I am back in Madrid, a place that I had never even planned to visit again. As a general rule, I don’t believe in going back. There are too many new places to go forward to. But over the five years since I was last here, the myth of Madrid has acquired a somewhat legendary status in my memory, as well as my anecdotes. One PGCE, one MA and five months of unemployment later, Madrid seemed like the best option; for work, for fun, for living the dream.
To say that returning to Madrid has a dream-like quality would be innaccurate. It is more akin to stepping back into the echoes of memories; a temporal slip where I half expect to see a past version of my self. Dressed in a deep crimson blouse, tight grey mini-skirt, dancing on speakers in smokey nightclubs with my girl friends until 6am, when the Metro opened in time for a ride home. These echoes of memories are what formed the legend that was Madrid.
As I look for my old favourite haunts, I do not see this former self laughing and drinking, with the Mancunian redhead and the Italian blonde. On this particular day, Good Friday, I walk alone, revelling in my re-ignited independence. Eventually I re-discover my favourite chill-out bar, ‘Yambala’. I walk past the door a couple of times, checking to see that I am not still there with the redhead, or my German friend. I am not. I am outside, now, in the spitting rain. I need to pee and to drink, so I step into this echo of the past, into the reggae music pumping life into the tiny space. Wooden tribal masks adorn the walls of the bar room, while cushions and Morroccan throws create a dark, cosy space to smoke flavoured shisha pipes in the back.
The candle-lit back room is where I drank my first mojito; a cocktail that I have been unable to enjoy anywhere else. It is where I spilled water all over the redhead’s crotch early one night; where I used to meet my German friend; where I shared a stolen weekend with a past love. Back then, everything was raw. My heart ached, smashed to pieces. I was invisible to the arrogant Madrileños. Now, I draw admiring glances. Now, people respond in English to my poor Spanish. Now my core is strong, and I pulse along with the vibrant beat of this city.
Before I returned, I imagined that I would feel as I had before: insecure, frustrated, lost; partying and sleeping the weekends away. But I have grown up, and this time, I am open to Madrid.