“Well! Haven’t you dolled yourself up! Are you out to catch a Spaniard?” She winks at me.
The Palacio de Comunicaciones glows in the late evening sunlight, when the heat has subsided slightly. The city’s most regal adornments tower over me, demanding awe and attention. Yet I’m still drawn to my messages.
“Amigos de más” reads the film poster. “Liarías con tu amigo mejor?” Well. I already have.
“The new Daniel Radcliffe film looks good,” I type. “I’d like to see it with you.”
A theatre with Spain’s most-lauded names crowning its helm. My breath hangs in midair. Life is a dream. Was this dream there?
A figure stands in the forefront of the square, arms plaintively, simply, peacefully outstretched. The poet of New York, martyr of fascist boots, smiles slightly. With a gasp I realise the little bird that he is gently releasing into the sky is bound for the theatre. Breathing the surreal into the golden.
I’ve got to get there before sunset, I think. I have to. I drop the languid tourist garb and set off down the street. My phone is clearly in an adventurous mood, leading me up wide, shallow steps, up, up, until the walls swallow the cafés and churches behind me. I question the dotted line that mischievously teases me even further uphill, through apartment blocks and parking lots, more and more removed from the gentle clatter of evening cerveza. But I continue to hike skywards, round and across, until suddenly the grey opens up for me and a sunlit street beckons me onwards. Down the road, go, go. I am racing the sun as it melts away and the dusk stretches. Turn the corner, go, uphill now. And there it sits, awaiting me. The square. I shake off my surprise at how tiny it is. The lanterns are aglow and the sky is honeyed. It is meant to be disappointing but I am moved at its quiet beauty. The light dims.
The bar is aptly named: our figures glitter in the glass. I see him not long after I arrive. Tall, beautifully dressed. But I don’t speak to him; I befriend an apprehensive-looking pair of spectacles and we discuss our commonality, the dreaming spires. The evening rolls on. Charismatic waiters whisk around me, calling me pretty names and making pretty jokes.
Later, he is alone and I take my chance. I confidently introduce myself. We talk.
The height difference disorientates me. He has kind eyes and small teeth. He loves the study of architecture, he tells me, but abhors the profession. I have a secret weakness for architecture students. Stéphane. I wonder whether he thinks he is unique, and realises that he is not.
I doubt it.
But I put aside my cynicism. We talk about London. We talk about Spanish. Yet he has to go, he tells me, looking at his watch. He has to run the bulls tomorrow morning. I pretend I am not taken aback by this. I am not sure what to think. His number. He leaves.
I am aware of my own pulsing, throbbing energy as I course through the underground tunnels. I have never been this fearlessly, aggressively reckless. My playsuit does not even cover my arse and I am certain I have cellulite but I do not care. I feel nimble and small and strong. My golden heels click through the Labrinth because I am a firework.