I spent the final part of the voyage singing variations of "What's the point of a fascist dictator if the roads aren't even straight**Seriously, Franco: nice highways, asshole.", arriving in Madrid late at night.
As I mentioned before, I wasn't expected. He had marked a return-address on a letter he had sent to a mutual friend of ours so I knew where to find him but it was more-or-less clear to me that I couldn't even be certain that he would be in; yes, it was all a little spontaneous**By the way, I wouldn't do this to just anyone. People who are close to me know what they're in for. Largely..
What had not once crossed my mind was that I would not know what doorbell to ring. After I successfully found the right turn off the highway, navigated to the correct street, and traced the building complex until at midnight I found myself standing in front of entrance C, not knowing what doorbell to ring became a major nuisance. More than that even. These buildings housed a lot of people: there might have been as many as sixty doorbells at entrace C alone. Being a student, and mostly broke, Sascha of course didn't have his own apartment, but rather shared one with people who were - in my view - infinitely more likely to answer the door than he was. So even if I started randomly trying different doorbells - at midnight, don't forget - there was a very good chance I wouldn't even know when I hit the right one (my Spanish was no good either).
I recognized my problem, recognized that I had no immediate solution, sat down on a little wall near entrance C and wondered whether the neighborhood was dangerous. Someone swiftly passed me, avoiding eye-contact. I lit a cigarette.
When I had gotten on my way, I had imagined arriving in Madrid during the day. That way I could find a costume-shop and dress up, so I could play some kind of prank on Sascha. Pass him in the street; follow him around; freak him out; I dunno. Thus, to find myself so inept in the face of this rather banal problem of the unknown doorbell seemed an appropriate way of driving home the point that I really didn't know what the hell I was doing, and how I was going to do it.
Then, impossibly, across the courtyard, on the far side of the bushes: a familiar stride. A familiar bag. An unfamiliar hat**A semester abroad is a good occasion to try something new, I guess.. But that didn't matter, it was definitely Sascha.
I had to act quickly, so I immediately threw myself on the ground, realized I couldn't tell where he was or what was going on from down there, and got up again - shit, he was close. Tree! I hid behind the tree. It wasn't much of a tree but there wasn't much else to choose from. It separated at the stem into two main branches that were each about as thick as an arm, and went apart in a V-shape towards the top. So when I say I hid behind the tree, I mean that I first tried hiding behind the space between the two branches, and when I realized that that was ineffective, I resorted to darting back and forth so that each branch covered me partially for a moment**Please don't ever send me to war.
It must have been that swaying motion that got his attention: he noticed me. His stride broke, he looked a little spooked, and slowed down. It was dark, I was at least partially obscured and - like I said - he had no reason to expect me. He stopped.
P (emerges from behind the tree, begins to wing it): Don't freak out. I'm not really here. I'm just a figment of your imagination.
S remains totally still, except for his eyes, which grow ever wider. P slowly walks toward S, trying to suppress the giggles.
P: You miss living in Austria, living with me.. so you're imagining your good pal Pat coming to see you. (whispered) Come back home Sascha.. come back home.. (walks past S and disappears around the corner)
I was a little disappointed about not being able to be less giggly about the whole thing but for an off-the-cuff reaction I thought I did all right. He came running after me, of course, and after that we spent a long time just laughing and laughing and laughing.