A meeting at Madrid Barajas Airport
The unexpected discovery of one of Madrid’s legends: la Calle del Desengaño
The last time I took an airplane I had an early afternoon stopover in Madrid, at the Adolfo Suarez — Madrid Barajas airport. I had to spend about six hours there, so I took advantage of some of this time to have a look around. In fact I’m happy I didn’t just have a look around, but raised my eyes to the ceiling: in the transit area there was a big long corridor whose ceiling consisted of some regular, giant, wooden waves that gave to the entire area a sense of enormity and moving space. The waves seemed undulating tree fronds laying on colourful columns, the trunks. What I liked the most about it was that the columns were painted as to form a rainbow when looked at in perspective, for example from one end of the corridor to the other.
(Don’t keep your eyes down if you happen to visit Madrid airport!)
Lost in these entrancing thoughts and with my nose still up in the air, at first I hadn’t noticed the man who had stopped not far from me, in front of the flight information screen.
He was in his thirties and was wearing a long and worn greatcoat. As he would have told me a few minutes later, he had been spending the last ten minutes looking at me and wondering what I was looking at in such a mystic way. Well, the ceiling, I replied. He laughed and then, out of the blue, told me that he had never been on a plane before in his whole life and that he was terrified, desperately trying to think of anything but flying, so he thought that maybe speaking with someone would be a good excuse for not thinking of his flight. Did I want to hear a story about the city of Madrid, then?
Sure. I love stories.
And he actually didn’t need any reason to tell me his. He laughed again and then began to narrate.
“My name is Jorge and I’m a musician. Well, this has nothing to do with what I’m going to tell you. This story takes place a long time ago, in a Sixteenth Century Madrid or, better, in a little road in Madrid called
“la Calle del Desengaño”,
the Road of Disappointment, or the Road of Disillusion. One day, two men found themselves on this narrow street. They had decided to meet there, hidden from people’s curious looks, because they had a matter to resolve. And what could a matter have been but a love one to get the men staring at each other, impatient to start a mortal duel? They had fallen in love with the same woman and they both thought that just one of them had the right to love her. The only one who would be alive the next day.
With their swords unsheathed, the Spaniards were facing each other in the Calle del Desengaño, ready to fight for life and love. But maybe they weren’t ready enough that day, or maybe they were just incredibly curious. The fact is that as soon as they started their duel, but just a moment before the first clink of the swords had sung in the air… They stopped. A misterious figure had appeared at the beginning of the little road, catching their whole and undivided attention. It was a young lady, a veiled lady who was covering her face with a descreet movement of her hand. She seemed to glance at them for a moment, but then began to run because a fox, come from behind the corner, was chasing her to bite her legs. The men, at once, ran towards the lady and scared the fox away.
Feeling proud of themselves, they approached the dame and tried to speak to her. But when the woman revealed herself, they gasped in surprise! She looked like an ancient mommy with a grey, pale skin and wrinkles all over her face. With a laugh, she dissolved in the air like a spirit. A moment later, the two men exclaimed at the same time “Qué desegaño!“, what a disappointment!
So, this is the legend of what happened a long time ago in this narrow, hidden road in Madrid, la Calle del Desengaño, where the woman left those gentlemen disappointed and in the mere company of their swords, and flew away taking with her their illusion.”
At that point, Jorge had to go and catch his scary plane, so we said goodbye to each other and I thanked him for sharing with me this secret legend of the little Madrid street. If one day I visit Madrid, I’ll go to La Calle del Desengaño, the Road of Disillusion, looking for swords, foxes and veils.