We're Not So Different From One Another After All - Talavera de la Reina, 1980

It's 1980 and we have just moved to Talavera de la Reina, Spain. We're living in a long skinny apartment on the Calle del Prado, right downtown.

Our neighbours are curious when we first move in. They stare politely at the boxes being unloaded and piled up in the lift, and smile shyly.  But, they keep their distance after a few days once they realise that we're harmless and won't disrupt the peace. Well, all except one. She's the Lady from Leon whose apartment is directly opposite the lift. She knows everything that is going on, all the comings and goings of everyone on our floor. And every time she sees me she either wants to accompany me or find out where I was. She laughs a lot, talks a lot, then talks some more and giggles some more. She wears the old-fashioned clothes that women tend to wear here once they reach the age of 50.

Sometimes it's difficult to get away from her, for every time I exit the lift she opens her apartment door and starts chatting.  She even follows me to my apartment and invites herself in.
"What is that?"  She screams and points to our television. It's one of those big ugly things that sits on the floor. Why we ever brought it with us from Virginia, I can't fathom. It doesn't work in Spain. So I tend to use it just to place things on top of it, almost as if it were a table.
"It's a television."
"I've never seen a television like that in the whole of my life!  Why is it on the floor?!"
"That's the way it is." I've never thought about it before.
"But..."  She bends over to gaze at this odd television, "It must be difficult to watch. Isn't it?"
"We're normally seated any time we watch it."  I try not to laugh. "But, it doesn't work here. It's a different system."

She wanders about staring at everything and screams again.
"What are they? "  She's staring at my husband's golf clubs.
"They're golf clubs."
"I've never seen anything like that in the whole of my life!"
She takes a club and holds it high pointing it to the ceiling.
"Nobody uses things like this around here." She shakes her head in disbelief. "If the people upstairs make a lot of noise you could bang the ceiling!" She laughs loudly and I half expect the person who lives below to bang their ceiling due to all the noise the Lady from Leon is making between clunking around on the wooden floor and talking shrilly.

"What are they?"  She picks up a packet of Virginia Slims and examines it closely.
"Cigarettes."
"I've never seen cigarettes like that in the whole of my life!"  She takes one out of the packet and pretends to smoke it. "My goodness!  They are long and thin! Must take for ever to smoke them!"
She stares at me with a puzzled look. Her forehead has deep wrinkles and her eyes crinkle when she smiles. "Where did you say you were from?" Then she laughs loudly.

"You're a breath of fresh air, you really are. I'm looking forward to getting to know you."  She hugs me tightly.

I'm hoping she doesn't start kissing me. I'm not used to all this touching and expressions of emotion. I pretend to hug her back, then move away. I know she means well. She's probably lonely, that's why she finds my life so interesting. But, there again, I find her and all the people here in Talavera interesting. I can't wait to experience the next day, the next  hour, the next minute. I can't wait to explore, to speak more and more in Spanish, to smell the smells, to touch everything around me.

I place my hand on the Lady from Leon's arm. "We'll have fun together, I'm sure."

"Of course! And any time you want to watch television, just knock on my door!" She grins widely and then the Lady from Leon skips her way down the long skinny hall to the front door.























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