If you live in Madrid, chances are you’ve found yourself waiting at Tribunal…
It’s 8 pm and the March light is fading fast. All around, the glow of local businesses are calling patrons to come in and stay a spell. The metro is thick with revelers, a constant flood of people who have queried, “Quedamos en Tribunal?” The most common meeting point is the exit for Calle Barceló, which is sandwiched between Malasaña, Chueca, Chamberí, and Las Salesas. Hipster joints, classic family establishments, gastrobars, gay bars, and garitos are all within reach, allowing plans to be debated, dissolved, and easily reinvented. There is a spontaneity to meeting up at theTribunal metro that is not as easily felt in other neighborhoods.
The different groups of people milling around the exit reflect the various options at hand. There are gafapastas rolling their artisanal cigarettes, punks dressed entirely in red and black checks, families out for an evening stroll, and stylish shoppers toting bags from their spoils on nearby Fuencarral.
Nightly paseo (in furs!) on Calle Fuencarral
The message in my WhatsApp informed me that my friends were running 10 minutes late, which, in Spain, translates more along the lines of “We haven’t left the house yet.” If l’m lucky, it doesn’t mean “We haven’t left the house yet and we still need to shower.” I lean against the gate and settle in for a round of people watching.
There are many others who are like me, alone, waiting for friends to fulfill the promise of meeting up in Tribunal. They play with their phones, adjust their scarves, light up. Some fidget and focus on themselves while others observe the comings and goings of everyone else. I take to playing the matching game, attempting to envision the mystery dates the others are waiting for. The two skateboarders lugging suitcases? They must be meeting another friend before zipping off to Barajas. A mustachioed man clad in powder blue pants and an open leather jacket must be waiting for the rest of his posse to arrive. A girl who nervously smooths the hem of her skirt must be meeting her intercambio partner for the first time.
Plaza San Ildefonso
Those waiting may be bored, anxious, even irritated, but when friends arrive, all is forgiven. With embraces and cheek-kisses they disappear into the night. At this hour, they are headed straight for cañitas, tiny beers that disappear in a flash. When my friends appear, 15 minutes after the agreed meeting time, they greet me with dos besos and an apology. Sorry for the wait! I can grin and tell them honestly that No pasa nada; next time I may be the late one. Another Saturday this could be them on the other side of the waiting game. What is a quarter of an hour, anyway, when you have the chance to pause life for a moment and just sink into the scene?