I had been in Barcelona for 3 months. I’d ran away from the grey Belgian skies without looking back, without asking too many questions. I didn’t speak any Spanish or Catalan, which made finding a job pretty hard. But after a couple of months I found one in a perfume shop at Plaza Cataluña. “The biggest one in Europe” the director proudly said. Which would have been nice, if it hadn’t been my job to clean the whole shop every morning before opening time. Every morning when the alarm clock went off at 4:30 AM, a little part of me died. I knew what was waiting out there for me: a walk through an unknown city full of young people walking in and out of parties. Thousands of little perfume bottles and pieces of soap to clean. The stink of the dirty toilets. The cruel loneliness of anyone who doesn’t speak the language of the people around him. And that old alarm clock, with that hellish siren. If anything saved me from going crazy in those dark winter months (apart from the recently discovered joy of smoking cigarettes), it was a little routine I developed after I hit the alarm clock. Still in bed, I took the remote control, skipped to song 9 of the CD in the stereo, and I listened. 3 minutes of peace, nothing else. I don’t doubt that “Angeles” by Elliott Smith saved me in many ways.
Some months later he came to Barcelona to play a show. I went to the venue hours too early, because I had nothing better to do. I saw him unload the old van. He looked as tired as I was. Tired of getting up early. Tired of travelling. Tired of playing for 25 people in dirty rooms (well, maybe there were 30, counting the bartenders). Tired of everything. Maybe that’s why the concert was not brilliant. But when he got to “Angeles” he made me cry. For me. For him. For all the perfume bottles, alarm clocks and every angel that never was.
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