Minnie Mouse, God and Me.
I am in the centre of Madrid, a small alley away from the thousands of tourists and street artists. It’s a moment of quiet from manic sensory overload. I sit at a small fountain that’s been playfully filled with soap, so it’s bubbling over. The sky is light grey and there is an heavy set man sitting on a bench smoking a cigar. He’s been cast well for his old, Spanish male role. My friends are about to arrive and I am trying to stop myself crying. I’m overwhelmed. I possibly have been for a long time, but today is particularly unshakeable. All the thoughts are swarming, dark and nasty, murderous crows of thoughts. I know I have a few minutes to find my centre and my usual quick-fixes fail, because the reality that forms them is a real thing and so the reality of reality keeps creeping back. I’ve not been a realist most of my life and so am not even a humble master of the arts of handling it. I am a natural optimist, with evidence to prove its use.
And so. In physical pain built up from weeks and a relentless headache, I ask the sky for help, for anything. With the loud mental swirling and a body aching. I close my eyes and take a deep breath.
I open my eyes I see a small figure approaching me from the distance. Even from far, it is quite evidently Minnie Mouse. Well, rather a weary-faced Indian woman, wearing Minnie Mouse’s dress and carrying Minnie’s massive disembodied head underneath her arm. I could relate to be honest, to the big heavy cartoon head. She approached me, not with the Disney flair and pizzaz one would expect with Minnie Mouse, but with the heartbreak of an Indian homeless woman asking for money in Madrid.
I had drawn a small amount to ration for my trip and I rummage around for some coins. I find 3 Euros and gave them to her. She doesn’t speak any Spanish, not that I do either, so we communicate in nods and smiles and “Si” and “Gracias”.
Somehow I ask if I can wear her Minnie Mouse head. “Si Si” she said. We ask the old man to take a photo, but I’m not sure he’s ever seen a smart phone before and he just points it like a stick at the alleyway. I take an awkward selfie, like some dark twisted photo you’d find at a dodgy bar in the toilet in some small town in the middle of America. I say “gracias” and she walks off.
She sits under two small trees a few feet away. I feel some relief, having had an interaction with someone outside myself, an Indian Minnie Mouse. It starts drizzling and I look around to see where my friends are and if there’s shelter. There isn’t much.
Minnie waves at me and gestures to come and sit with her under the shelter. God, that gesture means everything. I sit down on the cement and watch as she unpacks her lunch. She has an orange, a juice box and some Indian food in used tupperware, exquisitely humble and instantly nostalgic of my times in India.
I speak with her using Google in Spanish, Hindi and Bengali, but she doesn’t understand any of them, so I enjoy listening to her talk passionately in whatever language she is speaking. I think she is telling me her mom had an operation, she keeps saying ‘mama’ and then slicing herself down the middle. To be honest, she could be telling me her heart is broken or that she loves shirts with squares, it doesn’t seem to matter. She then does something that makes my whole body melt. She points to her food and uses all of her face and arms to show me that she wants to share her lunch.
At this moment my friends arrive and it’s difficult to explain the scene. I’m sitting next to an Indian woman, in a polka dot red dress, with a large Minnie Mouse head and a picnic between us. I give them hugs and say goodbye to my new friend. She offers her lunch to both of them as well. With the least, sharing the most.
We walk off and it’s difficult to come back to myself. All the swirling has stopped, but my heart is bursting.
My friends need sim cards from a shop nearby and I want to grab some of the multivitamin tablets from their hotel room, so I take their keys and head back. I am really hoping Minnie is still there, for no reason, other than to see her again. I find her in the same place. She is packing up. There is something achingly beautiful about her movements.
I want to give her something, anything. Perhaps to give myself some release, perhaps to do something useful, I don’t think long enough to try and analyse it. I find 10 Euros in my bag and go and sit next to her. She beams to see me again, like we are old friends. I feel the same. I give her the note and she looks up at me as if time has slowed all the way down. As she takes it, she leans forward slightly, and so do I and somehow we both just know that it is ok to completely fall into each other. We wrap our arms around the other and our two bodies just collapse together. I can feel her heart racing loudly and powerfully. We both start sobbing. A loud guttural sob, heard by passers by as they notice two strangers hugging by a fountain. We just hug and cry and as I rub her back, I tell her everything is ok, in a language she doesn’t speak. And I think she says the same to me, sitting and crying, together.
We stop hugging and both take a deep breath and lean back again. We grin at each other in full understanding. She takes out a serviette and pen and there are two numbers and some Sanskrit names on it, so I write down my name and number. She takes my hand and puts her orange into and closes my fingers around it. I gratefully accept. We say goodbye and I walk off, completely empty and completely full at the same time.
The noise inside me goes. There is so much quiet and my heart is too full it hurts. This time, I can feel my own racing and beating and completely alive. This heart, a muscle of everythingness. And in this moment, I’m not sure what else there could ever be other than this, Minnie n me.