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Rant #269
(published March 9, 2006)
The Tale of the Drunk Immigrant in Spain
by Irma Cedeño
Here's the tale of two Americans — one Latina from New York City and the other from Mexico City — studying abroad in Madrid. Sure, after a few weeks of living in one of the most outstanding neighborhoods in Madrid, amongst obnoxious old ladies who wondered where the heck we were from and men who screamed "Olé" when they saw us, we were more than ready to try a new scene. We had spent the previous night at Gabana 1800, a top notch nightclub that was known for having a "puerta rigorosa" (rigorous door), where bouncers received us with open arms, we got a VIP table with some new friends from Morocco and we danced till our legs said "no more please." I have to say we became a little bored with having so much attention. So we had this amazing idea: we would go to Salamanca — otherwise known as "college town" to my roommate Ayleen and seek new wonders. We intended to stay with Ayleen's friend (whom I will refer to as "Ayleen's friend") and party, party, and party.

That day, a Saturday, we woke up at what we would consider a generous hour (3pm) considering we got home at 8am. Not bad for a first night out. We took a bus at 6pm, since the 5:30 one left us (bastard). After what seemed like hours of mundane thoughts of partying, Spain, and days away from New York, we got to Salamanca at around 9pm. Pretty, I shall say. Very similar to Madrid. It was alive, vibrant, very city-like. Ayleen's friend met us right by the center, where she lives, and upon getting out of the cab I took one look at her and thought "unfashionable." Okay, so maybe I'm a little harsh. But the girl was wearing some sweatpants and a sweatshirt. And she was also very short. She's from Mexico City, where that is known as being chaparra, one of the worst crimes ever invented. We went to her apartment. She had a two bedroom all to herself, in the center of the city, with as many comforts as imaginable to the human mind. We headed to a nice little restaurant, a bit pricey, where I ordered a tortilla de chorizo, which to them turned into an omelette (talk about loving America).

Although I am a quiet person, rather reserved and uninterested in people's affairs, someone who usually chooses to meander in her own thoughts instead of joining real conversations, I tried to make conversation with the friend. She was at the Universidad de Salamanca getting her masters degree. Apparently her parents were taking care of everything for her (very sweet indeed) and she loved it here. Also, she was dating a guy who was involved with someone else. Interesting, I thought. "It doesn't bother you?" I asked. "Of course not. I would never officially date him," she answered. Okay.

At her house, she gave us a little confession, quite nonchalantly: "My ex boyfriend from Mexico is getting married in a couple of hours, just a year after we broke up." She laughed a little, and here I was remotely interested: "What do you think about it?" She laughed some more and told us that she didn't care about him. It was his problem.

Sure it was his problem. Why not? We had some tequila (the worst of the worse considering Spain doesn't have any real tequila, but the attempt deserves some gratitude). I had mine with orange juice, after explaining that being 100 pounds I have no tolerance for anything. She couldn't believe I was 100 pounds. "Really? Oh, wow." I looked at her own frame — definitely not a 100, but out of pure consideration I wouldn't comment. Ayleen said, "She's always eating. She's got this amazing metabolism," and while I head to the bedroom, I heard the friend laugh and say, "She must vomit it." I laughed at it too. Either that or I would slap her.

I went back and forth between the bedroom and the bathroom to put some makeup on and change my clothes. I came back to the kitchen only to find Ayleen's friend drunk out of her mind. I couldn't hide the shock. I was gone for about three minutes. "How did you get so drunk?" I asked her. She was a cliché of a drunk: hardly walking, pointing her index finger right in my face like there was the need, laughing hysterically. "Ayleen has to be drunk too," she said. "She's had a lot of tequila," but as I examined Ayleen (and knowing how good she was about not drinking) I couldn't imagine her as having had more than one shot. "It went down the drain," she would tell me later.

Half an hour later, we were in the middle of Plaza Mayor in Salamanca. It was full of loud college students, but the loudest one was our friend. She stood in the middle of the plaza and ranted about the ex getting married and the guy she's dating who's got a girlfriend. He takes her to places where the girl won't know of. And the one getting married just met the girl. And it's his loss. But how could he? Gosh, she was a total embarrassment. And I, in my T-shirt and blazer, was freezing to death and could've betted with anyone that I would surely catch pneumonia. I walked ahead of her, to entice her to walk, but the small effort was futile. "Where are you taking us?" Ayleen asked her. "I don't know. Where are we going?" was her question-response. We finally went to a little cafeteria — a nice spot, except we wanted to party not have coffee. She headed to the bathroom and Ayleen turned to me and said, "I am so sorry. I didn't know she was like this. Let me just tell you I don't agree with anything that she has said about you. Youa re my best friend right now." And I asked, "What is she saying about me?" Ayleen told me she said that I wouldn't be any fun to be around. "God," Ayleen sighed, "We can't all be skinny."

Of course, she was being a lot of fun. And sure enough, at the table, the girl could not stop talking about me. I looked bored, she claimed. I would never come back to Salamanca. I wasn't having any fun. When it was time to pay, she tried to leave without paying, claiming that we had already paid. I paid for Ayleen's and mine, and told her to pay. In the middle of this, a fashion designer came over and asked me if I would be interested in being in a photo shoot for her clothing line. I told her yes, and Ayleen had to give her my cell number because I couldn't remember it. She asked for my size and I told her I couldn't yet understand the European system for sizes, but most likely the smallest she had. "Yes, 34, I think. Our other model is also a 34," she said. She went on to tell me about the museum she was planning to rent out for the shoot, and the photographer, and giving me her card. I turned back to Ayleen's friend and for a second I was happy that she was drunk. She wouldn't remember this in the morning.

We headed to a club, thinking that maybe there we would be able to lose Drunk Chick (yes, at this point it's alright for me to call her that). On our way to the club, a trashy guy walked up to us and asked us where X club was. Drunk Chick said, "We're going there!" but I thought we were going to Y. Oh, no, I was thinking. No, please. The guy started talking about how he had friends there for us to meet. "How many?" asked Drunk Chick. "Ten," answered the guy (that's too exact a number). "Oh, great! We each get like four!" she exclaimed. He turned to us, with a serious face, "No, you three are mine."

The club was supposed to be hot. To Ayleen and me it was plain trashy. It was full of old people. And, mind you, the old ladies wore fake fur. Gee. "At least the oldies in Madrid wear real fur," Ayleen complained. "Oh, gosh. I have to call my mom." I hugged the poor thing. She went off to call her mother, while I stood by the entrance, where it wasn't as cold. Please, no one speak to me, I pleaded. No one speak to me. "Que guapa eres." Damn it. It was some sleazy old man with his friends. "You have to be here with somebody. Are you waiting for someone?" I nodded. And if Ayleen showed up she would just have to turn into my girlfriend, as if matters weren't bad enough.

Drunk Chick came out of the club holding the guy's hand. "I'll come get you later!" she yelled to me. I pulled her, asking her where she was going, and why. Meanwhile he was trying to pull me to go with him. "She doesn't want to go!" Drunk Chick said — the only decent thing she said all night — and he let me go. Ayleen came over, took the guy to the side, made him show her the key to the hotel, took down all the info and threatened him shitless. "He's Paulina Rubio's boyfriend," Drunk Chick said to me, like I give a damn about Mexican pop artists. I told her to come home with us and if she still wanted to see him in the morning she could go ahead and do it. But she wasn't falling for it. The idea of her leaving flashed before my eyes. All our clothes, our money, and our dignity were left in her house. We took the bag from her for the keys. "I can't find them," Ayleen said as she searched every pocket. "I already gave you the keys," said Drunk Chick. Damn it again. She wanted to leave us out. Ayleen finally found the keys in a tiny pocket.

With aid from Ayleen's incredible photographic memory we found the apartment right away. "I don't ever want to see her again," she said. We were starving so we searched for something to eat in the kitchen. The place was stacked with bottles upon bottles of milk and orange juice, plenty of cereals, chocolate, pasta, etc. "What a waste of money," I said. "She has never had to work," Ayleen told me. I thought about our own two-bedroom apartment. Although it was in the best location in Madrid, it was empty. We had to keep a budget for our groceries and had asked our family to send us sheets. And although we were fabulous and we were aware of it, all the VIP and fine treatment came from the fact that we were fabulous, not because we had the money for it. I had kept a full-time internship in Wall Street for my trip, and Ayleen had a job at NYU. We wore the best clothes and had the finest of everything because we worked for it. I was about to take a piece of a Krunch bar when Ayleen said, "No. I want to be better than her" and I decided not to let my ravenous status trick me into taking Drunk Chick's negative energy into my system.

The next morning came back too quickly. (I had slept on a bed with sheets for a change). She came home, wasn't very apologetic, and took us to Puerta de Palacio where Ayleen and I would be picked up to go horseback riding. Ayleen borrowed a coat from her and told her she would send it. "Your friend hasn't told me what she thinks about the crazy Mexican girl," said Drunk Chick, referring to herself. That brought an instant flashback of last night, when I came out of the room wearing a T-shirt that read "Mexico" and Ayleen had said, "She's representing." And Drunk Chick had said, "But didn't you say you are from the Dominican Republic?" "I taught English in Mexico last summer," I said because apparently only people from a certain place wear T-shirts from that place. She laughed because I, of course, could not possible have taught English in Mexico. "My friend has no comments," Ayleen said. Just the right kind of attitude.

Horseback riding was a challenge, like many other things in life. My butt hurt, my ankles hurt, my thighs hurt. The instructor said to me, when I stayed behind, "Is it that your culo hurts?" (culo = ass) and I refused to answer to his vile language. Eventually I was galloping. Well, at least my horse was. And for the first time in the whole Salamanca trip, I was free. Damn that felt good.

So in the end, this isn't a tale about a drunk immigrant in Spain. In Spain, immigration has a really bad connotation. It means poverty and inability to pay rent and years to get to court and a very tedious process. So obviously she isn't really an immigrant. It's more a tale of an extremely insecure drunk chick in Spain and two other girls who got rid of her. Well, we hope . . . She sent Ayleen an email recently saying that she's glad she has her coat because now she has an excuse to come to Madrid and stay with us. Ha! Over my dead 100-pound body.

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