Jonah sat on the roof of a condemned building in a neighborhood in Barcelona called la Barcelonetta. He wrangled with a pervasive feeling of impossibility. His cousin was dead. He gazed with ennui over the square multistory buildings at a sunset. Propped on his knee rested the body of his cousin’s orange guitar. The sunset turned the sea the color of a fig. He let little catches of music flow through his mind, fingers, and the guitar, like sexual energy cycling through lovers. Gently his fingers found the strings below and pressed down chords above.
The house was no longer a place he could stay. He would fly home in four days to poverty and to the windy wet Chicago winter. He would leave behind the sun and pride of the Barcelona summer. He would leave behind a people so generous that if you refuse a cigarette they’ve offered you, they will force you to take an entire pack. The house was home a cooperative of young mendicants, musicians, artists and drug addicts. The house was a squat. This particular squat had been inhabited since the spring when the building had been condemned and the global recession had prevented its swift redevelopment into Barcelona beach condominiums. The other members ignored Jonah, some knowing he would soon leave, others out of respect for his cousin — their recent roommate — others out of indifference. The house was in a daze at losing Korda, the Serbian.
Humans take either irrational joy or irrational hatred in impossible contradictions. In the case of Korda, they took joy in his being a thin man whose name meant “fat woman.”
All cultures are best defined by the radical contradictions that they ignore each day. In Spain (like all Latin matriarchs) the father is publicly adored and feared but only out of a feeling of secret pity since everyone knows in their heart that the mother is higher. This daily and automatic contradiction expresses itself in the union of the pity inducing celibate Roman Catholic clerics and the divine feminine: Pacha Mama in the Andes, La Virgin in Mexico, and in Spain: La Gorda.
One night drinking in the Malasana, a communist neighborhood, a particularly erudite member of the inevitable proletarian revolution told him Korda shared a name with the photographer of the Cuban revolution. The photographer Korda took the immortal portrait of Che Guevara Guerrillero Heroico.
Korda overdosed on cocaine. Jonah watched him do it. Jonah did not intentionally let his cousin die. Jonah just thought, “My cousin does a lot of drugs.” And when his cousin passed out, Jonah thought, “Korda passed out.” And went up one floor to a living room where he found Anita, an attractive Belgian with half a shaved head and a tattoo on her back of two rats fucking. Anita was sitting on the floor next to a couch smoking hand rolled cigarettes.
When Queen Isabella was expelling the turks, she claimed she would free the cities of Spain just as she plucked the granules of fruit from a pomegranate, como los granos de una granada. And hence that city was named: Granada.
Korda was a cruel man. He had beaten up a girl the summer before and gone into hiding afterwards. Now he was dead.