The Softest One

“They should just drop a bomb on the country and blow them all the fuck up,” he said.

I watched his face after he’d finished. His chin was stubbled. I hadn’t noticed before, but now the roughness and the hardness of it was all I could see

The rest of me was back on the beach in Barcelona. Her soft voice was telling me about how she hated going back because of the way things had changed, especially for the women, but of course she went back because her Mum and Dad were there, and her Mum’s cooking was worth it even if everytime her father gave her hell for going to University and making herself ‘too smart for a man’.

Her accent was beautiful. The words I remember most were those she spoke as, under the dim moonlight, I peeled her naked on the sand.

“As you wish, Jack. As you wish.”

I found it sexy how she submitted, but the culture behind it played on my mind. Was I adopting the role of ‘master’ or, like those who covered her face when she went home on holidays, was I actually being one?

Nevermind that, I thought. I was glad to be leaving the next day, because I was already starting to love her and it’d only been a sun rise and set since we’d met on that bench on La Rambla.

When she had asked to sit beside me, I was reading Hemingway. I smiled and once I could smell her perfume, I turned back to my book which had become a place to hold my gaze while I gathered my words. I knew I’d have to say something, or at least turn the page, so I said hello and that’s how it started.

Over dinner that night we spoke about all the ways of being human that we’d stumbled across in our travels. Of course we didn’t call it that, but we spoke of language, of beliefs, of customs. The more food they brought to our little table, the kind where your knees can’t help but touch, and the more we struggled through different ways of saying the same things, the more I saw how much the same we were. Not just as two people, but as humans being.

This is why, the next night, as I listened to her soft voice and touched what was the softest skin I swear I’d ever touched until that day and any day since, I had to keep my mind very focused not to fall in love. Falling in love was something I was very good at and it got me in too much trouble to be doing it while on the road. I couldn’t risk getting stuck somewhere. I’d already left that behind at home and that was hard enough. To get stuck there too would have been a disaster. It would have thrown the whole thing into ruins. So I stayed with what we were doing. She was so soft. The softest I’d ever known.

I didn’t respond to him because I couldn’t. My mouth wouldn’t work while I was thinking of all of that, so I just sat there looking at him and thinking of her until I was done.

“I know a girl from there,” I said. “We met in Barcelona. Her Mum and Dad still live there.”

I didn’t tell him about her voice or her skin, but I imagined her burning and the sounds she would make if her parents were on fire too.

He just looked at me. His jaw was rigid. There was nothing he could say to that. I still loved him, but a part of me that day found out how much he wasn’t me and could never be me because of where he’d been and where I’d been.