She harbours secrets. Those that she whispers in the strong winds that are said to make people lose their minds. It's the secrets in the winds I tell you. Those secrets that taunt and tease you. A word here, a word there, never the whole sentence. The winds knows something we don't, and its not sharing. It hints of tales and dreams and hopes. Tales of men, dreams of women, hopes of sailors, mashed up and served over centuries to those who dare venture her streets. Streets narrow and winding, daring you to turn the corner, daring you to look further. The streets have names, names of people who ones walked them, names of people who called this home. Birds songs blend with the wind whispers. A secret symphony developed from a kinship that only comes from witnessing life and death together for generations. It's a dialogue I have come to love, an orchestra not even the best maestro can arrange, and yet I do not understand it.
Sandwiched between the richness of spices and guns, religion and trade, hot summers and dead cold winters, the town is a mutt of cultures. Warm Mediterranean waters on the right bring stories of a land raped and scarred but still proud, cold Atlantic waters speaks of vikings and kingdoms and the awakening of its lands. Their conversation meets here, where the walls bend their ears to listen.
In this ancient walls, I can see faces of tireless travelers etched in. The peeling paint forming the hard lines of their knowing faces frozen in timeless beauty. In my mind I hear the slow strumming and humming... 'we haven’t had that spirit here since nineteen sixty nine’ And still those voices are calling from far away. I shudder. Those secrets again. A frozen face on the wall scowls as a car drives past. I hear an imaginary cough as the car churns up some dust that quickly mingles with the exhaust. The wind howls even harder, I swear the bird above me just screamt. This time I understand. This is their home. They love the wind that drove them insane, the streets that taunted them, the seas that took their loved ones. They know the town, the town knows them, they fear they will loose it to unfeeling passerbys.
They have withstood the tests of time, the conquest of empire after empire. They have seen men on horses, men on thrones, men in love, men lifeless on its streets, their blood seeping into its core. I breathe in deeper, maybe trying to smell that blood, the one I am sure the winds sings of. A young man walks by, his Latin features strong and dominant. He smiles as his gaze catches mine. For a moment, I resist to return that smile. You see, another secret. I am becoming very suspicious. Of the way the men tease with their gazes, make love with their smiles. Their teasing gazes tell of lovers bliss that still linger in the confines of the walls that the faces of tireless travelers watch from.
Their smiles reveal allusions love and promises whispered in the dead of the night as the moon shone bright and the ships docked for the night. The gazes and the smiles hint of love not fulfilled, lovers no longer together, bells chiming in the distance as their hearts crumbled and wailed. He casts his eyes downwards, keeps walking. He knows rejection too well. His smile was begging for a connection, telling of a love he lost but still holds. Telling of what he will never replace. He looks back, if only to confirm that I do indeed hear the secrets of the wind, the songs for the birds, the call of his lover in the distance waves. I do. He smiles again. If I smile back, a part of me will be forever etched in the walls of this town that holds its own. Another traveler will hear a part of my soul in the wind and wonder what I thought of, what I dreamt of, what I hoped for. If I smile back, my longing will be added to the secrets of Tarifa.
So I smile.