My psychologist asked me: “Are you happy to go to the places you know in Bilbao?”. I laughed. “I hate Bilbao” I said.
I often laugh and pretend like things don’t bother me. I use flippancy to cover how shit really, really gets under my skin.
I reflected on her question during the day, and I thought about standing under the puente de la salve (the big bridge near the Guggenheim) the day before, and telling someone who was visiting Bilbao the story of my friend who took her own life there. I can’t share that story here as I don’t want to cause more pain where too much pain has been caused already.
Here’s the bridge where my friend killed herself.
Here’s the street where I last saw her alive.
Here’s the plaza where a man groped my bum and pretended like it was an accident.
Here are the steps where someone who followed me to the bathroom and tried to force me lives with his parents.
There’s the dance academy that offered me a job, which I turned down as I found out about sexual harassment in their other dance classes.
Here is the street where someone big in the art world in Bilbao also groped my arse, tried to kiss me, asked me 4/5 times: “Why don’t we fuck every now and again?”.
Here is the bar where an old man started touching my hands in a weird way, and when I asked him politely not to, he started screaming at me, enraged.
Here’s the street where someone called sexual stuff to my friend with brown skin.
Those are the steps where a Moroccan dude sex attacked my friend. There’s the police station where she was shown photos of men who all had bruises on their faces already.
There’s the bar that refuses to serve black people.
I don’t think I really hate Bilbao, but I think I stayed here too long, became too frustrated with not being able to be a force for change here. Instead of becoming a force for change, I became an angry knob head, and probably had the exact opposite effect to the one I was after. I became embroiled in thinking I was trying to change things here, when really, what I was trying to do was resolve conflicts from my past, like sexism I experienced as a girl growing up in Wales in the 90s, or The Troubles in Northern Ireland and how they scarred my alcoholic mother, how she never really mentally left that tense, judgemental atmosphere.
I hate what I became in Bilbao. I did the best that I knew at the time. The surroundings affected me. I’ll do better next time.
The problem is, I assume that something else is “right” and I am “wrong” and so I try to chop pieces of myself off in order to fit in with the people/society around me. But I’m a big character, with a big heart and wild ideas, and I can only ever fit in a big, diverse, modern city, not a village.
To be honest, Bilbao is a great place to live, if you have the things that make people happy, like: a job you like, supportive friends, a great partner. I have always been too wild for many people, too “out there”. I shot out of my village in Wales as if I had been on starting blocks. I wanted to escape my mother’s alcoholism so badly, I took every drug around, I ran off to university, I ran to “Spain”, and then I was dragged back by the duty of taking care of my mum at the end of her illness. Then I was completely f*cked by complicated grief, lost the ability to speak Spanish, lost my identity.
I think I’m too outspoken, and I’ve always been too curious, too adventurous, too flirtatious, too imaginative, too loving, too free. Too willing to try new things, new ways of doing things. Too willing to stand up to bullies. To fight. I like safe cars and fast, honest men. On bad days, I imagine all my enemies all sitting round in a room, describing me as a conflictive, aggressive, psycho bitch, or just simply, “that toxic cunt”, as if they have nothing better to do with their lives than discuss moi.
At a festival at the weekend, I saw someone I used to hang out with a few years ago exchange a look with her friend upon seeing me, and they quickly walked the other way. I had tolerated this girl at first, thought she was ok, even nice, but then later found her to be basic, racist, and we had once had an argument about sexual harassment and her entrenched conservative views about how foreign women behave came to the fore. I felt relieved that she now avoided me, even amused, which surprised me. Despite my sometimes flippant, even cuntish behaviour, deep down I’m a little girl who wants everyone to like her. I asked myself what I had done to make her avoid crossing my path, which is what provided my amusement. Was it something I had said to her face while we had argued? Was it something I wrote on my blog about her narrow minded, suffocating views from her conservative culture? Was it someone I had sex with that she didn’t approve of?
Was it all of the above?