The next morning the questions are still following me around like persistent bees. My girlfriend finally responded to my text, acknowledged that things aren’t okay, but failed to signify why they aren’t okay. I guess I should know. I wanna cut the bullshit so I suggest we meet over coffee. Fine, she says.
So after Spanish class I walk across town to Santurtzi. The rain and the tall buildings lend the place the feel of a dark, damp cave. It’s the type of weather that makes you grimace.
I’m standing outside the café when I see her coming towards me with an umbrella in hand. Now, J looks serious at the best of times, but as she nears I see her eyes are burning with an extra intensity; I mean, she looks like she wants to fucking kill someone. I’m pretty sure that I might be that someone but I have no idea why.
We kiss on the lips.
‘What’s wrong J?’
Well, you should tell your face that.
It’s a terrific quip that I keep to myself. Instead I say, in Spanish, that it’s clearly more than nothing. She makes a dismissive sound, letting me know that I have failed to execute the phrase correctly.
I feel like my stomach is being held hostage by her face. The atmosphere is heavy and I wanna change it.
‘I’ve been worried,’ I say.
We step inside the café. It’s just another café: pintxos wrapped with cellophane on the counter, elderly clientele, uncomfortable chairs and the owner looks like he hasn’t had a day off in years. He’s in no rush. As he prepares the coffees I think: Am I gonna get dumped here? No, she wouldn’t have kissed me on the lips if she was going to do that. I mean no-one has ever been betrayed by a kiss, have they? We sit down at a table.
‘So. How was Saturday night?’ she asks.
She said Saturday night as if there were quotation marks around it, as if it were some silly made up time in a made up game I play with my friends. She’s looking at me really closely.
‘Fine. Nothing special,’ I shrug. ‘We had some beers in Casco Viejo: Noel, Dave and I. We went around to a few bars and finished up early: got the metro around 130. Sin mas.’
The casual manner which I deploy does nothing to disarm her. She unleashes her second question.
‘When did you make the plan to go to Bilbao? I’m just curious.’
Curious? Furious more like. Another great quip that I keep to myself. Still, I know now what’s up.
‘That morning. Remember when I texted you and you said that you weren’t feeling any better?’
She nods. She’s listening intently and I feel like I’m one wrong word away from a massive argument.
‘So I assumed I wasn’t going to see you and made plans with the boys,’ I continue gingerly. ‘Then you said we could meet for a coffee and I thought Great, but I assumed it would be just that – a coffee.’
‘Things went differently than I had expected,’ she says.
‘You thought that we were going to spend the night together?’ I say, touched.
‘Yes. And over coffee we have this big conversation about spending the future together. Then, I go to the toilet and when I come back it seems suddenly we aren’t even going to spend the evening together. And I was like ‘Que?’’
‘Okay, alright. I’m sorry. But, you understand as well, that I thought it was just going to be a coffee?’
Something occurs to me.
‘But how come, when we said goodbye on Saturday evening, everything was alright?’ I ask.
‘Sometimes you only think of these things afterwards,’ she says.
‘So, yesterday, I was trying to figure out what was wrong. I figured it was something to do with the conversation we had had, that you had changed your mind about the future and all.’
‘And when you didn’t text me back last night I was so worried. I was so worried,’ I say.
‘Yes. I’m sorry.’
Her hand reaches across the table and caresses mine. The tension dissipates and a warmth comes over her features. My stomach begins to settle.
‘I feel better now. Now that we talked about it.’
We finish our coffees. Such is the change in mood I expect that, once we step outside, the atmosphere will have shifted accordingly; the sun will shine, birds will chirp and a barber shop quartet will be on the road singing songs of love. If anything though, the weather is worse. We huddle under her umbrella and set off together.
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