also, fell a little in love with him.
So when he, along with some of the others, decided to go to Amsterdam, to busk, to perform, to see the world – which none of us had, under Franco, seen much of before – I, too, wanted to go. I wanted to see the world which I believed in my heart could only be as wonderful and colourful and as kind to me as Madrid had been, if not more.
'Come, Maria,' Felo said, touching my face, my cheek.
And so I went. I followed soon after he left. I hitchhiked through France with the famous stripteaser, strangely enough, whose bed I had slept in for a month. In Paris, she left me to dance in some bars. And then I went on alone, for the first time in a long time, through Belgium and into the Netherlands. And I was not afraid once.
I was a little bird flying free...
If you would like to read on, please contact me to purchase the zine for $4 plus postage.