A long long time ago I first came to the pueblo of Torrox in search of a new place to call my home. I put a pad of paper in my pocket and a pen behind my ear and made my way through the winding narrow streets searching for places that had ‘for rent’ signs. I would write down the phone number in my notepad and then when I had about 5 numbers I would go to a pay phone to proceed with the inquiries and that is how I found my current apartment.
Many things caught my attention and sold me on it right away, one of those things being the view. I can live near the hills and yet still admire the sea, I can sit outside on my balcony and watch people walk past, and see the land and houses that surround me change colors from the rising and setting of the sun. The view isn’t the most pristine though I admit, because I also get to look over a gravel parking lot with patchy grass and this long brick wall that has “TORROX MEJOR CLIMA DE EUROPE” ‘Torrox the best climate of Europe’ painted on the side of it.
I saw that sign for the fist time and had my doubts that continued on when it became winter and I was inside my apartment that isn’t insulated, wearing layers of sweaters. I looked at that sign thinking ok,..it’s not as bas as Wisconsin,…but the best in Europe? Really? That’s quite the statement to make. I mean I think if you make false advertisements you should at least be flashy about it…use a blinky sign, or rainbow colors, or a woman in a bikini,…something, I don’t know, but I wasn’t convinced.
So I’ve been gone from Torrox and my Spanish home for a while, I went to Ronda and then to England and suddenly I’ve come back to this amazing weather, and makes me think that maybe this sign knows what it’s talking about. I am enjoying the long days of warm sunshine and so is everyone else apparently. The same old folks that are always outside are still out with their canes and caps,…including Antonio who still goes for his walks, but doesn’t wear his sweater anymore.
I still come home and take my afternoon nap, doesn’t matter if I slept 10 hours or 3 hours the night before, siestas are little daily gifts to myself that I embrace without shame. Today and yesterday I took my nap and by that time the day had cooled down a bit, making it the perfect taking a stroll weather.
So I did some strolling. And along the way made some new friends.
I came to cross paths with this itsy bitsy black dog with eyes and ears too big for its head, and I just thought it was the cutest thing. ‘Princess’ she’s named, and was attached to the crimson leash held by the wrinkly hand of this old Spanish woman, who in her own right was also very cute.
The woman and I walked and talked together for a few blocks. She asked me lots of questions about myself, which I happily answered. Then we reached her house, and Princess stopped to take a crap in the middle of the street, and we both stood there in silence and waited while the dog did its stuff. When it finished the woman sort of just gave me this look, so I said,…’well the nice thing about little dogs is that they make little shits’.
She laughed and agreed and took my shoulder and pointed off to the left and said,…’theres your house when you want’. An absolute sweetheart this woman was, so I asked her for her name.
Maria Enparo Perez Sanchez.
She gave me her full name, and quite the full name it is, I guess as not to be confused with all the other Maria’s.
Today I woke up from the siesta and took my film camera and set off on another stroll around town. Because one, I enjoy walking and two I need to, I’ve noticeably gained some weight from Ronda and England, so today I put on my preferred ‘workout’ outfit, a big faded black T that has holes in it, and a pair of stretchy pants. Most definitely not styling, so when I was walking past this old man and woman on the street and the woman said ‘ what a pretty girl’ as I walked past, I naturally looked around for this pretty girl, who couldn’t be me.
To my surprise it was though. I turned around and was like, ‘ what?’ ” Que guapa!” she said again, and so I walked up to where this woman, with silver hair and a green polyester dress sat in a rocking chair crocheting and talking to who I guess was her neighbor, this other old man. I told her, “me? come on I’m not pretty” and we started to argue over it a bit. I told her ‘I’m just in my fat clothes, look at you, I think your pretty! ‘ She said, ‘what? me…no, look at this dress,…its so old’. So I told her the true story that I love old clothes, and I even begged my grandmother for all of her polyester pants and sweaters, because I love them, and I would go to school dressed in grandma clothes and people would look at me a bit funny as they wore all of their clothes from the mall.
She laughed at that, and I think we connected. So we talked a bit more, the conversation always ends up going to a friendly interrogation of my buisness here in Spain but after I asked her for her photo, and it was a total yes.
She gets up and moves her chair, and says ‘lets get this in the background’, I’m like yeah perfect. With my eye in the viewfinder I ask her name. It’s Maria. Just Maria,…I was expecting a few more names to follow, but just Maria. I tell the old man to come in the picture too, and he starts to then Maria shouts at him and shoo’s him away. “Oh my husband would go crazy, he’d fight him if he saw it”. So the man hangs back, and when I’m done I ask for his picture.
He stands up by the grey wall behind him. I was shooting in black in white, and thinking about the contrast told him to move over to another spot,…he’s like ok sure. I joke with him and tell him, while he’s at it to put a little hip into it and wave his hair in the wind. He shows a toothless smile and takes off his cap revealing he has no hair. We both laugh.
I left them and walked to where I had originally met Maria Enparo Perez Sanchez. I feel now like I can’t just call her Maria. Its gotta be all or nothing. She was there, but inside the home of a friend, and from the street I saw Princess asleep on her lap. I walked up to the home, and greeted her, and for a second thought that maybe she forgot who I was.
She hadn’t though, and I was invited into the house of another old couple who were watching a baby play in a rocker. I didn’t even get a good look at the kid, but I called it cute anyways and they told me the mother, the other woman’s daughter was at a funeral.
I had walked past the church on my way there, and for the first time got a look inside. Lots of people, mainly older were gathered inside. I hadn’t realized it was for a funeral though. Apparently 2 people had died. One an old man, who had been bed ridden for a while, and another man who was younger but might have been retired? ( younger is always defined differently by someone who’s gotta be in their 80’s) He had been a teacher in one of the schools in Torrox.
I stayed and talked with them until the mother of the child came back, and then said goodbye and continued on my stroll. I had only gone a few more blocks until I came across an ambulance that had just arrived on the scene. I looked into one of the houses and only heard voices and the saw the blue and orange of the paramedics clothing. I waited a bit to see if anyone would come out, no one did but an old woman came up to me and asked which house it was who needed the ambulance. I pointed and she said, ‘ yeah, that’s Rafael.’
I sort of walked away from the scene thinking about that, that in a town full of so many old people, that funerals and accidents have to be a bit common. Thats sad to think about, seeing your friends and neighbors get sick and die.
It’s now the one year anniversary of my first friend who passed away.
It was such a shock when I first heard the news and I cried in a way I never have before, like it came from deep inside me. I remember being sad thinking that this means I’m getting older and that this is just the first in many most likely to follow.
But to receive life you must also accept death.
It was the deaths and events of today that made me feel more apart of Torrox, showing that this really has become my home and life, and I’ll be continuing with my strolls.