We were in Paula’s kitchen. She had a beer in her hand. She was more interested in the ring pull than its contents. My beer was drained. I wanted to grab another but she was about to say something. Her eyes, a mixture of confusion and sadness, were searching the crumbs on her plate as if they might gather to show her a way outta this situation.
Her throat admitted a trembling sound. Her lip wobbled. Tears rolled down her face.
‘I’ve been working so hard…but for what? What am I doing with my life?’
I had never seen her like this.
It had seemed to me that she never entertained negative thoughts.
Like me, she was relatively new to Bilbao. She moved into a large apartment in Casco Viejo in January and began a new life. She started working in a clinic and secured a side gig in a university. She created a social life through couch surfing events, dance lessons and Tinder. She made new friends who showed her around the city.
Then, into the stream of things that seemed to be flowing in the right direction, I jumped.
I liked her instantly. She was beautiful, smart and kind. On the first date my loves and hates of Bilbao made her laugh out loud. On the second she introduced me to two of her new friends. On the third, finally, she kissed me. It was a surprise how uninhibited she was; kissing me passionately in front of the people on the metro platform. I was dazed the whole ride home.
She brought me around Bilbao; to the old town with its labyrinth of narrow streets, to polished bars famed for delicious pintxos, to hidden restaurants stripped of any pretension, to hipster cafes along the riverside and to San Francisco Street, a place that pulsed with an energy more frenetic than anywhere else in the city.
But, in the kitchen that night, she was just bringing me down. She was upset because her career wasn’t progressing as she had hoped. I tried to take the fact that she was dropping her usual assured optimism and showing a vulnerable side as a positive step forward, but something wouldn’t let me.
She fiddled with the ring pull on her can. I moved to the chair next to her and put my arm around her. She pulled the ring pull off, dropped it on her plate and sighed. She fingered the busted mouth of the can. I was worried she might cut her finger so I took her hand in mine. She pulled it away and returned to the jagged edges. I felt sorry for her but my sympathy was overridden by a selfish fear – it wasn’t just work that was upsetting her – her feelings towards me had changed.
She wiped the tears from her face, took a deep breath and said;
‘In three weeks things are gonna change- for better or for worse.’
That night I couldn’t sleep. I lay next to her, burdened with an unspoken awareness that she would rather I wasn’t there. She couldn’t sleep either. I could feel her eyes searching the darkness.
I replayed a conversation we had weeks ago. We were talking about the dating scene. I was pessimistic.
‘I dunno – with all these dating apps, it’s like everybody’s looking over their shoulder – looking out for someone new, instead of giving their current relationship a proper shot. So we end up having lots of relationships and each one leaves us a little more scarred, a little more confused.’
She was more positive.
‘I think it’s a good thing because you meet lots of different people and you know better what you want.’
She threw the covers back and got outta bed. She stopped in the doorway for a moment and her naked body was silhouetted in the light. She looked so beautiful I ached with sadness and yearning. She went to the bathroom. When she got back into bed she sighed. I was losing her. I needed to do something.
‘Are you okay?’
‘Are you sure?’
‘Yes. Well, can you move over a bit please?’
I needed her to tell me that it wasn’t me, that she was just upset about work.
‘You know the way you said in three weeks time things would change?
‘I hope that in three weeks time – you and I are still together .’
She smiled, kissed me on the lips and said nothing.
If you liked this you might also like; A Bit of Romance