It is a Spanish custom that women who appear in films must spend at least half of their screen time topless. My girlfriend is a radical. She spends half her time in a bra.
My girlfriend is an actress. Recently we attended a screening of a short film in which she plays a woman from India who is held captive by a well-built Spaniard for unknown reasons (unknown to me, because though my Spanish is pretty good, I always miss some crucial plot elements). My favorite part was when she attacked the door with a hammer, screaming in a Hindi accent. My girlfriend is badass, I self-congratulated.
My least favorite part was when she seduced the well-built Spaniard in order to put him off his guard and escape. She really seduced him. She’s a hell of an actress. This is all make believe, like the transpirings on the other side of Mr. Rogers’ magic trolley tunnel, I told myself, squeezing her hand for reassurance.
Let me back up to the moment of our arrival at Barbú, the bar where the short was screened. I’ll translate literally, to maintain all of the awkwardness to the Guirri (that’s the Spanish for Gringo) boyfriend, and to indulge my own inner Hemingway wannabe.
“Hello, gorgeous woman!” says the actor, Pablo, who was soon to be straddled by the person with whom I share a sleeping space. Pablo and my girlfriend, up on a giant screen, every man in the room psychically projecting himself through the magic of the cinematic suture into Pablo’s position. He grabs my girlfriend firmly by the shoulders and plants two kisses.
“Man!” she says, as if this needs any reinforcing. “Handsome! How handsome you are!”
Here in the bar, they continue holding hands as they speak from a distance of four inches. I linger awkwardly to the side. This is Spanish talking. I learned long ago not to stare straight into a conversation.
“Fuck! Man! How many people, no?”
“Yes! How many people. Fuck. It’s true.”
“Let’s go! And you? How are you? How do you walk?”
“Come on! Good. Good. I go good. I mean, I’m not working with any beauties like you, but it’s work, no?” He makes the ubiquitous Spanish gesture of sliding a hand back and forth through the air, like a salute that departs from the chin, but keeps getting sent back to retrieve additional whiskers.
“Yes. Working with you was the milk. Man! The milk!”
“I know it! This job today, ufff. I shit in the whore ocean!”
She puts a hand to her heart. “What pain that gives me.”
“I shit in everything!”
“What pain!” she says.
“Well, let’s go! There is to find seats and the people they are filing in like one testicle [or egg; readers’ choice]!”
Hands finally part. Two more kisses are exchanged. Guapos and Guapas abound. Venga. Vamos. Nos vemos despues. Vale. Ciao. Hasta ahora. Un beso. Otro para ti. Hasta luego. Adios. Vaya que bien verte, no? Vaya. Hombre. Tia.
Two Spaniards parting can be a lengthy process, even if it is only to cross the room, watch a short film and reconvene immediately thereafter. As a foreigner I never know when to hang up the phone or walk away from a friend on a street corner. I almost always feel as though I’ve cut the other party off before they are permitted one of their customary goodbyes. I think a definitive number needs to be chosen — 3, 5, 7. It doesn’t really matter, but there must be certainty.
So the movie begins, and shortly thereafter, the passion unfolds. My girlfriend squeezes my hand, smiles and rolls her eyes to make me feel better. Not that I feel all that bad. It’s more disembodied than bad. Watching the person you know more intimately than any other person in the world change into a violent Indian warrior woman and make passionate love to a muscular, mustachioed member of the Guardia Civil challenges some strange dissonance between what you know to be so, and what is ‘happening’ right in front of you. It’s sort of like free Buddhism lessons. Everything is an illusion. Reality is formless. She tickles my palm with her fingernail. I’m split in half. I’m floating through the room in a meditative bliss. Well, maybe not bliss, and maybe not meditative. More like stunned ambiguity. I float to the other side and see the dreaded Pablo. Joder!
What is the writing equivalent? Writing a sex scene? Writing a kiss? Not a fair comparison. While it certainly involves some level of dissimulation, it lacks the embodied bits that make it so disconcertingly real. I think writers should get to practice their scenes with other writers. At least writers who date actors. It’s only fair.
When the movie ends, Pablo returns to our side of the bar.
“Hello, Aunt,” says Pablo.
“Uncle!” she says.
He ushers a slender fellow in solid black to his side. “He is Javier my boyfriend,” says Pablo.