A humorous, entirely nonsensical and inconsistent tale created to make the ladies part of the Spain 2009 teaching abroad adventure laugh. You don’t have to tell me: I know that much of this story doesn’t follow any sort of continuity with the characters. It was written in parts over the course of a month, and was fully intended to amuse rather than provoke deep thought. This story is dedicated to Nickie, Julia, Heather, Mariela Gonzalez and Gomez, and Matt Surgeon. Thank you all for being a part of one of the best times of my life.
Nashville Airport. 12:00 PM. I sit with excited trepidation for what is to come at the end of today’s travels: a temporary abode in La Garriga, Spain, a small town just outside of Barcelona. I anticipate many exciting adventures to come.
Out of habit, I decided to look over my surroundings. To my left, Nickie is deep into her novel, Eclipse, wondering what new trouble Bella Swan will get herself into. Her phone rings. The look on her face lets me know it’s Robert, her fiancé.
“Hello?” she answers with sad excitement.
She will be separated from him for five weeks. Her face relaxed to the response on the other end, though a small tear managed to escape from her green eye.
“I love you too, and I’ll see you soon.”
She hung up the phone and released a small, hopeful sigh. After one moment of short reflection, she opened her book to redirect her thoughts to fantastic tales of vampires, wolves and humans. A temporary escape from reality. To my right, Julia sits. She is engrossed in conversation with Heather:
“No, no. It’s ‘Como está usted.’ Try again,” Julia says, with unbreakable patience.
“Como eestuh ustad…?” Heather repeats, unsure.
These are the girls I will spend the next five weeks with. It should be fun, if not entirely interesting. In my mind I’m just hoping that we don’t spend it all talking about marriage and love; what do I know about that? But I guess I’m here to learn and not to teach.
I continued my perusal of the scene before me. Airports. Nothing new, nothing exciting. I’ve grown accustomed to the usual characters and settings: people rushing to catch their flights or sitting, despondent, waiting for them to arrive; some are anxious: they’ve never flown before; the rest are as bored as I am, trying to fill in the interim between the invasive security check to the moment for take off with something, anything. I lethargically draw into myself, molding into the same role, waiting for our flight to arrive.
And then suddenly, like finally seeing the way home through a dense fog, I saw him. His tall image glided past my own. He seemed to be in deep thought, contrary to the dulled faces all around me.
“Plus one,” I thought to myself.
He sat down a few rows across from us, facing me. I averted my eyes so that I wouldn’t be caught staring. “Surely,” I thought to myself, “he’s going to pull out a cell phone and call that beautiful wife of his to tell her he’ll be home soon.” I took a quick glance. No cell out. Plus two. I glanced again: no ring on his finger. Plus three.
“Get it together, Alexis.”
Instead of sitting idly, he pulled out a book. Now was my chance to really look at him. He was tall, as mentioned before, but not imposing. He was masculine yet elegant like a lion running across a plain. His long, glossy, brown hair just barely grazed his eyebrows and ears, curling at the ends. His eyes were an amalgam of color: a tint of brown, blue and green. Unlike any other. They were piercing, full, deep.
His face was rough yet welcoming. It was a face that came with a story, I knew, but I couldn’t quite decide how badly I wanted to know this particular one. Despite my hesitation, I could not deny the fact that I was drawn to him from the moment I saw him. It was something about his overall demeanor that made me feel this way about him without having spoken a word to him. Like feeling the sun’s warm kiss on your face after a long winter’s day, I was incapable of ignoring my attraction to this stranger.
What was he reading?
I focused intently on seeing the title. The cover looked somewhat familiar to me, but it moved so much in his hands, I couldn’t see the title just yet.
Focus. I think I can see it now…C.S. Lewis. Really? He likes C.S.?
I focused closer to see which one he was reading. A Chronicle? Or one of his non-fiction pieces? As I was about to figure this out, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck prickle as the shadow of a pair of eyes now began to observe me. I looked up from his book only to meet his color pool of eyes boring into my now apprehensive-ridden ones. He was questioning yet serene, almost like he was as interested in figuring me out as I was in him. At least he didn’t look offended, but I was beginning to acknowledge that I was too scared to know his story.
I looked away hastily, too afraid to look at him again. I pretended to read my book, and for a while, I could still feel his eyes watching, observing. I ignored it as best as I could, though I could not control my nervous shiftiness now that I knew that I had become the one under the microscope. After what seemed like eternity, I was all too relieved when the call was made for us to board the plane. Julia and I struck up a casual conversation; we would be sitting next to each other on the plane.
“So, are you excited?” Julia asked, eager to begin our journey.
“Yes, very,” I replied, still distracted by the memory of those chameleon-like eyes, each color revealing a portion of his inner thoughts. They looked knowing, filled with just as many questions for me as mine had for him. Though I would never act on it, I longed to know him, to hear his voice. I pondered these things while Julia continued talking:
“So what do you think?” Julia asked, seeming on edge for my answer. I hadn’t realized that I wasn’t listening, nor could I recall any memory resembling a question or comment she had made in the past ten minutes.
“About what?” I responded, slowly drifting our of my musings.
“About going to Barcelona on Monday? Will you be rested enough?”
“Yeah, sure. What do you want to do there?” I asked purposefully, knowing that a fully detailed description would follow. That was good. I needed something to listen to that would help keep me from being distracted by the memory of him, that look. As she talked about places called La Rambla, La Sagrada Familia and La Plaza Catalunya, my eyes began to scan the line of people waiting to board the plane. I looked back at Nickie and Heather, engrossed in conversation, and then past them. Something familiar came into focus. Him. Those piercing eyes, a myriad of color. They were looking right at me.
I gasped and quickly turned my back to him. Maybe I had offended him by my gawk-session earlier. Maybe he thought I was checking him out, which I was; I looked down shyly at my feet, feeling completely embarrassed. Whatever he had figured out about my motivations for staring at him earlier, I would not make the mistake of staring at him again. Julia, watching my surprised and embarrassed reaction, asked, “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I just remembered I forgot to take care of something before coming here…it’s not a big deal though,” I answered surprisingly smoothly. I didn’t need to share my embarrassment with anyone else.
We boarded the plane and got seated. I had the window seat, Julia the middle. I couldn’t help myself. I looked at every single face as they walked up the aisle. He didn’t board the plane. Wasn’t he in line? Where was he? I rolled my eyes in response to how dumb I was acting, at least on the inside, over a guy I didn’t know. Gorgeous or not, did he really merit this much acknowledgement? He didn’t even smile at me. Stupid me. I leaned in front of me to grab my iPod and book in preparation for take-off. I heard Julia ask me sweetly, “How are you?”
I answered, a little frustrated, turning my head to face her. “Julia, I’m fine. I just…”
My words stopped dead in their tracks. She wasn’t talking to me. Mouth agape, heart racing, I met, for the third time, those same eyes. He looked momentarily at me and answered Julia with a warm smile. So beautiful. His smile was so open and genuine. My heart melted at the dimple that formed on top of his left cheek as his eyes glowed to match his smile.
“I’m doing well and you?” he responded. His tone of voice matched him perfectly: rough yet welcoming. I detected a bit of an accent to his voice. Spanish maybe? I listened quietly, pretending to look distractedly out of the window.
“Oh, estoy muy bien!” exclaimed Julia.
“Hablas espanol?” replied the voice.
“Si! Mis amigas y yo…ahhh…vamos a ir a La Garriga. Nosotras queremos…ahh….teachers,” Julia said; from the way she ended the sentence, I could tell she was blushing at her mistake.
“Oh, you can speak in English,” he laughed amiably. “You are wanting to be teachers?”
“Oh, yes!” Julia said with enthusiasm. “We are going to teach at SEK Catalunya in La Garriga. It’s just outside of Barcelona.”
“I know the town. I have family there. I’m from Barcelona,” he responded.
“You are! Well maybe we’ll run into you sometime,” she said.
My heart started to beat rapidly. I wanted so badly for that to come true.
“What’s your name?” Julia asked.
My heart was racing now. Flipping. Diving. Bouncing. All at once. A name to go with a face. Now I’d never forget him.
“Ramon,” he answered decisively like he wanted that word, that name to ring in my ears. I could feel the quick glance he shot at me while he said his name. I could not bring myself to look at him to confirm the feeling though I was sure if I had looked up at that moment, I’d meet those same curious eyes. And then I gave in. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat and looked quickly at him. His eyes were, as I expected, looking back at me like he was waiting for me to see him. I smiled sheepishly and looked down. This time, he did not look away from me; he was waiting for something. Julia noticed our exchange and, polite as she was, she introduced me to him.
“Oh! I almost forgot,” she said, tossing her hands in the air, “This is one of my friends who will be teaching also. Her name is Alexis. Alexis, Ramon.”
I liked the way our names sounded next to each other. He looked at me with the full force of his eyes. I couldn’t bear it for too long. I kept looking away, but each time I looked back at him, there he was, with as constant a gaze at me as ever. I smiled weakly, offered my hand to shake and said a simple, “Hello.”
“Encantada,” was his reply. He blinked heavily, as if pulling out of a dream, and fell back into the casual demeanor he had with Julia. She didn’t miss anything in our exchange. She looked at the two of us: me, the bumbling idiot, hastily pulling through my bag to look distracted and to take the attention off of my embarrassment in meeting him; he, trying to play it cool and drive away all memory of the fixed stare he had on me just moments before. Julia just smiled wryly, glanced at me, turned to Ramon and asked, “So what are you doing Monday?”
My eyes pleaded with her, begged her to stop whatever it was she thought she was doing. She gracefully ignored the obvious fear and embarrassment in my expression and continued prodding.
“It would be nice to have someone who knows the city show us around. That is, if you don’t have anything to do. Would you be comfortable with showing us the city?” she asked warmly.
“I would love to,” he replied, sounding completely sincere. I looked at his face to see if it matched the tone. An irresistible dimple rested on his cheek. He meant it.
“Can I have a number where I can reach you?” he asked.
“Sure!” Julia replied, grabbing her address book. “It’s the number to our school, but we can plan a time to expect your call.
“I would love to have an email address as well,” he responded, “just in case the phone doesn’t work. That way, I’ll be sure to get in touch with you.”
And there she went, writing down our information. This could not be happening. They continued talking well after take-off. He seemed nice enough. From the pockets of conversation that I could catch he had just graduated. He was twenty-three and had high hopes to go to grad school for something in History or Anthropology. Currently, he wasn’t married, and he was living at home to help with his family. Finally, I got tired of eavesdropping and decided to put on my headphones. Music would be a sweet release. Slowly, I slipped out of consciousness.
The flight to Detroit was a blur. Our departure from there to Amsterdam started just as quickly. Lucky for me, Ramon had the seat right next to me on the longest flight of our travels across the Atlantic. I cannot begin to describe how awkward I am, and that does not take into account the awkwardness I have around good-looking people. Double that for people I’m attracted to, and that’s where I stood in my behavior with Ramon. Couple clumsiness with all of that and one can understand the spectacle I put on for him to see:
I elbowed him in the face when taking off my jacket; I spilled coffee all over my lap; I coughed so badly and for so long that a flight attendant asked Ramon if I was choking. When he told her that I wasn’t, she eventually brought me water. Those are just the highlights. Through it all, Ramon smiled politely and offered me help as graciously as possible. Every now and then, he would try to talk to me, but I was so flustered, we never said more than two lines to each other. He kept trying, though to no avail, but I acted like a blubbering idiot. And still, he just smiled patiently through it all. Finally I had the sweet escape of sleep. I dreamt heavy and long.
I woke to my stomach dropping, flying sideways and jumping up to my throat. Instinctively, and without realizing what I was doing, I grabbed a hand and held tight. The hand squeezed back ever so gently, not letting go or resisting. And then I remembered who was sitting next to me. I turned my head slowly to meet the face next to me. Ramon. He smiled at me, still holding my hand, looking concerned and asked, “Are you okay, Alexis?” He remembered my name.
“Yes, I am thank you,” I said, pulling my hand out of his.
“Are you sure? Do you need something?” he continued to ask. By this time, the turbulence had stopped, so I felt more relaxed, though my heart was still in a flutter.
“Yes, I’m sure,” I breathed deeply. “Sorry about invading your space.”
“Oh, no, it’s quite alright,” he assured me. “If you need my help at any other time, I’m here.”
He smiled. Is this what I think it is? Was he flirting? I tried to compose myself. I could easily be mistaken. I had been before.
“You don’t fly much, do you?” he asked, attempting for the hundredth time to have a conversation.
“I have flown a lot. Especially since I’ve stopped driving home for vacations. I’m just a nervous flyer,” I answered.
“Oh, where are you from?”
“How did you end up here?” he continued.
For some reason, this time around, conversation seemed to be easy. We talked about practically anything: friends, family, past relationships, school, funny anecdotes. Talking with him was as easy as breathing. We laughed so much. Before I knew it, the flight was ending, and I was sadly disappointed. I wanted to continue talking with Ramon. He looked a little reluctant to go as well. We got off of the plane, and made our way to the last flight of our day of travels. Ramon and I talked the whole way there. Sadly, we were no where near each other on this flight.
We made it, finally, to Barcelona after what seemed like an eternity of travel. In the mad rush to the baggage claim, I didn’t have time to say goodbye to Ramon. As we were getting into our taxi, I heard a familiar voice yell, “Julia! Alexis! Wait a minute.” I turned to see him, anxiety clear in his eyes.
“Will I see you on Monday?” he asked all of us, but inwardly I hoped he meant it for me over the others. I was too embarrassed to answer for the group. I didn’t want to be presumptuous considering I didn’t necessarily have the best track record for attracting guys, especially ones that I found attractive.
Julia spoke up for all of us by saying, “Well, of course we will. That is, we will if you call us.”
“I will call,” he said decidedly, confidently. His eyes lingered on mine for a moment longer than I expected.
We got into our taxi and began our journey to La Garriga. We drove into the small town; all around us was antiquity, each edifice a representative of a moment in history, wafting their inward stories out into the open streets. The people breathed them in, letting the history of La Garriga permeate their very being. I wanted to know these stories, these people; even if I could only take in a short breath. A temporary sojourner in this beautiful land. Beyond the town, the mountains stretched, towering protectively beside the sleepy village. Like a father standing beside his small child as she takes her first steps. Gentle. Serene Patient. Several neutral colored houses were dotted along the mountains.
We were riding along a main road, an outlining path of the small town, parallel to the highway. The driver turned left, and we drove up a steep incline towards the school. After a brief moment, we could finally see SEK Catalunya nestled on a hill. Finally. We were here. After waiting at one of the school gates (Porta A), the guard for the institution finally came out to greet us. He ambled slowly towards us, a look of piqued interest in his eyes.
“Hola,” he said deliberately, tentatively.
Glad to finally be at our temporary home, I enthusiastically replied, “Hola! Como está usted?”
He looked at us with a sigh of relief. We could speak to him. We were polite. But then, he, being excited at being spoken to in Spanish, by American girls no less, began to speak in one fluid line. It was completely incomprehensible to us. I could catch very little of what he was saying to us; it was like trying to grab a handful of water spewing from a hose. Nickie, Heather and I stared at him blankly, eyes glazed from a full day of travel, and in unison, we turned to Julia in desperation.
“I think he said ‘welcome’ and something about doors maybe…?” That was all the input I could offer.
Julia, very calmly, turned to the guard and replied, “Perdon. Pero no te entendemos. Que dices a nosotras?”
Ever patiently, the guard smiled, looked at Julia and repeated his previous monologue…to us it might as well have been. After slowly saying what he needed to, he looked at Julia and said, “Me entiendes?”
“Si. Mas or menos. Gracias.”
“Vale,” he said, ending the conversation there and leading us to the school. After a bit more confusion, we made it to our apartment on the top floor of one of the buildings connected to the main entrance. With a sigh of relief, we laid down our suitcases, shrugged off backpacks and fell into the first beds we could find. Sweet repose. The weekend flew by quickly. On Monday the teachers came to the school for a short visit to prepare themselves for the next day, our first day of classes. Mariela, our university supervisor, also came to introduce us to the primary teachers. We met all of the coordinating teachers with whom we would be paired for the next four weeks. All except for Heather’s teacher, Mr. Matthew.
We went on to meet the other primary teachers we hadn’t yet greeted; they were taking a break in the teacher’s lounge. Still no sign of Heather’s teacher. We decided we shouldn’t wait any longer: Mariela needed to go to Barcelona to meet her husband and we were expecting a call from Ramon.
As we headed down the stairs to the main floor, we ran into a tall, dirty blonde curly haired man rushing up to goodness knows where. He looked flustered like he had too many things to think and or do. He met our startled stares with relief.
“Yeah, sorry. I missed my bus up here, and then I had to run back to my flat to get something I’d forgotten,” he said hurriedly with a thick British accent.
“It’s okay. These are the student teachers from Spain,” Mariela replied, comfortingly. “This is Julia, Nickie, Alexis and this is Heather; she’ll be working with you.”
He said a quick hello to all of us and offered to show Heather his classroom. She agreed and said she would meet us back at the lobby. After waiting in the lobby for half an hour, Heather finally returned, but not alone. Matthew was with her still talking about various things pertaining to what she could expect tomorrow. She looked involved enough in the conversation, listening attentively, though a little confused; she wasn’t quite used to his accent.
When she reached us in the lobby, she asked, “Has he called yet?”
“No,” we answered in unison.
“If he doesn’t call in the next few minutes, maybe we should go into town without meeting him,” Nickie suggested. We were all anxious to explore the city for a few hours
“Who are you waiting on to ring you if you don’t mind my asking?” Matt interjected.
“Ramon,” said Julia with a sly smile on her face as she looked at me. “We met him on our trip from the states to Barcelona.”
“Oh,” Matt replied, noting the way Julia had looked at me while talking about Ramon. He glanced at me briefly.
Matthew was a sight to see. He was tall in an awkward way but had a very welcoming nature. He carried himself in such a way that made you want to smile at his awkwardly humorous nature. Today being perfect as his creased and wrinkled striped button up shirt was conveniently tucked into his underwear. Hilarious. But not in the way you would be humored by someone at their expense. It was more likened to the kind of humor you would accredit to a baby falling on its bottom. Endearing.
“Well, if it doesn’t work out with this guy, I’d be happy to show you around Barcelona for a few hours myself,” Matt offered kindly.
We all looked at each other, open to this offer in a change of plans, but before we could answer, we heard a familiar voice.
It was Ramon. What a surprise! He smiled at all of us in greeting. That wonderful smile. He saved my face for last, lingering a bit longer. I savored the look of his eyes and gentle smile resting on me. I couldn’t help but smile back and look down shyly.
“Well, are you surprised?” he asked, knowing the answer.
“Of course we are!” Julia replied. “Una sorpresa buena!”
“Well then, I’m off,” Matt said, cutting into the moment and placating the mood. “I need to pop back up to my class to finish a few things before going home.”
“Would you like to come with us?” Heather asked.
“No, thank you. I really do need to finish some things. Go have fun. You ladies will have a lot of work to do this week. It was nice talking to you,” he answered giving us all a quick nod and a smile before leaving. He looked at Ramon last, smiled cordially, yet there was something amiss. He looked cautiously at Ramon, calculating.
“Are you ladies ready?” he asked, grinning wide. I was so excited to see him and even more excited that he came all the way here to get us. He led us out the door and made sure to walk closest to me. Or was I so hopeful that I just wanted to believe he stood nearest to me on purpose?
The look in his eyes shattered all doubt. He looked at me like he had been counting down the hours for this simple moment next to me. He breathed in and sighed heavily, still looking at me, now smiling. He moved closer while we walked to the train station. So close I could almost touch his arm; I could almost hold his hand in my own.
Another long gaze at me from him had me fully convinced that he was happy to see me, to be near me. I smiled and beamed inwardly. It had been a long time since any guy had longed this much for my company. I was slowly remembering what it felt like to be admired, and I liked it. Very much indeed.
We arrived at the train station, but before we could buy our tickets, Ramon had another surprise for us: he bought our tickets to travel to Barcelona and back to La Garriga. It was so generous of him.
We got to our train and headed to Barcelona. While Nickie, Heather and Julia conveniently talked amongst themselves, Ramon and I got another chance to talk, for the most part, privately. Every now and then I caught them looking over at us, smiling. Heather would frequently point and wink at us. Thank goodness Ramon’s back was to them. Especially since Nickie made kissing faces at me. I glowered at each mock they threw at me.
Despite their antics, Ramon and I talked without stopping it seemed, and eventually, their teasing stopped. We were all so enveloped in our conversations that we didn’t realize that we missed our stop. Thankfully, we figured this out only one stop after Barcelona. We got off there and waited to catch the next train back to Barcelona.
We waited next to a group of teenagers, sketchy in appearance, but they didn’t bother us. Every now and then they would say a phrase in broken English, trying to get our attention, but they soon gave up trying since we kept to ourselves.
It was starting to get dark; it looked like rain was coming. As we boarded the train, the kids looked over at us, rebellious and mischievous, and said, “Goodbyyyye,” in a mocking tone. Confused, we waved, smiling tentatively, bidding them adieu.
That was a mistake.
Showing any connection with those teenagers caused the train attendant to be a bit suspicious of us. He came to our car and checked our tickets while questioning where we were going. Julia answered for us:
“Lo siento. Nos extranamos la parata.”
He still looked confused, so Julia added, “Porque extranan.”
He didn’t even try to respond to what she said. The guard, clearly befuddled and slightly irritated walked off without another word or attempted reprimand. At this, Ramon tried his best to stifle his laughter. Now we were the ones who were confused. Almost in unison, we looked at Ramon, unable to decipher what he was trying not to laugh about, perplexity furrowed on our brows.
He managed to pull himself together long enough to explain:
“I’m so sorry. I’m not laughing at your expense, really. It’s just that you told him,” now looking at Julia, “that we missed our stop emotionally and that we were strange people.” And then he could no longer hold back: he laughed boisterously, hugging his stomach, slapping his seat, looking on the verge of tears. After realizing our mistake, we couldn’t help but join in on the laughter.
We got to Barcelona around four in the afternoon. Ramon took us around La Rambla, a walking strip leading away from La Plaza Catalunya to the Mediterranean. It was such an amazing sight. Bright colors surrounded us on the strip-greens, yellows, purples, reds all embodied in flowers, gifts and costumed men and women. I never wanted to close my eyes, even to blink lest I miss out on the wonderful view.
Ramon took us to a small plaza just off of La Rambla away from La Plaza Catalunya. It was there that we sat down for a meal. He bought a bottle of wine for the table, and we feasted on a delicious meal of macaroni with blood sausage, fish with eggplant puree and fig with fresh ice cream.
After talking for a few hours and enjoying the slow descent of the sun to the bottom of the earth, we decided to go dancing. He took us to a pub called L’o Vella. We walked to the back of the bar in a large seating area and in good timing-there was a band setting up to play. Once again, Ramon bought a round of drinks for us. We sat for a while talking and enjoying each other’s company.
And then the band played.
Without hesitation, we all got up and headed to the dance floor. For a while we all danced together, but Heather and Julia soon decided to go to the restroom and sit for a while-there was a couple of shady older looking men who kept trying to dance in between them. Nickie left again eventually-she wanted more drinks; she headed to the bar.
So it was just me and Ramon. We looked at each other timidly, unsure of what to do with our new-found freedom. It was the first time he and I had been left completely alone. By some form of Providence, the band began to play a slow song-The Beatles’, “Something.”
I smiled at his shyly, and he, without hesitation, pulled me closer to him; we began to dance. Each sway calmed me yet my senses felt more alert than ever, having him that close to me. It was like everything about him moved with me to this song, creating a sweet blanket of assurance all about me. I could feel his soft breath on my neck, the caress of his cheek on my own. His arms wrapped around me; I never wanted to leave. He hummed the song quietly as we moved to the melodic rhythm.
He pulled his face from mine, and I looked at him. For a moment, almost eternal, he looked into my eyes, taking in the fullness of the moment. I felt like I was glowing. He placed a hand under my chin and began the slow descent towards my expectant lips. I closed my eyes in anticipation, but I could feel the moment passing. I opened my eyes, wondering what had happened. I searched for his eyes, but they did not meet mine. He was looking past me, worried. I looked behind me to find the source of his concern.
And I met with the same nervous worry what he had discovered before me: Nickie hobbling her way from the bar to us. She reached us after much difficulty and promptly said, “I don’t feel so great.” After which she just as promptly threw up-all over Ramon. If the moment had been still lingering before, it was now definitely gone. We had to take the first bus back to La Garriga. Amongst all of the rush and confusion (and lingering awkwardness of an unresolved emotion), I could only manage a brief wave of goodbye to Ramon as he walked away from us back to his apartment.
The moment now gone, I began to wonder if I was mistaken of his true intentions.
“I guess I’ll find out soon enough,” I thought to myself.
The ride home seemed longer now that the distance between Ramon and me seemed more piercing, more distinct. I wondered what would happen now. Was it the influence of drink that led him to almost kiss me? Or was sincerity involved? Would he regret his actions now that he was away from me and had time to think?
I tried not to worry too much. I fought these thoughts all weekend.
Monday came all too quickly. Our first day with the kids was a blur. By lunchtime, I was glad to have some time with the girls. As soon as I sat to eat, we immediately began talking about Friday night.
“So…did he kiss you?” Heather asked.
“Did who kiss you?” Matt asked, looking at Heather and me. He was eating lunch with us as well.
“No…” I said reluctantly, trying to conceal my disappointment. “Nickie got sick before anything could happen.”
“Yeah, sorry about that,” she said, repenting.
“It’s fine. I’m glad you’re okay,” I comforted.
“Do you think you’ll see him again?” Julia asked.
“I’m not sure,” I admitted. “Probably not.”
We continued to talk, analyzing what happened that night. The girls were convinced that he was interested. It was still a debatable issue in my head though I kept that to myself. We enjoyed the rest of our time at lunch talking together.
By the last break of the school day, I was exhausted, so I went up to the teacher’s break room for a coffee. I sat down at a couch to write and relax. Concentrated on what I was writing, it took me longer than usual to register that someone had greeted me with a polite, “Hello.” I looked up to see Matthew, coffee in hand, smiling kindly at me.
“Oh, hi! Sorry…” I scrambled.
“It’s quite alright. Do you mind if I sit down? If I’m not interrupting you, that is,” he said, measuring my reaction.
“Oh, sit down! I don’t need to write this right now.” He took a seat next to me.
“Are you okay?” I asked, trying to start a conversation.
“Very well, yes. Just extremely tired.”
“Where are your kiddos?” I prompted again.
“Oh, far away from me thank goodness!” he said in a huff.
“That bad, huh?” I asked, this time laughing.
“No, it’s not that. It’s just that it has been such a rough day back. They’ve got so much energy, you know?”
We continued to talk, so much so that we almost forgot that we had classes to finish. Luckily, we caught the last ring of the bell, signifying us to finish our last class of the day.
“I’ll see you later then,” he said, getting up to go.
“Yeah, tomorrow then,” I answered back.
Before walking away, he turned back to me and started to ask, “Do you have any plans yet for this week-“ but I stopped listening and was surprised to see Ramon walking up to me, smiling. Matthew caught my sudden distraction and looked to see what caused it. He stiffened a little at the sight of Ramon.
“Later then,” he said tersely, walking away.
“See you later,” was all I could manage in response; I was too stunned by Ramon’s arrival.
I was so surprised to see Ramon. How did he know where to find me? Would he ever stop surprising me like this? I hoped he wouldn’t. If there was any doubt about what his intentions on Friday were based on, they were now cleared from my thoughts. He handed me a beautiful red rose and hugged me, holding on to me a little tightly, resting his hand on top of mine. I let out a small sigh of relief. His intentions were sincere.
“I know I’m a few days early to give you a rose for St. George’s Day, but I couldn’t help myself. I’ve been thinking about you since I saw you last.”
“Me too,” I slowly admitted.
“Would you like to have dinner later?” he asked.
“Sure,” I said, silently elated.
“Just you and me this time,” he winked.
My heart fluttered. I regretted telling him that I had to get to my classroom. He said he would wait for me in the main lobby. I would meet him at 6pm. With a smile I could no longer conceal, I hurried to class. I couldn’t wait for our first date.
The first date.
I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew that whatever happened, we would have a good time-and this time, there would be no distractions. There was much debate as to what I would wear to go out with Ramon amongst the girls. We finally decided that I would wear Nickie’s skinny jeans, white blouse and black cardigan. The only thing of mine that I would wear (aside from my undergarments) was my orange flats.
The girls fixed me up as best as they could, taking into consideration things that I rarely think of: hair and makeup. By the end of their makeover session, I almost didn’t recognize myself. With a little apprehension, I set off from our apartment to meet Ramon in the lobby.
Though I was five minutes late, Ramon was not there waiting. I was surprised, but not in the good way that he had been surprising me. I waited for about ten minutes-“Perhaps he got caught up doing something,” I explained to myself.
Another ten minutes passed. He still did not show up. How odd. By the time seven o’clock came, I was done waiting. Dejected and confused, I returned to the apartment. The girls looked a bit surprised to see me.
“You guys sure eat fast,” Heather commented.
“Why are you back so soon?” Julia asked cautiously.
“He didn’t show,” I replied, speaking slowly, trying to hide my disappointment. It didn’t work. Soon I was swarmed with hugs and sympathy. After talking for an hour or so, I decided to go to bed. The way I reasoned, it could go one of two ways: either he would have a good explanation-and soon-or he really wasn’t interested-in which case, I should just let it go. There was no reason to work myself up over something that hadn’t really started. Either way, it wasn’t my problem.
“If he is interested,” I thought, “then great. But he’s going to have to put forth the effort. And if he isn’t, fine. I’m still having a great time in Spain.”
So it was up to him and how he wanted to approach the situation.
Tuesday started like Monday. But because of my resolution the previous night, I had a fantastic day. I remembered that the children and working with the school were the main things that brought me to Spain. And so, I could enjoy myself and more quickly from an unexpected disappointment such as Ramon.
I met the girls at lunch, and time passed just like yesterday. We talked and laughed and generally had a good time.
Nickie had an interesting story: her teacher had to leave in the middle of the first class-her grandmother was sick. So Nickie was left with all of the kids-and no teacher.
“I’m just glad to have a few minutes out of hell,” she said. “If she’s gone again tomorrow, I’ll need to use my whistle to get their attention.”
She was about to say something more, but something, or someone, caught her attention. She looked surprised but skeptical. I turned to see what caught her attention-and what made her look the way she did which was quickly turning into one of distrust. When I met his face with my eyes, I could feel my expression quickly morph into something matching Nickie’s. I was skeptical; and a little miffed. He had the gall to show his face here?
I rolled my eyes and turned my back to him. When I felt his presence timidly waiting behind my chair, I said as tersely as possible, “What do you want?”
“Can I speak to you for a moment?” he asked.
“What for? I believe you made yourself perfectly clear yesterday.”
”Please? I feel like I owe you an explanation,” he answered, dripping with sincerity.
I let out a huge sigh and finally conceded. I guess hearing his explanation would be interesting to hear, if not comical. We walked to the outside patio to talk. Once outside, he immediately began to explain that he had a family emergency. His mother had an accident and fell at her home. His father was gone out of town-in fact, he was still in Madrid. Out of all her kids, Ramon was the only one she could get a hold of. Luckily, she had her phone with her where she fell. Otherwise, it could have been hours, or days even, before she could get help.
It seemed plausible. Though I didn’t know what to think or what to believe.
“Would you like to meet her?” he asked.
This question threw me off guard. Without thinking I asked, “Why?”
He laughed a bit and then said, “Well, for one, so that you know I’m not lying-she’s in a cast and will be for a while because of her accident yesterday. And two,” he paused to formulate the right words, “it’s not everyday that I meet such a fascinating woman, so when I do, I’d like her to meet my family.”
I was shocked again.
“You can bring your friends too. We’ll make a day of it.”
I agreed. I would need Julia, Heather and Nickie to be there to judge his actions, see things I couldn’t.
“Saturday then,” he said, “I’ll pick you up at the train station at eleven in the morning.”
Saturday. Would he stand me up again? If so, this was his last chance with me. At least I would have the girls with me for moral support.
The week progressed as usual: classes and breaks spread throughout each day. I was getting to know the students very well. They were all so sweet and fun to work with. Before I knew it, Saturday came along. The girls and I got up early to get ready for the day. What would I do? What would I say? Should I trust him?
Julia broke my inward thoughts: “How are you feeling today?”
“I don’t know. I just don’t know what to expect, you know? I just don’t think he’s that into me.”
“Well you don’t know that,” she encouraged. “Don’t give up on him just yet.”
“Yeah,” Nickie agreed,” for all you know, he’s probably thinking the same things you are.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, he’s probably just as nervous and as unsure as you are. He probably doesn’t know what to do of if he’s being too forward or even if you’re interested in him.”
It seemed practical enough to me, and yet, there was still a hint of fear that I felt about the situation. I was beginning to accredit it to my own insecurities-it was true: I hadn’t dated in a long time. So I didn’t have the slightest clue what to do. Realizing this, I started to feel really apprehensive about what was going to happen today. I didn’t have a clue about how to act, what to say.
“What am I doing?” I thought.
When we got off the train in La Plaza Catalunya, there was Ramon, waiting, smiling. He seemed sincere enough, but I was still skeptical.
We were met by another person, a man; he looked very similar to Ramon.
“This is my brother, mi hermano, Tomas,” Ramon said, confirming my observations. We greeted him politely.
“You’ll meet my other brothers at my parent’s house along with my mom and dad.”
“How many brothers do you have?” Heather asked.
“Three, not including me.”
The drive to his parent’s home was beautiful. To get there, we had to drive up one of the mountains located just outside of Barcelona. We reached the house at half past noon. I took one look at Ramon’s mother and knew that the story he told me the other day was indeed true. She was wheeled out, fresh cast on her left leg, by someone I could only assume was Ramon’s father. His other two brothers, who we had yet to meet, flanked their mom and dad on either side.
Introductions went smoothly enough. The other two brothers were Antony and Carlos. His parents were Joseph and Elena.
We spent the day hiking on the trails around his house with Ramon’s brothers. They were all just as good looking as Ramon, but I had eyes only for him. It was funny to see the obvious disappointment in their eyes when they realized I had been claimed by Ramon. But they were nice enough, and we got along really well.
I wish I had a thousand lifetimes to describe the beauty of the trails we walked. The flowers were so vivid in color, it seemed almost surreal, like a waking dream that I never wished to leave. There was so much life, it resonated all around me, to my very core.
Close to five, we decided to head back to the house for dinner. I was taken aback by the scene before me: there was an elegant picnic set up outside with candles, flowers, soft tablecloths and the most delicious food I’ve ever seen. There was even a small area set up for dancing, surrounded by candles on high stands covered in white ribbons and white flowers, where soft music now played.
We ate to our heart’s content: laughing, sharing stories, getting to know one another. Almost unanimously, we got up from the table and moved towards the dance floor. One of Ramon’s brothers changed the music to something with a quicker pace-some radio station unknown to me. We paired up and danced. I, of course, danced with Ramon. He was such a fluid dancer; it almost felt like floating in the middle of a crystal blue lake: effortless.
And the, deja vous kicked in as the music slowed. One again, Ramon pulled me close and I lay my head against his chest as he wrapped his arms around me. Before laying his cheek atop my head, he gave me a soft kiss on my temple. Bliss.
The sun bid its last farewell to our moving figures upon the earth as it sunk fire orange below our feet. And if I was not more amazed by the scenery atop this hill, the sight of the city glowing below pulled me into pure awe. Thousands of lights danced below us like so many amorous fireflies. It was breathtaking.
There wasn’t much time left. Soon the girls and I had to head back to the train station. So I savored every moment with Ramon, every caress of his hand on my arm, every touch that lingered on my quivering, expectant hands like they were moments that needed to be forever etched into my memory. And before long, Tomas was driving us down the mountain. I lay my head on Ramon’s shoulder, feeling elated, secure. And then somehow I ended up back at the train station, saying goodbye quite reluctantly.
Before boarding the train, Ramon asked me if I would have dinner with the next night. I, of course, agreed feeling pacified by the fact that I would see him soon enough. We would have more time to talk and get to know one another.
“I’ll call you tomorrow afternoon,” he resolved. “Until then.” He squeezed my hand lightly and gave me one last look-it was all I could do not to throw my arms around his neck and kiss him. Self-control. For propriety’s sake at least.
We would have tomorrow night. The train ride to Barcelona was a nervous one. Nickie and Julia decided to come with me so that I wouldn’t have to come back to the school alone. I sat in shocked silence the entire ride, broken only by the gentle reassurances of Nickie. I tried to breathe evenly, knowing that I would be okay. He wanted to see me; if he didn’t he wouldn’t have asked me out for dinner.
When we got out of the metro station, we stopped dead in our tracks before taking the steps up to the sidewalk: it was raining bucket loads. Finally, we resolved to run through it and take refuge beneath the nearest awning. We were meeting him at Café Zurich; we could scope out the best possible way to get there from an awning on the sidewalk above.
We made it to the awning of a small café. While we waited for the rain to let up, Nickie and Julia checked out the menu of the café to see if they’d like to stay and eat there while I was out with Ramon. The rain finally died down, and I made my way to the café to meet him. I was past the point of feeling-whatever happened, happened. The rain picked up again as I made my way to the entrance. I walked in cold and a little soaked only to meet Ramon’s smiling face. He walked towards me and gave me a quick kiss on the cheek and a hug.
Luckily, the rain died down again, so he led me to the restaurant where we would share a meal. The place was charmingly quaint with a comfortable, eclectic vibe. We ate, laughed, drank wine, and before I knew it, it was time for me to head back to the train station. The girls would be waiting for me soon, so we could take the last train back to La Garriga. In all honesty, I didn’t want the night to be so soon over.
Ramon walked me back to the station where the girls were already waiting. I was a little sad: I couldn’t kiss Ramon with them standing there. He greeted the ladies cordially, and, they, by some stroke of mind reading, said they would wait for me inside the station.
“Will you have dinner with me tomorrow?” he asked as they were heading down the steps to the station.
“Of course,” I replied. And, not realizing how it happened, Ramon leaned down and kissed me. He kissed me softly, sweetly and pulled away all too soon. My lips were still searching for his, and he, realizing this, moved in closer and kissed me again. My head was spinning.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” I smiled.
“See you then,” he replied. And then I had to walk away; my train was leaving in minutes. I rushed down the steps to meet the girls. I couldn’t relay to them much about my night; I was smiling too much to speak. We boarded our train and headed home. I was thankful for the evening, and I silently prepared, with excitement, for the next time I would see him.
The next day was outlined with smiles and hopeful thoughts. I couldn’t help myself: I glowed. Ramon was the most unexpected thing to happen to me, and I was too thankful to be completely taken aback by the whole situation. What’s more-I knew I wanted to know him from the first moment I saw him. And now, here I was, spending the moments I had hoped for with him.
He came to see me at lunch. However, it was my last fifteen minutes, so we didn’t get to talk much. And we didn’t have time to talk about when we could get together again. So I passed the day and evening with the girls. Hopefully, tomorrow would be different: I only had a few more weeks left; less than two to be exact. The next day Ramon came and spent the lunch hour with me and the girls. It was good to talk with him. He asked me what I had planned for the night. We made plans to go into town together to have a coffee. He came and picked me up at our apartment around 7:00pm.
Talking with Ramon was getting easier and easier. It felt so natural being with him, like we’d been friends for ages instead of weeks. But it was more special, different. He always made me feel like he enjoyed being in my company as much as I enjoyed being in his. I liked that feeling.
The evening passed all too quickly. He walked me back to the school; we stopped at the gate. After making our conclusions to stories and saying our goodbyes, I turned to push the button that would call the guard.
“Hola,” the guard greeted me.
“Hola. Que tal?” I answered.
“Bien,” he responded as the gate buzzed open.
I turned to Ramon to say a final goodbye, and he picked me up in his arms to hug me. I laughed and pulled my face back to look at him, feet dangling in the air. He looked at me serenely, hopefully. And then he leaned in and kissed me. This time, it was different. It started out slow and soft and quickly turned into a frenzy. He placed me gently back down to the floor, mid-kiss, and placed his hands on my neck, his lips never leaving mine. I tangled my fingers in his hair, not wanting to relent. And then, just as smoothly, our lips slowed pace, and we pulled each other close. He hugged me tightly, not wanting to let me go. I hugged back just as earnestly, resting my chin on his shoulder.
I had to let go eventually. He kissed me quickly one last time and held my hand until the distance growing between us as I walked away forced him to let go. I gave him one last smile before turning to head into the school; he whispered a soft goodnight to me.
When I reached the top of the staircase to the apartment, before entering, something hit me. It was like recognizing the meaning of a song that I’ve heard a thousand times over: I liked him. A lot. And I was slowly starting to believe that he felt the same way.
I fell into bed, still glowing. Not just for the evening with Ramon but also for the realization that my feelings for Ramon were real and undeniable.
We spent the rest of the weekday getting together and talking when we could. And then Friday came along. Ramon and I had the entire day to spend together; it was a holiday, Labor Day to be exact. We would explore the city and meet everyone for dinner later-for Julia’s birthday.
For most of the day, Ramon took me to all the different places he’d been that he really liked-things I couldn’t have known about without his help since I didn’t live in the city. And every place I went to was amazing. My favorite place he took me to was this used book store. They had such a wide selection; I could’ve bought every book in the store. Ramon, looking through the C.S. Lewis books, made a great discovery. A rare edition of the first book to the Chronicles series-signed by C.S. Lewis. What’s more is that the store was selling it for a really great price. After praising his wonderful find, I urged him to buy the book which he did. As for me, I found a few titles for decent prices of authors I loved: Austen, C.S., Dostoyevsky. It was such a great day.
We met everyone at the restaurant a little after 8:00pm. Soon we were seated and ordered our food and drinks. Everyone enjoyed each other’s company.
One of the things I enjoyed most with Ramon was that we didn’t have to try hard to get along. We were just as happy sitting next to each other talking with friends as we were being alone. Every now and then he would look at me and give me a special smile, one that I know was only meant for me.
Soon the evening came to a close. Before we walked down to our train, Ramon handed me something-it was the C.S. Lewis book! I couldn’t believe it and met his smile with shock embedded in my expression.
“Ramon…” I stammered,” I can’t…”
He pacified me with a kiss.
“Enjoy it. I want you to have it,” he answered.
I was still too shocked to even thank him. He gave me a hug and I had to leave. I didn’t even have time to talk to him about when I would see him next, but I knew he would call or show up to see me again that weekend.
And so my days in Spain were filled with wonderful adventures-some with Ramon, some with the girls and others with a combination of the two. Before I knew it, our last week of being in Spain had at last come, and with that, the sinking feeling that I would soon have to say goodbye. Part of me wanted to spend as much time with Ramon as I had left; the other wanted to make the slow progression towards letting go. Instead of choosing one or the other, I remained somewhere in the middle, somewhere inactive.
Our last surprise came to me midweek. He picked me up from school during lunch-I had the rest of the day off. He told me to pack a change of clothes and a bathing suit. We spent the rest of the day at the beach. Laughing, talking, enjoying the day. We made dinner at his home, the house in the mountains. I was glad I packed the change of clothes: we talked so much that I missed the last train back to La Garriga. I called the girls so they wouldn’t worry about me. I spent that night with Ramon. But it wasn’t sexual; it was intimate, close. We talked for half the night and woke up the next morning in each other’s arms. Not once did he make me feel uncomfortable or pressured. Like he needed to have more to be happy with me. He followed my lead in this respect which I appreciated.
Soon I had to leave for the train station to make it to school on time. We agreed we would see each other for the next three days until I had to leave. Those three days didn’t move slowly enough. We spent what time we could together, and my final day in La Garriga was soon upon me. In all of the rush to pack and make last minute purchases, Ramon and I didn’t get to see much of each other.
And then we were at the airport, ready to check in. Ramon met me there to give me one final goodbye. The girls, out of respect, said their goodbyes to Ramon and told me they would meet me at the boarding area. Mariela had said her goodbyes and was off, back to La Garriga.
Ramon kissed me tenderly, every movement of his lips on my own emanating his sadness, matching my own. I handed him a small white envelope.
“Don’t read it until I’m gone,” I requested.
He nodded, conceding solemnly.
”There’s something I want to tell you…” he trailed.
“Don’t,” I pleaded as we embraced one last time. “Let’s just be thankful,” I said.
I had to let go of him, and as I walked away, I pictured him opening the letter, reading all the things I didn’t have the right moments to articulate to him when we were together. He would read what he meant to me. How much he meant to me. How I could not believe a person like him existed, someone who fit so well with the kind of person I am and want to be. How I would miss him. How I was chagrinned by the circumstances.
And maybe his heart would agree too, but we had things to do in different places.
I took a final glance at the landscape of Spain as the plane ascended higher and higher in the air, taking me away from that which I longed to be near.
I would remember to always be thankful.