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 the type of carefree traveller any sexy Spaniard would fall for. In reality, I probably looked more like a tipsy, uncoordinated bogan, but the wine had given me a new level of confidence and I wasn’t scared to abuse it.
“Hola chico,” I said as I danced circles around him. He took my hand in his and twirled me before leading me to the bar where he bought us a few beers. It was loud in the club, with pumping speakers and rowdy singing. We danced some more and he started to act out little things, curling a strand of my hair around his fingers or pointing to my smile. I asked him a few questions in broken Spanish, and he replied with a nod or a shake of his head.
Maybe my Spanish hardly resembles a language and he doesn’t understand me, I thought, so I asked if he could speak English. He held his hands together to represent “a little bit”. I thought he was trying to play a game of charades with me, and it was mysteriously fun.
The night rolled on and we danced some more. He leaned in to press his body against mine. Slowly, holding my face close to his, he stared sweetly into my eyes and kissed me ever so softly. He then pulled from his chest pocket a little lavender bud and put it under my nose to smell. I laughed and inhaled the beautiful scent. He placed it in my palm and looked at me as if to express how incredible the flower’s perfume was.
He took my hand and lead me outside. The moon was full and reflected on the ripples of the river across the path. He was handsome and gentle, and we had a connection one rarely comes across on a first encounter. I didn’t know anything about him.
He suddenly looked nervous and held my arms like he was going to tell me something that pained him. But the words came out croaky and broken. I could understand that it was English, but I couldn’t distinguish what he was trying to say. This seemed to frustrate him. I asked him some more questions, and it suddenly occurred to me why he couldn’t speak or understand me.
He was deaf.
He looked at me with a worried expression and backed away a little, expecting me to leave. He said something in sign language, and I shrugged. He looked as if he had given, up but I smiled and leaned in to kiss him.
I too out my diary and pen and scribbled down, “Hi.” Then I handed it to him. He replied, smiling: “Hi.”
Cover by Sally Zabava