I walk outside of the apartment building where I live to a busy street and head uphill. I then take a left and head straight until I reach the walls of what my host mom told me was an old tapestry factory. I take a right and head back uphill. I can see the pointy church spires of the Basílica de Atocha from over the brick wall of the old tapestry factory. Once I reach the busy street (I’m not sure of its name) I cross and await my bus. The truth is I usually sprint across the street in order to catch the bus that always seems to leave the second I arrive. Today, I have gotten the bus just in time.
I find a seat in the back of the bus; it’s a twenty-minute ride along some of the busiest streets of Madrid to my destination. Some old women dressed in tweed suits gossip to each other and a toddler stands on her father’s knees reaching for his nose. I sit with my earphones in and grip my phone tightly. I already had it stolen once.
We pass some countless cervecerias before we finally reach the Atocha train station. Many people disembark here and head towards the enormous art installation of gigantic baby heads outside of the station. I type a note on my phone to make sure I remember to research the artist behind them.
More people board the bus here; many are tourists who ask the bus driver if the bus stops at the Prado. I always want to tell them it’s a five-minute walk, that it’s not worth the bus fare. But, I never do.
I try to remember which stop is next, but I never can. Is it Neptuno or is it Prado? I still worry I might get off the wrong stop because I can never remember if Recoletos-Cibeles is before la Biblioteca Nacional or after. The Prado stop is the only one I can never mistake. A long line of people always wraps along the wall of the building and police officers in dark uniforms patrol the length of the museum. I only visited the Prado once in too brief of a trip; I mark my calendar to make sure I visit once more before I leave so that I can experience Goya’s masterpieces once more.
After the Prado, the bus stumbles along in slow progress. Motorcycles and taxis weave in and out of traffic. We always seem to hit every stoplight, but I don’t mind. We pass the Palacio de Cibeles and a large black and white sign that says “Welcome Refugees”. I take a photo of the sign with my phone.
We pass the Biblioteca Nacional, a place I have promised myself to visit ever since my arrival in Madrid. I make another note in my phone to visit the library and read a book, perhaps Tina Fey’s memoir. My host sister described the Biblioteca Nacional as something like Hogwarts and again I wonder why I never made it a priority to visit.
Soon the bus arrives at Plaza de Colon and my commute is over. I exit the bus and look over my shoulder to the world’s largest Spanish flag waving red and gold against the cloudless blue sky.