Damn, nostalgia is a bitch.

Last month when I was in Spain, Jeff and I went to Madrid for a weekend to visit his friend Monica.  I hadn’t been since I was 21, when I lived there for a month while studying abroad.  Frighteningly, that was five years ago.  That was an incredible, unforgettable summer, and sadly I’ve lost touch with almost all of the friends I made on that trip, even though a few of them were some of my favorite people ever.  I was really, really excited to see Madrid again, and a little nervous, but as much as I tried to prepare for how I would feel when I got there, I was not prepared.

We got off the train and met Monica, and started walking toward our hostel. On the way we passed the Atocha metro stop, and I was instantly blasted into the past.  That stop is where we got off when we went to Kapital, the hugest, most fantastic club I have ever been to.  And there was the little bar across the street where Timur, Kristin and I drank lemon drop shots before going to Kapital, and there was the McDonalds where we all met before going to the little bar to drink the shots… (Hey, don’t judge me — it was an easy meeting place, OK)?

Throughout the weekend I was most surprised by how much I didn’t recognize — a lot of Madrid looked totally new to me — but then I’d be walking along and BAM. Suddenly I knew exactly where I was, and moments I hadn’t thought about in 5 years were suddenly so fresh in my mind it was as though they had just happened.  Conversations, music, smells, sounds — the ghosts were everywhere.

At the museum Reina Sofia, there were the steps I ran down in tears with Kristin when two jerk-ass fuckers in my group made me feel bad and thought they were just f-ing hilarious.  Outside the Retiro park, there was the median in the middle of the intersection where we were standing when I said, in perfect Spanglish, "This is really peligroso," And Whitney said, " Yeah, this is peligroso as hell, y’all."  There was the couch at Kapital where we all piled, waiting until 6AM so we could take the Metro home, and there were the stairs Mary Ellen slipped down in her too-cute-to-be-practial shoes on the night she proclaimed, "Damn, why am I such a sexy bitch?!"

Possibly the strangest part was revisiting the apartment Kristin and I lived in.  I took the metro back to our stop, Bilbao, and knew exactly which exit to walk out of, and which street to turn left on, and which apartment to stop in front of.  The street looked different from how I remembered.  I hadn’t taken any pictures of the ugly 1970s buildings squeezed in with the beautiful old ones, so in my memory, I had nicely just erased them.  I think the trees had been cut down and replanted also, so instead of the regal, rustling leaves I remembered, this was a little bare looking, and the sun was harsh.  I tried to find my host parents’ apartment number so I could ring them and see if they remembered me, but the numbers didn’t have names on them, and I couldn’t find their name on the mailboxes inside the door.  I hope they haven’t moved — somehow that would be too sad. 

Revisiting a place that meant a lot to me, from a whole different chapter of my life, was a very interesting experiment.  I learned a lot about my memory, and how who you’re with makes so much more difference than where you are (which I really already knew), and how maybe I tend to cling to the past too much, but maybe not.  I think the ghosts are OK, because even though it can be sad to think about a part of your life you can never get back, it feels good to know I’ve done so much and have met so many great people, and if all goes well, my life is really only 30% underway.

I hope I’ll get to return to Madrid someday, and if I do, I’ll have new memories to add to my old ones.  Until then, I’m going to try to track down my favorite ghosts.  Wish me luck.


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