The waiter caught me at a bad time.
“Quires más guapa?” (Want anything more, beautiful?)
I looked up at him, like a deer caught in the headlights, hunched over my plate and stuffing the last bit of bread into my mouth, after it had been soaked in the mystery sauce on my tapas plate.
Believe me, it was far from “guapa.” I think I even had some flakes of bread falling into my lap at that exact moment.
I froze, but managed to shake my head, “no.”
He nodded, smiled and winked, something Spanish men seem to do with an effortless charm, and walked away.
I un-hunched myself and leaned back into my chair, sighing as I chewed and wondering if he’d call me “guapa” again after that incident.
I reached for my wine and sat back again, holding the glass against my chest as I breathed in the moment.
I looked up at the buildings that surrounded me on tiny Calle Estrella. Dusk was finally making its presence known and the street lamps were lighting up, casting about their golden glow. The last rays of sunshine were melting away from the yellow and blue-tiled church steeple that stood proudly across the street from my apartment.
The tiny cobblestone street began hum with the sounds of people talking and laughing, of glasses clinking and utensils hitting plates, as Bar Estrella’s tapas were being consumed by the European crowd. Once in a while, a motorbike would zoom down the street and around the corner, its “brrruuummm brumm brumm” echoing into the distance.
Sometimes a car would bravely cruise down the road, but not until the people had moved out of the way. (I forgot to mention: Calle Estrella is so narrow, a car and a person cannot both fit in the street at the same time!)
As I watched all the life happening around me, I felt relaxed and at peace. I was sitting alone in solitude, surrounded by happy people, good food and good wine. There was nowhere I needed to go and nothing I needed to do in that moment, except soak it all in.
That day had been particularly stressful. Last minute projects for work were coming through right and left, applications on my computer continually shut down without my work being saved and the Internet speed in my apartment was teaching me a hard and unappreciated lesson in patience.
By mid-afternoon, I was ready to chuck my computer over my balcony into the street below with a heathen screech and curl up in a ball and cry.
I might add, this is not a typical work day for me. If I do find myself getting frustrated or impatient, I normally have the maturity to take a step back and breathe. But not today. I mean, there was too much work to do and I couldn’t possibly be rational and zen about it.
So I let myself be pissy, a rarity in itself, because I knew that at 7pm I would shut my computer, call my boyfriend (which always puts a smile on my face) and then waltz down to Bar Estrella, divinely located just diagonally below my apartment.
After I talked with my boyfriend and successfully shut my computer, I walked down to an open table in the street below and sat down.
I had just gotten past the fact that walking up to an empty table and claiming it as your own is normal and customary here…and I don’t have to go up to a hostess, put my name in and pleasantly wait in the lobby for, “Lindsey? Party of One?”
My waiter, Alejandro as I later learned, came up soon after I sat down and asked what I wanted to drink.
I, who was feeling fancy and, at that point in the day, giving zero shits, ordered una copa de vino tinto (glass of red wine) and agua con gas (sparkling water). I poured over their extensive menu and did my best to read the Spanish version and only glance at the English menu to make sure I wasn’t ordering pig brains or cola del toro (bull’s tail).
In the end, I decided upon grilled swordfish, croquetas made with goat cheese and sautéed mushrooms. All assuredly doused in copious amounts of olive oil, garlic and salt.
I couldn’t wait.
My wine and water came out first. I sipped both slowly as I watched dusk settle upon the street and listened to the echoing hum of the crowd surround me.
Then my food came out. First the fresh baked bread, then the sword fish and mushrooms, and then finally, the croquetas.
It was divine. I mean, fried goat cheese? How could you possibly go wrong?
I sat eating (shoveling?) my food, until Alejandro came up at the precise moment I was stuffing the last bit of bread into my mouth, soaked in whatever sauce had graced my mushroom tapa plate.
I’m not sure how much time went by after he walked away, as I watched the tables around me fill up. Pleasantly full and sipping my wine, I smiled to myself, lost in the magic of it all.
Alejandro came back to the table to clear my plates and interrupted my thoughts.
“Que escribes?” he asked, in response to our earlier conversation about me being an escritora living in Seville for the next 6 weeks. “Novelas?” he prompted.
Ugh, if only it were that sexy, I thought.
I explained that I write blogs for other people and the words on website pages. I also threw in “blogs de viajes,” (travel blogs) because I’m in manifestation mode here, folks.
His eyes widened, “¡Que bien! …Un poco más…” he said as he poured more wine into my glass. I didn’t complain.
“Y estás aprendiendo español?” (And you are learning Spanish?)
“Sí,” I answered simply. I didn’t want to add “for the last 5 years.”
After I paid my check, Alejandro asked if I would come back sometime. I said yes, because I lived nearby and I liked the bar.
He seemed pleased with the answer and shouted “Ciao!” over his shoulder as he walked to the tables behind me.
I got up from my table, it was completely dark now, and began to wander around Barrio de Santa Cruz. It seemed like much more of a romantic and enjoyable decision than walking the 30 steps back to my apartment.
This neighborhood is one of my favorites at night. It’s lit up with old lanterns casting a warm yellow glow throughout the winding, narrow cobblestone streets.
I passed groups of people going out for the night, friends chatting animatedly as they walked to their next destination and I meandered by restaurants filled to the brim with patrons eating and drinking outside, enjoying the warm evening air.
After about 20 minutes, I had found my way back to my apartment. Perfect timing too; I was ready for bed.
I climbed the 5 flights of stairs up to my attic studio and opened the balcony door.
And there she was.
La Giralda brilliantly lit up in front of me, in all her glory. “My North Star” as I call her because, if I can see La Girlada, I can always find my way back to my apartment.
I stood and stared at the magnificent sight and let the cool, welcomed breeze wash over me. I closed my eyes and listened to the now more distant clanking of plates and silverware and a soft hum of voices.
I opened my eyes and smiled.
If there is one place I find peace and tranquility, it is here in Sevilla. Even after a day where I threatened to heave my computer into the street below in an overly-dramatic display of emotion, I still finished my night with an ease and relaxedness about my being.
I turned around and went back inside, releasing the curtain from its hook, so it could cover my open balcony door, but still dance gracefully in the wind.