I found a page in my travel diary the other day that warmed my heart.
It was a brief conversation with a Spanish boy I had met in a bar during my travels in Europe.
Him: “Hi, beautiful foreign girl.”
Me: “Are you from here?”
Him: “No I’m from the South – here just for summer.”
Then there’s a big blank space of white before he scribbled, “Thank you.”
It was a warm summer’s evening in the old, picturesque town of San Sebastian. I was out with my friends, bar hopping and strolling around the cobble-stone streets, the sea breeze and red wine making us dizzy and hungry for love.
As early morning came, we ended up in a club, dancing on wooden timber floors to classic tunes with Basque locals. Across the room I caught a glimpse of a young man standing by the bar. He was tall with a relaxed stance, long, surfers’ hair and stubble outlining a dimpled smile. He turned and caught my eye and I shyly looked away.
My skin was tingling from the alcohol and my heart was beating fast in my chest. I kept glancing over to Spanish Jack Johnson and gradually made my way inconspicuously over to his side of the bar. I tried some seductive salsa moves, messing my hair up and smiling like I was a carefree, young traveller any sexy Spanish male would fall for. In reality, I probably looked more like a tipsy, uncoordinated westerner, but the wine had given me a new level of confidence and I wasn’t scared to abuse it.
“Hola nino,” I say as I dance circles around him. He takes my hand in his and twirls me before leading me to the bar where he buys us a few beers. It’s loud in the club, with pumping speakers and rowdy singing. We dance some more and he starts to act out little things, curling a strand of my hair around his fingers or pointing to my smile. I ask him a few questions in broken Spanish and he replies with a nod or a shake of his head. I realise maybe my Spanish hardly resembles a language and he doesn’t understand me, so I ask if he can speak English. He holds his hands together to represent ‘a little bit’. I think he is trying to play a game of charades with me and it’s mysteriously fun. The night rolls on and we dance some more. He leans in to press his body against mine. Slowly holding my face close to his, he stares sweetly into my eyes and kisses me ever so softly. He then pulls from his chest pocket a little lavender bud and puts it under my nose to smell. I laugh and inhale the beautiful scent. He presses it to my hand and looks at me as if to express how incredible the flower’s perfume is.
He takes my hand and leads me outside. The moon is full and reflects on the ripples of the river across the path. He is handsome and gentle, and we have a connection one rarely comes across on a first encounter. I don’t know anything about him. He suddenly looks nervous and holds my arms like he’s going to tell me something that pains him. But the words come out croaky and broken. I can understand that it’s English, but I can’t distinguish what he is trying to say. This seems to frustrate him. I ask him some more questions and it suddenly occurs to me why he cannot speak or understand me. He is deaf.
He looks at me with a worried expression and backs away a little, expecting me to leave. I think of how hard it must be to meet people and communicate without a voice. How could you share your opinions, take place in debates and flatter girls with charming words? I think of how many women would take a liking to him and then freak out when they find out he’s deaf.
He says something in sign language and I shrug. He looks as if he has given up but I smile and lean in to kiss him. I take out my diary and pen and scribble down, “Hi.” I hand it to him, he replies, smiling, “Hi.”
Cover by Sally Zabava