It’s Friday night and I’m sitting with Fred at Puerta Oscura, an elegant cocktail bar of Edwardian cushiness in old town Málaga (C/Molino Lario 5). In front of me, coffee and a delicate piece of torrija, a traditional Easter treat made with a mediaeval disregard for carb count. I’m ready to take my first bite, but can’t quite pick up my fork.
In the alcove opposite me, Mary the mother of Jesus sits with John. This is a woman who hasn’t slept in many nights, haggard, puffy-eyed, bowed with grief. John is holding her hand, but it’s clear he’s run out of things to say.
Opposite them, Mary Magdalene is slumped against a block, auburn hair tangled, eyes red from weeping. Behind her, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea wait, grim-faced, to collect Christ’s body for burial.
Here is the supporting cast of the Crucifixion as you’ve never seen it before, far from the impassive doll-faced Madonna and Jesus figures paraded everywhere during Holy Week. Their grief is so raw, you'll do anything to avoid eye contact.This extraordinary tableau, ‘Duelo y Tristeza’ (‘Pain and Grief’) is the work of three Spanish sculptors, made in the 1980s, in a hyper-realistic style. Juan Manuel Parra, Álvaro Abrines and Juan Vega glower at me from the pages of the Easter Week guide, young, bearded, possibly reproving.
But the three young men next to me have just settled to their gin and tonics. People stroll in to look at the figures, then stay to order drinks. There’s a buzz of voices, a clatter of cutlery. I think about how life, devotion and death often blur together in Spain, about the bleeding Jesus posters in the windows of jamonerías and dry cleaners and everywhere else at this time of year. I pick up my fork and plunge it into the creamy heart of the torrija. It tastes divine.