On the fourth day of our Barcelona trip, Rob reluctantly broke some news to me. His travel sized tube of cocoa butter lotion was now empty. He was out and needed to get more. I panicked. “Are you sure?” I stammered and started moving things around the bedroom, perhaps in search of an overlooked bottle somewhere. “Maybe we can get by another day?”
But we both knew the truth: that little 2.1 ounce bottle was not equipped to handle an ashy black man for a full seven days, anyway. Where were we going to find a suitable product in Spain? In one of those farmacia’s we kept passing by? Doubtful.
It didn’t look good.
On one of our morning jaunts to the local neighborhood cafe, out of the corner of my eye I spotted something familiar in the window of one of the local shops. I gasped and pointed. “Rob, look!”
Not only was there a bottle of lotion but also jars of hair conditioner and creamy moisturizers on full display for the world to see. Intrigued and even a little giddy, we stepped inside.
To our great surprise and wonderment, there were whole walls of Palmers and Aveeno. Racks and racks of coconut oil and shea butter. Motions No Lye Silkening Shine Relaxer System. In the back of the shop, we saw brown skinned people laughing, listening to music and getting their hair done. It was like we had stumbled across the Wizarding World of Black Hair Care and Body Creams in Spain. Or perhaps we accidentally came upon a portal that transported us from Barcelona direct to 125th and Lenox Avenue in Harlem.
Rob grabbed not one but two bottles of lotion, while I made a mental note that the store also sold the butter creme moisturizer that I was looking for.
Filled with excitement that la ciudad could be so generous to us, we walked by the next day. But our new discovery wasn’t there. Instead we were confronted with a closed gate. Where were the posters advertising the latest shampoos and hair coloring treatments? What about all of the people who looked like us? Body balm, gone. Murray’s dressing pomade, bye bye. Cocoa butter lotion, adios. It was like we had imagined the whole thing.
But how does a store just shut down in 24 hours? Was it a pop up business of some kind? Back in the States, my mom, ever the Dumbledore for all things related to beauty supplies, conjectured, “I think it was God the whole time. God knew that if Rob stayed ashy, your trip would’ve been ruined. That shop was put there just for you. It doesn’t really exist. Be thankful.”