Geez! I’m going to be late – as usual!
I skirt a panicked look at the time on my laptop screen feeling the adrenaline rise in my system.
‘Decide Z!’ I scold myself as I peer at my reflection in the mirror.
I puff out an exasperated sigh. I guess I’ll just be swooping up my poof then. I had wanted to do something a little more dramatic…but there’s no more time.
As I finger out my 4c coils, I quickly assess myself one last time. A loose-fitted sweater tucked into a high-waisted figure-hugging short skirt. Matched with sheer stocking and my comfy ankle boots since I’ll be going on foot.
I coat some mascara over my lashes and smooth some lip balm over my lips for the finishing touch then grab my purse and coat.
My phone vibrates, “I should be arriving in 5 minutes or so. Looking forward to meeting you :)” The smiley face makes me feel that much more guilty. I’m late! How rude!
I dash out, if I skip I could still somehow make it in time.
I scurry along feeling bitter about the Andalusian winter that I was misled to believe would not be cold.
I feel my phone vibrate again but I keep moving, I’ll be there soon.
On arriving, I take my phone out and call Paolo.
“Hey, I’m here…I’m sorry. I know I’m a little late. Where are you exactly?”
We had chosen to meet at the mall – which was enormous.
I can hear the smile in his voice, “It’s okay. I see you.”
Whoa. I feel really shy all of a sudden. No, no that won’t do! When I get shy I’m no longer able to speak Spanish! I take a deep breath. And I look up and around to see if I’ll be able to pick him out somehow.
“Don’t move” the line goes dead. Okay, I feel shy again. Get it together, Z.
Language exchange is one of my favourite hobbies. I guess since I’m still a beginner in Spanish it’s making me apprehensive. Or, there’s something more…that I can’t put my finger on.
I feel a tap on my shoulder and I hold my breath as I turn around.
He is looking at me. I smile. I can be like Sookie Stackhouse and over-smile when I feel nervous.
“Hola, princesa.” I keep smiling, and he keeps looking at me. Okay…
His dark hair is shaggier than in his profile picture, and he has really broad shoulders. I can tell that he could pack a punch.
“Um, I’m sorry I’m late.”
He smiles slowly, “Not a problem.” And then he starts with the staring again.
I feel my Aries fire rise and try to quell her.
“So, would you like to find somewhere to sit?”
“Sure.” He keeps staring at me with those chestnut-brown eyes. I’m starting to feel uncomfortable, and I’m definitely not cold any more. Not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
And then he takes my hand and starts walking.
Whoa…? We just met…? Is this an Italian thing, like the way South Korean girlfriends hold hands?
He glances at me and smiles. I smile back although I’m feeling disoriented.
He isn’t saying anything. The whole point of this encounter is to speak, no? To practice speaking our target languages?
“So, how long have you been living in Spain for?”
“5 años.” Cool. I see the little cafe, and I see the Spanish men standing outside looking at me, the way this Italian whose hand I’m (bizarrely) holding has also been looking at me. My senses pick up.
A Heated Conversation
We walk inside and I’m really feeling hot now, so I take off my coat. He stares me – or, at my body, and more intensely this time. Now I am truly uncomfortable. He isn’t even trying to be discreet.
His eyes move up to my face and my growing displeasure must show because he smiles sweetly. I raise an eyebrow.
I look around and see that some of the Spaniards have taken to staring at the Italian man and black woman. Great. Just what I need!
“Would you like something to drink?”
“No, thank you.” I reply after a short pause. He peers at me, and I turn my gaze as I make to sit at a table.
I feel like something is off, but I want to make the most of this exchange.
He comes back with a beer, and a bottle of water – the latter for me.
“Gracias.” I smile hoping to put the initial awkward energy behind us.
“De nada, princesa.”
“So…” I try to take charge and guide our conversation. We begin to speak in Spanish as I inquire about his years in Spain and his old life back in Italy. He openly answers all my questions with a glint in his eyes and a confident charm.
“Your Spanish is really good“ he lies. “Tell me about yourself, Zara.”
Geez, I hate to talk about myself. What can I say without saying anything?
I search my brain as I ramble on about nothing. On looking back at him I see his eyes fixated on my lips. The glint is gone. And has been replaced with …something else.
I start to feel my blood rise again. I can feel him, and I silently curse my Mars energy for carnally responding.
I need to wrap this up.
I glance at his empty glass and my untouched bottle of water. I reach for it and pour myself a sip to cool myself down. His eyes follow my hand movements and then he watches me closely while I drink. Can he chill!
“Well, thank you for meeting up with me,” I smile sweetly hoping to exude an air of polite distance.
“Fue un placer. We should do it again sometime.” I just make to get up and reach for my coat.
He mirrors my movements as he gazes at my legs and body. I cannot button my coat fast enough! I guess that’s one good thing about cold weather.
“Shall we?” He gestures for me to make the way. I am aware of him following closely behind me through the sea of people. Maybe too aware.
A Confusing Climax
Once outside, I’m grateful for the cold air and tilt my chin up to the early-evening moon that is starting to show…
I open my eyes and catch him watching me. He smiles when he sees that I’ve caught him. He takes my hand again and starts leading me to the path back from where we had come from.
After some paces, I stop. I have no sense of direction.
“Que te pasa?”
“I’m …trying to figure out exactly where we are.” He looks at me quizzically. Then moves towards me grabbing me by my shoulders as he gently but firmly twists me,
“You live in the city centre, right?”
“Uh huh …”
“Well then you’ll be going that way. I can walk you over.”
“Oh.” … I’m trying to process what he’s said, but having him this close is disconcerting.
His hands start to slide down my arms, and he turns me to face him.
Whoa, I can’t breath.
He is looking at me, into me. Into my eyes, but also at my lips. He is radiating heat. I…
He suddenly makes to kiss me -
“Hey!” I press my hands into his chest and push myself back to break free of the hands I feel threatening to circle my waist and pin me to him “What are you doing, Paolo?”
He does not skip a beat.
“Eres bella.” He had pronounced the second word the Italian way, I don’t know why I noticed this. I guess all my senses are heightened at this point.
I just gape at him. Half in shock, and annoyingly, half turned on. And there’s a fraction of indignation in there somewhere but I’ll let you do the math.
“You’re so beautiful. How can you be so beautiful?” Am I hearing him right? “Let me kiss your lips, princesa. Your mouth is so sweet.” Is he serious? Is he bloody serious?
“No… Never!” I feel myself breathing deeply as I try to gather my bearings.
I need to go. I turn to leave and he grabs my hand – his hand is so warm.
“No. Wait. Are you angry?” Am I?
“No, Yes. I don’t know why you thought that would be a good idea.” I look into his eyes and I feel it have an effect on him.
“You’re so beautiful, and …you seemed receptive.” Huh?!
“Okay, estás loco. I’m going home, okay?” He just stares at me, I’m not sure that he heard what I said.
“I want to see you again, Zara.” I’m not sure what I want. He wasn’t a total jerk, but I’m not a fan of his Italian ‘passion’ that suspiciously rivals a fetish.
“Thanks for the …drink. Hasta luego.” I make my leave and he calls out after me,
I don’t turn…I just keep going.
What just happened? Was it something I did? I turn on my music as I stroll home. I can see the Spanish men calling out to me but fortunately, I can’t hear what they’re saying.
Sometimes I wonder, is the response I get from certain European men due to my being an African woman? Would Paolo have dared to conduct himself in such a bold and inappropriate manner with a white woman from Denmark?
Did he feel that it wasn’t out of line to abandon all control and sense of propriety to succumb to his desires because I’m an ‘exotic, wild thing‘ – as his continent’s media likes to portray those who look like me.
I don’t know.
I do know however, that I’ll be taking a very hot shower once I’m home.
My phone vibrates,
“Muchas gracias princesa, I had a great time with you. Let’s see each other again soon, please. I’m going to dream of you tonight. “
Make that a long hot shower, some gummy bears and an Anime marathon.