White Houses

My plan was so simple, it seemed almost foolproof. Wake up in the morning, catch a bus to a nice beach town and just enjoy a little sun as my feet play games in the sand. Maybe even take a dip in the Mediterranean. Almost.

I wake up to the sound of frantic packing. The grunts of sheer panic mixed with the sound of fabric rubbing together. Rumpled clothes being thrust into an open backpack, then a sleeping bag I guess by the sound of the soft material. Sucks for that guy. Someone has clearly overslept – but it wasn’t me.

My eyes are still shut. Savoring darkness for a few more seconds before I get up, pack, and head out the door.

Waiting at the bus stop, a pleasant 2 hour bus ride is all that stands between me and the blue Mediterranean. The bus carves its way through the southern hillside of Spain as all enjoy the view. An elderly woman dislikes the driver’s contempt for slow vehicles. She digs long mustard yellow nails into the forearm of her husband as the bus lurches ahead making blind, cliff side passes again and again. Soon the smell of salt water fills the air.

I had made it to Nerja. It is a beautiful town with crystal blue skies and wispy clouds. Distinguished white houses line the street. Everything is going according to plan – now it is time to find a room for the night. Leaving in the morning from Granada, I was told by everyone that finding a cheap hostel would be easy. “No preocupes amigo”, the rasta looking guys at the front desk had muttered.

Strolling ocean air-filled streets I entered cozy looking hotels adorned with promising signs above and was rejected time and time again. As if some curse had been placed on my search, everyone wore a blank stare and muttered, “esta completo”. One by one I was turned away without hope. Finally it was explained by a young waitress – tonight was the beginning of a festival and everything was going to be booked – hotels, hostels, hostals, pensiones. This was also something the absent minded, dread wearing, douche bag at the front desk had forgot to mention when he suggested I go to Nerja for the day. Hours passed and the sun repositioned itself in the sky.

What was once a minor setback now had become a real issue. It wasn’t that late, maybe 3pm but the final bus heading back to Granada had already left. I was staying the night in Nerja – with or without a bed. Out of ideas, the straps of the heavy mochilla began to dig in to my shoulders. Sweat was flowing down my face.

Then for no reason at all I walked into a flower shop. Two woman stepped out from behind the partition and listened to my dilemma. They looked at each other and rattled off Spanish I could not understand. One of them looked at me and spoke, “follow me”.  I was led down streets. Turning left, turning right, until finally coming to a large white home – it looked like every other. From the street she yelled up to the third story balcony. A tiny old lady poked her ahead out and responded with a simple push of a button. The gate in front of me buzzed open. The florist said nothing and waved goodbye. All feelings of awkwardness, concern,  and confusion were fleeting. After all I had nowhere else to go and the hours of sunshine were diminishing.

I made my way up the stairs and found a door half-open. Sizzling sounds, oil crackling, and a wave of heat from the kitchen were the first things I noticed. Next was the old woman. She was small and craggily. Burnt orange hair, a wrinkled mask of a face, and round deep black stones for eyes. Dropping battered cutlets of meat into the spattering oil she turned and explained that she occasionally takes in exchange students, so she was used to letting a young person sleep in her house. Relief washed over me. She led me to the room and explained that her daughter had once lived here but was now married and lived in a neighboring town. We sputtered Spanish back and forth then settled on a price of 15 euro for the night and she handed me a key. I unpacked, grabbed what I needed for the beach and left.

The beach was two blocks away. A smile stretched across my face as I calmly walked towards the clearest water I have ever seen. I didn’t want the others on the beach to see how excited a kid from the Pacific Northwest gets when he sees real blue water and a sunny beach. Splash.

I had made it to the Mediterranean. And I had a place to lay my head for the night.



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