The message read Feliz Navidad Guapisimo!
Spaniards toss around the word guapo/a as if it were a definite article, but the extra oomph given to any noun with -isimo/a is not to be taken lightly and should be considered serious flirtation.
The number had no name attached to it, but I assumed it was from a girl, as most men don’t call other men guapisimo unless they’re gay or being facetious.
I had just gotten through customs at Madrid’s Barajas airport on New Year’s Eve and turned on my phone.
Without even considering who it could be, I replied Feliz Año Nuevo Guapisima! in spite of my disdain for exclamation points.
Fortune and the year 2007 seemed certain.
Emerging from the metro near my home, a reply came back from the same unrecognized number. It read, Pasalo genial esta noche. Nos vemos en clase, which meant she was a student of mine and I would find out within the week who it was.
Her name turned out to be Itziar (pronounced eat-SEE-are). I love uncommon names, the rarer the better and this one topped the list of exotic names. To boot, she was easily the most physically fit and attractive one at a company of about 100 women where I taught her in class. I had even made the conscious decision at the beginning of the 2006 school year to continue teaching at that company merely to be around her.
The following Friday evening I texted her a question about salsa dancing and if she knew where classes were offered. After a few back-n-forth messages, she finally sent me this bomb: I know that in Tropical House they give classes, I don’t know which day exactly. I can offer myself as a partner but what I would really like is to know if you’re doing anything this evening because you seem like a very interesting person and I would like to get to know you better and, if we end up dancing, all the better…
My pupils widened and blood rushed to my genitals. I almost dropped the phone.
I immediately canceled my other plans that evening and was over at her house within 2 hours.
She opened the door; the dream began.
She was wearing tight-yet-comfortable sweatpants and a tank top that revealed about four inches of tight skin covering muscled indentations. Her face was uncomplicated by paint and highlights. Despite her Basque name, she grew up in the Andalusian town of Malaga and appeared somewhere outside the realm of the guide book Spanish woman. That is, her hair was light brown and not raven black; her eyes were bluish-green instead of brown and her skin leaned toward a paler shade of olive. Her twenty-eight year old face maintained a simple contentment, unwrinkled by fixed expressions. She spoke very softly.
She gave me the tour of her flat, explaining that her roommate was out of town for the weekend and she had the flat all to herself.
She looked at me smiled.
Blood rushed to my face, and my genitals. I smiled and looked away.
She cooked while we talked. I kept averting extended looks, wondering to myself what I was doing in her flat. I tried to act natural and not acknowledge the fact that she revealed a midriff that sparkled a belly button ring highlighting abs that she probably spent several hours a week on. Her breasts were magazine perfect.
I understood that she was my student and this was completely outside the professional boundaries that were established by my language academy. But damn, it felt oh-so-right to be there and notions of boundaries quickly vanished in the reflection of her ab ring.
We listened to Nina Simone and ate from a full spread of tortilla, salmon and brie, croquetas and a spinach salad, washed down with a Reserva Tinto from Rioja from 1996. Good year.
Quieres salir para bailar?
Sí, bueno, si quieres.
Me visto y nos vamos – vale?
I offered to wash up the dishes while she got ready but she insisted there was no way I was doing her dishes, that I was her guest and I should just sit down on the sofa, relax and wait. I agreed.
In the living room I perused her copy of Los Detectives Salvajes. (The Savage Detectives)
I looked at the ceiling. A huge concave indentation, like a inverted golden saucer being sucked into the upper floor, decorated the room, gave it a retro-Roman dome feel.
I took out my camera and pushed a button.
I intended to snap a shot of her sometime that evening but opportunity and memory failed me.
She came out of her room wearing knee-high glossy boots, the same tank top and suspenders.
Women in boots always look definitely serious and unarguably sexual, but suspenders? Never had suspenders looked so alluring.
On the street, she suggested going to this club called 69 petalos. I agreed. In the club, every guy in the club looked at her, then at me. I felt somehow unworthy and worthy. The shy part felt like she was way out of my league and the arrogant part felt like, “Wait a sec…that’s right, I’m the man.” We danced to some 80s classics for about an hour and she suggested that we go. I agreed.
I agreed to everything she suggested that night: dinner, dancing, not washing her dishes and sharing her single bed overnight.
I awoke early and in the morning sunlight that layered her half-covered naked body, I saw an inch-long faint-but-noticeable scar on the lower part of her breast. As I dressed I could see a picture of her topless on a beach with breasts that weren’t nearly as round as the ones that were now attached so perfectly attached to her body.
One and one made two.
I realized I had left my scarf and, in an attempt to be poetic and romantic all at once, I sent a message to the effect of: I dreamed last night that a beautiful woman made me dinner, we went dancing and then had a wonderful night in the dark. When I awoke, I realized my scarf was missing.
She replied immediately saying that, yes, last night was something special and she would give me the scarf the next time we met, which she wanted to be that same night.
The next week in class I was a nervous, stammering twat. The class was comprised of six women and the lights in the meeting/class room were piercing and relentless. After class via text, she asked me if I was okay giving her class, if I felt comfortable. I lied and told her yes; the truth was I had never experienced such a high heart rate and self-consciousness while giving classes.
Having a student as a lover, especially a secretive one, was exhilarating because it was partially wrong, nerve-wracking because it was partially right and twat-inducing because of its secrecy.
Several weeks passed and this formula repeated: dinner, movie, sex and sleep. Conversation between us wasn’t exactly as electrifying as the sex, and thus it wasn’t explored or developed. What we did talk about didn’t move very far beyond our days (her pilates class or the progress of what I was writing), the movie we just watched, or our separate and joint plans for the weekend.
To negligibly greater or lesser degrees, this is probably the composite whole of too many relationships throughout the world.
After about four weeks, she came over and wrote on the whiteboard in my living room.
Te quiero mucho que la trucha al trucho!!
This Spanish saying doesn’t rhyme in English because we don’t have gendered nouns, but it basically says, “I love you very much like the female trout to the male trout.”
Several Spaniards told me this is something a mother would say to her baby, that it’s cute because mucho rhymes with trucho and that I shouldn’t put too much stock in it, i.e. she’s not declaring love, just being cute.
But just to see the words “Te quiero mucho…” forced me to evaluate her as more than just a lover, the potential one (or one of the ones) or even just a consistent girlfriend — part of the idyllic Spanish life I had wanted since arriving.
Other hints, notes and pet names appeared. “Mi amor…” , “Cielo” and more. She even once offered to marry me in order to get me papers. I doubted she was serious at the time, but it surely drew me further into her.
In some email early in March I mentioned that I had changed my mind about wanting to wait until the weekend to see her. I wrote …cambie de mente…which I thought was how you’d say I changed my mind.
She replied, slyly correcting me with Has cambiado de idea? Vale.
You learn the details of a language like this, with subtle corrections.
So on my ever growing stack of flashcards, I wrote down the proper translation of the expression, “to change one’s mind.”
In Spanish, to change one’s mind is to change one’s idea (literally).
It makes no intuitive sense and the more you think about it, neither does it in English. It just sounds natural to you because you’ve always said it that way. If I could have any real influence in how this should be said, I would propose that everyone says change one’s opinion, because this is precisely what happens.
You hold an opinion of someone or something and then it–not your mind–changes for reasons either external, internal or both.
One week later on Sunday evening I messaged her that I didn’t feel well and that we should get together later in the week.
She didn’t reply.
I called her.
She didn’t answer.
I called her an hour later.
I messaged and called her the next day as well.
She didn’t come to class on Tuesday.
I emailed her and after a full week, she replied.
In an email that consisted of five sentences, she told me she needed time to think and that she would call me the following day.
Two weeks later, after I had pleaded for some sort of explanation to the silence, she finally took the time out to write me a ten sentence email.
She said that she had been a coward in facing me, that she was a very closed person and she had built up walls to protect herself, that she felt like she needed to be alone and that blah blah it’s-not-your-fault-it’s-mine blah.
A few times over the course of the next four months I saw her fleetingly in the company where I taught. Twice she walked by and our eyes met just before one of us disappeared into another room.
I once walked past her at the copier and felt nervous, resentful blood rushing all over.
The dream disappeared with her change of mind, shortly after she corrected me on how to say it properly.
If it weren’t for a picture of her ceiling, two of my friends that met her briefly and this damn flashcard…
I wouldn’t have any proof as to her existence.
I try not to see the irony in it, but it’s too obvious.
I wrote this particular saying down because of her correcting me and it precisely and concisely describes her final action regarding me.
What an unforgettable way to learn an idiomatic expression.
Now, a year later, I realize how lucky I am to have never liked fake breasts.