Skeleton in the Cupboard
Spring sunshine and I pull out my old summer coat, the one with its pockets stuffed full of memories and dreams. It hides all winter in the clothes cupboard and I free it each spring with the melting snow and the tiny tongues of grass that push through the winter debris that covers the lawn in early April.
Battered and bruised, its elbows discolored where the dry cleaner’s chemicals left disfiguring splodges, it has served me for twelve long summers. It is my constant warm-weather companion, hanging on my arm, my shoulders, gracing me with its comforting presence. Everywhere I travelled for the last twelve years, it has accompanied me.
It is shabby now and grubby. Wine from the bars in El Rincón, El Rastro, El Portalón, Casa Guillermo and many other landmarks have fallen upon it. Octopus, squid rings, mussels, clams, shrimp, goose barnacles, and various types of omelet have left their marks upon it. The English language, with its fish and chips, its bangers and mash, and its sosi, jegg and chips, all bourgeois meals, can never do justice to the pure poetry of Spanish tapas whose names roll off the tongue: pulpo, calamares, mejillones, almejas a la marinera, gambas a la plancha, percebes, tortillas españolas y vegetales. Here I spot a golden stain from riñones al jerez and there a black one from calamares en su tinta.
Weathered by wind and rain, this coat has climbed El Zapatero and walked with the transhumance herds up and down the old Roman road of the Puerto del Pico. It has followed the Ruta de la Plata, the silver trail that led from South America to Sevilla and up the Silver Road past Ávila to Madrid. It has walked through the house in El Barco de Ávila and seen the kitchen where they tore down a wall and found a walled up library, just like the one described by Miguel de Cervantes in the Quixote. It held books proscribed by the Spanish Inquisition that had been hidden away since 1556. It has walked through Piedrahita, San Miguel de Corneja, and Villatoro. It has walked the streets and squares of St. Teresa’s walled city of Ávila on multiple occasions and knelt with me, in prayer, before many a saint on many an altar.
It kept me warm in the hills around Gredos when the mists dropped suddenly down and turned warm day into freezing night. It accompanied me to the Monasterio de Yuste, where the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles the Fifth, retired to live out his days in prayer. It visited the spice towns of La Vera, and ventured into Garganta de Olla, to walk those ancient streets with me. It walked with me in the birthplace of St. John of the Cross and entered with me the depths of the earth where the verdejo is stored in huge oak barrels deep below the town of La Seca.
This old coat keeps its secrets. It remembers the moon hanging its lantern above the battlements on the Paseo del Rastro. We wandered there, she and I, arm in arm, entranced by the shadows that danced on the Medieval walls. When she shivered, I wrapped her in that coat and still it holds the perfumes of her body, the warm touch of her skin, the enchantment of those magic nights when the world stood still and we lay alone at its centre. Oh, and that green stain, there, at the back: that’s where I lay my coat on the grass in the little park under the walls by El Puerto de San Vicente, the one where the lovers go, late at night, beneath the trees, to be together in their loneliness …
Comment: A long time after posting this story, enlightenment knocked at my door. The new cartoon that I had used to illustrate My Old Coat was called Skeleton. Surely, I thought to myself, given the story’s ending, Skeleton in the Cupboard would make a better title. And it would. And I have changed it. A little bit of serendipity at a time (+3C outside the week after Easter) when I need some sunshine in my life. Any comments on the use (or overuse) of Spanish in this story would be very welcome. Best wishes to all my faithful (and unfaithful) readers.