[hit play before reading. it works better that way.]
[ryan adams - 'la cienega just smiled']
I stood there, on that terrace, for one final cigarette.
it was a quiet one, and maybe that’s what seemed strange, as it was this spot that had loudly set the stage for the past 5 night’s worth of a million.
see, sometimes you stumble upon a magical place. and sometimes you find magical people. but rarely do the two ever show up at the same time. but sometimes they do. and when they do, and when the podium is set upon a hundred used wine bottles from the vineyards you can see just past the fishing boats from where we would sit night-after-night, opening one-after-another, it becomes something more than just ‘a few people who met while traveling’.
if I’m being honest, my heart hurt a little bit this afternoon when I was taken to the bus station by the hostel owner. I’m glad his wife wasn’t there to hug me by or I might have fought back a tear. or maybe I wouldn’t have fought it back at all.
but there was something about this place.
there were a lot of us, but there were 4 of us. the ones that would stay up the latest, finish the most wine, tell the naughtiest jokes. maybe we ran some people off, and that’s okay. at times the 4 of us were more than 4. we had our different sides that would come out at different times. and with that much carmenere, with that much sauvignon blanc, it wasn’t always clear who we were talking to.
but that’s not what mattered. what mattered was that at any given time, those 4 – or 8 – possibly even 12 – people got on.
and got on well.
my cigarette halfway finished, tar and melancholy combined for a heart heavy to say goodbye to our ritual. a nightly debauchery of our perverse quartet.
the first – a man conflicted in his own transitions, transitioning through his own conflicts – wanting to take as much as he could out of his unique position, but at the same time fighting the tranquility of where he found. then there were the two – a ying and yang with loud Adelaide accents. one spent too much time on her empanadas when she should have been prepping the dinner, over-thinking snacks when it was the stock she should have been starting. the other had a new life, a new destination and a new plan each new day – this idea and that dream, this possibility and that reality. I bought her a box of gum, ’cause I was sad to her leave. she didn’t say ‘thanks’ until the morning she left, but it was worth the wait. and then, there was me – the person who hadn’t personalized with too many persons on this trip – enjoying, for the most part, the solitude. but from the minute everyone sat down that first evening, I suddenly wondered if I’d been missing things like this these past 5 months.
but I thought back on my past adventures and realized I hadn’t missed out on anything, as this doesn’t happen often.
great things in great places with great people don’t often meet – not often at all.
different groups bring different things, but our nightly intoxicated bipolar show made sure all ends were covered.
my cigarette was almost done, and the more I thought about it, the harder it was to pull myself away from it all.
that empty stained terrace. overlooking the colorful city we saw so little of. my hair that still smelled of barbecue ash.
I was really sad to leave.
and maybe the town had a lot to do with it, a mix of a Berkley student – full of color and mentality – with an uncle from Havana. that’s probably what made the man and wife decide that this place – this spot – this street – was where they would build something beautiful. his favorite movie was Field of Dreams, so that should explain what needs explaining. she, an immediate mother to any who walked through her doors – standing there waiting for each traveler to get out of the cab or bus, kissing us each every morning, every night and making the biggest deal out of the wine glasses we gave her as a thank you gift on that last night.
and I mean – a big deal.
she shouted when she opened the boxes, hugging her husband as if they topped her Christmas list. taking out one at a time with the slowest of movements, pouring us all a wine and then holding it up, looking through it smiling.
the four of us – standing close to one another – could all see her smiling, because we could see her through the glass she held.
they were only a few packs of cheap wine glasses, but you would have thought they were full of crystals.
taking one last drag of that view, on that terrace, I teared up and I couldn’t figure out why.
it might have been the fact that I was coming down from a 5-day bender.
it might have been the view.
it might have been the gum.
it might have been a lot of things.
and I didn’t figure it out until I put my cigarette out and went to the kitchen to wash my hands.
there was a handmade wine rack where yesterday, there wasn’t. the owner must have gotten up early and made his wife a special rack for her special prizes.
and I sure wished everyone could have seen it before they left.
but in that wine rack was where in there it all made sense – what it was that had given me a lot, but also had taken away quite a bit from me as well.
the reason I was blue had nothing to do with the wine - it was those new wine glasses, as they too were bipolar.
see, what we saw in them the night before was a lady smiling.
but what she witnessed through her glass were four people standing close – four people who needed one another at the same time. in the same place.
in their place.
her shout had nothing to do with the gift, it had to do with what they had achieved with the terrace.
one look at our deranged-yet-inseparable group was what made her hug her husband tightly.
they did it.
they had made a place with something special – that called out to special people.
they had built it and we had come. to play our deviant game of nocturnal vocal baseball - all-stars the night before became retired ghosts the next morning.
that’s when it finally all made sense - why I left with a heavy heart.
it was those new wine glasses.
and through them – as opposed to what was inside them – lay the magic.
because as it turns out, from the way she held that glass, and from what she saw in it, there actually were crystals.
four, eight, or twelve of them, to be exact.