The Man, the Beach and the Love Story
Inspired by a real man who was looking for his clothes, trembling, on the beach in Barcelona in a great international evening with great friends 🙂 Thank you all! (Sorry, it’s a love story again…)
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When he felt the cold water, the thought passed through his head. Maybe it was not such a great idea to go swimming at night. He stopped with his feet in the sea and looked around. The water was dark and shiny in the moonlight and the faraway lights of the port were twinkling like little drops of honey dripping from an open jar.
It was a stupid thing to do. He was obviously drunk. Not drunk enough not to realize that he was drunk, and yet quite drunk. Swimming in the sea at night after an indefinite number of vodka tonics was the worst idea ever.
He nodded to himself, then went in with a splash.
Her eyes had been the first thing he saw when he first met her one year ago. Why he thought of her eyes now, while he was swimming lazily in the Balearic sea, he did not know. His thoughts were a mess of cold, memories of her and the faint knowledge of how drunk he was.
He turned on his back and continued swimming slowly, letting the cold envelope his whole body with a kind of masochistic pleasure.
Her eyes were deep blue, but in the late Spanish afternoon they had looked almost purple. She was scanning the room aimlessly as if looking for someone but no one in particular. There was a big fruity cocktail in front of her and she was tapping her fingers on the stem of the glass as if she was waiting for something.
He looked at her for a moment, then scanned the cafe in his turn, looking for his colleagues. He was supposed to meet a few of them for a drink but he did not see anyone. He went to the bar, ordered an Estrella, took the first bitter gulp and signed.
He was bored. The whole conference had been boring and now he was supposed to spend the evening with the same boring people. He preferred to go to Jambouree where there was a jazz session that night. Thay way, he could just sit, listen to good music, have a drink and not talk to anybody. Not that he did not like company, but these days he was a bit fed up with people and just wanted some time for himself.
He sat down at the bar with his back to the cafe and took out his phone. His battery was dead. Which was actually great considering his misanthropic mood. Maybe he got the cafe wrong. Maybe the others were at another cafe. The thought felt good. Yet, he did not want to get too optimistic, so he turned around and scanned the cafe again, hoping not to find the group. And he didn’t.
But he saw her again. Only that time her piercingly purple eyes were staring right at him. Like two violets, if violets could be cold and sharp.
Cold was good, he thought.
The water splashed quietly around as he continued moving. His arms were going mechanically, as if he was a small swimming robot. Small is how he felt in the vast emptiness of the sea. High above him, the moon was laughing at him and his vodka tonics like the aunt that always told you to be careful with alcohol. And not to swim while drunk.
He never listened to that aunt.
Cold. His mind drifted away again from the cold water to her cold eyes fixed on him in the cafe. For a moment he thought she was looking for someone. But instead of wandering around, her look remained stubbornly fixed on him. Then, she suddenly stood up, took her fruity glass and walked up to him. Bewildered as he was, he couldn’t help but notice her swinging walk as if she was a wave coming to him in her pale blue dress.
A wave. Then another. Wave after wave, tiny and chilly. The water hugged him tightly in a demonic embrace.
‘Hello,’ she said as she sat next to him. ‘May I?’
Still pretty surprised, he couldn’t get himself to answer with anything more than a disbelieving ‘yes’.
The disbelief he could not explain to himself. He was a handsome man and he knew it. He didn’t have any difficulty approaching women in almost any context. It was so easy that sometimes it even began to feel boring. He wasn’t a player but he wasn’t a lonely guy either.
So he didn’t know why he was so surprised that she actually chose him. Long time after that steamy Spanish afternoon he couldn’t explain the unreal feeling that he always got from her. As if she herself was not real and neither was he. As if their short romance was a figment of his imagination.
But she was quite real. Her skin under his fingers felt like the soft Catalan cream that he had come to love since he arrived in Barcelona. It even tasted like it – sweet and sugary bitter at the same time, a metaphor of their few days of strange, hurried love.
Not that he ever called it love back then. It was a distraction. He was bored with his work, and looking for a pleasant way to spend the time after work. She had come to Barcelona by chance, because her flight from the US was diverted. She was only staying for three days. It was the perfect love story – short, with a deadline and with almost no questions asked. He didn’t even know where she was going after Barcelona. He didn’t know if she was single. He didn’t know if she had told him her real name or where she was from. And he didn’t care. Or so he thought.
Now, as he was swimming in the chilly night, he also thought he did not care about the cold. That he barely felt it. Until it became so piercing that his chaotic memories dispersed like flies and he suddenly realized how stupid he was. With a few quick strokes he managed to get out of the water, stepped on the wet sand and the cold pushed him in the chest. His muscles cringed, his breath froze in his throat and he realized he was actually freezing. The late October night was laughing at him and the moon was probably grinning too, the old, all-knowing aunt.
Trembling, he made a few quick steps on the cold sand, realizing he was no longer that drunk. And that he had no idea where his clothes were. He had taken them off when he decided to go for a swim but he had obviously swum for quite some time and his clothes were nowhere to be seen. He looked around to see an empty beach and the lights of the restaurants glimmering uncertainly in the distance along the shore.
As he started walking back and searching for his clothes with still dizzy eyes, his mind drifted back to her.
It was an unusually warm October, with glaringly sunny days and cool nights. His conference was ever so boring and he took every opportunity to escape from the grey air-conditioned room earlier and to go to her hotel. She didn’t like the heat and spent her days inside, reading and taking long baths. When he went to her, her whole room smelled of lilac bath salts and the smell was making him almost as dizzy as her purple eyes.
They talked a lot and yet knew very little about their lives, about the boring details of a person’s everyday routine. Job, family, and meaningless routines didn’t seem to matter. They talked about life, and about the strange ways two people could meet just once in their lives. Then, they made love almost the whole night, without feeling the need to sleep, as if they were on some surreal drug. The three days and three nights seemed all very surreal, and when they ended, he suddenly felt robbed.
She didn’t say goodbye. On the last morning, he overslept in her bed, intoxicated by the smell of lilac on the sheets. As soon as he opened his eyes and sat up in bed, he realized the room was empty. Her clothes, her bags, everything had disappeared. Even the lilac smell had begun to disperse. There was only the note, ‘It was more than a good time for me. If you feel the same, I will meet you in our cafe next year on this day. Eight o’clock.’
It took him some time to realize how eagerly he started waiting for that day. He arranged his travel almost six months before, booked a room in the same hotel and went to the cafe two hours earlier.
For two hours and forty minutes, he waited. He had coffee, then continued with an Estrella, and then switched to vodka tonics. Until the thought that she was not coming emerged in his dizzy head together with the absurd resolution to go for a swim.
A very bad idea, as he now knew, walking in the chill with only his underwear on, looking for his clothes like a madman in the night.
He wasn’t sure if he felt good when he found them. He didn’t get warm for sure. Then, as he came back to the cafe with his hair dripping, he wondered if another vodka tonic will do him good.
‘She was here!’, the bartender shouted as soon as he came in. ‘She arrived five minutes after you left. She went to the beach, then came back and waited almost an hour. Then she left. But you have a note!’
Slowly taking the small piece of paper, he looked up to the bartender and then to the clock next to his head. It showed nine and a quarter. He then looked at his watch that showed ten and a quarter.
‘Jose… Was it today? That we had to turn the clock one hour back?’
He had been early. Too early. The note in his hand was laughing at him. Everything was laughing at him that night.
‘I don’t want to know why you went away. I don’t know if I will be back again. But maybe… Next year, same date, same time?’