I don’t speak Spanish. But I do know a few words and phrases – just enough to get by. Plus, I can string together a sentence or two, but I only know how to say very basic and rudimentary things. For example, I know how to introduce myself.
Hola, me llamo Stephen. Tengo cincuenta años. That means, “Hello, my name is Stephen. I am fifty years old.”
The Spanish language is interesting in that the wording is slightly different from English. Tengo means “I have”, so if you were to translate the second half of my introduction directly into English it would be, “I have fifty years.” In Spanish, soy means, “I am”, but you don’t say “Soy cincuenta.” It just doesn’t mean anything.
It’s also vital to use the correct accents when you write certain letters and words in Spanish. Let me give you an example just so you can see what I’m talking about here. Año with the accent means “year” while ano without the accent means “anus”. So if I were to write Tengo cincuenta anos, it would mean “I have fifty anuses.” And I can assure you that that isn’t the case.
But that really is pretty much all I know when it comes to Spanish.
Of course, I do know a few other words for things like please (por favor), thank you (gracias), and beer (cerveza), but I don’t know any of the verb endings. That’s the most important thing when learning Spanish. It’s all about the verbs.
My husband David wanted me to learn, and I was going to get started. But in the end, it didn’t happen. He died last April, just two days before my fiftieth birthday. He needed a new kidney. But for one reason or another, he found himself at the bottom of the waiting list. I told the doctor to cut me open and give him one of mine. She said it didn’t work like that – she said I had to be a match. But I wasn’t.
David’s son Francisco was a match, but David refused to accept a kidney from him. I loved David to death, but my God was he stubborn. They were estranged, David and his son, but that’s not the reason why he didn’t want to take one of Francisco’s kidneys. He said he wanted Francisco (or Paco as he’s nicknamed) to keep both of his kidneys in case his wife or child needed one. He said a father gives a kidney to his son, not the other way around. He knew his principles, and he stuck to them until the very end.
Before he got sick, David and I talked about what each of us would do if one of us suddenly died. I told him that if I were to go first, I wanted my ashes scattered on the beach. I said it could be any beach. I didn’t care, just as long as the two of us had been there together. David had some more specific instructions. He told me that he wanted his ashes scattered in his home town of Dénia, right at the top of a mountain. He also told me that in the event of his death, I was to hand-deliver a letter to his son in Spain.
So that’s what I did.
It was my first flight alone. I got to the airport, found the computer screen that told me where to check-in, got in the queue, and handed over my passport and ticket to the lady at the check-in desk. Then I stood in line at security, went through the scanner, found the departure information screen, waited at a café and had a cup of coffee, queued again, handed over my passport and boarding pass to the man at the desk, and then finally boarded the plane. I was proud of myself for getting through it all without David by my side. He usually got us wherever we needed to go.
I sat in my seat and waited for take-off. That’s probably the worst part for me. But then again, I hate the part where you’re up in the air, and I hate the part where you drop out of the sky for landing.
Statistically, there’s about a one in 11,000,000 chance that you’ll be involved in a plane crash, while there’s a one in 5000 chance that you’ll be involved in a car accident. So on paper, I had nothing to worry about. But let’s be honest, we as human beings were not meant to fly. Perhaps as a species, we were only meant to live our lives in one place – in one particular area of the planet. But we got too arrogant and wanted to conquer everything. And when air travel from place to place wasn’t enough for us, we just had to go to space – to the moon – just to say that we did and that we, as a species, could.
Although, if air travel wasn’t possible, I never would’ve met David. So maybe it’s a good thing after all.
David and I met in the late nineties. I was living in a flat at the time, and I needed a lodger, so I put an ad in the paper. It was a time before we did everything on computers, tablets and telephones. David was the first person to answer the ad. He moved in, and one thing led to another. You know how it goes.
We took all sorts of trips together and went to places you’d never expect to go to in your life. But that was David. He wanted to explore – he wanted to get out there and see the world. I remember one particularly bad flight on the way out to Samoa. David had to hold my hand pretty much the whole way there. There were babies on that flight who made less of a fuss than I did. I only agreed to go on all of those trips because it meant that I got to go with him. I think he knew that.
Once the plane had settled in the air, the cabin crew began serving drinks and snacks. And when the trolley made its way over to my seat, I ordered a cup of black coffee. One of the members of the cabin crew splashed my arm with hot water. It wasn’t boiling, but it was still hot enough to cause some minor discomfort. He didn’t seem to notice what he had done. I didn’t say anything about it, though – I just paid for my drink with a smile on my face. If David had been with me, he would’ve kicked up a fuss. When you were with David, he’d do anything to protect you. No matter what. That’s just the way he was.
I put the seat tray down so that I had somewhere to rest my cup of coffee. I noticed something written on the tray in biro. It said, “Naomi and Amy were here, ’15.” There was a picture next to it. It looked like an imitation of Edvard Munch’s The Scream. David and I got to see the real painting itself at the Munch Museum in Oslo. Come to think of it, that was the last trip we ever took together.
The flight was a little turbulent, so I held onto the armrests as if that was going to do something about it. I heard another passenger say that it wasn’t that bad. But I know turbulence when I feel it. To make matters worse, the captain came on the speaker and told us that the runway was a little congested, which meant we would have to circle for a while. It was so frustrating being trapped on that plane, knowing we had reached our destination, but we couldn’t get off. I was starting to get claustrophobic. At that moment, I wished that David was there to hold my hand.
Around forty minutes or so later, when we finally landed in Alicante, I was one of the first to get off that plane. I reached up into the overhead compartment, grabbed my bag, and got the hell out of there. I didn’t have to wait for any additional luggage, which meant I could head straight for the car rental place.
I used what little Spanish I knew to communicate with the man at the car rental desk, but luckily, he spoke English. After he’d checked all of my details and filled in the paperwork, he handed me the keys to my car – a black SEAT Ibiza.
The hot Spanish air hit me for the first time as I walked out of the airport. There really is nothing like it. It’s just relentlessly hot.
I found my car in the car park, but it was no better inside the car – in fact, it was ten times worse – so I put the air conditioning on full blast. Then I set off on my way to Dénia to deliver that letter to Paco.
Dénia is just a short drive from Alicante airport, but there was only a small sign for the exit, and I almost missed the turning. I had to cut across and swerve to the other lane. People were beeping their horns at me, and I got a few angry looks and gestures.
A short while later, I made it to Paco’s house. It was a beautiful single-storey villa with all sorts of plants around the outside. It had an outdoor shower and a swimming pool in the shape of a kidney, which I found strange and somewhat ironic. Paco and his wife Fernanda both came out to greet me.
“Hola,” Paco said. He was handsome and looked just like his father. It was kind of surreal for me because I couldn’t help but feel like I was seeing David again.
“Hola,” I said. I shook his hand and gave him a big hug. It felt familiar – so familiar that I didn’t want to let go.
I met Paco’s wife Fernanda next. She was tall and very beautiful. She was also seven months pregnant at the time. Fernanda hugged me and kissed me on the cheek.
“It’s nice to meet you,” she said.
I asked Fernanda when she was due.
“October,” she said. That’s when David was born. He would’ve been sixty years old on the twenty-second.
Paco and Fernanda invited me in, and I met their daughter Isabella. She was sitting at the table in her high chair. She looked more like Fernanda than Paco, but I could see parts of him in her; they had the same eyes.
“And this must be Isabella,” I said.
Isabella put her hands over her eyes and tried to hide from me. “She’s a little shy,” Fernanda said.
We all sat at the table, and Fernanda made us some coffee in a Moka pot. It was strong, but that’s just the way I like it. “You look so much like your father,” I said to Paco. He smiled at me and raised his eyebrows. “Don’t worry,” I said. “I mean that as a compliment.”
“Thank you,” he said. His English was good – much better than David’s, that’s for sure.
“Would you like something to eat?” Fernanda said to me. “I made churros.”
“Yes, please,” I said. “That would be lovely. Thank you.”
Fernanda got up very slowly. She said something to Paco in Spanish. I think she wanted him to go and help her.
“Excuse me,” Paco said. He got up and helped Fernanda to the kitchen.
I looked over at Isabella, and she smiled at me. I think she had gotten used to me by then. I got out my wallet and took out a picture of David. I showed it to Isabella. “This is your Abuelo,” I said to her. “A-bue-lo.” I said it very quietly. She didn’t seem at all interested. It suddenly hit me that David wouldn’t get to see Isabella grow and develop as a human being, that he would never get to spend the day with her, and that she would never get to know him – that he’ll essentially be a stranger to her, his own granddaughter, his own flesh and blood. I thought about that for a minute.
Fernanda and Paco came back with the churros, and I put the photo back in my wallet. “Wow,” I said. “They look delicious.”
“Gracias,” Fernanda said. Then Isabella started to cry. “She’s just tired,” Fernanda said. “I think she needs her siesta.”
“I can put her down,” Paco said to Fernanda.
“It’s okay,” Fernanda said to him. “I’ve got her.” Fernanda picked Isabella up and took her to her bedroom. She said something to her in Spanish to try and calm her down, but it didn’t work.
Paco and I sat in silence for a while as we ate the churros. I dipped one in my coffee.
“Thank you so much for agreeing to meet with me,” I said to him. “I just wish your dad was here.” Paco didn’t say a word. In addition to looking like his father, I think he also inherited his stubbornness.
I reached into my bag and took out a sealed envelope. It said PACO on the front of it in David’s handwriting. For some reason, David never joined his letters. Everything he wrote, he wrote in block capitals. “Here,” I said. I handed the envelope to Paco. “Your father wanted you to have this.”
Paco took the envelope from me, but he didn’t open it. I did all I could. The rest was up to him.
After a minute or so I said, “Listen. Your father told me that he wanted his ashes scattered at the top of a mountain.”
“Montgó?” Paco said.
“That’s right,” I said. “I’m going up there tomorrow. I’d love it if you could join me.” Paco thought about it for a brief moment. “Okay,” he said. “I’ll come.”
The following morning, the pair of us hiked up Montgó Massif – or Montgó for short. The ascent took us a good five hours or so. God, it was hard work. It made me realise that I wasn’t as fit as I thought I was.
David and I would often go hiking together. There was this one time when we went hiking in Greece, and I got stung by a wasp. The bastard got me right on the back of the leg. I was in so much pain that David had to help me down.
Paco and I made it to the top and looked out as far as we could see. There were magnificent views of both the coast and the sea. Standing at the top of that mountain, I could see why David wanted this.
“See that?” Paco said to me. He was pointing at something in the distance. “Yeah,” I said. “I see it.”
“That’s Ibiza. It’s only visible on clear days like this.”
David and I talked about going to Ibiza. He wanted to stay there for a few days and then travel to Dénia so he could see Paco and Fernanda and baby Isabella. But that was one trip we didn’t get the chance to take.
We stood on top of the mountain and took in the sights for a while. Then I took the urn out of my bag and began to scatter David’s ashes right where he wanted them. The pair of us watched them drift off the top of the mountain until they eventually disappeared into the atmosphere.
And then this eagle flew overhead and landed on a rock right in front of us. It was a huge and magnificent creature. I’d never seen anything like it. Paco and I both stood perfectly still so as not to frighten it. “That’s a golden eagle,” Paco said. “It’s quite rare to see one up here.”
“How do you say eagle in Spanish?” I asked him. We both spoke in whispers. “Águila,” he said.
Águila. I repeated the word over and over in my head.
We watched the eagle for a minute before it took to the sky again. We followed it with our eyes and our fingers for as long as we could until it flew off into the distance. Paco looked at me, and I looked back at him. I put my hand on his shoulder.
About The Author
Thomas Morgan is a writer from Worthing in West Sussex. He’s been published in Dream Catcher Magazine, STORGY, Bandit Fiction, Nymphs, Secret Attic, Rhodora Magazine, The Mark Literary Review, Tether’s End, Sledgehammer Lit, Untitled: Voices, Idle Ink, Free Flash Fiction, Honeyfire Lit, and Truffle Magazine.
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