Painting the Town Beige

“Wait, let me put on my non-nursing bra!” I said to Nina and my husband.

Nina is our hot, childless friend who came to visit us in Madrid. My parents were also visiting and had offered to stay with the baby so we could go out for the evening.

Nina and my mum, strolling the Gran Via with the niño

Nina currently lives in Paris and you can hate her if you want to, but she’s so damned nice it’s not even worth it.

My mum needed a photo of a shawl she’d knit and asked Nina to model it. Nina obliged and pulled this manoeuvre like the boss lady that she is.

I ripped the handwritten “Hecho en Madrid” tag off my necklace. It felt impossibly delicate compared to the chunky, baby-chewable beads that I sometimes wear when I’m feeling ~fancy~. I looked over and saw, to my horror and delight, a pair of 4-inch fuchsia suede pumps next to Nina’s purse.

“Please wear those so I can live vicariously though you,” I said. “I only have sandals or running shoes. And the sandals are orthopaedic.”

So far, my casual-to-the-point-of-camping-appropriate wardrobe had not been a problem. After 2.5 weeks in Madrid, my husband and I had been out of the house after dark only one other time. His parents were popping through and we escaped for a night of exploring the lights of the city.

We even busted out the good camera

This turned into tapas, wine, more wine, and never once pausing to see if the wheels of our stroller would fit through a doorway. We wore our rain jackets and stumbled around randomly from one grimy tapas bar to the next. And it was glorious. And then we accidentally woke up the baby when we got home and were up for the next three hours trying to get him back to sleep. What is the opposite of glorious? Hell on Earth? But I digress.

There was a stand in the Mercado de San Miguel that sold nothing but whipped fresh mozzarella and I spent my life savings and I have no regrets

This time was going  to be different. This time, we had sequestered the baby into his own room so as not to disturb His Royal Highness upon our return. This time we were going to see THE BEST things and eat THE BEST food and drink THE MOST BEST drinks and party like crazy because we were with Nina and she had a list of hot spots and a non-diaper bag purse. And the glow that encircles a friend whom you haven’t seen in way too long.

We paused in front of the Royal Palace. Nina had the idea of posing for selfies with us in the background as if she’d crashed our date.  Major emphasis on the “as if.” Because without her, and my parents, we would have been in the apartment, frying broad beans and settling in for an episode (or three) of Luther on Netflix.

The sun sets late here. Or we started early. Po-tay-tow, po-tah-tow.

We walked on towards a small pedestrian street filled with tapas bars. I looked down at Nina’s list, “This rooftop place looks really cool!”

Nina peered over to see which one I meant because there were multiple rooftop bars on her list. Multiple. She is that cool. I know, right?

“Let’s go! But just so we’re on the same page, I think that place is a club. Like a club” *lifts arms in front, bent at the elbow, fists near face, makes ‘enst, enst, enst’ noise*

The thought of going to a club made me visibly recoil.

“Ewww, no!” My husband and I said at the same time.

We opted instead to roam the streets, taking selfies and stopping for tapas.

The mozzarella stand was closed but I put on a brave face and enjoyed some white sangria. White is the new red.

We had a wonderful time. We talked and laughed and drank and ate. We sat in a square with a seemingly ancient church towering over us and sipped beer and got a little bit rained on. We moseyed through narrow cobblestone streets and chose our bars based on which had the rosiest glow. We were part of the bustle of Madrid at night.

Hours later, as we walked through the swarm of people in the Puerta del Sol, I thought: even if I’m wearing running shoes and the shirt I slept in (which was an accident) and even if the wine is making my make-up free complexion hella blotchy,  and even if my hair is being held in its bun by grease and the force of its own willpower… maybe, just maybe, my delight at being with my dear friend and the love of my life in a fun city is shining through enough to make me look like I belong OUT ON THA TOWN.

But then we turned a corner and we… no, that’s not accurate… Nina was accosted by half a dozen young men holding out VIP tickets to night clubs, begging her to “come party, no cover!”

None of them approached me or my husband. We must have looked to them like some kind of make-a-wish situation where we got to walk the streets of Madrid with a glamorous lady.

Nina glided past her admirers one at a time, turned her head to look at me, smiled, shrugged and said, “Maybe later?”

“What is later?” I thought.

Later used to be the mysterious path of merriment that existed beyond the starting point of an evening… Endless possibilities for finishing, or continuing (shudder), a night out. My passport to the Magical Land of Later seems to have expired.

These days, later is teeth brushing and chugging a litre of water to kick that would-be hangover in the balls before it has a chance to gain momentum. Later is bed. Later is maybe the baby waking up (shudder).

The Later Ship has sailed. Later, baby.

But there was Nina, smile glowing in the streetlights and eyes bright without the grey tinge of sleep deprivation. She had all of Madrid, and a whole world of laters, at her finger tips. And she was genuinely happy to be out with us, drinking sensibly, in our little window of nighttime frolicking.

Selfie hijinks with our new friend, the bronzed street sweeper statue

Then we turned another corner and walked by a club called “Coco Bongo.” The guy at the door spotted Nina. His eyes locked on her, his brow lowered in determination, and he pounced. I reached out to intercept the pamphlet he was holding. But rather than give it to me, he pushed me out of his way like George Costanza shoving the old lady and the clown as he ran screaming “FIRE!” from the child’s birthday party.

I was the clown. No, wait, the clown was wearing make-up. I was the old lady. We were probably wearing similar shoes, after all.

I’ll never know what Coco Bongo had to offer. And we didn’t make it to the rooftop club (out of fear, loathing, and because we forgot). But we did save our fav tapas bar for last and got there so late that it was closed. Not a typo! We got to a place so late at night that it was closed. People had gone to bed before we did! I will stop here to take my bow and say, “I’m still cool so screw you, Spanish George Costanza!” (Jorge Costanza?)

Okay I’m not cool but I’m at least room temperature and he can shove those pamphlets up his Coco Bongo.

The next morning, sunlight streamed through the living room window and the baby cooed while I nursed him on the couch. Nina sat beside me and wrote an email to some of our friends back home. It started with, “Raged hard with the parents last night…”


Gtg fry some broad beans while wearing a nursing bra.



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