El Arco Iris

Guest Author Jakob Guanzon is an American living in Spain. He writes today about the angst of trying to settle and call a new, strange place home after the initial excitement of the move has worn off and things like money, language barriers, and rainbows start complicating things. 

I was walking home at dusk, the Sunday streets silent. The storefronts were caged shut and a light rain began to fall. The only sounds about me came from the dead leaves I kicked or the occasional car hissing past me in the drizzle slicked streets of Alcalá de Henares, my new home as of two months. With my mind vacant and left hand swinging a plastic bag bearing my dinner, a package of cheap chorizo and an even cheaper bottle of tempranillo, I hardly expected to encounter one of those fleeting, poetic moments that occur from time to time. I suppose those moments are as unexpected as they are rare.

I began ascending the graffiti smeared staircase of the pedestrian bridge that passes over the train tracks which run through Alcalá, connecting Madrid to Guadalajara and further east into the dry, sun seared plains of middle Spain. When I reached the top and began to cross the bridge, I came across a young woman. She was no jaw-dropping beauty. The woman was ordinary in every way, of the sort that would otherwise remain a fuzzy, fleeting blur in my periphery. She wore a brown coat, her fair hair tied in a listless ponytail, a pair of uninspired glasses resting on her nose. She stood in place with both of her hands resting on the guard rail facing westward, frozen in a silenced, studious awe. I looked to my right to peek at what had her so thoroughly entranced.

It was a marvelous sight. 

The sky was ablaze, beautiful and hushed. The sun behind the thin sheet of rain clouds covering the entire sky was like an inferno in a plastic bag. The sharp lines of the tracks darting towards Madrid reflected the sky’s vibrant hue, guiding my eyes to the horizon. There at the edge of infinity I could just barely make out the silhouette of the Four Towers, like little black finger nail clippings in the distance.

I kept walking but my pace abated. The woman stood in place, her gaze fixed. Other strangers on the bridge looked at her but not the sky. The strangers kept walking. Their eyes stayed locked on their feet or the opposite end of the bridge. They did not see the magic.

I did. I turned to my left where the sky in the east was a subdued blue gray, the mountains in the distance painted in a dramatic, angry way. Out of the corner of my left eye I noticed the first curve of a rainbow. I followed it from this end all the way up the sky and across the horizon to where its opposite end landed at the foot of the low, pine-lined mountains. It was a crippling sight. While I have seen rainbows before, I had never found myself with such a vantage point to see one in its entirety, let alone cradled by such a landscape, and all contained within the panorama of my vision.

The sight had me giddy. I wanted to share this moment with someone. I was but a few steps away from the stationary woman. My mind raced in search of the Spanish word for “rainbow.” It was in vain. At that point, my Spanish was limited to the shredded remnants of what I had learned years ago in high school. A cool sweat creased my forehead anytime I was approached by waiters or store clerks. To remain silent and resist the most human of instincts, to communicate and share with others that which moves us, at that time, seemed a far better option than open my mouth and reveal my foreignness, my verbal impotence, my American ineptitude. I was inspired yet arbitrary.

Then I passed her. A lonely part of me ached to just tap her shoulder and point to the wonder behind her. I didn’t.

As I began to descend the staircase at the opposite end of the bridge I looked back at her, wondering if she had taken her eyes from the wild hues of the west to view the rainbow waiting just for her. She hadn’t.

 

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