John would board a plane in a few hours.
Even though I still have three weeks in Madrid, most of my friends were leaving that next day. We celebrated our final night together. We started at San Ildefonso, an indoor market with a dozen food stands: Mexican and traditional Spanish and bars of every variety. We bought nachos. Twice. But like true Spaniards, many of us drank tinto de verano, a refreshing mix of red wine and lemon Fanta that’s become my drink of choice. This particular bar mixed in cinnamon and rum. Yum.
We reminisced. Laughed. Clinked together tintos de verano.
Then coming full circle, we moved to El Tigre, the first bar of the semester and a frequent throughout. That’s when the goodbyes began. Beyond that point, the night becomes an emotional blur. I remember hugging Mackenzie on the train, when three Spanish girls disrupted it by barreling into an already crowded car. I don’t blame them; it was the last train of the night. Mackenzie and I awkwardly separated and looked at each other. An interrupted hug. Something about it felt right.
Then the doors reopened, I stepped off, and that was all she wrote.
We all met that first week, nervously chatting at El Tigre and exchanging WhatsApp numbers and betting on Hillary Clinton because this was January, mind you, when Trump’s candidacy still had a comic allure. We attended bars in mobs because everyone feared the Madrid night alone, and we partied inside a seven-story club, shuffled between tourist sites, bumbled through orientation, and, somewhere along the way, became friends.
We bonded in class. We shared notes because, occasionally, we’d miss a word and misunderstand everything. We jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire, hands held in solidarity, and collectively interpreted menu items and locals’ pronunciation.
We toured Spain together: boarded airplanes, battled motion sickness, argued over boarding order (I maintain that airplanes board front-to-back according to ticket price). We ordered Domino’s Pizza in Bilboa because we’d suffered through three hours of torrential downpour, and we feasted on a picnic against the gates of Aranjuez’s central park because they apparently don’t allow food inside. And occasionally we aspired for more culturally appropriate activities, like museums, local dishes, and cathedral visits (I was insistent on those).
And now most of you are in the United States.
Our hugs ended too soon.
We will remember that, for four months, we stumbled into each other’s lives. And in that short period of time, immersed in such an overwhelming experience, we connected.
And far into the future, regardless of where time takes us, our friendships shall remain immortalized in the city itself: every giggle, every discovery, every homesick tear, endlessly playing out like a movie theater projection on the streets where they happened. Because we all leave something of ourselves in Madrid. And although we will never recreate this experience, never again be the individuals nor group that we were, there we shall be together, at El Tigre, drinking tinto de verano and laughing forever.