I went to have coffee with a friend in Barcelona, no not a friend, a stranger, but he felt friendly enough when we met. I leaned against the bus stop scanning the map, or what I could decipher of street names beneath thick streaks of permanent marker graffiti and chewing gum stains, to make sure I was roughly in the right place. His voice came over the intercom directing me to this and that button, none of which connected dots, so he laughed and the speaker clicked off. He swung the building door open and I instinctually jumped up for an embrace – another laugh. “Never got used to the kiss-kiss (sometimes kiss-kiss-kiss-kiss), huh?”
“Just preparing myself to go back to the states.”
I explained that I’ve more or less made a habit of gluing my arms to my sides in France and Spain because no good seemed to come of raising them; not for a handshake, not for a hug, definitely not for a high five unless prepared to look more culturally ignorant than my attire already allowed.
We had only met three times – once in a park, once at a bar, and now, but I can tell by the way we tease and curse, the way we turn the same directions at intersections without first consulting, the way one of us loses a stream of thought before the other fishes out what they had lost on their line, that our relationship was a catch.
While this city beckons for romance we both found the hilarity in the lack thereof between us as we rode last time through thin streets of the Gothic Quarter on his motorcycle, helmets clunking together at every pause, purse jabbing him in the back, my graceless balance in back as I screamed out responses which I later learned he could hear at an conversational level, but pressed on for his own amusement. My merriment came silently at his order of a Strawberry Mojito while I requested an Old Fashioned.
I told him many people know all of my stories, all the little details, but may not really know me; that while he had no idea who I was, he is one of the few who knows who I am.
He pulled a book off the shelf and waved it close enough for a stale draft from stagnant pages to hit me with a welcoming coolness I hadn’t yet felt in the heat of this fourth, final, and short lived Spanish trip. I had read it already, years ago by my mother’s recommendation, and he threatened “we could get real deep real fast.”