[But WAIIIIIT! Have you read Primera Parte (part one) tho??]
I forced the surprise away from my face and grinned. “You found me!” Awkwardly, I continued to save my number to Bryan’s phone as Julian informed me of what tapas he’d found while away exploring the Mercado de San Miguel. I looked up at Bryan, evenly stoic, whom was the first Spaniard of color I’d ever met outside of my family. “Gracias a ti, Bryan.” I thanked him for the oyster and for the disco invitation. “Julian, it looks like we have a place to dance later!” I didnt want to invite him, but I also didnt want him to feel left out. The look on his face seemed half grateful, half amused. And in that moment, I wondered how often he actually hung out with those three decades his junior.
I took him to a nearby counter where the tapas featured mounds of spiralized fish atop toasted bread. “Fish noodles?!”
“Yea… it was messy to eat. I spilled like half, but very tastey.”
“I’ll take your word for it. So you like to dance?”
“I dooooo! I’m so excited for later!” My hips swiveled to the distant horns. An artist was rapping over the instruments and could have easily passed for a Daddy Yankee type. I sent my hands waving in circles near my waist and noticed my glass was becoming empty once again. “Another round?” Shamelessly, I wanted to visit with Enrique again and of course claim my 3rd glass of his velvety port.
“Guapa. You are having fun?”
Call me guapa one more time, I thought mischievously. “Yes! And I’m going dancing with you tonight!” His eyes widened as he smiled. “Bryan me invita!” I explained in my broken Spanish.
“Bueno! Te veo allí!” I turned around to see Julian, significantly red, offering euros to Enrique. The bartender watched the pair of us and seemed to find it amusing that the Aussie was now paying for my drinks. None of it mattered to me one way or the other. I was wading in liquid confidence that accentuated the height of my hair, the glow of my skin, the quirk of my charm and surely, the sway in my hips. I sipped from my full goblet allowing the sweetness to linger before I swallowed again.
“Anaïs, you are a very interesting woman.”
“Really? How so?”
“Well, aside from coming to Madrid on a whim for only a couple of days, you enjoy after-dinner drinks before dinner.”
Admittedly, I knew very little about wine other than what I liked and disliked. “Well, Americans tend to over-indulge, don’t they?” I sassed my hips from left to right toward the familiar steel columns. Julian followed.
His Spanish was far worse than even my remedial understanding of the language, so I assumed he only clung to me because he was just as happy as I to find another English speaker. Truthfully, I enjoyed his company; he, too, was interesting. It wasnt long before we began talking about home, our families and our passions.
I told him I was a writer. I explained my hopes of sharing my views more fearlessly and exploring the human experience as a person of color traveling abroad. “Ugh. You, Americans, are so obsessed with race!” Initially, I couldn’t tell if he was serious.
“You really think so? People of color are oppressed globally though. Racism and it’s evil twin are not exclusive to the U.S..”
“It’s evil twin?”
“Oh! There it is again. Racism isn’t an issue in the U.K.”
Not for YOU maybe, is what I wanted to say, but I kept it simple. “Mmm. Interesting.” It wasn’t our first time having a difference of opinion that night but it was the first of several awkward moments that followed.
He told me I reminded him of this woman he’d been madly in love with while residing in Japan many years ago. “Big hair, wild woman.” Oh God! Don’t tell me he has a Black girl fetish, I thought to myself, completely annoyed by the ignorance of his privilege. He continued, “she was fierce! We traveled the world together. A whirlwind, truly! She had my heart and she knew it too. I’d had many lovers all over, but none like her. There even came a point where I didnt want to return home to Sydney. My eldest son ended up finding out about Faye and threatened to expose my affair to my wife…”
“WIIIFE??!” Wait, I didnt say that in my head, did I??
“Yes. My wife and I have been dating other people for years now, but it wasnt until Faye, that I found out she was shagging my best mate in Sydney.”
“OH MY GOD!” Nope, still talking out loud, Anaïs.
“Yea, it was mad. Faye ended it with me as we were no longer a secret. Sort of took the mystique away, for her.” He paused and I began to see him no longer as a privileged stranger, but a wealthy man with an impoverished love life. “I loved her more than she did me.”
“So where is she now?”
“As far as I’m concerned, standing right in front of me!” I paused to read the situation and bowled over in nervous laughter. “How lucky am I to be spending the weekend in this incredible city, conversing with a intelligent, beautiful woman, and enjoying my stay in the nicest hotel in Madrid. I chose it specifically for its white marble balconies.” As I straightened up from my chuckle to face him, he was closer to me than ever. We clinked our glasses, toasting to his good fortune. At that moment, my naïveté faded and I realized far too late that Julian did not want to go dancing tonight…. at least not vertically. “Ok, but with whom are you in love now? Faye may have been your big love, but surely you have found love again.” As I tried to keep the conversation focused on him, my mind begun to spin into a desperate frenzy to abandon the conversation and the Mercado all together. I began to move haphazardly towards the pastry bar. I needed bread, pronto!
“…..then, once we talked about it, it was fine….. Mate, how much for the lot?” He turned from the clerk to me to confirm that nueve meant nine. “Thanks…. We ended up vacationing in the countryside of Italy that summer, on this incredible vineyard! Have you been to Italy?”
“No, not yet.” Setting my port to the counter, I stuffed the almond croissants in my mouth and smiled in feigned interest of his story.
“Ohhh you have to! The house was just enormous and it was only the four of us mates. It was one of the best orgies I’ve ever had!” My heart nearly stopped instantaneously, but I held it together and kept chewing. I can not, WILL NOT be another raunchy story on this Australian man’s lips! I gestured toward the opposing end of the building with my glass. “I mean, it really did wonders for my wife and I, but it still fizzled between us again shortly after.”
We wound up back where I had begun my evening where the sweet old Italian man had advised me to mingle and make tapas. And boy was he right, ha! The glass walls were black sparkling mirrors of the mercado’s interior, shielding us from the dark street on the opposite side. The crowd was thick with excitement and the bartenders busy as I leaned my elbows on the wooden bartop. “Well, I think thats it for me. I’m not a drinker so I’ve definitely outdone myself tonight!”
“No! You’re not going dancing?!”
“No, no, no. I’m calling uber.” Three hours in the Mercado and then just like that I vanished onto cobblestone streets, my uber carrying me off to freedom. I took one last look through the back window to the sea of people moving through the glass structure. I chuckled to myself in relief as I enjoyed the sights of the city under the moonlight. Every building was expertly lit by dozens of small spotlights pointing upward, bringing further attention to the ornate architecture. I barely remembered entering the old elevator in my building. Most likely, I fumbled with the foreign keys and the oversized knob placed at the center of the heavy door. In my three day visit, I never quite mastered it. I probably tip-toed through the Spaniard flat, avoiding its creaks as best I could, quickly disrobed, and ultimately crawling into bed, succumbing to a deep sleep.
What I do recall very clearly, and was so grateful for, was the sun pouring on my sober face. The joy of waking up in my room, fit for one single care-free woman without the worries of a disloyal husband. I remember Molé, the host’s cat purring to encourage me out of bed. I reached for my phone and saw the string of disappointed texts from Bryan. I really wish I had gone dancing that night, but it wasn’t meant to be. Maybe I’ll go for a jog this morning instead, I thought. The Russian Bleu cat’s warm soft fur brushed passed my fingers just before he hopped onto my stomach. Seeing my eyes opened and finally paying him attention, he flaunted his toosh in my face as if to show off his most prized possession. “Molé!” I pushed his little heiny playfully away from my view. “Ugh! Men!”
Thanks for joining me 😘!