Getting lost in Seville is like getting lost in a dream. Especially at night.
Drifting by people and stone, steeped in the verbal footfall of echoing voices. Restaurants folded into impossibly small spaces, yet expelling, into the passageways, a rich bundle of sensory dregs: meal-scents, more voices and the ceaseless clinking of glass.
Lost in that hand-crafted wilderness, wandering illegible streets.
Seville, like a dream, at night.
More specifically: Thursday, last week.
I need food.
I leave the hotel…cobblestone roads curl off in multiple directions. (Technically, it’s not cobblestone, it’s some other kind of pieced-together, stone-making thing.) I turn around…stare at the hotel entrance, try to burn the memory of how it looks into my brain…then choose a path and start walking.
The stone paths are narrow, people-filled. I look up: a strip of sky sits high atop the endless, patchwork buildings. I walk past bakeries, cafes, restaurants, clothing shops, more bakeries.
Every now and then the paths empty out into big, rectangular plazas filled with outdoor restaurants and towering statues…sometimes cathedrals, sometimes fountains.
I walk, alternate between the paths and plazas, keeping an eye out for a suitable place to eat.
In one plaza, I stumble across a large, seasonal book fair: 2 long rows of stalls filled with a huge variety of books…antique printings, rare editions, old maps, popular novels, retro kids books, etc.
I’m moth-to-fire drawn to it, spend a stretch of time looking around. I slowly circle the entire thing three times, people watching, periodically picking up books, hefting them, squeezing them, putting them back.
Before leaving, I purchase a pile of French comics (translated into Spanish…I only speak English) from the 1970’s; weird, futuristic, druggy stuff. Moebius, Jodorowsky stuff.
Then it’s back to snaking around between the buildings of Seville. I make an effort to head back the way I think I came, but things are already looking unfamiliar.
New plaza…I sit at an outdoor restaurant…I choose something from the menu that I don’t recognize: solomillo. Fingers crossed for something strange to come out, but solomillo ends up being comfort food: pork, potatoes.
I page through comic books while I eat.
Food, drinking, plaza-watching. Plazas are fun at night because they’re filled with dozens of screaming, free-range kids. Parents hang out on the sidelines, chatting. The kids stick candy into their faces and make games out of noise and frenetic movement. It’s just high volume, high energy kid time in the plazas. Running, jumping, glee-screaming.
When I’m ready to leave, I try to choose the right way to go, but my brain never gives me that kind of information.
This is the relationship between my brain and directions: to me (at all times), everything just looks “straight ahead”, like a permanent, one way line that reality is constantly fitting itself into. Because of this “straight ahead” thing: visually, I can’t see direction. No matter how much I look around, memorize spatial sequences, the world refuses to organize itself into map spaces…instead, it just floats incoherently around the fixed point of my eyes.
So, plaza in Seville, at night…I slowly look around. The paths, like incense, kaleidoscope away in all directions. I randomly choose a direction and start walking.
Two hours later, I’m still wandering through new, unfamiliar, not-my-hotel places. Lost.
It’s infuriating and embarrassing, but not scary. Some places, getting lost is scary…woods or driving on unfamiliar roads. Some places will swallow you whole for getting lost. But Seville is a world of people and stone, all inscribed with warmth.
Eventually, I just take the hotel key card out of my pocket (which has the name of the hotel on it)…flag down a taxi…and show it to the driver. (This is a trick Girlfriend taught me after she noticed my tendency to get lost inside of familiar grocery stores. Before traveling, she usually devises tricks for getting me unlost.)
I show the taxi driver the hotel card…he speaks in Spanish for a bit. I don’t understand. He points at the card, holds up three fingers. Apparently, there are three of this hotel in the city. He needs more information. I don’t have it. He points this way, that. I stare at my feet. Eventually, we both shrug, I hop into the taxi and he just drives around to each of the same-name hotels, until we find the right one. I’m relieved.
I go to my room, crash out. I breathe heavy, sleep and sleep.
I dream about comic book taxis and cobblestone wine and a phantom exhaustion named Seville.