We were pleased when the smiling nun
shook her head.
They were full, the lorry driver told us.
He was disappointed.
He thought we’d be safer
in the out of town convent than in the city.
He’d grown concerned for our safety
on our long journey through France.
He was nice - ‘doux, comme le sucre’
my friend would often tell him.
But he didn’t understand her accent.
He said his lorry wouldn’t fit
the narrow streets, so
we took a cab to the pension he knew.
Our first Spanish room
and we were happy!
The tiles were cool, if dusty.
We covered the TV.
We didn’t need it.
Two single beds pushed together
with one mattress
to make a ‘cama matrimonial’,
normality in Spain.
The owner was nice,
‘doux, comme le sucre’
my friend told him.
But he spoke no French.
We shopped in the corner shop with
it’s curved window
and explored the streets
of clubs and cafes and bars and lively people
enjoying the night.
And then we returned home.
Home to a locked door that
no amount of banging or shouting would
cause to open.
A friendly passer by understood our plight
and clapped his hands loudly.
A man appeared with a bunch of keys,
enough to fit the locks of several streets.
Normality when Franco reigned.
He let us in with a smile.
He was ‘doux, comme le sucre’
my friend told him,
but he didn’t understand.
Forty years later we found the street.
The curved shop window gave it away.
It was all still there, though only in facade,
waiting for reconstruction or demolition.
It was our first Spanish room
and we were happy.
The facade of a memory that
is still there and remains:
‘doux, comme le sucre’.
And we understand.