After dancing for 6 hours non stop, music and alcohol pumping the machines of our bodies, I found myself underground Madrid.
For the past 10 months, the metro had become my sanctuary; my church. It had seen the best and worst of me. Drunk and biligerently out of my mind happiness, ecstatically excited and carefree, unjustifiably angry, sick and unable, nervous induced sweat from first dates, heavy heart and eyes from conversations with past lovers, fear from a previous landowner, so many things I’ve felt beneath the ground of beautiful Madrid.
And still, it got me where I needed to be, like a good friend.
This night, rather I should say this morning, was no different.
My head lay in the lap of my best friend. Per normal, jokingly serious, I asked her to sing me a lullaby so I could get a few moments of slumber before having to go to work.
Her fingers dancing through my hair, she began singing in Italian. A song I had become very fond of during our time together.
Spiraling slowly into sleep, I felt her hand go limp against my head. “She is falling asleep too,” I thought to myself.
“I’m going to miss this.”
A short statement, which held so much power.
Without thinking I responded with heavy eyes, “Miss what?”
Her hand tensed a bit, a sign of her being serious, but pensive.
“All of this. Being in Madrid, dancing our asses off, waiting for the metro at 6amdrunk, traveling and eating, and learning, and all the people we’ve met. I’m going to miss it so much.”
Motionless beneath her answer, and very much awake and fully aware of my current surroundings, I didn’t say anything back. Not because I didn’t agree, but because I wanted to say the right thing, and in this moment, I didn’t know how to express the sentiment residing in my heart.
The humming roar of the metro drowned out the silence. Saved by Madrid’s public transportation yet again.
But I couldn’t shake the thoughts of what Sara had said, not even sleep would give me fortitude from the inevitable feelings I had been avoiding this past month.
So I unlatched the floodgates of my heart, and let the memories engulf me, swimming through cherished recollections.
And I began remembering vividly all the moments I committed to memory, to remind myself always… that happiness is best when shared.
Flashback to my first day in Madrid. As fate would have it, I met Lauren, who is now one of my best friends. We have shared so much together. Day tripping to Segovia, meeting random Spanish boys, the Ed Sheeran concert, venting about all the same issues: personal and political, sunsets and alcoholic beverages on rooftops, eating Mexican food for birthday celebrations, free tequila shots for being us, hijoputa meat sticks, getting a ride home from Spanish boy because we didn’t want to take the metro, taking jager bombs at a sketch bar with a group of Spaniards, her sleeping on my bedroom floor, her gracefully helping my childhood best friend grab a taxi after being too intoxicated… so many experiences that filled my mind, with this one glorious person.
Fiercely independent and hilariously opinionated, Lauren’s free spirit and contagious personality set a pretty high standard for friendship in Spain.
Conspiring in my favor, the universe set before me many different challenges, each with different names and faces, and languages and habits, separate ways of expression, and different moral and belief systems.
With the new year, I found myself surrounded by a group of girls that would change how I viewed the world.
Hesitant to get attached, I kept a safe distance at first. I remember one January night standing outside on my balcony, looking at the stars, and being moved by the unknown.
And I thought to myself:
Hearts are stars, connected like constellations. Brighter and more beautiful in clusters.
So that’s what I allowed my heart to do with theirs. Touch and connect, and combine.
And an explosion of new and unfamiliar experiences crashed into my universe.
Exploring the streets of Madrid with Miranda, getting lost, and continuously telling each other to never stop exploring.
Wednesday nights soon became dedicated to micheladas with Lauren, and after obtaining a nice buzz, going out clubbing with Miranda and Oda.
I even moved into a new apartment, thank god. Probably one of the best decisions of my Spanish experience as I met Sara and Roberta, my Italians.
And so my ears filled with yet another language, fluid and romantic. Many times I found myself sitting on the couch while the girls conversed, just because I wanted to listen to the melody of their mother tongue.
All the times we spent at Pequeños Placeres, pregaming off cheap drinks and good company. This spot had become a church for all of us to gather to celebrate and rejoice in friendship. Come as you are, it beckoned us, no more or no less than the very person you are in this moment.
Roadtripping to El Escorial with all the girls, having Retiro Olympic games hosted by the wonderful and soul sister Nikki, winning trivia competitions, teaching Sara and Roberta colloquial English that they now use against me in good humor, metro rides where we took risky photographs, Oda and I roadtripping to Granada and having one of the best weekend getaways, remembering the feeling of having my heart be so full after birthday celebrations and thinking that age 23 is gonna be the best year yet, dancing on bars with Lauren, getting free drinks/shots/entrance walking the streets of sol — Nikki always being my wing woman to back me up, watching each of the girls gain their own courage to use Spanish charm for free stuff, playing American drinking games with the Italians – letting them get ridiculously drunk, watching sunsets from my favorite spot in Madrid, going to the holi festival and getting splattered with all the colors of the coming Spring, first dates and anxious talks with Miranda and Oda, celebrating Ro’s birthday at the park and doing cartwheels and handstands with her and Sara, going to a Real Madrid game intoxicated out of my mind, meeting new people and celebrating Cinco de Mayo with 6 pitchers of margaritas, eating an unhealthy amount of tapas at El Tigre, hookah sessions and smoke rings, all the nonsensical pictures I took to frame within my mind the gallery of my experience… and just so much more. I am barely scratching the surface of a diamond trying to eloquently explain the magnitude of memories I hold very close to my heart.
I’ve often heard that we are the sum of our experiences. How impersonal.
But maybe, just maybe it’s more.
Maybe we are the sum of all the people we experience, too.
As important as it’s been for me to remember everything I have done… it’s been more essential, for my own identity, to remember the people I surrounded myself with, and who we all were during this time in our lives.
May 21st, 2015
I walked into my apartment after work, gravity weighing massively on my heart.
I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that this would be the final time I would experience all my group of girl friends together; the season of goodbye upon us.
But excitement also filled my breath; there was electricity and energy in the oxygen filling my lungs.
Oda and Nikki joined me at my apartment to pregame for the concert. Miranda, going through her own emotional crisis of farewell, would meet us later, along with Keji.
A nice buzz humming through our bodies, we finally left for the metro to meet Miranda. A message lit up my phone from an unknown facebook profile.
“Trinh get the fuck here now — Please”
It came along with a photo of Lauren and Miranda.
I hadn’t expected to see Lauren that night, because I knew she was busy being host to one of her friend’s from home.
I was immediately reinvigorated with determination to make this night unforgettable. I really was going to get to see everyone I loved the most this night.
We stammered our way into Placeres, and immediately I found myself within the arms of Lauren, surrounded by a sea of other friendly faces. She was kissing my cheeks and smiling, waving over her friend to introduce us, “This is crazy ass Trinh, she’s my best friend.”
I don’t know if it was the alcohol or if I was just being overly sentimental and over-thinking the whole situation, probably a combination of both, but I looked at Lauren and felt such an inexplicable amount of affection for her.
I gave her a tight squeeze and then made my way over to the bar, where I bought a glass of white wine, for Oda and I (she prefers white, this I will always remember, too).
Irrationally, Norge and I chugged our glasses of wine within 10 seconds of its appearance within our palms…
Miranda gave us one of her meaningful looks, conveying –“I agree, this may be one of the few times I agree, but yes I understand,” sloshing down her own drink.
So I went for another round, taking our time with this one, our minds at an elevated high.
The concert started at 9, and we ended up leaving Placeres around 9:15. The venue was about a 5-minute walk away. Miranda’s arm was around my shoulder, and mine around her waist. Nikki, Oda, and Keji were a bit ahead of us.
Miranda’s body began trembling like a scale 7 earthquake, and her face became a storm. Her body limp from uncontrollable rain, she collapsed, “I can’t do this, I can’t leave, I don’t want to say goodbye.”
Where my strength came from is beyond me, but I caught her before she sprawled out on the floor, arms supporting her body, and whispered against her hair half trying to convince myself, “Not here, and not now. This is not goodbye yet.”
It’s a very rare experience to see Miranda emotionally vulnerable. She is mature beyond her age, and without a doubt, a nurturer. If comfort is the refuge you seek, her arms are home.
At the steps of Teatro Barcelo, we finally made our way inside. Unfortunately, Echosmith had already begun playing, so we missed a few songs, but it didn’t matter.
Bass pounding to the sound of our heartbeats, enclosed by animated bodies of strangers, the lyrics echoed throughout the backdrop…
With hands in our pockets, this doesn’t have to be our last dance.
With hands in our pockets, this world doesn’t have to end.
No grand finale.
Hands in our pockets, we’ll march into the sun.
The words resonated with my soul. We didn’t have to say goodbye, not now, not ever. I promised myself then and there that I would find my way back to each and every one of them, despite time and distance. My mind loosened up and I began enjoying the concert fully.
At one point my favorite song began playing. The repetition of, “Come together, we’re gonna come together now. Just let go, we’re almost home.. we’re almost home, it’s a free fall.”
Significant, being surrounded by loved ones who feel like home.
I looked over at each of my friends, one by one, memorizing their faces.
Oda from Norway, dubbed Norge forevermore. I have a 4-year age difference with her, but I never felt it; an aspect of our friendship I truly appreciated. Maybe the youngest in the group, but never the least capable. Well travelled and cultured, bright head on her shoulders, curious about the world around her… I could always rely on her for a good time. Feminist and opinionated, and much more realistic than me; her mentality gave me hope for future generations. She was swaying her hair back and forth to the music, the concert had been her idea from the get go. How could I ever repay her for putting in motion such a beautiful memory?
Nikki was standing to her right. Loud and rambunctious, and even through sickness, she was here and partying. I grinned over at her and she smiled back. Boring would never be used in the same sentence as her name. In fact, if you looked in the dictionary for antonyms for boring, you’d probably find a picture of her smiling infectiously. Nikki was about to leave the next day for her solo Euro trip; brave and courageous, and full of confidence, friendly and painfully honest; I knew no matter where in life she’d go, people would surround her. She’s the kind of person that pulls you in like gravity.
Keji danced between Miranda and Nikki. She was Miranda’s roommate and had just joined our circle of friends. However, I will say she has lived quite an interesting life. Experiencing the upbringing in an American home with foreign parents. This I understood quite well, the identity panic that can shake your core; the antithesis of her conservative education. Intelligent and sometimes soft-spoken, her hunger to learn and grow fascinated me. She had much to experience still, being new in Madrid, and I’m glad we were a part of that for her.
Miranda was nearest me, even after I made my way to the stage. My childhood friend since 7; we had dreamed even then of crossing transatlantic borders together. And here we were, goal achieved. Miranda kept me grounded in Madrid, reminding me of the ambitious person I needed to become again. She made me better… I keep realizing how important it is to surround yourself with people who encourage you to improve yourself; mentally and spiritually. There aren’t enough words to span our almost two decade friendship. I just know I’ll never forget the spring we spent beneath the Spanish sun.
Once the concert ended, we impressively, for our state of being, made our way to one of the biggest clubs in Madrid (first we stopped for KFC lol); Kapital. Keji had never been, and we thought why the hell not. Kapital is notorious for its 7 different floors of boisterous music.
There we met Sara and Roberta. Sara pranced up blissfully with a bottle of Don Simon sangria wrapped in a plastic bottle in hand. She was tipsy already and squeezed me in a one armed hug for greeting, other hand casually quenching her thirst.
I would remember her like this always. When I first met Sa, she was a bit more reserved. My first impression being she had a quiet persona, how far from the truth that could be. She is kind and intelligent, and always very curious to learn about my native tongue. We have a lot of fun together and laugh more than necessary.
Honestly, it’s really hard describing Sara because I have become accustomed to so many different sides of her, as she’s probably the person I spend the most time with since we live and party together.
She reminds me of my summer of 2009. I was a lifeguard at a community pool in my small, desolate town. However, I worked with all my best friends and thus, it was like getting paid to hang out. It was ludicrous how much time I spent with them. From 12:00pm to 9:00pm we stood out in the blistering sun, blowing whistles at children who polluted the bleach cleansed water. And after work, we would all immediately hang out for a good 4 or 5 more hours. My summer days were filled with their laughter, alcoholic drinks, mixtapes, and the smell of BBQs and chlorine. It was one of the happiest times of my adolescence… before we all let responsibility take precedence upon our conscience and immersed and lost ourselves to first loves and heartbreak.
And that’s the feeling Sara reminds me of, so if I had to choose one word to describe my nanetta it would be spensierata: one of the first words she taught me in Italian, meaning happy go lucky.
Roberta, always more poised than the rest of us, offered two kisses on my alcoholic flushed face, excitement exalting from her smile. She looked flawless, from her make-up down to her shoes. She had this natural knack at making even the simplest of wardrobe look elegant. Thus was her nature in personality, as well. We bonded much over music and television shows, and sometimes, even love. Ironically assertive with dry humor, I’m infinitely impressed with her patience for my irrational antics. But the important thing is that I could laugh and eat with her, and these two acts are paramount for lasting friendship.
Inebriated and animated, we walked into the fortress of music. I spotted a friendly stranger, and shoved my phone in her hand while slurring in Spanish if she could snap a pic of us. Graciously and with zeal, she obliged.
I took my phone back and looked at the frozen memoir, my breath catching in my throat — I knew, in the future, I would long many times to relive this night, so I decided to live it with everything I had in me right now.
The rest of the night was filled with hilariously blurred images and occurrences best kept between gal pals. However, 5 o’clock rolled around and my Italians and I had a 9am flight to Portugal to board, and with that, we made our grand exit.
Proxima Estacion: Estrecho.
The female automated Spanish announcement made me jolt awake. Rubbing my blood shot eyes and trying to remember where I was, I peered at my phone: 6:25am. Fuck, sobriety hit me hard; I had to be awake in 15 minutes to get ready for work.
Sara awoke too, and we stepped off the metro. It was piercingly cold outside, arms intertwined; we hurriedly shuffled our feet home. We stood in silence, as the elevator whisked us up three floors. Inside the enclosed space, I was standing in between Sara and the entryway. I placed my hand against the cold metal door, but before pushing it open, I turned my head to look back at a sleepy Sara. Shrugging my shoulders, and directly looking into her sea green eyes, I finally had the words to express myself.
“I’m going to miss it, too.”