On the third day he dropped dead.
While undertaking my Spanish language course in Barcelona I thought that it would be good to do a homestay. “It’ll be great”, I told myself, “I’ll probably be living with some cool young family who will take me out and show me around, stay up late drinking and, maybe”, I thought, “by the end of it they will adopt me and we will live in a bus and travel through Spain selling handicrafts.”
I made my way up Carrer del Comte d’Urgell (trans: the longest street name on earth), a crushed googlemap print-off in one hand, dragging my suitcase behind me with the other. It was sunny, and I couldn’t help but notice how well kempt all the men were in the area, how chic all the hotels were, and how many rainbow flags were billowing in shop fronts. “What a great neighbourhood”, I thought, “definitely the perfect spot to meet a chica!” Two muscle bound men walked past me carrying Chihuahuas under their arms, “nice one dudes, cute puppies, what a perfect way to meet chicks”.
One of them winked at me, “hola gaupo” he said as we passed.
“Gracias” I responded. He blew me a kiss, I blew one back, “wow, the Spanish are really friendly”.
I buzzed on the door of the apartment building where I was to stay for the next six weeks. Static rung out from the intercom, “Um, Rupert, estoy Rupert, hola?” it went on like that for a while. Eventually, the door gave way and I crossed the unlit foyer, crushed myself and bag into the tiny elevator and stood quietly for a while before realizing I had to close an outer door before it would ascend. I came to the door and knocked, a series of clicks and clacks sounded and the door slowly creaked open revealing a tall rasping, wheezing silhouette.
“Jesus, zombie!” I cried jumping back and readying my hand so I could slap him really hard if he went for my brains (I’m not a puncher). Realizing my mistake I segued my slap into a handshake, almost crushing the old man’s hand, it was like shaking a brittle fossil. “Dear god”, I thought, “this man must be at least one hundred”.
We exchanged introductions that involved repeatedly re-asking and re-telling our names,
“Yeh sure, close enough”. I learnt his name was Josep.
He took me around the poorly lit apartment managing to dispense all of the instructions without actually moving his lips. “Muhmurmeruhm” he informed me as he toggled the various locks. I politely nodded along pretending to understand. We shuffled from room to room, “murumhermumuhm” as he motioned at doors, I did my best to translate his murmurs into Spanish,
“Really? Kitchen?” I asked as we passed the bathroom,
“Murhhmerhum, Rubbit” he nodded.
We shuffled in silence to my quarters, a room with a desperately uncomfortable bed and no window. Well, it had a window but it faced into the sitting room and was veiled only by some venetian blinds. I tried to express my gratitude but was distracted by a string of snot that was dangling at least a foot from his nostril.
The chord snapped and landed directly on the toe of my shoe, I did my best to pretend nothing happened Josep didn’t notice, “murhrumehrmer” he said and shuffled off into the sitting room. I sat on my bed, staring as the mucus on my shoe soaked into the suede. I did my best to wipe it off with my other foot but that just spread it further.
I could hear the muffled applause and laughter on the television in the adjacent room.
“I have to get out of here” I thought.