Paseo Picasso, 10
+34 93 268 70 17
by Beau Cadiyo
Joan pushed it as a restaurant Francesca would love. I don’t know how he’d found out about it, or how he’d ever afforded it before, but it’s very possible that he didn’t actually pay – that his date paid, or he saw it on TV and got a gift card. Regardless, after patatas bravas at Bar Tomas and two ports at the Portugese bar, we were sitting in a beautifully decorated room that smelled like shit.
“It is very typical of this area,” Francesca said. “The buildings all have a bad odor.”
The host, Jaume, welcomed us in Catalan, Castellano and English – he’d lived in Oakland for a year (he actually said that he’d lived in, “Oaktown, what what”) and wanted to move back. He reveled in the opportunity to practice his English. When we had to wait for a few minutes extra he asked us if we wanted coffee. Then, he got really embarrassed when he couldn’t operate the machine. Francesca went over to explain it to him, and then we got some really, really strong coffee.
“It is very different than the coffee in America,” he said. Really, it was different than the coffee anywhere.
Along with one other couple, Toni and Mireille, we were the last to go into the dining area. This is how it works: a blind waiter comes out and the host introduces you. The blind man explains that there are curtains and a downward slant and a hallway, and you’ll follow him and he’ll show you your table. He also asks that you pay attention to the volume of your voice; people, for whatever reason, tend to talk much more loudly when it’s completely dark.
Like, completely dark.
And we’d be repeatedly reminded to be quiet when it got too loud.
I don’t think I’ve ever been in total, utter darkness. There are a few places that I’ve been in that were dark, but all of them had at least a sliver or crack of light in them, or a few stars, or at least the promise of light just beyond a blindfold. This place was totally dark – nothing, absolutely nothing, could be seen inside, and eventually even the false firings of my eyes subsided. We walked in and Jose, the waiter, put my hands on the back of my chair and I sat down. I felt the table: a knife, a fork, a napkin. While Francesca was led to her own seat I took the liberty of exploring her side of the table to see what she had; it was the same. No salt or pepper. The tables fit tightly together; there was nobody to my left and Toni and Mireille to my right.
We were served. I truly believe that being given the knife and fork was done solely to show people how ridiculous it is to expect blind people to use the tools of the sighted, or to impress upon us the immense skill that they have in understanding the dynamics of a plate. There was no question of us using them; I didn’t pick them up except to move them out of the way, and I didn’t hear the click of metal upon ceramic the entire night.
The food was delicious, and was all the more so because we didn’t know exactly what we were eating. The waiter simply brought out plates and we ate our food with our hands. In a lot of ways, it was like the trust games you play at summer camp, or at corporate retreats, except that the stakes seemed higher.
At some point – after the cava and the first or second glass of wine, but before the third – we started holding hands. As I got progressively more drunk, we got progressively more touchy and progressively more quiet, as if we were coming to some sort of understanding. Nothing felt awkward. We were communicating with each other and that was what we both needed. When we talked – in Castellano, French or English – I seemed to understand every word she said, and she tended to bring out the best in my linguistic attempts in all three languages, too.
Later, she got on the bus, making me promise to take a cab. I saw her off, then walked, as I’d intended to do the whole time. At one point, walking down Gran Via, there were no cars and a single leaf blew off of a tree and into the street. Gran Via without cars is one of the more apocalyptic things I’ve seen. I walked out without hesitating, picked it up, and walked back to the sidewalk, holding it. Later, when she saw it, she’d laugh at me for putting it in my suitcase, and I wouldn’t explain.
Anyways, I realized then that it was Thanksgiving day in America, and with the time difference my family was probably eating dinner.