Urban body

The day before yesterday I went to a beach on the outskirts on Barcelona, in a small town called Sant Pol de Mar. The water was such an intense, powerful blue that there wasn't anything to be done except throw myself into the sea and meet the waves head-on. I haven't swum in the ocean in a very long time, and as I bobbed up and down I thought how interesting it is that "sea" in Catalan, mar, is just one letter away from "mother," mare. Mother-sea, mare-mar, the sea that holds us, rocks us, sustains us. We enter her nearly as naked and wet as when we were born.

Afterwards I lay on the sand and looked around. Barcelona and its beaches lend themselves well to people-watching: on the streets, the pedestrians are stylish and handsome; on the beach, they are, in the most part, suntanned and lithe. Seeing all of this brown flesh might have made me feel ashamed of my pasty skin, or regretful for the parts of my body that don't live up to my fantasies, or angry for having not been born a Spaniard. But the spirit of the mare-mar had got to me before I had time for any of those scornful thoughts, and I merely felt peaceful, languorous and sensual, another body on the sand.

These moments when I truly inhabit my body are rare, but the sensation hasn't left me these last few days, as I frequent Barcelona's museums and wander the streets of the Barri Gótic. I am a temporary flâneur in this city, a position which forces me to be aware of my surroundings and how I interact with them. The line of the street marks the path I must take; my eyes follow the lay of a wall or the glare of a mirror, and I am there, too, a body in a city, a body marked by the city.

I feel compelled to respond to this city, to shout out "¡Presente!" like a Spanish school-child during morning attendance. Here I am, Barcelona, Barkeno, Barcino, Barchinona, BCN, whatever you preferred to be called. Your walls are thick and millennial; my skin is thin and transient, but this body allows me to greet you, to know you. I am one more body come to join in the fray, to crawl in and over your most intimate arteries, to partake in your feasts and smile at your frenzies. Here I am.

1 comment:

Lizzie said...

I miss Catalunya dearly and I am absolutely delighted to read your impressions of it! If you get a chance you should hop a bus to Cadaques -- it's a seaside village of white houses, including that of Dali. Happy travels!