When I moved to Spain, I felt Mr. Understanding and I were experiencing one of life’s full circle moments. After Mr. U’s last year of business school at ESADE in Barcelona, I fully expected he would get a job in Spain and, as newlyweds, we would move there. Mr. Understanding, while living in Los Angeles, had become enamored of the Spanish language and culture. Before graduate school he spent two years learning Spanish at UCLA’s extension program and taking private classes. His professor was Jose Manuel, a Spaniard. Life as a newlywed in Europe was going to be good!
Obviously that did not happen. It was 1991 and there was a major recession going on. Sound familiar? We moved to Maryland and I started working for an insurance company, unwilling to take another bar exam, especially in a state that was already not hiring its own. It took Mr. Understanding nine months to find his first job.
The European rose colored glasses quickly came off when we finally moved to Spain two years ago. Snarling Spaniards. Poor parking skills. Dog excrement every two feet on the sidewalks outside my house. The “me first” attitude permeating every aspect of life. A compartmentalized life, one with no BFFs. A petite burglary. Enough to make one question one’s life path. Was I sent here just to be constantly irritated? (Perhaps!) Even the Chinese did not wear me down so. I had felt so sure this was where I was supposed to be.
After church last Sunday, Mr. Understanding went into the parish hall for a cup of coffee. An older gentleman approached him and asked him if he remembered him. ¡Por supuesto!
As I approached the two men, the gentleman asked me the same question. His laugh is the exactly the same. Unforgettable. As I stood there, a ficha caiu (everything fell into place – Portuguese). The reason I am living in Spain was kissing both my cheeks and explaining about his hearing aids. Jose Manuel is visiting Madrid for a month and renting our church’s little apartment.
I do not know exactly why we are the beneficiaries of a double full circle moment but I am also not dumb enough to ignore such a sign. We never, ever run into people we know. Perhaps Jose Manuel is going to offer, over Sunday lunch, an explanation for why, in even the nicest neighborhoods, people do not pick up after their dogs. Why, after an education of pure rote memorization, Spaniards cannot park in the middle of two lines. Somehow, though, I do not think this is going to happen. After all, he left Spain. There had to be a good reason and I am going to get to the bottom of it, to see if another piece on the “Life is a Mystery” game board fits into place. Mainly, I just like to think that Jose Manuel’s appearance is confirmation that we are supposed to be here in Madrid, a little pat of encouragement to stick it out and avert my eyes.
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