I step outside my friend’s flat in the old town center in Jerez, just next to the Alcazar, and there I am. The moment has come. I need to say goodbye again.
I think about the hectic week I’ve had – left without my volunteering job, I spent the weekend in my friend’s house on the beach of Rota, letting it all sink in, trying to figure out what to do next. My friend then let me stay with her and her family for a few days, to make all the necessary Workaway applications. Lina let me take my time, and encouraged me to do whatever my intuition tells me to. What an amazing friend and a coworker I’ve made during these few months in the city – the kind that you know you can always count on, the kind you know you could never forget.
The other half of the week I’ve spent right here, in the center of Jerez, with new friends who treated me like family during my short stay. I take a moment to think about all the fun drunken moments of Feria del Caballo I shared with Sara, Virginia, Dipankar, and Alejandro. We connected quickly in that crazy one week long party, and now I am here, getting all the support in the world from them.
Leaving the thoughts related to the recent past, I start delving deeper into the memories I’ve made in this city since January. I walk to my right, passing through the Patio de los Naranjos, and then down the stairs, around the Cathedral. My first Sunday afternoon stroll around Jerez was just like this. I remember it as if it happened yesterday, and yet, I’ve lived through so many experiences since then, I’ve taken countless photos of that magnificent cathedral, and it seems like a time long gone.
A familiar old friend starts to creep on me silently, from deep down within – Melancholy never leaves me. Not for real. She hides sometimes in the darkest corners of my being, restlessly lurking for a new opportunity to grab me by the neck, giving me a false sense of security. But once again, right in this peaceful moment in the street, in the hot bright sun, I can feel her fingers caressing my skin gently at the bottom of my back. I welcome her. I let her come out; I let her rise up my spine and hug me around the neck. We walk together, and her presence is at the same time disturbing and comforting. She will walk through this goodbye with me, just as she always does.
I continue through the street which leads to Parroquia de San Dionisio, just next to the Plaza Plateros. Right here, in Casa Gabriela, is where I used to come to have coffee and work on my blog texts, in the open fresh air. It’s 11 in the morning and the small square is full of people enjoying their drink and food in the sun. The waiter recognizes me and welcomes me with a wide smile. “Coffee as usual?”, he asks in Spanish. I shake my head giving a tiny smile: “Not this time, thanks.”
I walk on. Right there, in that corner, is the Plateros bar. The memories overwhelm me here, it almost feels too much – in my head I replay all the moments spent here with my Italian friends, trying to decide which sherry wine and tapas we should choose this time. I think of all our favorite bars: El Guitarron, Banderillas, El Asador, Casa de San Pablo… I can feel rich Andalusian tastes in my mouth. I can clearly see Angelo’s face, the tiny wrinkles around his eyes never disappearing due to his incredibly warm, wide smiles. I can almost hear him saying: “Olaaaa guapaaaaa!”, as he always did right before hugging me every time we met up for drinks.
The winding streets lead me on, all the way to the fountain at the roundabout of Calle Larga. This is where I met my first friend in Jerez, my dear Juan. He is the one who introduced me to the city, to the culture, to the bars, to his people. To my people. All of this is now also mine. This is where we all always used to meet up right before going out. This is where Nacho used to pick me up with his car before going to the beach to enjoy some joints and starry skies. As I breathe in, for a moment I disconnect from the place, and I am no longer in the busy streets of Jerez. The smell of good weed combined with salty ocean air fills my nostrils and Nacho is there with me, killing the joint.
I keep walking through the Calle Larga, the busiest street of Jerez. There are people everywhere – young and old, rich and poor, sounds of laughter and chatter spice up the air. It is a Friday morning and there are a few street musicians and entertainers making the atmosphere more amazing than I remember.
Everything is exquisite because I know I have to leave it. Because I know the time has almost run out. This street will never be more beautiful than it is now. I will never be in this exact combination of the moment and place again.
Melancholy holds my hand and leads me further through the street. There is the big market on the left, rich with colors, flavors, and scents of all kinds. I go in to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, people looking at me curiously as I try to explain which ones I want, as there is still some Spanish vocabulary I need to work on. Everybody is so nice and ready to help, and they always want to know where I come from and why I am here.
I leave the market with a big smile. Further down the street I see the bar where I loved to take the ice-cream. These waiters also know me by now; one of them smiles and waves as he collects the empty glasses from the tables.
Finally, I step into the big square, Plaza del Arenal. The view is dominated by the grand horse rider statue, and fountain is working, so I go and sit right next to it. I close my eyes and breathe in the air of these streets, now so familiar to me. The song from a Spanish band Los Delinquentes, originally from Jerez, comes to my mind – El Aire de la Calle (The Air of the Street).
I sit there and take it all in – the sunlight on my skin, the fresh air in my nostrils, the wind messing up my hair, the view of the people passing by or sitting in the bars, the nearby chariot with horses waiting for tourists. It all used to be so unfamiliar and confusing. I used to get lost trying to find my way around the old town maze-like streets.
Now I know where I am. I know where to go, and how to get there. I even know some of the shortcuts. The streets are familiar to me, my feet made friends with their cobblestones. And the city knows me, too – we made some nice memories together.
But now it’s time to move on. No matter how much I love the place, or the people, I must go on. I must keep exploring, I must chase my next adventure. There is a burning desire within me to fall in love again and again, each time with a new city, with a new house, with a new beach, forest, or a mountain. Undiscovered places are calling me as I dream with my eyes wide open. The unexpected situations make me push my limits and expand my mind. The goose-bumps on my skin appear even if I just think about it.
The unknown makes me feel more alive than anything else. And I want to feel alive. And I must follow that bliss.
Melancholy is fully present there with me, sitting in the middle of Plaza del Arenal. Her strong embrace is warm and chilly. I savor this sweet torture, this bitter pleasure. I am leaving this place. But my love will remain. I can feel it my bones, just like I did in Brno, almost one year ago.
It always remains – the never-ending “saudade”.