Dreams of Madrid

It’s taken me a while to get here. When I say a while, I mean 103 days. That is how long it has been since my last blog post. I wrote it after my program ended, but I was in Lisbon and returned to my querido Madrid a few days later, so I didn’t count it as my final post. I hadn’t made my goodbyes yet. I have a confession to make, though: the real reason is that I was in denial that my time in Madrid was coming to a close. And I continued to refuse to finish my blog long after I returned home, long after I returned to school in Los Angeles, half a world away. Which is how, my friends, we reached Day 103.

The time has come. I am at my desk in my dorm room, staring at my Real Madrid scarf on the wall and listening to one of my favorite Spanish songs, Pablo Alborán’s “Caramelo.” (Props to my host sister for introducing me to that crooner.) I know that the time has come for my final blog post – much as I ache writing those words – because of a dream I had last week. Let me explain.

Last Wednesday, I found myself in the campus coffee shop, sitting across from a friend who has just decided to spend his fall semester in Madrid. After snagging our tiny table, I recognized with a start that almost exactly one year earlier, I sat at that very table across from an IES Madrid fall semester alumna. I asked her the same questions that were now being asked of me. I’d come full circle without even realizing it. I saw so much of myself in this person’s excitement and apprehension, nervousness and eagerness to move to an unknown country for months. After an hour that felt like five minutes, I reluctantly drew our conversation to a close. I had to rush to the reality of class, but my memories of Madrid kept me smiling nostalgically throughout the rest of the day. That night, the dream happened.

I was in a taxi in Madrid speeding around la Puerta de Alcalá, my favorite landmark. I felt such elation at being back in my city, and thought I was there for a second semester. I practically yelled at the driver, “Rápido, ¡tengo que ir a Vodafone para comprar un móvil español!” (Quick, I have to go to Vodafone to buy a Spanish cell phone!) But as soon as visions of my little red plastic phone floated through my mind, I snapped out of it. It’s the end of March. I can’t possibly be back for a second semester – it started two months ago! I need to return to my semester at Oxy. Distressed, I directed the driver to the airport instead. He fixed his gaze on me in the rearview mirror and soothed, “No te preocupes, volverás pronto.” Don’t worry, you’ll be back soon. And then I woke up in the same room I’m writing in now.

I understood the dream loud and clear. I mean, it’s pretty obvious. You can miss a place like crazy, you can wish to return, and you will. There’s no use being sad or anxious about it. You will be back soon. I haven’t processed even half of what I learned during my semester in Madrid. I can’t summarize it and I have no parting words of wisdom. What I do know is this: that I grew faster and learned more about myself and the world in that semester than I did during any other four months of my life. That I made lifelong friends and I miss them with a pain in my chest. That I loved living there. That I have a home in my señora. That I picked up some permanent Spanish habits, like eating lunch at 3pm and wearing scarves way more often than I need to in desert-sun LA. Most importantly, I know that I’ll be back soon to my Madrid.

La Puerta de Alcalá, taken on my way home at 5am.