Just south of Madrid there is a pair of villages called Pinto and Valdemoro. They have grown so much that there is a gap of only a few hundred yards between them. They have long been used proverbially to refer to a difference so small as to be negligible. Until I checked just now I had always assumed that they were actually linked, and I suspect most people who don’t know the area would make the same assumption.
There is a village down the road from here named after the son of the legendary founder of the town I live in, as though it were a kind of daughter colony, its status reflected in its being given the feminine version of his name. In the last few years it has grown so much that the two towns are now closer than Pinto and Valdemoro. If it weren’t for the motorway recently built on the municipal boundary, they would by now have coalesced.
I went walking to a shrine on a long hill, a kind of ridge, the other side of that village, on Saturday. The views from the top are not spectacular, but they have a form of beauty, and they fill you with a sense that everything you can see, and which you know so well, is yours. I have been there in the mist, the rain and the wind, but this time it was sunny and I could survey my entire realm.
The shrine is of no architectural interest, but it’s there. Every spring, on a date I can’t remember exactly, the people carry the local Virgin up there, then set up camp and get extremely drunk on cheap wine. I have been there the next morning when they are treating the hangover with fried sausages, seeking the strength to continue the party, and pretending to prepare for the Mass.
On this occasion, as I approached the shrine itself, there was movement. I was vaguely away of people to one side of it. A young couple, I registered, I think. At that I might have noticed no more than the presence of humanity. I stopped to look between the trees to my left at the plain below me and the town I had come from in the distance. A few second only, but long enough for an engine to start up behind me. I turned. It was a moped, riding down the hill from the shrine. The young couple, teenagers, were on it. They both had their faces turned away from me, and the girl, who was the passenger, hid hers with her hands as they passed.
Why had my arrival scared them into running like that? Why did they think I might know them, or care about who they were and what they were doing there? They had gone there to be alone, of course, and I had accidentally interrupted them, but they could have pretended to be watching the crows for a minute or two and I would have gone again. Why were they afraid to be seen? By me or by anyone?
How did it end? Did they find another quiet place? Did they argue? Was the girl angry because the spot the boy had chosen wasn’t as isolated as he had promised? Was the boy angry because the girl had taken fright too easily? Despite their youth, was there a reason they should not have been together?
I can’t answer those questions, because this is their story, not mine. The story, if it is worth telling, cannot be told here. It will be written in their lives, and I will never know it.