“Hasta luego”, I yell as I walk out the door of my apartment. One of my Spanish roommates responds with “haluego”, a hurried, native, version of the same phrase. After hearing the response, I gently close the door behind me and continue down the hallway before descending the stairs. I press the button that unlocks the grand iron doors of the apartment entrance and exit onto Calle Altamirano.
The cool air is noticeably different and the soft breeze oozes through my thin running clothes. Its not uncomfortably chilly, and I begin to walk. After a few seconds I accelerate to a slow jog. I descend the hill, passing bars and restaurants that are relatively quiet. Its midnight on a Sunday, but there is still some activity. Further down, I veer south, where Altamirano feeds into a larger street that runs parallel to one of Madrid’s beautiful parks, Parque del Oeste. This avenue is lined with more expensive restaurants that allow for a peaceful meal, secluded by the trees that hang over the sidewalk. I don’t feel like running much and decide to stop at a small playground area in the park to do some exercises.
The park overlooks the famous Casa de Campo, another, more massive park, in which the Habsburg kings would hunt. I approach the fence guarding the steep drop below and attempt to look through one of the telescopes stationed at the edge. After wondering why it looks so dark, I find it only works if you have a euro. I abandon it and decide my own eyes will do. As I gaze forward, Casa de Campo seems to extend forever as the dark hides the buildings that lay beyond the miles of trees. To the left lies the Palacio Real, illuminated and glowing white. The trees block my view but the light permeates and illuminates the trees over which it towers. While Madrid buzzes day and night in the center of town, it is peaceful here. The parks achieve a tranquil balance to the noise of the city center.
I do some exercises. The activity, as well as the cool air, rejuvenates my mind while exhausting my body. I sit down for a rest, still breathing hard. The breeze kicks in again and the surrounding trees begin to shed their dry, brown, leaves. Standing up, I snatch one out of the air and crumple it in my hand. The seasons are changing here, but ever so slowly. Some days, fall sprints forward, while others, summer lazily drags on. The days are still long and hot, but there are signs of change. Rain has come more often and the nights are cool. Of course there are the trees. Some have begun to change to a burnt orange, while others resist and remain a vibrant green.
I sit back down and delay, not wanting to leave nor continue working out. I stay where I am. After a few minutes I get up. Walking towards the street, on my right there is a group of teenagers seated on a bench laughing happily. On my left, the waiters of a bar begin to sweep the sidewalk as they close for the night. I continue straight, along a large boulevard leading east. The walk gives me time to catch my breath and by the time I reach my apartment I’m breathing normally again. I unlock the iron door and ascend to my piso on the second floor. I open the door quietly. One light is on but the rest of my roommates are asleep. I change out of my workout clothes and get cleaned up. Hungry, I heat up some eggs and vegetables as quietly as I can.
With my hunger quenched, I get ready for bed. My window is open and the chill leaks in. I wrap myself in the blankets and turn my lamp on. Dime quien soy, a Spanish novel, lies on my nightstand. I open it and allow myself to be absorbed. It’s engaging and I don’t realize how long I’ve read until I look at my phone and see that it is well past the time that I should have been asleep. I finish the chapter and close the book. Turning out the light, I drift to sleep.