A Dirty Bar by a Market


I'm back in the room watching tv.  I'm awaiting a film that is to be broadcast in the original version.  But as soon as the titles are through the picture is scrambled.  It's a pay per view channel.  Tiny, infinite, burning lines carom across the screen.  It's dangerous to keep looking at them.  The scrambled film, so the trailer explained, is of the surreal genre concerning a strong man toppled by anxiety, alone on an island under the cold, inquisitive eyes of an alien system.  He has been deployed to find the source of noise.  In his commitment to this task he has left wife and child behind.  The natives are hostile.  He will have to become audacious to survive.  It's a knowledge that kills him.  In the rosy hue of the apartment with that television casting its light into the mix I recall a day when Astrud came to visit with her son.  He danced in the kitchen while banging on a plastic guitar with the Blues Brothers in the background.  Then when Astrud put on some Spanish music I'd bought for her, we laughed as he jumped and danced to La Reina de la Fiesta.  Now they were in Ireland wondering why I was here, alone, marooned.  What do you call a man who flees from happiness?

I go out and find a dirty bar by a market.  I sit near the window to the street.  An old smiling man orders a liqueur.  A bald customer is very noisy.  There's a woman hammering the keys of a poker machine.  Click, click.  A strange insect lands on my shirtsleeve.  I flick it off.  It struggles upside down on the dirty tiles.  I stamp on it.  It's a dirty bar but beautiful.  The girl serving is wearing a blue blouse and she looks mad.  My people are in Ireland, wondering why I'm here.  The world goes about its noise.  Earlier, I'd wandered into an exhibition in Palau Robert on Paseo de Gracia.  The artists' collective had put hundreds of small tv screens into a vat; they were all tuned to different stations.  The noise, the racket that rose up from the vat was the noise of the world, cacophonous and meaningless.  The futility of human life was captured there.  As I sit in the dirty bar by a market, I observe the world going about its noise.  I see a man at the kerb side with a bucket.  He's looking down the street.  A young man in a black vest with no sleeves is playing the guitar and a man with a dog provides a temporary audience.  The walls of the market are painted all over in vegetables.  A fishmonger steps into the bar in a plastic apron and white plastic boots.  He sighs loudly while the man with the schnapps momentarily sings an Andalusian ballad about his corazon and amor.  It's a dirty bar but it's beautiful.  I'm sitting near the window.  My people are in Ireland wondering why I'm here.  I could go back to the Palau Robert to see the noise of the world.  Even philosophers make noise.  There's no way out.  Beckett had it copped.  Go on, he said, you must go on.  If it's not noise it's silence.  Quiet men drift from bar to bar, café to café.  If put under pressure they make noise, like the man who has stepped in beside me now in this dirty but beautiful bar.  The mad girl in the blue blouse has put him under pressure with a flippant comment.  It's one of those days, he responds.  I'm reluctant to leave.  A man with tinted glasses is gazing into the street.  He's quiet.  The mad barmaid knocks two beer bottles together to disturb his reverie.  She knows him well.  Everyone knows everyone in this bar.  I'm the only stranger.  She has woken him from his silent reverie, noise to his silence.  Young people getting old pass by along the street.  You don't have to be alone for too long in the world.  There are so many people.  Two lovers pass by, looking bored.  A man arrives in and ties his dog to a stool.  This is not the designer world.  A beautiful-looking girl carrying an empty art frame walks by.  The men whistle.  She's a walking work of art.  She steps along in laceless red, canvas shoes.  It occurs to me that Emilio would swallow his beer and immediately take off after her.  He'd follow her to her gallery or studio.  He'd follow her for days.  A woman with her shopping basket steps in and falls over the dog who is tied to a stool.  All the men laugh; it's uproar, uproarious hilarity.  The woman screams at them, cursing them one and all.  She leans down to pat the poor dog on the head.  Pobrecito.  A black man with an imitation cigarette stuck to the corner of his mouth sticks his head in and causes a further uproar with some derogatory comments for the men.  Some colourful racist taunts are flung at him, much to his delight.  We dwell in chaos beyond imagination.  A conversation between the fishmonger and the little man drinking schnapps goes something like this.  The lion has a great imagination.  Why?  Because he thinks he's king of the jungle.  At that precise moment and no less my eye catches a billboard sign that I had not noticed before over on a wall of the market with the word Imaginacion in great bold letters on it.  I never want to leave the bar.  It's a happy bar.  It's dirty but happy.  Solitude and company come together here.  The riddle of time is explained in the meaningless curves of light cast by the market.  I don't know when I'll move on.  I don't know if I'll ever move on.  

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