There is a river that runs through Madrid. It’s called the Manzanares River, and he’s right. It is ugly.
“It’s not like the Seine, Tracy.”
“I know, I know. But I’m just curious. There’s got to be something to see. Can we go anyway?”
“No, there’s nothing to see. It’s ugly and you have to take the Renfe Cercanias.”
So, I go alone and he’s right. It is ugly. Maybe he told me to get off at Principe Pio. Maybe it was Alto de Extremadura. I can’t remember now. But I walk quite a ways through low-income, orangy brick tenements, with green awnings before I see the river and cross it. It’s nothing to see. And I cross it pretending it’s the Pont Neuf or the Pont Alexandre III. I speak French to myself, “bien sur,” “absolument,” “oh la la,” and remember the nights Karen and I crossed at the Pont St. Michel on our way back home at three in the morning from Le Violon Dingue. It hurts to do this. But the Manzanares is ugly, and I am trying to be happy anyway. The water is murky. The air is cold. And there are huge concrete cinder blocks left like trash on the sides of the black water.
I head back down the subtle arc of the overpass. It’s late in the afternoon and I don’t want to be alone after dark. But I end up lost, looking for the entrance to the Metro, wandering down streets where old widows still wear black and sing sad old Castilian songs of lost love and broken hearts.