One of the things I remember most about my home stay in Madrid is how thin the walls were. At any given moment of the day, I could hear my next-door neighbor blasting The Strokes, The Libertines or some Spanish post-punk band I didn’t quite recognize. Sometimes he would join and sing along, terribly off-key. Not long after I first got settled with my host family, this noise complaint turned into a sort of guessing game to see if I could recognize the melody or the lead singer’s voice. Oh yeah, it’s Interpol. I didn’t know anything about my mysterious neighbor whom I shared a wall with, except that he had impeccable taste in music.
Halfway through my study abroad semester, I wanted to start hanging out with locals, Madrileños, so I began making an effort and dragging the Americanos from school to hang out in Chueca (gay and trendy) and Malasaña (hip and grungy). Madrid is a great city to just go out and get lost exploring. There’s always something to discover around the corner. Every night can be an adventure.
Even the nights when you decide to stay home.
One breezy Thursday night, I’m in my room catching up on Don Quixote for class when the music starts. Catchy rock tunes with heavier guitar riffs make the glass door leading to my balcony start to vibrate. A few minutes later, I begin hearing voices coming in and soft chuckles and laughter. My curiosity, acting up yet again, gets the best of me, so I place my ear up to my wall to try to listen in on the silly Spanish conversations occurring on the other side. I hear the boys and girls, maybe five or six of them, and the faint sound of ice circling and hitting the bottom of empty glasses followed by the sound of liquid pouring and fizzling.
I’m not quite satisfied with my findings, so I put my bookmark in the middle of Cervantes and put on my flip-flops. I walk out to my balcony, and I see a guy on the balcony next door. He’s got messy black hair, thick eyebrows, some stubble and is leaning up against the railing in faded blue jeans and wearing a loose-fitting white tee on his Olive-colored torso. He catches me come out just five feet away and quickly takes a drag off his cigarette.
“Hola, eres my nuevo vecino?” (Hello, you are my new neighbor?) he asks me.
“Si, si. Me estoy quedando aqui,” (Yeah. I’m staying here) I respond pointing to the light coming from my room where Don Quixote was left behind.
“Pues brinca y ven a tomar un trago. Tenemos Bacardi,” (Well, jump over and come have a drink. We have Bacardi) he says smiling and extending his right arm towards me. Right then, a thin girl with long, straight auburn hair and fine features, wearing a black short dress and a gold bracelet, comes out and starts lighting her cigarette.
“Hoy, tio. Ven, ven que aqui hay fiesta,” (Hey, man. Come, come we’re throwing a party) she says and before I can say another word, they’re both helping me jump over from my balcony to his in my flip-flops.
The room is bigger than I expected, bigger than mine at least. There are actually just four people in inside, the two I had met out on the balcony and another guy and girl making drinks by the speakers, behind them is a poster of Paul Simonon from The Clash smashing his bass guitar on the ground. Chico Rock hands me a glass of Bacardi and coke. One of the girls takes out a bag of cocaine from her clutch.