Small Damages: my novel of southern Spain

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

There are books that one works on for years, then sets aside, then works again for years.  Small Damages, my young adult novel of southern Spain, has been that book for me, and when I finished it at last, six weeks or so ago, I felt reprieved.  Now I miss writing this book.  I suppose that happens.

We drive past groves of olive trees and vineyards, one road, then another to Seville.  The landscape grows used up and the air reeks with gasoline, and Miguel and I hardly talk, and when we do, he’s not letting me in on any secrets.  When the thick walls of the city are finally in view, Miguel slows down and sits forward and messes with the clutch.  He parks Gloria on one of those sidewalky streets, and I open my door and get out. 
Above us are balconies and orange-yellow building slopes, the slick of tiles, those lizards.  Nothing is tall but still and everywhere the buildings ribbon the sky into blue.  We walk along beside the fortress walls, letting the women with the strollers pass, turning our faces from car smoke, stepping out of the way of the streams of dog pee that trickle away from the walls.  Everything is different and everything’s the same, and I don’t talk, and Miguel doesn’t talk, and finally he stops and rings a bell.  I hear keys in the doors beyond the wall and then one iron grate door opens, and then another one does, and now I’m staring at some old lady in the courtyard of a house.  It’s like standing inside another doughnut, this one made of stone. 
The air is greenhouse air, hot and muggy.  The tiles on the floor are cracked.  A miniature fountain is filled up with oranges, half of them rotten, half green. There are white birds like small moths, swooping and perching.  A skylight overhead lets in the sun, and the stairs circle around, off to one side; they are iron and thin and they look creaky.  Whomever she is kisses Miguel on the cheek and tells him to go skyward, then tells me too, in Spanish.  She has been told about me, I can tell.  She is glad that my linen dress is ironed.  I feel her eyes on me as I climb the winding stairs up high, and now there are steps that twist the other way, and suddenly I’m on a rooftop standing not underneath but inside the sky.
I feel you turn inside me, swim toward the edge of us.
I feel dizzy but there is no wall to hold me.


taltebrando said...

Just lovely. Really can't wait for this one!

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Lovely! Spain is an amazing, amazing place.

I'm about to return to research for a verse novel about a Gitano girl.

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