In Castelldefels we say, “There are four thousand souls living in this village,” not daring to omit even the squat, gray haired captain of the Guardia Civil or the trailer camp of Gypsies who thrive on a grassy plot down by the tracks, the men who shine my wife’s boots while leering shamelessly up her skirt, the women who beg at the tables of the open-air cantinas in the public square, rolling their eyes and pinching the borrowed babies until they bawl. As a child I was embarrassed to implore the lord to take my “soul,” whatever that was, before I woke. I was five then, living splendidly in a two-story house on the West Side with fenced yard, heated garage, and a governess to tend my brother and me, a Mrs. Morton, who professed a faith in the afterlife and thought it charming at bedtime to force the twin heathens to their knees to recite her rhyming prayer, which we did only the once as a circus act for company. Thankfully the Great Depression saved us, and Mrs. Morton, caught pawning my mother’s rings, went packing—with no references—into the larger Christian world. We moved, carless, to a dim, cramped walk-up behind a used-car lot on Livernois. There my spiritual life got a second start when I collapsed on the way to school for no known reason and awakened staring up into the face of a policeman with the improbable name of Officer German. The school nurse, while fussing with my pulse and staring at her watch, solemnly announced I must be dead, and my mother was summoned from work to take me home in a Checker cab. That night I lay face up on the couch groping for words that might stay the inevitable. I was allowed by the spirits that rule in such affairs to return to life disguised as a seven-year old not yet fully aware of the beauty of women’s legs or the firm skin that stretched across their gleaming sternums, though Marta—our boarder from Nazi occupied Vienna— asked me into her room one night to sample her talcums, her colognes and creams, and to try on her silk garments, which I stubbornly rejected, only to bring on a storm of Middle Eastern abuse—a lost opportunity I lived to regret. In the sixth grade, seated beside a budding girl in pleated skirt and starched white blouse I felt for the first time my present incarnation taking hold, and though I fought it for days, though I begged the unknown powers within me for relief, preferring to remain rounded off and complete, the yin and yang of the eleven-year old, it went on. Now the long torpors could descend on me each spring. I became the object and no longer the subject of my own sentence. When I asked the inconstant stars that occasionally winked through the dim air over Detroit for their guidance, they answered in an indecipherable riot of words, Basque and Chinese, which I alone could interpret. Thus the sudden flight to Havana in 1947 in the hope of mastering Latin ballroom dancing, my enlistment in the naval reserve in order to acquire discipline and bearing, the marriage to a fifteen-year old suburban delinquent. All of this failed, just as the year on the night shift at Wonder Bread and the diurnal sweats of the seven ovens failed to rinse me of indignation. The surprise came when on my twenty-sixth birthday while sober a grown woman chose me, who was not sober, to father her children, and together we embarked on a life we could call ours in the village of Castelldefels in the year of our Lord 1965, where returning home alone on foot after a long day of idling in the great cemetery of Barcelona, I shouted out to the night sky, “There is that lot of me and all so luscious.” And believed it. I believe it now, even though the squat captain of the Guardia Civil goes on censoring my mail, the dwarf barber sneers as he calls me Don Felipe, the butcher hints I lack the cojones to take her sister, and each night the sea tears at the littered coast, the wind rages through the pines, and—except for us—all four thousand souls, some alone, some in pairs, huddle in their beds and pray.