Photo by Alex Quezada on Unsplash

Hang on

Brendan Boyle

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Sunday — No face no reply

I scrape the sickly saliva from my chin and watch the morning’s breakfast drip down into the undergrowth. A handful of skaters and cyclists and strollers trickle through the shaded corridor of Retiro’s hulking oaks, only the merest slivers of light from the persistent sun filtering through.

Enjoy this, I tell myself — the tranquillity. Madrid in August.

One could now swing a proverbial cat on Gran Vía, if one so wished.

All that remain are the few brave souls, like me, who accept the sweltering days and sleepless nights. We keep the show on the road.

Then there are those few that actually choose to come here at this time. They will be the ones looking for somewhere to have dinner as I rouse from my siesta.

I am looking at a member of this curious species right now. He is a heavy-set, moustached man with a head lathered in sun cream. Squinting at his phone, he swings left, then 180 degrees back to his right. The woman with him looks equally disorientated. She gazes in my direction — she wonders whether I am a tourist or a local. With this tone of skin, it is a fair doubt to have.

I lie down on the bench, fingers laced into a bony pillow. A book covers my eyes — an unsubtle Do not disturb.

They have not earned this Madrid, I tell myself.

Anyway, as I was saying, it won’t be long until the heaving and the hollering and the honking return. A fortnight at most.

Absent-mindedly I open a social media application on my phone. New notifications a digital sugar rush. My latest review has received 23 likes and six replies. One user, Juan (his name sandwiched between a series of numbers), writes: ‘why don’t you stick to posting those pretty vacation photos from Venice and Cannes.’

Curiously it is this passive-aggressive pivot from the usual vulgarities that knocks me for six. I rub my forehead, the skin feels irritated and tight like cling film. ‘Vacation,’ huh?

Last-minute copy changes made from some pavilion floor; dodgy Wi-Fi and stodgy pizza; the missed calls from my boss after midnight; and being mistaken by married agents for some sort of film festival escort with a laptop. I’d love to see Lonely Planet try and…

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Brendan Boyle

Irish - living in Galicia. Write about Spain, its cities and culture; real people and places; current affairs. Supporter of real journalism.