Romantics have a special feeling for the losers of that war and I did then and still do. All my trips to Spain have involved the contemplation of that war and the observation of its effects in the culture. But right now, I had to find the center of town. I got to “Sol” which means sun and is the center of Madrid, like Times Square is to New York. I spent a night in a hotel there and then, with help from the staff, found another much cheaper place on the Plaza de Santa Ana nearby. This place, a pension, cost fifty cents a day with two meals. I had my own room for a while but soon they put me in with another border, which gave them another room to rent. And also, I believe, the older couple who ran the place felt I needed somebody to keep an eye on me. It was so cheap I just went along with them.
My roommate, Aurelio, was a high school math teacher. He was short and round, about forty, not married but engaged. He looked like one of the three stooges with that same wild hair sticking out the back and bald on top. He had big brown eyes and was very nice, a very good guy. We got along well and eventually would go for coffee or to dinner with his girlfriend. Because he had promised to marry her and because she was a little past the marrying age by Spanish standards, he was allowed to feel her up on the weekends up there in those piney woods I had passed through on the way down to Madrid. He would come back and say, “Ella me trato muy, muy bueno este fin de semana! She treated me very, very good this weekend!”
Meanwhile, I was trying to grow up, figure things out, and have fun all at the same time. Here in Madrid my real life began, here on the Plaza de Santa Ana, a place Hemingway loved, a place that was my own.