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Bedtime Contemporary Happy

Elena Rodríguez sipped contentedly from her still scalding Americano as she watched the usual flocks of people swarming the streets. It was 8.30 in the morning: peak rush hour at its best. However, whilst some would find the never-ending throngs of individuals disheartening, Elena couldn’t look more pleased with her surroundings. She wasn’t a very expressive person in matters of mien, but the flickering sparkle of amusement in her hazel eyes was enough portrayal of her prideful feeling of belonging to the urban life.

Striding quickly through the crowds, she flitted her gaze from one place to another, people-watching as she went by. Shopkeepers opened their stores diligently, some already making the first sales of the day; waiters attended the overflowing tables with agility and vitality; children chattered about as their parents tried, unfruitfully, to hurry them up to reach the school on time; businessmen and women alike darted around, looking at their watches with wide eyes every fifteen seconds… She thrived in the hustle and bustle of Madrid, its denizens and vehicles moving in harmony as uncountable gearwheels of an intricate and elegant artefact of sorts.

It took but a minute to make her final decision. Perhaps it was the way the early spring sun reflected on the glass buildings to her left, or maybe it was the recently-baked-bread smell wafting through the breeze. Thinking thoroughly about it, it was most likely her utmost distaste for routine, but whatever the reason, there was one thing Elena was sure about: she was not going to step inside that godforsaken office again except for, quite possibly, the moment in which she gave Mr Silvano her resignment papers.

A Cheshire catlike grin spread across her rounded face just imagining his snotty expression of disbelief as she slammed the wooden door she’d come to despise after two years of hard work and good behaviour. She could see the golden and black inscription falling in slow motion as her coworkers stared at her in wonder and admiration, the plate clanking and bouncing as it reached the floor. She could now hear Mr Silvano calling for her in a desperate attempt to convince her to stay, offering promotions and blabbering about the still open deals she had to finish before she left, but she was no fool, she was one of the best, and she was more mature than before, at least in most aspects. She would not look back once. And she would wink at Laura and Jaime, stealing his still untouched coffee, on her way out, smirking as she stepped into the light and vanished along with the people, never to be seen again.

She would become a legend, a story passed down from veteran to rookie, a whisper in the wind that would, come the time, spark a revolution that would end Mr Silvano’s reign of terror and cronyism once and for all. Or maybe, things would stay the same, but she’d rather think otherwise, after all, she’d always had a flair for the dramatics.

However, the grand show would have to wait for tomorrow, for today she was taking in the world for herself. The liberation of tangible freedom kept a secret skyrocketed her spirits, and she felt like laughing and running barefoot on the Irish grasslands, a flowy white dress hugging her form with every twist, her curly chocolate locks adorning her body like a delicate Manila shawl as she twirled a dance only known to her and nature.

She had barely been there for a second when a bump on her right arm and a stifled “Perdón” brought her back to the Castellana. She sighed nostalgically at the, now, memory of her trip to the North that had never happened and descended towards the dark catacombs of whispers: the Metro.

Elena never did take a fancy to the underground, and she assumed she never would. It was usually too crowded, too echoey and too disorienting. Despite the constant affirmations of her friends and family that Madrid’s tunnels were in much better condition and much easier to understand, she couldn’t help but feel hopelessly lost when reading one of the glossy maps near the entrance. She supposed the best route would be towards Atocha, but she might as well be getting off in Getafe for all she knew.

Shrugging in indifference, she breathed in some of the musty air and walked confidently amongst the bustling folk, reaching, somehow, the supposedly correct train and sitting down near the exit. Finding a free seat at this hour was unheard of, but everyone seemed too preoccupied with their asphyxiating schedules to notice. As she analysed her surroundings, she remembered how different the Metro was in other cities.

Of Berlin, she recalled the little number of people and the oddly dingy floors, a stark contrast to the polished city itself; of Paris, the bizarre yet intriguing architecture and the glaringly white walls; and of London, the eccentric seats and strangely understandable routes, in which she was proud to admit never having got lost once.

An old musician entered the wagon along the way, and she was enthralled with the flawless tune his battered classic guitar made. It had been a while since she had last heard Flamenco; it wasn’t quite her favourite genre. She’d spent most of her childhood dancing to the Spanish harmonies and she’d acquired a certain level of appreciation and respect towards it. She could very well remember the Sevillanas, all four of them without fail, and the practised years of playing castañuelas resurfaced in an instant, her fingers moving with the rhythm, the words of her late teacher coming to mind: “Ta, riá, pi, ta. Ta, riá, pi, ta. Riá, riá, pi-ta, riá, riá, pi-ta, riá, riá…”.

The climax of the song was reached too soon, and the old man moved around the passengers, plastic cup in hand. Finding her last fiver in her breast pocket, she handed it to him with a grateful smile that he returned almost immediately. A moment later she thought about how she would probably have to save up after quitting her job, and she shook her head, disgruntled.

Direct generosity was hard to come by in a city, and if she could contribute in any way to maintain it, she would do so with no questions. Although most citizens would admit to donating part of their income to NGOs, when faced with people in need, they would rather turn a blind eye and worry about themselves. Elena was, fortunately, not like that. Her parents had always insisted on her being empathic towards others, and despite them not seeing her behaviour as emotionally adequate, she still showed as much kindness as she could in the streets. She would not openly salute anyone until perhaps the third encounter, but a greeting smile, a nod or a glimmer of recognition in her eyes would always be granted.

After offering her seat to a snarky old woman, she waited until she arrived at Atocha. The mass of people led her to the hidden exit, which in other circumstances would have been found by either sheer luck or her sixth sense, which always seemed to be foggy for matters regarding orientation.

Once out in the sun again, she checked her phone for specific directions and continued her trek at a lively pace. Her legs were beginning to strain, and she couldn’t remember the last time she had exercised properly. It was something she absolutely despised about urban life: you barely got around to working out. Elena was no athlete, but she liked keeping fit. “Mens sana in corpore sano” or Healthy mind in a healthy body, she used to say. Now, it was more like “More or less stable mind in a self-kept body”. No one would convince her otherwise: the city life dulls your bones and sparks the mind.

And to lighten her brain cells she’d come. Her internal chatter had served her well if only to shorten the trip in perception. Noble and elegant, the Museo del Prado stood before her in all its morning splendour. The refined architecture and already long queue spoke for themselves, respect insufflated in her just by a glance. She would take a long time just to admire Velázquez and Rubens, but if she had spent as much time as she had when compared to listening to Mr Silvano’s insufferable complaints for years, she supposed it would not be as dreadful as queues always seemed to be.

A missed lunch and around ten hours later, Elena Rodríguez found herself at home. It was dinner time by now, but she still wasn’t hungry. She shrugged off her clothes, took a quick shower and dressed in a set of flowy pyjamas. Pleasantly refreshed, she made herself a cuppa, a custom she’d picked up after falling in love with British culture, and stared out of her bedroom window calmly.

She couldn’t see much from her flat, but the last remnants of sunlight seeping through unprecedented holes and caressing for a final time the rooftops and cupulas of Madrid smoothed her tension better than any privileged views pertaining to a CEO inhabiting a corner office in a skyscraper could.

For a few minutes, her mind drifted to those Irish grasslands and their freshness, the incomparable freedom they portrayed and the timeless beauty of their vastness. How nice it would feel to contact nature once again, to cosy up to her soft motherly cradle, to be away from all the noise, from all the people, from all the clutter. For a moment, she wished to live in the countryside, caring for the pastures and the animals and a cottage. For a second, she would have given up everything for that freedom.

Then, the dark blue skies of the city night overtook the scenery, lights flickering hither and thither, and Elena Rodríguez chuckled softly and shook her head, taking a sip of her chamomile.

She would not change her Madrid for the world.

March 20, 2021 00:26

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8 comments

Roger Crane
01:22 Mar 28, 2021

Interesting story, Carmen. So, I'm reviewing your piece this time because you stopped in on my page (after a fashion, by following me). As I said, interesting, especially for someone who has not been writing long (no, I don't say this because this is your first story on Reedsy, but because of your writing itself). You show a lot of vitality and imagination, and that is a very good place to begin. I really do like the vigor of your descriptions, even though many of them are not quite right. It shows great potential that can be developed (bett...

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18:17 Mar 28, 2021

Thank you very much, Roger! It feels me with joy to have received a comment such as yours in my first non-compulsory creative writing! I'm glad to hear that I have potential, and maybe even more so that I have still much to improve. As you noted, descriptions seem to cause me quite the trouble, perhaps because of a lack of fluidity or vocabulary? I am a resident of Madrid, Germany and the others I've merely visited, and I've actually never been to Ireland. I am young too, though I have to ask out of curiosity: what gave it away and how old...

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Roger Crane
21:53 Mar 28, 2021

Thanks for replying, Carmen, and it is always a joy to help anyone who wants to improve, and especially when there is the potential. All you have are the errors of (1) a second language, and (2) inexperience. Easily rectified with good practice and attention to detail. I would not have thought you were from Germany. I am 1/4 German and speak the language (as well as Spanish), but have not been there (almost during military). I have studied the country much and I guess I am the one who was wrong about your descriptions, at least of that count...

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13:00 Mar 29, 2021

Of course, Roger! I am not German, but Spanish. What I meant to say with the phrase "I am a resident of Madrid, Germany and the others I've merely visited" is that I AM from Madrid. Germany and the other countries I've just visited, so I've written from memory mostly. Therefore, you were absolutely right about all your assumptions, both the previous ones and these. I'm starting to think you would write a good detective novel. Give it a thought, will you? I would definitely read it! I write better in Spanish, definitely, but I find English c...

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Roger Crane
23:04 Mar 29, 2021

I am enjoying our exchanges, Carmen, but still you shroud yourself in mystery. You say now that you are Spanish, and yet you want to learn the Spanish language and then the others. I assumed, since you had gone to those other countries (and most young people cannot travel abroad, unless they are wealthy), that you actually live in Spain. I used the word "Hispanic" anyway, because that describes anyone of Spanish-American descent. Your use of the phrase, "I am a resident of Madrid, Germany and the others I've merely visited" illustrates an ...

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13:20 Mar 31, 2021

Hey, Roger! Sorry for the late answer, but I have been incredibly busy and have just got round to reading your message. Despite being Spanish, I know that there are still many aspects of my language I have yet to master. I feel that arrogance in the first language is the downfall of the polyglot. I will bear in mind your correction for future purposes, thank you! The uses of the semi-colon are still quite the challenge for me, so, for the moment, I'll perhaps stick to prepositions. Regarding the feeling of being tied-down, with languages th...

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