Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint
Día de semana
On Mondays and Wednesdays, I don’t have to be there until 10:20, so I try to get moving at 10. But usually I’m not out the front door until 10:05, which is still okay, or 10:10, which is not good. I get out the door, and if I’m lucky, the elevator will be free, and if I’m really lucky it will even be parked right there on the 5th floor, and all I have to do is get in, hit the bajada button, and get out, and because it’s usually well past 10 by the time I get down, the main door is open too, and I just have to round the corner, remember not to cross the street and pray the crossing light turns green when I get to Calle de Santa Engracia. If the lights are green, or even if they’re blinking, I’ll run across, and from there, I will skip Calle de Caracas, and go down Calle el Españoleto, which is narrow and pretty, and on the northern side of the street, there is no shade at all, and the scaffolding has just come down, and the balconies are neat and full of flowers and I’ll pass by the wellness boutique, and after one block, I’ll take a left on Calle de Frenandez de la Hoz, which is shadier, and stretches forever. I cut across it onto Calle del General Arrando, where, because I always fail to cross to the other side, I have to walk past the tables at the corner where people are having breakfast, and where the porteros in their blue jumpsuits are moping the steps. Once I make it to Calle de Zurbano, I’m almost there. Another crosswalk, or if the wait’s too long, I’ll walk another block down Paseo de Eduardo Dato on the wrong side of the street, and hope I’m walking faster than the light can change. The 147 often comes down and passes me, and on Tuesday or Thursday it’ll be packed full with students, but on Mondays at 10:15 it’s empty. There’ll be a farsighted lady by the bus stop, who calls me bonita, and asks me to read the timetable for her, all the stops along the line, the number on the bus. I’ll do it, though I’m late, and she’ll thank me, and call me bonita again, call me chica, call me hija, and I’ll walk away, definitely late now, but happy, because I just spoke castellano, because I helped someone at all, and at that glorieta, there are always people in need of help, such as the man in a navy suit who asked me where Fortuny was, and I pointed and said, the street’s over there, except I couldn’t remember if calle was feminine or masculine because it ends in an e. And it’s not intuitive either, because a street can be all grey asphalt and gasoline, but at night sometimes, or early in the morning, when it’s washed in lamplight, when the trees are gathering close above it, and I’m walking in the middle of the street, then everything is soft, the shadows of the leaves, and the balconies, and my own body. When I make it across Calle de Almagro, I have to pass the mouth of the Rubén Darío metro, make it past the young people in white vests with clipboards who invoke a raw fear in me, their earnest faces, their desperation; but I am late after all, so I’ll run past them, and then I’m faced with the gypsy boy selling tissues at the corner, the boy I see every day but never speak to. He’s always wearing the same jeans and track zip-up, in whatever weather; I can’t imagine him otherwise; in winter, maybe he has gloves, but in summer, I can’t imagine him in a T-shirt. The other teacher’s assistant said she spoke to him once and he’s from Romania, but secretly I think her Spanish isn’t as good as she thinks it is, and he’s really just saying he’s a Roma, in any case, she says he sends money home, he’s got a girlfriend back there, he’s been in Madrid for ten years, and I wonder how long he’s been at that corner, catching the commuters switch from metro to bus, walking single file, under the bridge to Serrano. I walk too, single file, and from there, I’m at the office of the ombudsman, El Defensor del Pueblo, where officials are always waiting outside in their black uniforms and where black cars pull up to the gate and individuals step out solemnly; I jaywalk around the yellow partitions to the school, slip my hand through the gate for the buzzer, wave at Marisol, or whoever else is working the door, hope they recognize me, hope they don’t stop me again, mistake me for a student, because if it’s a Monday, I’ve got to make it up five flights of stairs to the 4th floor, and if it’s a Wednesday, up to the 3rd. I practically run up the stairs, and because I didn’t have time to take off my coat, I’m sweating and hot when I enter the classroom, and the teacher I am assisting says come in, and that’s all he’ll say to me for the rest of the class, and I’ll take my seat at the corner, and if I’m lucky the custodians will have scrubbed away the penis drawings on my chair so I can sit down without embarrassment, and stare at the graffiti on the green and white wall of how Bruno is gay, or Victor Manuel is gay, etc. It will be another day.
Fin de semana
If the red arrows are blinking I can choose to wait or I can take the stairs. The thing with waiting is that sometimes people are getting off and the elevator comes swinging back up, no problem; but other times people are getting on, and it stops at the wrong floor, or worse, it stops at mine, and I have to open the door, and stand by the door, and hold the door, waiting all that while, and then I have to get in, and shut the door, and smile, and say, Sí, gracias. Hasta luego, which is all I can say given my grasp of castellano, can’t even muster up some comment about the weather, can’t even ask how my neighbors are. So I take the stairs, usually, and if it’s morning or evening, Ginéz will be there, in the courtyard, or mopping the steps, or in his small office sorting the mail, or talking on the phone, or else, he’ll be standing outside with the salesman of the fascist boutique, or with the other porteros, and the front door will be open, so I don’t have to bother with the little bronze button, or with pulling open the heavy door; but sometimes on the weekends there will be law students gathered by the door, and in my haste to escape them, I’ll go the wrong way, either down Calle Covarrubias, or across the little plaza to Calle de Luchana, wherever I don’t want to go. I’ll be walking down one street until I get to Alonso Martinez, or Bilbao, and realize I need to be at the other metro station, and then it’s a long detour, all the way down Calle de Sagasta, heading either east or west, drawing an acute angle either way, crossing the base of a triangle. Often I need to go to Luchana. Often I’m going to Nazanin’s house in Malasaña, which means crossing Calle de Mañuel Malasaña to Calle de San Andres and walking straight down, past Plaza Dos de Mayo, up the incline, past the other little plaza in front of the empanadas place, in front of the bench where I sat with Sam that one awful night, and with Nazanin that other night, when those Irish boys heard us speaking English and invited us to their comedy show, and when we ran into the boys we knew from Santander, and one of them had just returned from Nepal, or maybe it was Senegal, and he looked the part too, with shaven hair and a smile too earnest. From there it’s a straight shot down Calle Jesús de Valle, número 6, planta 3. Just one buzzer for the whole floor, then up the wooden stairs, and past the numerous padlocks, into the whiteness of Nazanin’s living room, to be offered water, tea, or a mint lemonade. Other times I need to go down Covarrubias, only until I can cross over to Calle de Santa Engracia, often to the metro, or to the bus stop for línea 7 at the base of Calle de Almagro, or from the plaza, I’ll walk down Calle Hortaleza to get to Sol faster, if I’m walking to Nico’s apartment, or just walking to Sol to meet Marcelo, by the glass opening of the metro. Or if I’m walking to the Museo Thyssen or Parque Retiro, I’ll choose Calle de Génova where the glorieta blossoms into five streets, and I’ll walk until I get to the Plaza de Colon, and from there down Paseo de la Castellana, which turns into Paseo de Recoletos, then down to Plaza de Cibeles, and across La Puerta de Alcalá to enter Retiro from the north. I will walk past the first fountain in the park, and along the lake, where everyone is rowing on the paddle boats, and playing music, sometimes terribly, sometimes passably, drawing portraits, dancing, roller blading, taking pictures, and I always laugh to be in the midst of it, even though it’s tacky, even though it’s a tourist trap, and the British girls are talking too loudly in English, and people are posing with the clowns. If I make it past the lake, and cut across the grass, I’ll see the glass palace and running from tree to tree, maybe I’ll sneak up on my friends, who I can always spot with the help of Sam’s bike parked against some bench or Juanpe’s posture, or Lucia’s yoga mats laid out on the grass. They’ll find me hiding behind a tree and there will be kisses to go around and we’ll stretch and meditate and talk and afterwards, Sam and I will exchange a look, and we will say goodbye to the others, but not to each other, and we’ll walk west to another fountain, and he’ll be walking his bike or riding it very slowly and we’ll come to the manicured garden, and I’ll race him down the stairs while he goes around them on the ramps, and we’ll return to the shade of Paseo del Prado again, which is what Castellana and Recoletes turns into this far south, and we’ll cross it at the little plaza under Fuente de Neptuno, and we’ll walk uphill, across el centro, though we never cut across Sol, or if we do I can’t remember, because usually it’s the Tirso de Molina metro station that creeps up, the lanterns hung so high I forget where I am, the plaza more beautiful at twilight, people closing up by the metro, where earlier they had been selling umbrellas, we’ll get to La Latina somehow, and Sam never approaches the metro station the way I do, but cuts through some small unknown street, so that as we’re walking up to Calle de Toledo, his apartment appears suddenly, like a memory, Calle de Toledo 77, interior 3C. Sam carries his bike on one shoulder up the three flights of stairs and I walk in front of him so I won’t die if he drops it, though he says he hasn’t dropped it yet, every day he carries it and hasn’t dropped it once, and when we enter the apartment sometimes his roommate Andrea is there, at the small table, or on the couch, and sometimes his other roommate Mikel is there, in his room, or in the kitchen, but mostly we’re alone, Sam and I, and I’ll sit down on the rainbow futon, under the crawling green plant, or I’ll hop on the ledge of the window, which is large and unscreened, and the sky will be very wide, and the neighbors have a little terrace below, and the sound of their laughter will float up to where Sam and I sit, talking about our former loves, our former homes, the things we left behind, and sometimes Sam will play the guitar, and I’ll lie down and try to read, or listen to him, and once, he tried to hold my hand, but I didn’t let him, because I was crying, and now I cannot remember why. I only remember that he sat there, close by, and later we met some friends at a ukulele concert, and after that, we went to the anarchist party at the outskirts of the city and I danced all night.
Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint is the author of the lyric novel, The End of Peril, the End of Enmity, the End of Strife, A Haven (Noemi Press, 2018) and the forthcoming family history project, Zat Lun, which won the 2018 Graywolf Nonfiction Prize. She received an MFA in prose from the University of Notre Dame and a Fulbright grant to Spain. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in creative writing at the University of Denver, the associate editor of Denver Quarterly, and an instructor at Lighthouse Writers Workshop, where she teaches hybrid/experimental forms.