Back in my drinking days I never knew when I was going to fall over in Deia. I twisted my ankle and fell so many times that when I stayed up at Juan and Frances’s house in the mountains with Lali, my then partner, I would sleep in our car rather than try to walk.
I would wake up to the sound of sheep bells and have no idea where I was until I looked out the window at the sea shimmering below.
Photo courtesy of David Templeton
One summer night, Pa amb oli, the band in which Juan played rhythm guitar, played in Deia. It was around 3 AM when they finished. After Juan loaded his guitar and amp into his little red car and Frances and Lali were sitting in the front seats he said there was no room for me and him and that we would have to walk home. I was drunk but as I saw the little red car rattle off along the moonlit road out of Deia towards Soller I began to sober up and get nervous.
“I don’t think I can do that,” I said to Juan, eying the bench across from Sa Fonda.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “You’ll be fine. It’s a forty minute walk, man.”
“Torch?” I said.
Juan smiled and shook his head no.
* * *
Maybe three hours later, as the sun was rising, the rocks of the goat path became cobbles worn as smooth as glass and Juan and Frances’s house came into view, Juan let go of my hand.
I felt like someone had banged nails into my thighs. My sweat had dried to salt. I was stone cold sober.
In those three hours, as he guided me up the path in the sometimes pitch darkness, Juan told me whenever there was a low-hanging branch, a wobbly rock, a sheer drop, a sudden twist. In places, he pulled me up the path behind him. I’m a big man and, back then, I was even bigger.
After that walk I had the feeling I would never fall again in Deia.
* * *
I have always felt that Juan decided we would walk up the mountain that night to teach me something. If that’s romanticising him and what we did together, I don’t really care. For me, there was always a certain kind of rightness about Juan. What he said, and didn’t say, made its own sense.
And, whenever I reminded Juan of that night, he would always laugh, shake his head, and say “I had to hold your hand.”
I’m glad I knew you, Juan.
David Holzer is a freelance writer who has been coming to Deia for almost 20 years. Apart from loving the village, he is fascinated by the – without being too pretentious – cultural history and significance of Deia.