I landed at 9:15pm at Barcelona, Spain, as it shut down for the night.
Over the years, I have flown into strange cities to be with people I do not know many times. Each time my VIP vision of me has someone waiting at the airport, holding up a placard with my name on it.
That has never happened and because of the event in Dublin, my mind leaped ahead thinking perhaps no one will meet me in BCN, much less a person holding up my name, but this older woman held up a piece of paper printed, “Dedria Humphries.”
I headed for her and introduced myself though obviously she knew my name. Her name was Anne.
I am grateful to see her waiting, and not because of my VIP dream. This is my first trip out of the U.S. and it had not been smooth.
The car she shows me to is a box. One of those kinds of cars that is very spacious inside, but the upholstery is a bed sheet. I sit, too tired to be concerned if a cat was the last passenger, or about the windshield shrouded with a film that grays every thing on the other side of it.
Anne drives onto a modern highway headed for Can Serrat, the artist residence where I am spending this spring. We chat along the way.
She cooks for Can Serrat, and is one of those people Donald Trump wishes would come to America -- she is Norwegian. She looks Spanish, to me. I am in Spain and so everyone needs to be Spanish. I sometimes work inside stereotypes, but I wonder if our president ever does.
My contribution to our conversation is to complain about Aer Lingus.
Next, Anne says she has no money because her man left her. I wonder if this is a hint that I should have paid her before I got into the car, so she can feel secure.
“I had my children late,” she tells me. “Before I had them,” she continues, “I worked on a cruise ship as a cook. It was wonderful seeing the world. I would go back and do that, but they won’t take me because of my age.”
It’s not her age; it’s her look. She looks older in the way of poor people: worn. Yet, why should that matter? She will work in the kitchen. Still, as I think about it, every staff person I saw on the cruise my sister Paula and I took last spring was young or gorgeous. Anne is neither, but she is authentic.
“This is the road to Can Serrat,” Anna says, brightly, after a half hour's drive. She turns her car off the highway at the El Bruc exit. And then we are in darkness, being jolted by shocks to the car.
The potholes in Michigan prepared me for this rugged road, but I am alert in fright.
We are tumbling straight down, headed into a khaki-colored netherworld, a tunnel into the earth. From what I can see through the dingy windshield, one side of that earth is sheer rock. The other side of the road is nothing but air.
Contrary to the hell of Hollywood and the Bible, this hell conveys no emotion, shows me no love, or hate, betrays no recognition of me. I am nothing.
“Is there another road out?” I ask, nervous “Oh,” she says, “there is another road on the village side.”
I cut a sharp look at her, angry that she did not bring me in on the village side.
In the dark, her teeth gleam a white smile. The woman is putting me on, partially. On a real mountain, and not the magic one Disney sells, one needs stay alert, because it can all change quickly, in a blink. And it does.
Anne draws the box car to an abrupt stop just before a gully swallows us. We are here.
Lit by outside lamps, the house is as romantic as its photographs, with an outside palazzo with arches of brick, and a large stone table under an arbor of gnarly vines. Very Spanish.
From there we walk, each with one of my bags in hand, but there is no smooth paving yet. First a path as rocky as the road, and then tiles, brick red, give way to colorful ones.
We push through a thick, medieval door. Across the threshold, I am in a building 300 years old , with a half moon reception desk of stone.
Next is the kitchen when Anne shows me food, but I had a good meal at the Dublin airport of roasted chicken, green beans, carrots and potatoes, and am not hungry. I just want to lay down and sleep. That is a no-go.
In the next room, the dining room, chairs scrape across the floor as people around a table stand up to greet me. Their names are a hurdle to jump before I can wash my face and fall into bed.
I beg off offers of food and wine, saying what I used to tell my students in the first days of class.
“We’ll have to do this all again tomorrow, because while you are meeting one of me, I am meeting all of you.”
They laugh; they like me.
One of the artist residents, Paola, shows me to my room, by way of a tour of the entire house.
My room is at the top of the stairs and I do not navigate a long, dark hallway. Gracias.
It’s near midnight on March 5, 2018, my first night at Can Serrat