Thursday 15 December 2016
I’ve seen couples walking along the street hand in hand or with the boy’s arm over the girl’s shoulders.
But today I look upon it differently.
I look upon it differently because I am one of those couples. We’ve been walking around the city for a while and Erik’s just put his arm on my shoulder. We’ve just passed Plaza Paraíso, walking along Paseo Constitution towards Plaza de los Sitios, and have begun to cross the street along with other people.
I feel uncomfortable, but I can’t tell him as it’s the first time that he’s done it. He seems to like it, or so it appears when I glance at him. As other couples behave like this, I prefer to let it be, and I don’t want to be any different today, at least not for the moment. But I’m different in many ways, as for instance how to be with boys, especially since this is the first time I’ve gone out with one.
In any case, it’s good that he’s putting his arm around me because it’s cold. It’s a typical winter’s day in Zaragoza with a cold freezing wind. Although it’s sunny, the wind chill factor makes it feel as if it’s below zero. This city’s strange.“Anyone who can stand the cold winter and afterwards the suffocating heat of summer, can live anywhere in the world!” I remember the woman who sold bread near our house when I was little saying that to me when I was small.
The time on his watch is 8:45. So, we’re probably a few minutes early. I look up at Erik’s face. I need to look up because he’s a head taller than I, although we’re the same age. He’s not recognised that the scarf around his neck is touching my face. The wind’s so strong that his scarf’s flapping against my face. Very gently, I slip his arm from my shoulder.
We continue walking.
“Have I offended you?”
I stop in the middle of the intersection on Juan Bruil Street. I was not expecting to hear Erik saying those words. What’s he referring to? What’s he talking about? I’ve not said or done anything to upset him. Or so I think.
“Why do you say that?”
We’re standing with his eyes locked on mine, but I can’t guess what he’s thinking. I look around at the people walking very briskly along the walkway. There are groups of boys of our age walking from both directions. Everyone here is watching us and I don’t know what he’s going to say.
I grab his arm and we head towards the Juan Bruil Street, where it would be more discreet. At the end of the street, from a distance, I can see all the people walking along Paseo Independencia and, behind me, at the other end of the street, those I’ve just seen along Paseo Constitución, but in this little lane, there’s no one.
“Don’t you like me?” Erik stops me on the pavement and we stand with our eyes locked on each other.
What’s he getting at? What’s wrong with him?
“Yes, I do.” I try to make him see that I’m frowning.
He passes his right hand across his face as if he’s nervous.
“It’s that…” He stops.
I can’t speak.
“You sometimes seem so cold with me. I come from another country and perhaps with the cultural difference we’re not getting along. Perhaps I’m not behaving as I should…”
I can’t take my eyes off him. I’m totally dumbfounded because I’ve not expected anything like this. And what can I say to him now?
“… I like you very much,” Erik continues, “and since we’ve started going out together, I like you more and more each day.”
“I like you too,” I respond, watching him closely, “I love being with you…”
It’s true, but it doesn’t come out naturally. He’s great guy, with a big heart and besides, he’s very good-looking, but I want to get to know him better. I suppose the problem is me because I’ve never been able to express my feelings.
“Well, it doesn’t show,” he quickly interrupts me.
“Why do you say that?”
He continues looking at me. He must have realised that he’s annoyed me.
“Sorry,” he starts saying. “It is just that …I see other couples and they talk more than we do, they hold hands, and they are more affectionate to each other. But we…”
I put my finger on his lips, with the only sign possible.
My smile make him relax. I tiptoe and put my arms around his neck. He looks at me from his height and puts his arms around my back.
How good he smells. I’ve never asked him what cologne he uses because it would seem superficial, but I know that they don’t sell it in this city. Well, at least none of the adults or young men I know use it. His slim figure and his short blond hair look more incredible than ever because of the olive green high-necked jumper he’s wearing. He’s wearing jeans, but he’s not given me any opportunity to see him coming because his face is close to mine. He’s taken the initiative and I like that. He tilts his head to the left and I towards mine. As he comes closer, our lips meet. I feel his strong hands caress me as they move up and down my back. My whole body clings to his. He must have felt the unavoidable response from every part of my body which is in contact with his, in the same way that I’m aware of those he can’t control. I like it. I’m completely lost in these sensations. I don’t know where I am. It’s as if I’m floating on the clouds and I don’t want it to end. How I like Erik! I feel him very close. It isn’t just the kiss. It’s something more.
The voices of the couple who’ve just left the hotel with a baby’s pram make me blush and I immediately move away from Erik. We’ve taken up the small pavement and they can’t get past.
“Sorry,” we apologise together, smiling at each other amid conspiratorial looks.
We remain standing as the couple walk away in the distance towards the Paseo Constitución. Just as they’re turning right and before disappearing round the corner, the man looks back and, with a small smile, gives us a wink.
We gaze at each other again, we smile and hold hands.
“Erik, I like you a lot and I assure you that there’s no problem. The problem is me. As I told you the first time we went out, you’re the first boy who I’ve ever gone out with. Perhaps it is I who do not know how to behave.”
It’s impossible to explain to him that I was not like this a year before. I was more chatty with everyone and more friendly. I loved being surrounded by people to chat and chat and chat. But since my father’s disappearance, everything’s changed. I’m not the same.
I tiptoe and give him a quick, unexpected kiss.
“I am sure that we’re going to spend more time together with this History project and we’ll have a great time.”
We hold hands, with our fingers intertwined, and I move a little away from him to avoid his flapping scarf.
He releases my hand, puts his right arm around my shoulders and, as if he guessed what led up to this moment, he wraps his scarf around us both. That’s better. I like it.
We continue walking towards our destination along Tomás Castellano Street.
As we’re about to enter the Church of Santa Engracia, I break the silence:
“What do you think of what happened to the History teacher?”
My question takes him unawares, as if he thought I wanted to change the conversation.
“Very strange.” He glances at me as we continue walking. “I’ve never seen anything like it. I hope it’s nothing serious.”
His words are lost on me because I’m distracted by a woman who’s entering the church. She loses her balance and would have fallen were it not for her friends who held her. She raises her hand to her right ear and, as she removes it to watch her palm through her magnifying glasses, I can see a red colour staining it.
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Writer: Glen Lapson © 2016
English translator: Rose Cartledge
Publisher: Fundacion ECUUP
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