Farewell party: odd presents, tostadas and two lonely musicians on an empty boulevard
I only knew about half of the people there. Most students had returned to their home country in July already, and now four days before the start of the new academic year in October, I certainly was the last one standing. But most of my friends that hadn’t left were there, eventhough there weren’t enough of them to fill the café quite well. We played the songs that they already heard, we drank on my quick return and they even managed to buy a present for me. Two actually.
The first one was a little book with staves and blanco pages for remarks or lyrics besides the music. “I already bought this,” Sandy said, “when I found out that you can’t read notes!” I assured her that it didn’t matter. And there was another little notebook with the sloppy notes of Darwin on the cover. I recognized his tree of life: a clew of thin lines and connections in which he summerized the findings that he collected during his travels. I don’t think they knew how suitable these farewell gifts were after my time in Cádiz. There was a postcard too. I didn’t know all the names on it, but they all wished me good luck. A strange night indeed, as there had been so many of in this peculiar city. And then the day that I’d really leave was a little closer once again.
“What are you going to do today?” Normally we didn’t have breakfast together, but today we made tostada’s: toast with olive oil and a kind of tomato pulp, that we ate sitting on my matrass. “Packing my bag,” I answered with a mouth full of toast. We should have taken out the inner part of the tomatoes, I thought; our pulp was too watery and it didn’t really taste like tomato. “And changing my coins at the supermarket,” I said, while I nodded towards the piles of change at the table. “That’s too heavy to take with me.” I forgot to keep the right side of my plate up, and I spilled some tomato juice on my sheets. “I’ll take a walk around the city, say goodbye to my Spanish family maybe.” I didn’t really have a plan. I did want to go out and play. “Shall we go to the new part to play tonight?” “Sure, if it fits your planning.” “I want to.” “Ok.” I got on my feet and grabbed my towel. Maybe a shower could wash off the tight feeling of melancholy that seemed to have covered my thoughts and senses.
I had just started to put my clothes in my bag when Jonny appeared leaning against the door post. I only had one jumper and one vest; no more open shoes anymore tomorrow. “How are things going here?” I looked at the mess that my room was, as if I hadn’t noticed it before and I said: “Alright, I guess, I don’t really know where to begin.” He didn’t know it either; for a moment he looked around undecidedly. “Well, if you need something…” I nodded. Yes. No. Hard. “Shall I come and sit here?”. That was a good start.
I put the coins together in a plastic bag and I cleared my table. Between a few university documents that I should have handed in a long time ago, I found Salvador’s invitation in the original envelope; the “l” of “Nelly” wore a red hat. It was a bit askew. I found little parts of coloured plastic on the floor underneath the table. I rolled them between my fingers. They had been stripped off the wires of the car-battery/socket-combination that we used in the streets as a power supply; left behind after one of the many solder-attempts that had been necessary to fix the inventive construction everytime the connections had broken down. No more soldering for now. I’d leave behind the trolley that I had used to drag my amplifier through the streets. I attached the shopping bag to it, just as it was when I bought it. Then I collected the pieces of paper that were all over the room. Because of our lack of planning, our little cd-factory had often worked like crazy to produce a few saleable copies just in time for our lunchtime sessions. No more little factory for now. I took the poster of Cádiz off the wall and I rolled it up.
"Return to Cádiz and fill it with your beautiful songs"
My bag in the middle of the room was only full for three quarters when I couldn’t think of anything to put in it anymore. While I looked at the almost-empty room with the almost-full bag and to Jonny sitting on my matrass looking concentrated to the screen on his lap, I heard Harold make breakfast. Three quarters full; gladly my memories didn’t have to fit in there too.
Listen to Nelly's song: "La despedida" www.youtube.com/watch?v=HobiSh2cNp0
That night the abandoned boulevard was a desolate scene. Heavy clouds hung above the ocean and the wind pulling our clothes bent the palm trees under the dark grey sky. In the distance we saw two people walking. Quietly we unpacked our stuff, we adjusted the sound and we played. It must have been a bizar sight; two lonesome musicians with guitars and amplifiers and a wobbly microphone standard on an empty boulevard. Playing for no one. For everything. I didn’t sound well, but it didn’t matter. And after the last tones of the last song faded away, we just nodded. That was it.
At home the movies always started between twelve and three at night: after playing or after a night in a bar. Then we made pasta with onions and garlic and anything that we found in our stock. I don’t remember anymore what we added to the pasta that night. I don’t remember either what the movie was about that we watched slumped at my matrass with our plates on our lap. I do remember that I didn’t want to go to sleep when the credits appeared.
“I’ll have to get used to you not being around I guess. It’ll be different.” I wanted it to sound light, but there was something in my throat that made it sound different. Not light at least. Jonny swallowed and looked at the window, but he was braver than I was: “Shhh, silly… when you’re at home you’ll realize what a terrible person I actually am, and you’ll be glad you left.” I already knew very well what a terrible person he was. I didn’t want to go. “Come on, get some sleep. I’ll wake you up in the morning, ok?” Tomorrow. Tomorrow I’d get on a train and cross the bridge. Tomorrow I wouldn’t be able anymore to go back to the way I saw all this imperfection today that I got to love so much. Jonny noticed it and he stretched his arms to make a space in which I’d fit with all my sorrow. “Come here,” he said on a tone as if he said “what are you doing?”. And while he tried to fight his tears I fell asleep crying on his shoulder.