This old building used to be my paternal grandmother’s house. Number 8, Calle Enrique Olmos, Valencia. Possibly nearing 80 years since the time it was built, it is a puzzle to me why it remains standing.
My recollections of the place are now remarkably indistinct: several flights of gloomy, stuffy stairs, an old wooden door and a small hall. Other than at Christmastime, I would rarely go there. One clear memory I do have, however, is to be standing on that balcony, calling out to my brother, or perhaps my cousins too, to come upstairs because the big Christmas lunch was going to get started.
I can hardly remember my paternal grandfather, my Iaio – he died when I was very young. But I do remember, and very well, my paternal grandmother. As a teenager I would see her often at the grocery shop she owned, the place where she worked very long hours. As she grew older and wearier, she would frequently choose to stay in the shop overnight instead of walking back to her Enrique Olmos house.
I actually think I held my first proper ‘job’ at her shop, helping restocking shelves and fridges, particularly on summer weekends, when we sold lots of bottles of beer, lemonade and Coke, as well packets of crisps, salted dried nuts and many other groceries. The pace could get frantic when we were nearing closing time, with everybody wanting to buy cold drinks and last-minute essentials. On more than one occasion we closed the shop past 2:30 pm.
Although I have no clear recollection of having done so, I must have pointed out the house to Clea during her only visit to my home town in July 2005, aged 2 and a half. Who knows if she actually understood what I was talking about when I explained it to her who Iaia Carmen had been.
To me, it is completely absurd for an old uninhabited house to endure like this for years. The home of Clea’s great-grandmother is still standing many years after her death, while my little one was buried when she was six and nine months old. For quite unexplainable reasons, I sort of resent this old house now. It should have fallen down years ago, should it not?
The vagaries of death, decay and destruction seem quite incomprehensible and whimsical. The absurdity of it all is baffling.