It must have been around 3 am, and I must have returned from playing a concert up north. I must have stopped to pump some fuel, and she must have been there, with an incandescent smile and energy. We must have chatted for a good while—about life, the night, family, our jobs…we must have spoken as if talking through a pane of armored glass were the most normal thing in the world. And after about half an hour, I would take up the road to Ourense again with the feeling that I was no longer alone on the highway.
It’s been about fourteen years since I’ve been stopping at this gas station—purely for survival—because from Ourense to Santiago there are not many more on the way. During those years where I played more than I lived, stopping there became a sort of oasis: I would have done whatever I could so that I could arrive at the Silleda service station, fill the tank, and share a cup of coffee with Noelia. And if I discovered that she was working the night shift when I had to return at dawn, then I would stop there even if I didn’t have to fill up.
During the last twenty years of my life—I turn 38 today—I’ve had the good fortune to do a little bit of everything and find out that what I really love about my professions is being and speaking with people; knowing the thousand and one lives around us and discover the shared fears and joys regardless of where one lives or what one does. For me, stopping in the middle of the highway, asking Noelia for some coffee and chatting about everything and nothing during a dark summer night is what reminds me that loneliness is only a feeling and that we are only as lonely—or as joyous—as we allow ourselves to be. Tired, sad or disappointed, stopping at that service station makes me truly happy. Thanks, Noelia.