The black hair products I needed were available in a Barcelona neighborhood, I just didn’t know which 'hood and how far in.
Too bad for me.
I found the name of the black hair products shop on the internet: La Bella Cosmetics, and got instructions to their location from the Barcelona Metro system.
It said, to get to Carrer (means street) de Bassegoda, ride the bus, the L 12. Board at Raina M. Christina and Gran Via Charles III, ride six stops to the Rafael Compalans-Paris bus stop and walk four minutes to La Bella Cosmetics.
How difficult can it be?
I start, confident, knowing the L-12 route starts where I exit the Monsbus from El Bruc, my home village in the mountains. The L-12 route starts by the university and Starbucks, which I used to love, but is now just another tarnished piece of America.
At the bus stop, the driver stood outside the bus listening to his phone. Responding to my mangled Spanglish, he tells me this is the wrong bus, but I show him my handwritten directions and he waves me aboard. All the available seats face backward.
I can maintain my composure because my task is simple: count the bus stops. I can count to six.
Rolling, the bus immediately turns at the very first corner, and stops to pick up passengers. Bus stop number one.
Underway again, the driver turns the next corner. Then he halts the bus to let people off. Bus stop two.
Another disappearing corner, another bus stop. Number three.
It’s like the driver never saw a corner the shadow of his vehicle didn’t need to fall across, but, whatever, I am counting the stops, not the corners.
With each turn, the streets become more narrow. They seem close as a closet with the lights off. Some places in Barcelona harken back to Roman times, and grow darker with age, every century.
Except for those at the bus stops, there are no people. It’s like everyone is steering clear of the Romans, who tromped the original path, spit flying, and scratching under their togas the whole way.
The bus stops. Number 4. And the bus starts, turns, stops. Number 5.
I am dizzy, but glad to be getting off at the next stop. I am so close to La Bella. Yet, as the bus pulls away I see a sign on the bus shelter that says, Rafael Compalans-Paris.
I just missed bus stop number 6! And the bus driver rounds another corner.
I try to remember the name of the street with bus stop number 6, but Barcelona puts street names on the buildings. I have not been looking at the buildings; I have been miscounting the bus stops.
Out the window, my eyes feed the images of passing shops to my brain trying to remember them so I can get back to bus stop 6 and stage a do-over.
There are few shops. But look! a black beauty shop with a woman sitting in the front window, her hair half-done. Then a beauty supply store advertising “extensions.”
I need to get off the bus before it confuses things with another corner.
At bus stop seven, I remind myself that I am no baby.
I am a black woman full grown, and more than capable of finding hair products.
Inside the beauty supply, I find a woman customer wearing a hajib, and another woman with thick curly hair, but she is not black, and then there is a regular black woman.
Two men at the counter, run a hairpiece through their fingers. I do not find my product, Vitapointe cream hairdressing, but there is the yellow grease called Hair Food and that will do.
Back on the narrow street. Under normal 21st century American circumstances – cause you know this wasn't the first time something like this happened to me – I would simply cross the street and wait for the bus going back the other way. Just undo what I had done.
But now the street is a one-way. A narrow one-way street. A narrow one-way street lined with buildings caked with soot and in the grit on the ground the stamp of conquering Roman sandals, their rolling fiery catapults, and, on the air, the clanging of heavy metal swords.
I remind myself that people live here. My inner voice reminds me, people who were Romans. People who created the rugged cross.
I am somewhere in the bowels of Barcelona, the ancient city, seeing the ghosts of Oscar’s Best Picture of the Year, 2001.
I have no choice but to go on, Jumanji style. If the Mad Hatter showed up, or Madear, I wouldn't be surprised, but I am wishing for the general I know as Maximus the Gladiator. That would be cool.
But no general, so I do what the bus did; I turn the corner. And there! The bus. L-12. My heart leaps off the screen.