To the Unknown Tourist

Dear Blue, they shouldn’t arrest you now if you try to return. As long as Franco was alive, and for a while afterward, all the policemen wore black. Widows, too — and they were everywhere. Black symbolized the patriotic Moros, who invaded, they said, to defend the black-robed priests against the black-clad anarchists. Which was the black of conquest, and which the black of insurrection? Whose black was the right black? Which black colored the night with moans?

We arrive two years after the death of Franco, following the pilgrim road to Compostela. One day, our car is waved over by the Guardia Civil. What was our offense? we wonder, unable to speak Spanish well enough to ask. But then we notice the thin crowd of spectators, some with drinks in hand. “Bicicletas,” they explain, and somebody mimes riding a bicycle. A few minutes later the lead pack of riders flashes by, bright as a bird of paradise.

Two months after we return to the States, my dad gets a speeding ticket from Spain. At least, the post office assumes it’s for us, since we’re the only local residents who were just over there. Dad’s name is Bruce, but it’s addressed to a Blue Bowta, with nothing further to identify him aside from the name of the town.

Blue, whoever you may be: We paid your ticket.

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