Life is there

Just four hundred meters from a huge cathedral, it looks as if we are in a suburb. A small bar on a side street, with three tables. At one of them, two thirty-something women friends are talking, having escaped for a few minutes from their children; at the other a colorful Gipsy woman, I cannot see the face of the man next to her, and I am sitting at the third one. I ask for a tapas “with some kind of ham”, we discuss how the bread should be toasted and seasoned with alioli, plus a beer. I’m listening to the conversation of those standing at the counter, I’m adjusting my ears to the lisping Andalusian dialect. Even after many years, it is strange how adult people can make do with so few consonants. I’d like to pay, but I spot the barrels behind the counter. I ask for a glass of old jerez to say good-bye. The bartender winks at me. “It’s not good enough.” He pours me from a bottle, San Diego, it is really heavenly. He also praises it to his actual conversation partner, filling up half a glass to him, to prove how good it is. “It smells like wood”, he knocks on the counter. In a Sevillan way, he writes the amount with chalk on the counter, in a vivid, almost Moorish hand; he generously skips the tapas, counting only the beer and the jerez. I take a photo of the beautiful handwriting. He positions himself above it, he imitates writing it once more, I also take photos of it.

I also praise his jerez, he pours another glass, he does not accept money for it. “Salud”, I lift it. While he is pouring one for himself, he points at the security camera, “I really should not do this, but I’m the boss here”. We clink glasses. “What’s your name?” “Tomás.” “Pedro.” “Encantado.” “Tomás, when I saw you browsing the menu outside there, I thought that whoever leaves deserves it, and whoever comes in also deserves it.” He pours again. “However, in Seville, the downtown is not the real thing. But the barrios, the suburbs around it!” He draws a circle with his hand. “Wow. Life is there. I come from Huelva, I have been working here since I was twelve. I lived in twenty-eight places,” he also writes it with number on the counter. “I know everything.” I start questioning him as to what is worth seeing there, where life is. He lists it. Quarters, encounters, loves, friendships. “Because friendship is the most important thing in life.” And of course bars, taverns and cellars, the theaters of friendship, where you can show that you have a friend. “Tomás. On Sunday, at half past two, I close here,  I go with my daughter around Seville, to the white villages. There is such a cellar there, full of wild game, deer, wild boar. Everything is completely fresh. Come with us.” “Thank you.” Obviously, I say, “I will be here.” “Call me beforehand, on Saturday,” he writes on a napkin his number. “I have not invited anyone there yet.”

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