My husband wanted to take me for Indian food this evening in Madrid. Since he lived here before I assumed it would be a nice restaurant with outstanding Indian food. Fair assumption, no? I mean, it would have to be pretty amazing in order to choose over tapas and sangria in Spain, right?
My husband left out a few important details. It wasn't a particular restaurant he had in mind. It was an area of Madrid that has five or so Indian restaurants. He failed to mentioned that the appeal for him was not amazing food, but the coolness of a Little India in the heart of Spain. He also failed to mention it was in a poor, immigrant area known for its social unrest and stabbings.
Had I known this, I may have at least removed some of my jewelry. Because the moment the taxi dropped us off and we started walking toward the restaurants, I knew the situation was not copacetic . My diamond earrings and necklace, our handsome Maclaren stroller, and our clearly American vibe screamed to everyone staring at us, "Opportunity here. Please take my purse or rip my necklace from my throat. Heck, rip my throat if you need to. Want to hold our baby for ransom? We pay all our bills on time!"
As I continued to watch the situation unfold with each step, I grew more and more uncomfortable. A young man, quite scary looking, strolled pass us mumbling something that I am sure was not "Bienvenidos al barrio".
Alex wanted to go for soy ice cream before dinner. Inside the parlor, I straight out said, "I do not feel safe here. How far is the nearest street with a taxi?"
Alex looked at me like I was crazy. He thought I was over-reacting and was clearly frustrated that I did not appreciate his efforts to share something unique with me. He did not take into account that it had been three and a half years since he had been here and that he was now with a wife and baby.
As my heart continued to speed up, we walked briskly to the street and hailed a taxi. I got in quickly with Aiven and while Alex tried in vain to fold the stroller up while holding onto his cone, I saw small groups of men gather around -- sauntering over to him, standing a bit too close, looking into the taxi, checking us all out.
Alex got frustrated and threw his ice cream to the ground. He folded the stroller up cursing under his breath, threw the diaper bag into the back seat, and then slammed the door shut as he jumped into the backseat.
I begged him not to make me feel bad. I felt unsafe, and justified or not, he should just want to protect Aiven and me.
He asked if he could ask the taxi driver about the area. I said it was fine. Alex asked him if the area was dangerous and the taxi driver responded in Spanish so I could not understand. Except for 2 words. Si and Si. Alex looked at me with chagrin and told me the driver said the area was dangerous, especially for tourists.
My intuition was right! And Alex, my darling, naive Alex, went from being pissed at me to pissed at himself for bringing us there. The area had changed since he was there last, but so had he. He was still learning that the single, venturesome version of himself had to evolve into a Papa Bear, protector of wife and child.
The taxi took us to Plaza Mayor where we had an awesome meal: great service, sweet sangria, delicious food, and a 100 Euro bill. It was worth every penny -- we were safe.