It’s Friday, just gone 7PM- probably my favourite moment on the island.
I’m sitting in a newly discovered cafe (there are so many to choose from!) the beach an arm’s stretch away. Sitting here I face out to sea- beyond the safe, cosy confines of San Sebastian- to the horizon and onwards, worlds away from me.
I hear funky Spanish tunes from across town, signalling ‘it’s the end of the week!‘. The beat vibrates through town, bouncing off crumbly walls and mingling with the laughter of children and adults alike. Anyone who day trips here on a weekday afternoon would assume there lived no children, a land like Vulgaria in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. But now it seems every child in Spain is here. The main piazza is full of them. 4 year olds riding bicycles without stabilizers, whizzing past groups old older children doing handstands, playing football, lolling around on benches. Toddlers taking their first steps, teens their first hands. Chatter, chatter, chatter- I can’t walk more than a few steps without a delightful smile in my face, “Hola teacher!!”.
Where are the grown-ups? They’re perched around the square in groups, having a good old natter, some cranking open a few beers. Every so often their chat is interrupted by a child (could be theirs, could be anyone’s), bumping into the table and showing an incredible stone or leaf they’ve just found, before running back to join the fun. The children are well and truly free.
Back to this cafe, I only have €1.50 in my purse so before I order I check if that’s enough to order te de limón. There’s a bit of confusion but the smiley young waiter says “Yes, te limón, is on eur an fif”- “Oh, fantastic!” I say, and he looks surprised at how delighted I am. Another reminder that the Universe is always conspiring in our favour.
My shoulders start dancing up and down, the atmosphere loosening me up after a somewhat tedious/stressy afternoon with 3-year-olds. Without any common language between us, it’s pure luck if they don’t cry or let me wash their hands before smearing paint everywhere. It’s interesting to watch them interact with each other.
The soothing waves take me away from my thoughts of plasticine crumbs and sobs over who plays with which train. The clouds are pinky-grey and rest gently on the horizon, slowly edging their way up the sky, like a soft blanket wrapping around us.
It’s a little windy, though, and two women just got up to move inside. Highlights of being a smoker I suppose- 1) you build up weather resistance 2) you always sit outside.
The sand in front of me is grey which even after 6 weeks still surprises me. But it suits La Gomera. I fear golden beaches would change it completely, the free-to-use wooden umbrellas being replaced with rows of plastic sunbeds for 10 bucks a pop.
I like this cafe too because I feel I’m on the edge of town. As far away from school and students and normal life as I can be in just a 5-minute walk. I like that I save this place for these moments. The other week my colleague said she didn’t want to use up all the roads too quickly, and it’s very true. Apart from The Maldives, this is the smallest place I’ve lived (Somma Vesuviana almost slipping in front). I want to know every street, every cafe and every local who owns it, but I also want to keep this feeling of newness. I want routine and familiar, yet I yearn for discovery and adventure.
The sky is now a wide palette of pastel blues, yellows, pinks and oranges, a marshmallow blanket tucking us in and ending the week, turning to dark and starting the buzz of the weekend.
The music still plays and makes me smile. I couldn’t do this a year ago. I couldn’t sit in a bar by myself. Okay so I have my cigarettes and my notebook to keep my hands busy, but I’m not anxious like I once was. I’m not fretting that someone will try to talk to me- in fact, I’d quite like it, I’d say “pull up a chair!”.
At the end of the harbour a green light flashes, beckoning an incoming passenger ferry from Tenerife. The town gets ready to shift once again; commuters and students return home for the weekend, tourists unload with their maps. Families walk hand in hand towards the light, some of the kids I recognise. Public school is closed on Monday, so many people are going away for the long weekend. Other visitors pay their dues and make their way to the light, it being the last ferry of the day.
What is it like, I wonder, to climb aboard and see The Island getting smaller and smaller behind you. I have yet to find out. I have no desire to leave. For once I am content with my lemon tea and ancient palm tree standing tall beside me. I’m alone and not all at once.
I could sit like this for hours, but the colours are draining from the sky and the tables are filling with dining customers. I feel refreshed and ready for my 2 glorious days off, my reward for the hard work this week.
As I’m getting ready to leave, the street lamps flicker on. A gentle reminder La Gomera has my back. I never walk home in the dark.
My phone buzzes, it’s my colleague suggesting we take an evening stroll, how lovely. We wander towards the harbour, down to that green light. There’s lightening in the distance so we sit down to watch, dangling our legs over the wall, over the Atlantic Ocean. Then our legs take us to a secluded beach across the way where the lights of Tenerife twinkle brightly. Close enough to feel we aren’t stranded here, far enough that it’s outside our bubble.
Does Friday hold any significance to you? This one in particular for me is the end of my constant laziness. The start of early mornings and resuscitating my forgotten blog. Is there anything you didn’t do this week you can start fresh on next week? Have you been alone and yet not at any point? Where was it? Tell me your stories!