One Month Before the Truck Hit La Rambla

by Adam Berlin

We leave the hotel (May Ramblas Barcelona, Carrer del Cardenal, Casanyas 8—great vowels), and the boulevard’s too much (bodies, heat, noise), and he’s screaming, thrashing, WALK, he can’t, not here, so we find a less crowded street, and he walks, which means pushing the stroller, which means pushing the stroller into people. He said I love you on the cab ride over when I sang the first part, The daddies on the bus say (Shush, shush, shush for the mommies), and we find a park, but up close the grass is filthy, the dirt path too dusty, the day too hot, but I have to see it through his eyes, not like Cabaret and Joel Grey singing about Jews but from his 21-month-old eyes, and he cries every time we stop him from doing whatever he wants to do, and she says all this time we were wondering what he was thinking, and it’s all (almost) him, WANT IT, HOLDY, WALK, the words he knows enough. Deeper in the park, up close Blue Velvet rundown, there’s a party, a day of something, firecrackers going off, groups in blankets drinking, smoking, lit eyes and smiles and colorful braids and faces painted and a pit bull (unleashed) goes after a kid, barking, drooling, scaring, and the father goes after the owner, the father with his kid still in his arms (he grabbed him up), saying That’s not okay, enough words, That’s not okay (and maybe that’s what I should say to my mother, to my brother (I call to my father, arms out, mostly at night when I’m so fucking tired), and they could say it back (enough words), and he’s tough, the father holding his kid, and the owner of the dog’s backing down, and I want to see the fight and see the movie scene, what I’m doing (leading man), punching throat (dog owner’s), wrapping leash around neck (dog’s), jaw opening, all those teeth, then tongue out, dead. My dad went after people. Like his dad. The heat, the dust, the firecrackers going off (terrorist threat: severe alert), the long day, the not-eating right, but I try to see (if you could see her) through his eyes, my kid’s eyes: He’s seeing (mostly) giant bubbles made by a man with a string (not a leash) swinging forward so air fills soap and floats.


Adam Berlin’s “One Month Before the Truck Hit La Rambla” appears in Flock 23: Kith & Kin.

Photograph of Adam BerlinAdam Berlin is the author of four novels, including Belmondo Style (St. Martin’s Press/winner of The Publishing Triangle’s Ferro-Grumley Award) and Both Members of the Club (Texas A&M University Consortium Press/winner of the Clay Reynolds Novella Prize). He teaches writing at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in NYC and co-edits the litmag J Journal: New Writing on Justice.