Thursday, March 3, 2011


I threw my old jeans and purple sweater into a bag and went down to the used clothing bin I'd seen outside the El Corte Ingles department store, in front of the Citibank. 

I tossed in the bag. That had been my plan, to wear old clothes on the plane to escape the New York winter, then to ditch them in Malaga, Spain.

For a moment, I hesitated. My plan had also been to throw out my winter coat there too. I'd selected carefully, choosing a thin coat I hadn't worn in years. And it struck me that I'd bought this coat from Mango in Barcelona in November of 2004, when the nights got chillier than I'd expected while living there for a few months. From Spain and back to Spain. I'd had to buy an XL size, which had struck me as absurd. In 2004, I was thinner than I'd been since I was 17 years old, due to eating like a Spaniard and living on a sixth-floor walk-up in Barcelona. But Spain has inconsistent sizing.

What if I needed my coat tonight in Melilla, the Spanish enclave I was boarding the ferry to in a few hours? What if it was chilly on the ferry?

I took off the Mango coat, checked the pockets, and tossed it in the bin. I heard it slip in, the gentle slide of fabric against steel. There. No turning back.

I got my daily max out of the Citibank ATM…I was stocking up, knowing I'd go through cash quickly once I got to countries with no ATMs. Then I crossed the street into El Corte Ingles and went up the elevator to the sixth-floor post office. 

After spending all morning laying out my possessions and discarding bits and pieces, I'd come to what seemed like a tolerable weight for my backpack. In my rush to make the plane on time, I'd brought too much stuff and much of the wrong stuff. The Pumas I'd opted for weren't working out—too thin, no support. This was bad when I had on my pack, but I hadn't run across anything better during my afternoon whirl around Malaga yesterday. I'd be in sandals soon anyway. 

I'd also brought the wrong messenger bag. My old one wasn't quite big enough for my MacBook (I covet the MacBook Air, which is light and sleek and powerful, but I don't cover it enough to buy and ruin a new one on this dusty trip), and so I'd bought a new one. A Crumpler brand named the "Considerable Embarrassment." Seemed like a good idea at the time. A built-in padded compartment neatly swaddled my MacBook, and there were all kind of zippered and Velcro pockets. I'd left my laptop sleeve at home and brought the Crumpler.

By the time I'd arrived at Newark Airport, I regretted the shoes and the bag. The bag was too heavy, the shoes too weak. By the time I got to Spain, I knew I had to do something about both. 

The shoes are still on hold, but I'd purchased a new laptop sleeve at El Corte Ingles and now headed up to the post office to mail Michael Kraiger a gift. A nearly new Crumpler bag, conveniently full of my office key, my office access card, and my car and garage keys and door opener (that's not part of the gift).

The post office visit, like any post office visit anywhere, was excruciating and took ages. I started to worry at about 12:15. My ferry was scheduled for 2 p.m. The postal workers didn't seem phased by my anxious checking of my phone for the time. (I'd look at my watch, but I hadn't worn it. Come to think of it, where was my watch? I'd gone to the trouble of cleaning up my 2001 Timex Expedition and getting a new band. But I was still telling time with my phone. Where did I put the watch?)

Eventually, the package went and I hobbled—rushing as much as one can when hobbling on thin soles—back to the Hotel Ibis to pick up my backpack. It was nearly 1 p.m. How early does one need to arrive for a ferry? At least it's from Spain to Spain, not from Spain to Morocco. Officially, I mean.

I hurried down to the port, noting that my backpack was still much too heavy and my shoes still a problem. I ran through my possessions in my head, wondering what was going into the used clothing bin next. Or could the problem be me? Was I weak after five years of sedentary desk-job living? Was my weakness the reason I couldn't carry a reasonable amount of clothing and Doxycycline around the world? 

Sweating, I arrived at the port.

Construction blocked the way. 

So I made a big loop around and got into the port. And boarded the ferry with 45 minutes to spare. 

The ferry was skankier than I'd expected. Not like the catamaran I'd been on a few years ago out of Algeciras. A cockroach scurried around the ladies room. The cheap seats, which I'd booked, were mostly broken, stuck in the reclining position.

I settled in for the eight-hour journey to Melilla. The fast ferry runs in the summer but this was low season. The ferry was barely populated. And this was my first downtime in days. I'd been frantic for so long, winding down my job, getting my possessions out of my apartment, chasing my passport which had just arrived in the nick of time from the Embassy of Mauritania, and here I was with eight empty hours ahead of me.

I fell asleep instantly. My last thought was this: I know where my watch is. I'd had it in my Crumpler bag. I mailed my watch to Michael Kraiger. 

No comments:

Post a Comment