The blue bus is calling Huckleberry, but he’s already got a train ticket for Wednesday’s journey from Cáceres to Madrid and then Madrid to San Sebastian so that bus will just have to leaf through other Potential-ites and tour other dreams without him.
Pre-departure tasks make quick work of free time, and any free time leftover is consumed procrastinating just a little bit more. Any last minute gift shopping he would have done has been nixed out of the ring fromthe main contender: Fair of Cáceres. Everything that doesn’t serve food and drink was closed. The beauty of town fairs here is that everything closes down; it just consolidated the remaining useful time into part of Monday and Tuesday morning to snatch up some last minute goodies for those he hasn’t said farewell to yet.
Nothing new there, though; not like Huckleberry would have been more prudent anyway. That much has changed, to say the least. Or had it? He couldn’t tell anymore. Manolo and Francis asked Huck what might be the most distinguishing feature between Europeans and Americans. Honestly, he felt so deep in the former and far from the latter that their guess was just as good as his. The reach of finite differences was exhaustingly infinite which made large assesments ponderously naive.
During the past week of goodbyes, Huck could feel the rather violent final phases of Spanish-USA synthesis peter off leaving only small edges for polishing here and there. That’s alright, of course, because reintegration will likely put some nicks and chips in that new figure anyway – and after that all the polishing and final touches can see to their vision’s realization.
One thing this journey solidified was his absolute faith in his theories on gift giving. What do you buy friends from the small town where they’ve lived for almost their entire lives and of which they’ve just about seen everything? What can you give, that keeps on giving? What can you share that is forever, that no other can shake off, that will stand the test of all efforts and time saying, “this testifies our bond”?
The answer is, of course, chocolates and sweets; the consumption of which will likely cling to your friends, hang on them as visual record. What’s that? No, don’t be silly! There’s not a negative knot in that twist of thought. As good friends, our duty is to “round out” our friends – to fill out each other’s lesser parts. We must protect our friends from the cold world and it’s uncomfortable reality with the rich warmth and soft tummy only a consistent supply of chocolate or sweets can provide. A kinder, more considerate thought, Huck came not upon.
Along with the giving of chocolates and sweets, one cannot – must not – should not proceed without also offering a gift that is wholly and entirely authentic to one’s own character. To those who have shown you great generosity, cautionless care, and accepting admiration what will always bring a smile to their face is that “one thing you always did that was just so you and we just couldn’t imagine or want you any other way.”
Huckleberry, to the great misfortune of those around him, is a very slow conversationalist. By time he knows what he really wants to say the conversation has already made quantum leaps. To the even greater misfortune of his friends, Huckleberry has a penchant for drinking Old-fashioned’s and writing old-fashioned letters.
So, on his last Sunday in Cáceres – a day of resplendent repose – Huck sat down, and began to write. That is what 3 hour siestas are for. Of all the people Huckleberry had to thank, there were three families in particular that he really, really needed to thank: the family Gregori, the family NiceToMeetYou, and the family EOI Cáceres. Together these three connected nuclei formed Huckleberry’s social H2O in Cáceres without which his survival would have been a vastly different narrative.
“Dear Familia G.,
When I first arrived, I must admit I was reluctant to take on private lessons. You see, I did not come here with the intention of striking gold, mining the local populace for easy cash, or swindling parents who simply want a good educational experience for their kids. In the end I only taught lessons to your family, and the result of that decision was fantastic. I had too much fun hanging out with the Gregori Trio, and I hope the kids learned as much from me as I learned from them. I want you to know how incredibly grateful I am to have been invited into your lives, and to have received such unending generosity. Knowing that, if I ever needed, I could call upon you for help made me feel incredibly secure during the tumultuous and unpredictable beginning of my stay in Cáceres. Also, being so far from my own family was quite difficult, and having weekly contact with a family that made me feel so at home helped a great deal.
I wish nothing but the best upon you and I look forward to hearing about the future successes of the Gregori boys. You know where to find me!
“Dear Familia NiceToMeetYou,
Tomás, you have been, without a doubt, my best friend this year in Cáceres. My only concern for you is that one day you will become a “Hipster: Category 7”, a fate from which you may never return. The only way to overcome such an illness will be to consult the I Ching as to which part of London you will need to search in order to find the female counterpart to the giant slug currently being doctored at the helicopter base where you work. Remember, the survival of giant slugs depends on you – and no mustache watch, no fancy sunglasses, and no vintage aleatoria can do it for you. Other than that, you’ve got it made.
Grego, unlike Tomás, I have no fears that you will become a hipster. I mean, once a Moderno – always a Moderno, right? Thanks for the laughs – hopefully your career as a stand-up comedian prospers long enough that maybe, just maybe, one day I’ll understand more than 60% of the colloquialisms in your monologue. I feel priveleged to receive your patient friendship because being a blonde haired, blue eyed, half-literate guiri makes it hard to be taken seriously in this land. Many thanks to both you and Tomás for decoding my broken Spanish and treating me like a real person.
Marion and Manon, I can’t say that you’re any less intimidating than you were when we first met. I tremble with fear as I write this and as you read this. Thank you first and foremost for the constant supply of delicious food and drink, and second for allowing me to tag along on with some of those colorful M&M adventures. While I admit that I will never, ever like that Tiburón song – I will forever cherish the time we spent together for as long as you please never play that song ever again I beg you. You two are such a pleasure to be around: two peas in a pod, a match made in heaven, the impeccable Red and Yellow M&M’s.
Francis and Manolo, my favorite memory of you two has something do with a random conversation atop the little itsy bitsy castle in Montanchez. Thanks, Manolo, for guiding me around the city and thanks, Francis, for keeping Manolo’s enthusiasm in check. Between your combined life experiences I believe you two best read me, best understood what I was thinking and feeling, and could relate when I was in the more extreme phases of the Ups and Downs one experiences living amidst a foreign cutlure. Thanks for watching out for me!
Indeed, NiceToMeetYou kids, it was an immense pleasure getting to know you this year.
Your new friend,
“Dear EOI Cáceres,
From the beginning I knew you would be trouble. You and your orderly-ness, your efficiency, and your functional comradery. If one more person offers to lend a hand or ask me what’s new I’ll likely break down in a goo or relaxed mush of my former, more independently vertebrate and need-no-help, self. I sincerely hope that none of your classes caught fire in the wake of my sloppy assistantship. I grew a great deal thanks to all of you and the various stages, levels, and final bosses of the school year. Now, little birds have spoken to me through the grapevine and it seems somebody (lookin’ at you Isabel!) opened my Month-And-A-Half-Early-It’s-My-Birthday-So-I’ve-Brought-Everyone-Chocolates expression of Spanish tradition. My directions explicitly warned that you musn’t open it before my birthday, and the birthday of my soon to be 26 year old triplet sisters (Ana and Chayo), on July 5th. As punishment, I will leave a whole new set of directions. These ones you must follow with great earnest and I will hear no excuses, understood? If you want to make up for your collective sins for trespassing my birthday wishes – you must both devour this newer, purer, holier, unbesmirched package of treats whilst you meditate on what a fantastic group of teachers you are. I won’t be around to be impressed by you anymore, you’ll just have to admire and be impressed by each other – for me. Understood? Great. Thank you for a stellar year.
Your Sorcerer’s Apprentice,
A.J. Huckleberry Grimm.”
Nothing like a short and heart felt memo to round things off and sweeten up separation. He could not write to everybody, unfortunately. There were too many people to bid farewell to in such a manner. One has to choose their battles.
The siesta was over, and an afternoon coffee was sounding so unastonishingly perfect. Refraining and containing his monstrous penmanship as it flew from once-upon-a-time-musically-induced-tendonitis-injured wrists was a crafty deed for the brain which grew dull like a professional cook knife in the hands of a 24 year old newbie in the crepe kitchen.
While a coffee break did sound good, other things needed to be done. This entire year, Huckleberry had been keeping a steady pace reading small doses of Proust at a time. Other books passed between the pages of In Search of Lost Time. Larger, much longer books of nearly 1300 pages were burned up in weeks. Smaller, denser books worked their way through the year. In Search of Lost Time, however, was both so incredibly difficult to consume properly and so thoroughly enjoyable that some sort of long term arrangement had to be made. The last 20 pages were reserved for this very day.
Huckleberry went to Canovas in the center of Cáceres, sat on a bench among the wandering Sunday afternoon public, and finished off Book 1 of In Search of Lost Time.
As every passage of the book, the unparalleled craftsmanship of the composition left Huckleberry to close the book with one of those pleasant smiles that we only release when art significantly alters our world. Huck decided, that there were only two more things left on deck and in this hand all cards must be played. As he brought his eyes down from the sky he saw that he had an audience. Three fair going cacereñan girls were parked on the park bench opposite and had just witnessed him finish trekking a dense and mountainous jungle of a mind trip. They seemed to be enjoying the look on his face.
The sunset neared Huck as he peaked the mini-mountain that is, La Montaña. Gold cast rays molded reality to his expectations: the cactus flowers atop the mountain had seen their prime. The hill was lit up all white with grassy sheaths. He thought about what Proust’s meditations on memories, dreams, and their relation to our present reality. He thought about that nun over in the garden watering everything in a 120 degree angle as she tried to block from her mind the bass booming reality behind her consising of a typical Spanish Bro trying to instagram his girlfriend sitting on the fence. The music shaking his idling car must have really set the scene. One could only wonder just how literal we’re supposed to take that fence in their artistic vision. He thought about these disappearing flowers, these husky grasses, this annoyed nun, and these young adults on the fence.
Two days from now would be his official sweet goodbye to the city Cáceres, so for now Huckleberry just tried to enjoy its company while being perched above the hot winds. For now, everything was observation.
Then, the further the sun got, the closer the clouds became;
and just like that, the last two cards in his hand were played.
Only one thing remained unfinished: a little book he had started. Rather, it kind of started on it’s own and he indeed had too much heart to stop its growth. How could he end it now?
Why, there is of course only one reason any story ever ends: to begin a new one.