Roses, games, and more roses
We headed off to dinner relatively early: it was only 21:30. We went to a particular restaurant which prides itself in specializing on local products: their produce suppliers come from the region, as do their selection of dishes. It was so well-loved, that it had two restaurants in operation: they were separated by a few meters from each other. My theory is that the owner wanted to expand his existing operation, but due to lack of sufficient space with one kitchen, instead had to settle for two kitchens.
I asked how large the dishes are. The thin waitress, her straight black
ponytail flipping around as she spoke, responded that for two people, three or four dishes would be about right. But that wasn't what we wanted: Viktor asked how big a particular dish was, and she gesticulated the approximate size of a decent rectangular slab.
As neither of us were overly hungry, we decided to split three dishes. was vegetarian, so the evening would be a vegetarian one. He wanted some cut vegetables baked with goat cheese. I had my eye on an eggplant stuffed with a minced vegetable filling. We agreed on a salad as the third dish.
He had never had any problems with finding food – despite the popularity of dishes involving pork and cod, which are both fine local specialties. Most restaurants are very friendly, allowing you to swap ingredients and mix and match to make your own custom meal.
As we waited, a Pakistani street vendor entered, and put a rose on the table. "A rose for the lady," he said, as we both tried to send him away, "two Euros."
Gesturing towards me, "She's such a pretty lady." He even managed a smile – not a sincere one, but one that suggested, "all that matters is capital."
He finally gave up and moved to the next table, trying his luck again. A Monty Python solicitation? You'd think a salesperson can do better than that.
"What kind of oil is this?" I asked, indicating a triangular, glass bottle on the table, filled with a greenish oil.
"Oil, what else?"
"But what kind of oil?"
"Olive oil, of course. Everything is olive oil."
"Well, it could have been sunflower oil, or rape oil, but it's too green for that."
"No, everything is olive oil here… maybe except for the really cheap oil, then some people use sunflower oil, but otherwise it's always olive oil." Olive oil is very healthy, lending a refined taste to the dishes. They were wonderfully tasty, and I was particularly impressed by the salad: I am not a salad lover, but the combination of fruit, honey, and a light, dressing was particularly appealing.
I was suddenly distracted by a bystander who was standing a bit too close to the table for my comfort. He was leaning lightly over my bag on a neighbouring seat, and fumbling with something in the small space between my bag and his bulky jacket. "Excuse me," I interrupted him, irritated and suspicious.
He muttered something and withdrew clumsily to a nearby table, taking out a phone from his jacket and starting to talk.
I glanced quizzically at Viktor.
"You'd better check that everything is there," he said.
"There's nothing valuable there that he could take," I assured him, but checked anyway: the sweets I had bought in the market was still in its bag, and my knapsack still contained my water bottle. "I put the valuable things somewhere else."
"Barcelona has a lot of thieves," he said, "but maybe he just wanted to eat." Unsure, he asked the waitress, who nonchalantly assured him that he was not trying to eat, but was indeed searching for something valuable.
Our conversation drifted from food to games – Viktor had spent a while in the gaming industry. Not computer games, mind you, but physical games, the kind you may see children playing in the street, or the kind that you might play with several friends during a birthday party. He had created several games, some for the government, and others which are sold to game producers abroad. But business was bad; the Spanish government has no money to develop new children's games anymore, and clientel are all overseas. No one in Spain has money to manufacture new games.
Another Pakistani salesperson bearing roses entered. "A rose for you?" he offered.
I shook my head. He politely headed over to the next table. It is indeed a city of roses.
Games are universal. All children, regardless of where they are in the wor play games, and many games are similar worldwide. Perhaps you know of the woven straw ball, kept in the air as one player kicks it to another player? Or the long piece of string in a single loop, which can – assisted by skilled fingers – be transformed into a carpet, a cat, a dog, a house, or even a Mickey Mouse? These games are universal. From South Africa to Canada, everyone knows these games. Viktor removed the green string loop from his wrist, and skillfully transformed it into various figures – during his adventures, he had collected a lot of these games.
The city is alive, and constantly in motion: non-interrupted blocks of time are simply non-existant. And this weaves the tapestry of stories, none able to stand alone. The people stand united, proud of their heritage and identity, without a second thought to the minor interruptions that constantly drop by.