The return

I was struck by the dull dark grayness of the Madrid sky when we emerged from the metro midday on January 8. It was a gray unlike anything I’d seen before: oppressive, thick. All the cars and buildings looked like they’d been covered in a layer of dust, dirt, and soot. The air reeked of a mixture of diesel fumes and cigarette smoke that seemed to hang in the intersections where pedestrians waited for the light to change and tried to keep warm.

Maybe it was that I was exhausted from the overnight flight and attempting to sleep in the few hours between dinner and the inedible breakfast. Maybe it was that I was coming from the smoke-free paradise known as the United States. Maybe it’s that Madrid needs a good rain to clean the soot off the façades of the buildings and the dog crap from the sidewalks.

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