That’s Amor, eh?

The twenty-fourth installment of my abandoned Granadino memoir, Flawed Abroad: Useless editorializing from an ignorant, close-minded American on his semester overseas.

Viernes, 18 Febrero ’05, 20.43 (Friday, February 18, 2005, 8:43 pm)

Mark it on your calendar, folks. Within 365 rotations of the earth around its axis, I will meet and fall in love with the girl of my dreams. (Well, technically I could have met her already, but why quibble about details? I’m in love! Or, at least, I will be soon.) The legend is infallible, you see — and though I normally disdain such mystical mumbo jumbo[1], I will admit that the claim is slightly harder to dismiss while one is still standing within the craggy bowels of Sacromonte’s ancient catacomb system, the supposed resting place of Granada’s patron saint, San Cecilio, and other Christian martyrs.

Shall I back up a little? Okay then, let’s set the WABAC machine to a little time I like to call this morning:

La Abadía del Sacromonte, built in the 17th century atop a series of Roman-era catacombs.

We’ve just broken fast on a sunny Friday morn, and Professor Maricarmen — our ever-chipper hummingbird of a guide — is leading us on a tour through the gypsy-strewn hills of one of Granada’s most intriguing neighborhoods, Sacromonte (literally: Sacred Mountain). However, we are not here for the flamenco. Rather, we are exploring the rough, Roman-dug tunnels that lie beneath the nearly 400-year-old abbey, listening intently as our profesora regales us with tales of yester-century.

As we pass through La Capilla de Piedra (the Stone Chapel), our attention is drawn to the dual-colored boulder in the middle of the cave. Gesturing at the out-of-place oddity, Maricarmen blithely informs us that anyone who touches the black half of the fabled “love rock” will find themselves head over heels within a year. Conversely, anyone wishing to bring their current relationship to an — ahem — “natural end,” should touch the white half of the rock. It escapes no one’s notice that la piedra blanca is much smoother than la piedra negra, and since Maricarmen obviously wasn’t referring to an amicable divorce with her comment about a “natural end,” I quickly deduce a moral to the story: namely, never gilt a lusty Spaniard.

Not my hand, though it is a fairly reasonable facsimile thereof.

Upon being invited to touch the rock ourselves, we grin nervously at each other to see who will be the first to act. When no volunteers are forthcoming, I take a deep breath and then — hamming it up slightly (well, okay, maybe not-so-slightly) — place both hands squarely on the pitted black surface. Disappointingly, I experience no instantaneous jolt of electricity or rush of passion. Of course, I didn’t really expect to, but a part of me had still hoped to feel something other than a sudden urge for a wet nap[2]. Nonetheless, as we exit the final underground chamber and are dazzled once again by the heavenly display of sol power, I must confess to feeling — if not love-struck — then at least curiously optimistic about the future. Who knows? Maybe by the time anyone actually reads this schlock, I’ll be in the welcome thrall of amor infinitivo.[3]

[1] Not to be confused with my mystical mumbo jambalya — a delicious meal for any occult occasion!
Not to be confused with a wet dream, which is where I encounter most of those aforementioned lusty Spaniards.
[Present-day editorial: I don’t mean to give anyone the heebie-jeebies here, but as it turned out, I actually did fall in love with a certain señorita within a year of touching that giant petrified black-and-white cookie. However, before anyone jumps to conclusions, allow me to share some of the conflicting information that I learned recently after Googling the legend in various languages: 1) According to Granada Direct, the rock only possesses powers during Las Celebraciones de San Cecilio on February 1. It is on this day that young men and women of marrying age pass through the catacombs to touch the rock in hopes that it will spur them to both nookie and nuptials within the year. As you’ll see from the date of this entry, I did not touch the rock until February 18. Then again, the site also claims that one should touch la piedra blanca if one wants to get married, when actually it’s the black rock that confers marriage upon the toucher. 2) Further muddying the waters is the Wikipedia page for La Abadía de Sacromonte, which states that the rock in the Stone Chapel <<atribuye la virtud de conceder marido dentro del año a la mujer que la besa>> — that is, that it awards marriage within the year to the woman who kisses it. Now, my college roommate’s insults aside, I am certainly not a woman, nor did I put my lips anywhere near that thing’s surface, so unless both Wikipedia and Granada Direct are mistaken in how the rock confers its powers, it would appear that I should have escaped my encounter with it unscathed. And yet, five years later, here I am: willfully engaged to (spoiler alert!) a fellow study-abroader — though, to clarify, it is I who am her fellow, while it is she who is my broad. No, it didn’t happen within a year, but perhaps the Rock of Love[4] works slower when one fails to meet its stringent date, gender, and/or tactile requirements. Regardless, if you ever find yourself in its vicinity, you’ll do well to remember that not all legends are blarney — even the ones that involve a fabled European kissing rock.
Bret Michaels, please don’t sue me. Or bleed on me.

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