Expat Story: A book for a rose, Sant Jordi's day

Expat Story: A book for a rose, Sant Jordi's day

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An excerpt from a short story by author Jeremy Holland about an American in Barcelona who suffers from the joys and sorrows of unrequited love on Catalunya’s Valentine’s Day.

They agreed to meet at the bottom of Rambla Catalunya near Plaça Catalunya. Although not as famous as Las Ramblas of the Gothic quarter, it was Johnny’s favorite street in Barcelona.

Smaller and more intimate than most of the other ramblas found throughout the city, the organic forms of the late 19th century buildings and the lush trees made the promenade feel more like a walk through a forest than the middle of an urban centre. The only thing more magnificent was the beautiful Elena waiting by a row of scooters on the corner.

Hola, Johnny,” she said as they kissed each other’s cheeks.

Her fresh fragrance made him think of being alone with her in a mountain cabin on a week-long intensive. “Hola, Elena,” he replied.

“Happy Sant Jordi.”

He paused and looked at the small foothills bordering Barcelona to the west and focused on the stone church with a massive statue of Christ and an amusement park atop Tibidabo Mountain. The clouds beyond it broke and a dash of the blue sky made its first appearance in the horizon. He didn’t feel too sunny. “Bon Sant Jordi.”

Photo © boklm @ http://boklm.eu/

The Catalan made her smile and him want to learn more. “I got a present for you,” she said handing him a white paper bag.

He reached in and pulled out a paperback with the title: My Christina and Other Stories by Mercè Rodoreda. He checked out the back. “It’s in English.”

“I ordered it for you. She was a famous Catalan writer during the modernist times.”

“Thank you, Elena.” He gave her a kiss on the cheek. “I owe you a rose now.”

She took his arm and put her head on his shoulder. “Don’t worry about it. Let’s walk for a bit.”

Sant Jordi wasn’t a public holiday, but judging by the thousands of people on the festive streets, it seemed to be. Celebrated only in Catalunya and ignored in the rest of Spain, it was a source of tremendous regional pride. The five vertical crimson and mustard stripes of the Catalan nation were everywhere from the hanging flags of the overlooking balconies to the backs of the otherwise clear cellophane that wrapped the roses to the cloths draping the long tables from which stacks of books were sold.

The throngs of people lazily strolling and stopping at the temporary white tents along the street caused Johnny’s body temperature to rise. “How’s everything going?” he asked trying to suppress the growing anxiety that crowded situations brought.

“Okay. Sergi’s taking his sons sailing this weekend if the weather’s good.” She lifted her head off his shoulder and studied him. Her soulful stare was like a cool breeze, easing the rising tension by making everyone around him disappear. “How are you? You look a bit sad.”

“Same ol’, same ol’. In a rut.”

“In a what?”

Sometimes Johnny forgot she wasn’t fluent in English and he rephrased the sentence: “I just don’t know what to do anymore.”

Photo © tobitasflickr

“What about the position in my company? We could work together.”

He looked into an unblinking and sincere face. “That’s very kind, Elena. But, I don’t think I’m cut out for office work anymore. The years living in Spain have made me a bit lazy.”

She laughed and he didn’t feel like a slacker. “What is it you’d like to do then?”


“You’d like to be the next Dan Brown?”

“I’d be happy with a hundredth of his success.”

Thinking about what he’d truly like to accomplish, he looked at the thousands of people who bought books and said: “It’d just be nice to earn a decent living doing the only thing I enjoy, you know?”

She smiled and he believed it to be possible. “You’re such a brave man coming here and chasing a dream. It’s a shame you can’t meet a woman to support you.” She gently stroked his cheek and looked tenderly into his eyes, “If only I were single, that’s what I’d do.”


Jeremy Holland / Expatica

A book for a rose is  an excerpt from Expatica blogger Jeremy Holland’s new book, From Barcelona: Stories Behind The City Vol 1. Do you also have a tale to tell about your life in Spain? If so, we’d love to hear it! Your story could be based on a real-life experience or be fictitious. Click here to send your story!

Photo credits: tobitasflickr; boklm; Perrimoon

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2 Comments To This Article

  • republican posted:

    on 28th April 2010, 12:27:49 - Reply

    I was going to hold my tongue but couldn´t hepl it..[Edited by moderator] Why anyone would waste money on a flower that dies the next day is beyond me, especially with unemployment at 20-55% in the PIIGS and only to get worse here... Good luck with this one, OBAMA
  • Trev posted:

    on 26th April 2010, 18:37:52 - Reply

    I thought the Catalan flag was 4 horizontal red stripes on yellow (giving 5 horizontal yellow stripes). Or am I wrong?