I sat at the bus stop exhausted, eyelids blanketing dried contact lenses while ignoring all the children in the background calling my name for the infinite time. Don’t get me wrong, I was very thankful to have earned the love of a hundred 11 year olds — my heart had never been so full — but sometimes at 4:00 on a Monday afternoon after a full day of work, love is better from a distance.
I heard a rapid pounding against the pavement, it reverberated against my eardrums, followed by a gust of wind that slapped my bangs across my face. The tip of my fingers snaked across my head, pushing my hair out of my now opened eyes — and there you were, out of breath and bending over, hands propping you up on your knees, a waterfall of golden brown hair hiding your face.
I looked to the right where you were facing, the blur of the green bus in the distance, then peered at you with sympathy trying to mask my laughter, “que mala suerte.”
Through heaving pants, I think you could hear the humor in my voice, you responded with a sly smirk and sat down next to me on the bench.
My phone lit up at this moment, my mom’s picture on the screen. She was waking up with the sun across the world, her call came right on routine time. I stood up and paced a few steps forward, “Madre, hello?” Our conversation was brisk, and I returned to my seat.
You looked directly at me this time, your hybrid colored eyes filled with curiosity. I was caught off guard by your gaze, and uncharacteristically of me, looked away, as your stare lingered intrusively for a few more uncomfortable seconds. I think perhaps my English had taken you by surprise as well, as it was uncommon to hear in this small outskirt of international Madrid.
From there, in your native tongue, you engaged me politely in conversation with a simple “perdona,” — despite seeing that I had my headphones in. This peaked my wonder, as I am a fan of holding conversations instead of phones.
After removing my headphones, you set off in swift and speedy Spanish asking me questions left and right. It made the wait enjoyable, and you were very talkative, going off on tangents about your own life and travels. I fell silent and let you lead the conversation, also uncharacteristic of me, but your eyes had proven to be distracting.
Evergreen surrounded your pupil, while a whiskey amber made up the outer layer, infiltrating the pine color. It reminded me of Sunday mornings in the mountains, where I would look up through the ocean of trees to catch a glimpse of the sunrise, while streams of bright golden sunlight pierced through.
I was staring now, and I think it amused you greatly. You proceeded to ask me a question, to which I responded with, “Sorry wha — ehhh, ay perdoname, que?”
You chuckled and repeated again, that if I ever wanted to have a coffee or tea, I could stop by your house, which stood right in front of the school I worked at.
“How strange,” I thought, as the bus pulled up in front of us. Then I backtracked on my previous reflection, and wondered if living in a big city had made me lose sight of what genuine friendliness seemed like. It didn’t matter anyway, the coming of the bus meant we would sit in different seats and our conversation would cease.
You were in line in front of me, and to my surprise, stepped aside and made a hand gesture signaling me to go ahead first. I bit my lower lip out of a nervous habit and climbed into the bus, taking a seat in the back. You followed and sat close, astonishing me by continuing the conversation. By now, my interest in you was peaked.
I took command of the chat, and begin throwing questions at you this time. You were the eldest in your family, and your dad was a math teacher. You liked to travel, and had just recently graduated with your master’s in architecture. You preferred your small pueblo over the hustle of mainstream Madrid. A lover of animals and nature, you had a dog of your own.
At some point you apologized for talking a lot, and asked if I could keep up with your fast Spanish. I nodded my head, and expressed my gratitude for your friendliness, as I had noticed Spaniards in Madrid weren’t soberly as welcoming, from my experience. You laughed in agreement, and explained that you didn’t know much English, but you loved watching English tv shows, naming a few; Criminal Minds, House, Prison break, and others.
“Me gustan los programas de television americanos porque las chicas son guapas.”
I laughed at your assessment, confused if you were flirting with me or not. I was terrible at this kind of thing. I can recite lines of Shakespeare, do calculus in my head, and name almost any constellation in the night sky — but when it comes to flirting, I have no idea how that works. And not because I’m socially inept, but because having a relationship from my senior year of high school to my senior year of college had hindered me. And also because I hated the idea that if someone is being nice, they’re hitting on you, my own friendliness often mistaken for flirtatious affection.
You repeated yourself again through amusement, and I agreed, naming my own favorite shows. Then the bus came to your stop, and we kissed cheeks, exchanged numbers, and I watched you exit the doors, thinking how odd the universe is sometimes; giving and taking.
You had asked me on a date a couple days after us meeting, and hesitantly I accepted. I had been thinking about it the whole day through work, wanting to cancel last minute. However, my roommate, always my voice of reason, had convinced me to go and take a chance; she was an in the closet romantic, no matter how much she denied it.
After work, I rushed home. I didn’t have much time to change and freshen up. I stood in front of the bathroom mirror squinting at my appearance. This was a weird sensation for me, getting ready to try and impress someone. It was something I hadn’t done since my ex, and it felt odd doing it for someone new. But I shrugged off these old feelings, because I was a different person then. And now, was the time for a new opportunity; to celebrate myself.
Content with my choice of wardrobe, I caught the metro towards tribunal. Great, at least I would be in a comfortable atmosphere. I don’t know why my nerves were getting the best of me, as my palms sweated through clenched fists. I looked at my phone for the time, “fuck, I’m gonna be late.” A recycled thought, I unfortunately had often.
Once I stepped outside of the metro, I walked a long the side of the history museum. Bold in pink and architecture, it is aesthetically one of my favorite buildings. There’s a fence that surrounds the museum, and my eyes found you; casually leaning against it, book in hand to pass the time. I let out a small breath, swooning a bit; I am so very fond of readers.
We greeted each other with dos besos, I offered my right cheek waiting for yours, my face flushed with redness from direct contact of you using your lips instead. Left cheek, and I regained composure; two could play this game of cat and mouse.
We walked towards an outside cafe; the day too gloriously sunny to waste inside. We sat down and ordered drinks: a coffee for you, and a beer for me. Once they finally arrived, we both laughed at how small your coffee was, as if for a child; after, however, pleasantly surprised at how big the taste.
I sipped on my beer slowly, I hate beer, and I never know why I insist on ordering it time and time again. I think it’s the optimist in me, continually hoping it’ll satisfy my taste buds next try.
We covered many topics. Maybe the two most important were love and religion. To my surprise, you told me you are Catholic, and I poked good humor fun at you for attending mass every Sunday. But in reality, I thought it was admirable, even if I didn’t believe in the same things.
In the topic of love, we covered it all: exes, family, and friends. You were open, more open than most people are comfortable with, and I enjoyed listening to your point of view on love. “You should always love with all you can, no matter who it is,” you said. I laughed, and said, “how romantic that sounds in Spanish, but what can you say in English?”
Eyes bright with thoughtfulness you looked up at the sky, pursing your lips together. I thought you were going to try and say something profound, and inspirational. “The sky is blue.” Your heavy Spanish accent thick with humor, you smiled smugly at me.
I rolled my eyes at you, and you asked about my family. So I spoke of my parents and friends, and how dearly I missed them. But you, interrogator, wanted to know about siblings; I was tempted to say I was an only child, for my brothers have always been a hard topic for me to discuss. I think you saw the hesitation in my voice, and simply said, “el tiempo cura el corazon, no te preocupes.” (Time heals the heart, don’t worry). How compassionate of you, it really touched my heart.
After we finished our drinks, we walked around the malasana area, your hand in mine. It was cute, you clumsily used your left hand to point out buildings and were explaining to me the history behind the architecture. You led me into one building, and had a good laugh when I realized it was a church. I had told you earlier that I hadn’t been to church in such a long time, it seems this day I was doing a lot of things I hadn’t participated in.
Your finger pointed to the ceiling, and I followed your aim, marveling at the beautifully fixed pieces; “I fixed that ceiling, it was a job I did.” Your voice full of Spanish pride and passion, as you marked the sign of the cross, starting from your forehead and across your chest.
How artistic it is to love with all your heart.