We went to the bar where our friend knows the owner. You know the place? It’s on the corner, a bit past the walking street, before the lighthouse. It’s the place where I found out one of my English students used to be a nun, specifically the mother superior, of a convent in Cameroon. This student had never shared this tidbit with me, as we preferred to talk about gerunds and the past progressive tense.
This same student is related to the director of my kid’s school, who works across the street the street from my hairdresser, whose daughter is in my son’s class. In the building where she dyes my roots, our good friend’s wife was born.
We heard about a painting exhibition at the bar by an artist named Diego. We wanted to see his paintings because our landlords own one, and we love it. Theirs is a fearless explosion of blues and red, depicting Venice and its gondolas. None of us have seen them in person, except for possibly Diego.
I didn’t have a chance to ask him about his travels to Italy. However, I did learn that he is a cousin to my landlord’s sister-in-law. He also is good friends with the man who works at the frame shop in La Laguna, who also works at the pizza place by the Sanctuario. “Oh, you mean the primo of Francisco?” I ask.
“Si,” he replies, “Eso.” This primo is also related to my landlady’s brother’s cousin.
We decide to buy a picture. It depicts the tallest point of the campo of Chipiona. It’s an olive orchard, with green and yellow light singing through the vines, the fortress behind it golden, with a tile-topped tower.
A week later, I show to it a friend, who is helping me make a carrot cake with her fancy food processor. She explains that she was born in that fortress, the Torre Breva. Her mother wouldn’t let her leave the house, because she was in love with a 19-year-old boy while she was only 14. She sat in the front tower, crying, watching the lighthouse of the city, and sighing, as only the young can do.
“Like Rapunzel,” I said.
“Si, claro,” she replied. She went on to say that although she married the 19 year old, and two grown sons later, all is well with her family, she did have one regret.
Her cousin, who had a military connection to this tower, knew somebody who worked for the king. As in, the King of Spain.
My friend explained, as we measured walnuts, that she was so mad about the boyfriend that she refused to accompany her mother to meet the king. She then pulled out a picture of her mother, sitting with King Juan Carlos, at the fortress depicted in my new painting.
The one I bought at the bar. The one at the end of the corner. You may know somebody there.