Hola guapa, it sounds a little hoarse to my ear while I am in the local bakery in the square ordering a brown baguette…I look behind me to see that the attractive Spanish bricklayer with distinguished grey hair greets me with a smile. Igualmente, I whisper back. My ‘likewise’ in reply to his flattering “hello gorgeous,” gives his dark skin a red glow. It amuses me as this interaction is only happening in my head.
For quite a few weeks now our eyes have met every time I go to the square for a coffee, which is practically every day. He stands out from the other bricklayers as seemingly the most skilful worker.
The previously picture-postcard, idyllic square, with a beautiful Spanish fountain and benches made out of cement completely covered with colourful Moorish tiles – perfect to linger in the sun – has changed into a modern square with misplaced grey marble tiles. Now cold and unwelcoming, nobody is happy with the new look, but the work goes on.
I pay for my bread and walk towards a table in the square. I load the free chair next to me with some daily shopping and order a ‘café con leche’. I try not to make it look too obvious that I have picked a table with a good view of Pepe, as his colleagues call him. He must have sensed me sitting down as he looks up and our eyes meet, but we both furtively look away.
Pepe decides which tiles need to be laid next. He is the one who puts them down with extreme precision, measuring everything carefully. It makes him look very attractive although I don’t really understand why I feel little tingles in my belly. Sometimes he stands up straight to light a cigarette, but his breaks never last long, he is a hard working man. In contrast, his colleagues clearly embrace the ‘mañana’ attitude with no haste in their actions; what will not happen today will happen tomorrow and the day after that. Every now and then one of them cuts a tile with a lot of noise and passes it to Pepe and they then all sit back from the effort to watch Pepe put the tile into place; disinterested expressions on their weathered faces.
I cannot keep my eyes off Pepe. His slim, muscle-toned body visible beneath his white T-shirt, his hands protected by white workmen’s gloves. Is this one of the last uncontrollable, subconscious urges of my body to start a family I wonder? Feeling attracted to this very fit, hardworking man around my age….. it is still possible, I’m still ovulating.
I take a last sip of my coffee with warm milk and place the empty cup back in front of me on the white plastic table of the pavement café. I take out my notebook which I use to write my daily experiences. ‘It all feels rather exciting now that I know for sure that he realises I am regularly staring at him’, I write, but my eyes drift away again, looking for Pepe. I don’t see him and feel disappointed.
Suddenly there is a tap on my shoulder. I am startled and look up. Disculpa! he excuses himself … can I offer you something to drink? He doesn’t await my answer and sits down self-assuredly. I am Pepe he says in a thick Andalusian accent. Hola Pepe, I am Renate… encantada! I say rather politely to make clear that his company is welcome. Are you a writer. What are you writing about? I tell him that I write about my life in Spain, but I feel embarrassed, afraid that he will understand that it is about him. He orders a red wine for me and a beer for himself.
He has grey smiley eyes. I had not noticed that from a distance as the middle-aged state of my eyes and my vain habit of going through life without my glasses, turns my long-distant world into a blur. A pleasant blur that is almost romantic.
Salud, I say when I hold up my ‘vino tinto’ and he his ‘cerveza’. He neatly blows the smoke from his cigarette away from my face while we talk about the square, the tiles and his expertise. He is proud that I’ve noticed his skilfulness and offers me a generous smile, revealing his teeth. Quite a few are missing. It makes him look a lot older than he is, but I am already under his spell and he knows it.
A little later we walk hand in hand to a small hotel in one of the back streets. I am terribly nervous and behave like a 15 year old child. I giggle and stumble over a small rug in the hallway, but Pepe catches me gallantly. I smell his musky skin and realise that our pheromones are mingling enthusiastically. Quickly we walk up the stairs to the hotel room. It is clean and smells of wild lavender from the small vase on the side table. I have no eyes for that now though, only for Pepe. He takes off his shirt and it crosses my mind that he looks like a matchstick with his brown face and white body. I smile. The explosion of soft grey curls on his well-sculpted chest makes up for it. Passionately he pulls me against him. I feel as if I have ended up in the latest Mills and Boon novel.
My breathing stops when he moves his hands, sensually, painfully slowly but self assuredly, downwards towards my hips. He kisses my neck and I feel my body reacting. I press it against his and listen to the accelerated beating of his heart. We kiss passionately while his hands explore the roundness of my body, delighted with my curves. He carefully pulls up my skirt and I feel his hands moving in the direction of my briefs…
Hiya, can I join you? I fancy a ‘tapa’! I am cruelly interrupted in my fantasy by Sandy, my next door neighbour.
From the corner of my eye I see Pepe, resting his body against a wall in a slightly tilted James Dean pose, secretly peeping at me while he lights another cigarette!
A few days later I am watching my wet knickers on the washing line as they flap in the full wind. I enjoy a few hours of early spring sunshine on my roof terrace with its view to an enchanting rocky, sand-coloured mountain range interspersed with a dash of pine tree green. I notice the noise in my head. Too many thoughts, too many things I want to do but forever postpone. I think back to my life with my ex partner, hearing his comments in my head. ‘Holy’ wet pants, he says with a big smile, because some of my knickers have holes in them. My mother also pops into my head, still worried about me in her afterlife, Child you should be ashamed of yourself, what will the neighbours think!
I don’t really care what the neighbours think. I suspect that they find me rather strange! I often find myself strange and laugh about my own unusual behaviour, as I did this very morning.
Still somewhat sleepily, I pull to a close behind me the blue iron door of my small home that I rent in a Spanish white-washed mountain village. I walk up the steep narrow street with my dog, the white tip of his black tail enthusiastically waving in the fresh morning breeze. My favourite song, ‘Aisha’ sang by the ‘Outlanders’ enters my ears via ear phones. The slow-beat rhythm makes me want to dance; my step becomes lighter and a smile adorns my face.
Every now and then I feel the vibration of my voice singing along with a few words while we enter the green hilly area surrounding the village, walking in the direction of the valley. It is still very quiet in the streets. Life never starts early in Spain, but a few cars full of bricklayers and bank employees drive in the direction of the village centre. I’m thinking about Pepe, as I do all the time. I feel a strong tingling sensation in my under belly when I do and my mind drifts off into places I’ve never been before. Places of isolation where I can continue our get-together.
“Chops”, my dog and I now walk through the valley which is lush with green vegetation after a long, wet winter. After almost an hour we return to the village in the direction of the square. We pass through picturesque narrow streets and I notice my heartbeat getting faster. It is not because of my uphill walk, but I am painfully aware that I am getting increasingly nervous while approaching the square.
I could easily have taken a different route to reach home, but I need to see Pepe, I need Pepe to see me, it is stronger than my common sense. Passing the square I realise it is still too early for the bricklayers to have started their daily work so I walk back home, take a shower and walk out the door with my notebook and a shopping list.
I always find an excuse to persuade myself to go to get something from one of the village shops surrounding the square. Legitimate excuses I convince myself, but the truth is that I want to stare at Pepe. He is the one who makes my heart beat more rapidly than anything else. It is a bit absurd that I cannot keep my eyes off him but that when he looks back and our eyes meet, I rapidly look away, feeling caught and terribly shy.
But today will be different. I need to create a change, I need to address this situation and say something to him, anything!
Arriving at the square I must tread really carefully as the new tiles are extremely slippery and I don’t want to fall flat on my face. I have to take small steps and straighten my back to maintain a good balance. In a stately manner I stride in the direction of the pharmacy. I pass Pepe and his colleagues who are working right in front of the highly illuminated store. I am uncomfortably aware that my straight, somewhat unusual posture, makes my over-sized breasts stand out more than I would like, as a result of which I am not paying attention to the small entrance step.
I stumble and cannot prevent myself from falling down in the most unflattering position. In a flash I realise that you should be careful what you wish for because it might come true, thinking back to my fantasy the day before. But it is not exactly the same. This time my stumble over a small step does not land me in the strong arms of Pepe. I feel extremely awkward, force a silly smile on my face and, too embarrassed to look around me, I get up and quickly walk into the pharmacy to buy anti-varicose support panties.
For a moment I seriously consider staying in the pharmacy for the rest of the day but it is only ten o’clock in the morning. I pull myself together and walk to the pavement cafe where I strategically sit myself down at a table with a good view to the entrance of the cafe. Pepe is now having his morning break with a coffee, a glass of brandy and a cigarette.
Out of habit, and without asking me, the barman brings me my ‘latte’ with sweets. I like that. I realise that it will only be a couple days for the square to be finished and Pepe to disappear from my life. I have to say something, I have to let him know my feelings. After his break he walks out of the cafe and I seize my chance. Oiga, I say, to attract his attention … and, in Spanish, I ask him, Do you have a minute, I just want to say something. Nervously and astonished he walks towards my table and, as if from a distance I hear myself say: you must have noticed that I have been staring at you for weeks now . . . I want to apologize for that . . . I didn’t want to make you feel uncomfortable! I also wanted to tell him that I fancied him, but the words simply didn’t come out of my mouth. Sorry I say once again. Pepe smiles and in English with a strange accent and far too loud he says OK!
I know the spell has been broken. Melancholically I cast my mind back to the weeks full of desires, sexually excited feelings, juvenile behaviour, secret thoughts and wonderful butterflies fluttering around in my lower belly. Pepe has walked back to the square now, just before getting ready to bend down again to lay a few more tiles he moves his manhood from one side to the other. I feel a butterfly!
Suddenly wet knickers get a totally different meaning …