Cádiz, Spain

FROM ‘MARA, MARIETTA’
Intermezzo 7: Ximena

Marietta, I’m sitting at a table in an all-night bar, soothed by the mint-green walls and cool Atlantic breeze. In a corner, two prostitutes are playing chess. The one with a sparkle in her eyes is losing to the one with a sultry languour.

Opposite me sits Ximena. We’re drinking a dark, brooding Oloroso. More than the nudity of her shoulders, I like her centre-parted hair that leaves her forehead bare; more than the ripeness of her lips, I like her full-throated laughter. She’s studying Maritime Archeology and the History of Seafaring at the University of Cádiz.

Into sandstone walls as I walk the streets, daybreak mixes gold dust and magenta. At the market, a woman fetches buckets of roses from a van, men unload a fish truck. The day summons me to renew my senses, the day commands me to refresh my soul. I will go for a café solo and ensaimada, I will return to my hotel for a shower and shave. Then I’ll walk past the fortress, I’ll walk past the beach, I’ll walk along the shore to where the wild grass grows. There, before structuring my compulsion to recall, I’ll lie down and give free rein to my reverie.

John Singer Sargent, Port Scene II, 1879

John Singer Sargent, Camprodón, Spain, 1892