It was another sweltering summer day in Barcelona, the kind where todo el mundo glistens with an inescapable, fine layer of perspiration. We were both trying to attract the tourists’ attention in Parc Güell, you with your intricate, hand-painted, folding fans, and me with my songs.
We had met a week or two before when I set up my music equipment at one of the last available high-traffic spots, which happened to be next to you and your beautifully vibrant wares. You were working with another man, whom I regrettably didn’t share any languages with, but you spoke Spanish and English (in addition to your mother tongue), so we were able to communicate using a combination of the two. We had a brief conversation introducing ourselves, where we learned that although you were from Pakistan and I was from the USA, we were both in Barcelona in search of a better life.
You and I formed an easy camaraderie from the start, so from then on, we would greet each other and check in to see how business was going if we saw one another in the park.
On this particularly hot day, you had staked your claim on the coveted, corner spot overlooking the central terrace. I was happy to see you and quickly nabbed a narrow piece of real estate to your right.
The weather certainly hadn’t kept the crowds away, and there was money to be made. I sang my sweaty heart out while you were kept perpetually busy selling fans to the horde of melting tourists. Every few minutes we’d catch each other’s eye and shake our heads in exasperation at the heat, then hurriedly get back to work. I was thankful for you that day. People were desperate for a few seconds of relief from the oppressive calor, and your folding fans were the star of the show; I was lucky to provide the background music and snag a few extra euros thanks to your popularity.
When my fingers, arms and shoulders had grown tired from playing, and it was clear the time had come for me to pack up and be on my way, you waved at me as if to catch my attention before I took off. In your hand was an exquisite fan (pictured), which you offered to me as a source of relief from what we both knew would be a stifling subway ride home. I declined your offer and said I would pay for it instead, but you insisted, “This is my gift to you in thanks for the music that you blessed me with today. Please accept my thanks.” I could see you were speaking from the heart, so I accepted gladly, waving the fan with gusto around my head. Oh what simple, sweet relief!
So now I thank you, Tariq, for befriending me and helping me feel welcome as the “new busker on the block” at Parc Güell, and for appreciating the work I had to offer. I cherish your thoughtful gift and always will.
I have no idea where you might be or how your life might have changed since I last saw you in 2010, but I will forever wish you the best in all that you set your sights on. I am happy that you exist and that our journeys paralleled one another’s; if only for a brief and brilliant moment.
With sincere appreciation,