Z - AND IT WAS DEAD. Part II. CARMEN'S STORY
Carmen stirred at the quiet ‘snick’ of the door as it was pulled closed. The sun streamed though the slatted blinds and illuminated her dressing table and the pictures of her surrounding it.
She stretched, yawned and pulled the covers close around her. Where had Fabio gone? This was not their normal routine, the one she hated but, at the same time gave her a great sense of security. Something was different, she thought as she brushed her unruly hair back from her face. Where was Fabio? Usually, she would be awakened by his touch, the gentle stroking of her hair as she returned to consciousness, but today she had entered a different world. She was alone.
For an older man Fabio could be quite mercurial, which was one of the things which had drawn her to him, but in all their time together he had not left before bidding her ‘good morning’ in his own fashion. In the year or so she had spent with him each morning had started in the same manner. Initially, she had truly enjoyed being so obviously adored and wanted but over time it had begun to feel like a lead weight, like a clinging child crying out for attention. Once his attention had felt romantic but know it just seemed needy and that, she felt, was dangerous.
Turning to the night table, Carmen picked up her cigarettes and lighter and climbed out of bed. She stretched herself, arms out high and arched her back, and walked to the balcony. Opening the blinds she suddenly remembered her nakedness and laughed as she threw on a sarong that had been draped across the cane chair. She opened the double doors to the balcony and stepped out into the sunshine. She sat on the floor to the left hugging her knees into her chest like a child. It was about 7.15am now and the sun was rising in the distance. She withdrew a cigarette and lit it, inhaling deeply and blowing out a cloud of smoke. She coughed, looked at the cigarette questioningly and took another drag. What a beautiful day! She whimsically surveyed the light traffic and the few pedestrians making their way and her mind drifted back to Fabio.
Christ! Sometimes it all feels like such a mess!
Sometimes, when doing her make up, it felt like she was enshrined by these icons rather than starting another day. She surveyed the room; her home from home. The pictures were part of her unease. To see herself framed so many times on the walls of the apartment was to be put up on a pedestal and after the pedestal there was only the ground. She wanted to be loved and wanted as a woman not an icon. She knew that she could not live up to his vision of her.
She remembered their first meeting and all the hopes and fears that it had engendered and began to wonder how it had come to this. This was not what she wanted. She began to wonder if she could ever be happy. This was a question she had posed to herself many times and, in truth, she was not sure what ‘happy’ really was. She was only sure that there had to be more to it than this.
Their first meeting had resulted in an awakening, a tidal wave of emotions, a dawning of possibilities. She had been almost dragged along by her friends as a way of lightening the emotional load she was under. She truly had needed the weekend away as a way of escaping the pressures of her new life.
Since her violent break up with Juan, and her subsequent move home to her parents, she had felt lost and consequently thrown herself into her work and life caring for her aging parents. She loved her parents deeply but now that some of the smoke had cleared she felt the great weight of their growing dependency and was beginning to feel cornered. Initially she had resisted the trip to Seville but was warn down by the entreaties and cajoling of her three friends. It was to be an antidote to the daily round of negativity she was experiencing.
They arrived in Seville on Friday afternoon. The flight from Barcelona to Seville had been eventful with lots of laughter and general banter as the three friends tried to jolly Carmen along. But Carmen stayed unconvinced at the idea of a weekend of Dali in Seville. True, she had studied Art History at University and enjoyed Dali’s work but a weekend might just be too much. Also, six years with Juan, a sculptor, had been draining enough and she was not sure if she really wanted to be reminded of art and creativity right now. On arrival in Seville they collected a Citroen Saxo from the car hire at the airport and drove the 20 minutes to the Hotel. Carmen wanted to take the bus but was overruled by the other girls. The bus to the centre of town only ran twice an hour and was cheap but very unreliable. The car would give them freedom of movement, insisted Mercedes.
On checking into the Hotel Hispalis on Avenida Andalucia, Carmen shared a room with Lucia while Juani shared with Mercedes, the rooms where linked by double doors and had adjoining balconies so the women could wander in and out of each others spaces, chatter and share stories and clothes with each other. After freshening up they took the brief walk to the Garcia Lorca conference centre to register for the Seminars and collect their documents. That evening, by way of welcome they where showing Un Chien Andalou and L’Age D’Or but they opted for a night out in the clubs and bars around Calle Puerto de Carne, drinking in the sounds and smells of the city. On their return to the Hotel, Carmen got out her old history notes and guides and, dispute the entreaties of her companions decided to read up on Seville and Dali. Why on earth have a Dali Seminar in Seville. He was a Catalan not an Andalucian, for Christ’s sake.
Lucia turned in at 2.00am while Juani and Mercedes could clearly be heard drinking and laughing in the next room.
The alarm went off at 7.30am and the friends met for breakfast at 8.15am, Juani and Mercedes looking the worst for wear. Despite this breakfast was fun and Carmen found herself starting to relax a little.
At 8.45 they started out for the Lorca Centre. At 9.05 they were having a welcome coffee and mingling with the other delegates when Lucia whispered urgently in Carmen’s ear, ‘Look, that man over there he’s taking things a bit seriously isn’t he?’
Across the room she saw a tall middle-aged man who seemed to have one of the visiting lectures almost pinned to the wall; gesticulating wildly and passionately about something or other. She stood and stared for a moment until he turned to pick up his coffee and her eyes briefly met his. He took a sip from his cup and carried on as if nothing had happened but Carmen was rigid with fear and surprise. She found herself blushing like a schoolgirl who had been caught doing something naughty. Lucia also noticed the blush and laughed.
‘You like that one, eh? I’ll see what I can do.’ She started to walk towards the conversation and Carmen pulled her back.
‘Don’t you dare even think of it’, she insisted. ‘If you even breathe in his direction I’m going home. I have enough to deal with without fighting off some toothless art bore all weekend.’
‘OK, OK,’ relented Lucia. ‘Just be aware that your interest has been noted. You’re not so dead inside as you’d like to think.’
Carmen was about to argue but thought better of it and said nothing. Yes, he was middle aged, maybe mid to late forties, but he stood tall as he spoke and seemed to passionate about whatever he was saying. Good luck to him, she thought. To still have fire in your belly after all the shit that life throws, well done. I envy you.
The first seminar was an introduction to Dali from his birth in Figueras in 1904, his upbringing and his first art lessons at the age of ten to his move to Paris in 1928 where he met Miro and Picasso. The break was welcome when it came. This was supposed to be fun but to Carmen it felt like being back in Uni.
At coffee she met Jaime Alvarez from Barcelona University who she had studied Art History with in Madrid years before. They were busy catching up and laughing about old times when the intense older man from earlier that morning arrived and greeted Jaime warmly. Jaime introduced the man to Carmen; he said his name was Fabio. He was apparently from Portugal and was a minor painter who did renovation work and gallery tours to make ends meet. Close up he did not seem so much old as distinguished, like a city banker on a day off. He turned to Carmen, shook her hand and immediately engaged her in conversation. Why was she here, what did Dali’s art mean to her?
Her breath was fairly knocked from her. She found herself both interested and irritated. How dare he question her right to be here? She found herself, not defending but explaining passionately her feeling for Dali’s, drawing on both her studies and her gut feelings. As they engaged in conversation a smile played upon his face. He was toying with her, was this his idea of small talk? Finally, he excused himself and turning to Jaime said, ‘You are a lucky man’. Before she could remonstrate he was gone. Jaime chuckled, Carmen was flabbergasted.
‘What was that all about’, she asked.
‘Oh, don’t worry about him’, he replied.’ He has always been like that. Between us we call it “searching for sparks”. It is his way of checking that you are alive. If you were polite and agreed with him the whole time he would have dismissed you as someone without a thought your head, a ”sleeper”. Someone who goes unconsciously from one day to the next and not looking past having a full belly and a warm place to lie. He spends too much time in Paris. He should lighten up a bit. For that matter, so should you.’
‘What do you mean?’ Asked Carmen sharply.
‘Simply put’, said Jaime. ‘For a moment I didn’t know whether you would kiss or kill him. I remember that look from Uni. You feel you need to have the last word. Take it from me, let it go.’
Carmen flashed a brief, severe, look to Jaime who burst into laughter.
‘This is where we change the subject for the sake of our friendship and for your wife who wants to bear your children’, laughed Carmen. ‘If we were still at University I would have kicked you in the cojones by now for that all too correct observation. Is that not correct?’
‘The weather is exceptionally good for this time of year, don’t you think?’ Replied Jaime, collapsing into laughter.
At the end of the break Carmen returned to her seat with her friends and Jaime to his seat with his colleagues. The mid-morning sessions were seminars and discussions on the nature of surrealism, the influences of Sigmund Freud and Andre Breton on Dali’s work and the changes in his work from his initial arrival in Paris to his fateful meeting with Gala Eluard. The question and answer session was brisk and light-hearted and Carmen found herself warming to her colleagues; even asking a few questions herself.
At lunchtime, the girls opted to go out and find a restaurant rather than stay with the other delegates; it was after all a ‘girls weekend’, a chance to laugh, gossip, eat chocolate and drink too much if they so desired. After sharing their views on the Seminar, Juani was bored and kept referring to Le Grand Masterbateur.
‘I just don’t see it, where’s his thing? You know, his bits…’
Mercedes sprayed the table with her cerveza as she tried to stifle her laughter; Lucia looked up to heaven for guidance while Carmen cuffed Juani gently across the head with the menu.
‘Save that for your piccolo husband’, said Lucia finally.
Carmen ‘shushed’ them loudly as the waiter brought the coffees. This only caused more laughter until Mercedes mimed grabbing the waiter’s rear as he took their lunch plates away.
Presently, Lucia brought them all to focus when she looked at Carmen and said, simply, ‘And?’
‘And what?’ replied Carmen, immediately defensive.
‘And what’s going on with you? Long chats with the dishy guy at coffee and smouldering after ‘Mr Intense’ this morning. What’s the story? Dish the dirt.’
Carmen blushed. ‘There is nothing to say, sadly. I’ve known Jaime since Uni. and the other guy, I don’t know. That’s the lot, OK?’
‘We don’t have to talk about it’, replied Lucia.
‘There’s nothing to talk about’. Carmen cut in.
‘Ok,’ accepted Lucia. ‘If you say so.’
Mercedes, sensing that this was not a good area of enquiry to continue, changed the subject to the evening. Should they go to the Seminar Ball? The consensus was yes, although Carmen was not totally sold on the idea.
Carmen stubbed out her cigarette and stood up. It was time to shower and get ready for work, no more procrastination. She kicked her cigarette butt off the balcony and stood up. Taking one long last look out over the city, she returned to the bedroom and closed the blinds. Dropping her sarong she stretched again, noticing her naked body in the mirror she examined her stomach and bottom and pulled a face. Too many cigarettes and not enough sleep, she thought, as she walked naked to the bathroom and turned on the shower. She brushed her teeth while she adjusted the water temperature and thought back to the night of the dance. What a night, I found faith that night, she thought.
She smiled in the mirror and rinsed her mouth. I could have been so wild that night, I felt so dangerously alive as if my world was daring me to take a chance. What a night!! I was so close to being shameless after all the knocks I had taken, I was ready to jump again. It was madness, but I felt so alive.
She pulled back the shower curtain and checked the temperature, finding it to be acceptable, she climbed into the shower and closed the curtain behind her. She adjusted the showerhead and focussed the flow of water directly down onto her head, drenching her hair and causing her to shake her head and spray water against the bathroom walls. She threw back her head and, using both hands smoothed the warm water around her face.
‘God, Fabio you’re a bastard’, she exclaimed. ‘I don’t want to love anyone. What have you done to me?’
The afternoon sessions dragged. She was only half aware of the content as she sat with the girls. Her mind kept returning to her conversations with Mr Intense, Jaime’s warning and what Lucia had said. What was going on here? Why was this man getting under her skin? No. forget it, I’m not going there. I only just survived last time; got the T-shirt and that’s enough for now, she thought. When the lectures and discussions ended the delegates stood up and started to leave the room. She notice, a few rows ahead, Fabio, Mr Intense looking in her direction. She panicked. She felt an urgent need to escape. Turning to Lucia she said, ‘Got to go, see you downstairs’, and managed to slip from the room while she was still blustering. Once outside, she stood in an alcove; hiding. Suddenly she blushed and felt very silly. She found a bench and sat down to laugh at herself. I am crap, she thought. Look at me, hiding from a man because he may actually like me, actually find me interesting. What have I let the world do to me? Decisive now, she stood up and walked back to the conference hall in time to meet Lucia, Juani and Mercedes coming out.
‘What was that about?’ asked Juani. ‘What was all that about?’
‘Sorry, sorry,’ blushed Carmen. ‘I came over all claustrophobic for a moment there but I’m alright now. Let’s go’.
They walked out into the warm afternoon air and took the slow stroll back to the Hotel. The mood was light and playful, occasionally a motorist would honk a car horn at them and they would bow or curtsey in acknowledgement. They stopped for an espresso and a cerveza; Mercedes and Lucia mercilessly chatted up the waiter, who was married, very married but enjoyed the banter.
They returned to the Hotel and Carmen phoned her parents, ‘just to check that they were OK’ and told them that she was having fun and that the girls were all OK. They seemed happy as she wished them a good night and hung up.
Turning to the girls, she found that Mercedes had opened a bottle of fino and was pouring large measures for each of them. Lucia broke out the cigarettes and the preparations for the evening began.
They arrived at the Hotel Estrella later than expected due to Juani and Lucia both having bad hair days. It was 8.00pm and dinner was only served until 8.30pm so the vast dining room was beginning to empty. Many tables had been cleared and others bore the remains of meals as the waiting staff slowly worked to restore order. The girls were, nevertheless in high spirits and frequently had to quieten each other as their laughter echoed around the great dining room. As they were late and some of the main courses were no longer available, Chef allowed them larger than normal portions of anything they ordered, including desserts. He even brought a bottle of Brandy and came to sit with them over their coffees, pouring copiously until the Manager ushered him back to the kitchen and apologised for the intrusion by offering yet more brandy.
At just after 10.00pm they left the Hotel restaurant and headed back to the Hispalis; Carmen and Mercedes changed into dark trousers and clinging tops and attempted to dance flamenco while Lucia and Juani tried to decide what to wear. Carmen sang along to the radio until Lucia made an unkind reference to bullfrogs, which caused her to sing with even more volume and abandon. Juani laughed while Mercedes poured another drink. Juani finally settled for a long red dress with a slit to the thigh on one side while Lucia wore a pair of long, white embroidered culottes.
When they finally arrived at the dance just after 11.00pm the floor was alive with dancing couples. Jaime and a friend greeted them as they entered and asked them to join their party at their table. They agreed and he conducted them around the floor to where he and a mixed group of about 10 people were sitting, leaving his friends to order the drinks. After some introductions two men in their company, Lucia and Carmen by two strangers, invited the girls to dance; Juani and Mercedes. When they returned to the table their drinks had arrived; four Tinto de Verrano, red wine and lemonade, refreshing but not too alcoholic.
The band were good and the girls were enjoying the gentle mixture of conversation and dancing, taking turns to dance with each of the men in their company. It was during one such dance that Carmen literally bumped into her Mr Intense, Fabio. He apologised, she smiled and blushed and continued the dance. On her return to the table she mentioned her encounter to Lucia who listened for a while and asked a few questions and then kicked Carmen under the table urgently.
‘What?’ Hissed Carmen. ‘What’s going on?’
‘He’s here’, she replied, indicating that Carmen should turn around.
‘Who’, said Carmen as she turned to see an outstretched hand in front of her and Fabio, near the bar and heading in her direction. She accepted the hand as sanctuary and took to the dance floor. As she stepped out on to the floor, saw her ‘Mr Intense’ at the bar. In a strange way she was now willing him to come over. She felt ashamed of herself. She would not cower in front of this man, not shrink away, she would meet him face to face. ‘Searching for sparks’, she’d show him sparks.
When he came it was not at all as she had expected. She had only just returned to her seat after a dance when he came to her. A hand was offered silently and looking up she found it to be that of Mr Intense. He did not ask her to dance formally, just held out his hand – she smiled and took it. It was as simple as that, offer and acceptance. No blushing or second thoughts. She laughed and Fabio guided her out onto the floor.
‘I thought you’d gone,’ she said as she took the floor. ‘I didn’t see you at dinner’.
‘I was late and at the back, on the sad people’s tables’, replied Fabio.
‘I was late and on the loud and happy table’, she responded.
‘I am Fabio. Tell me more, please,’ asked Fabio curiously.
‘I’m Carmen, pleased to meet you,’ said Carmen and so the dance began.
The band played a medium paced Salsa tune but Carmen and Fabio were too busy talking to fully follow the beat. After three attempts at dances and much laughter she excused herself.
‘I must get back now or my friends wonder what happened to me.’
Impetuously, he asked. ‘We will dance again?’
‘Of course, in a while.’ She replied. ‘I’d like that.’
Lucia was waiting like a mother hen when Carmen returned to the table.
‘And?’ She asked.
‘And he’s a really funny, nice guy who cleans up well and may be a good dancer when he’s not talking. Is that OK?’
‘Sounds promising’. Replied Lucia. ‘Very promising.’
‘Oh, stop it will you. You know what it’s been like. He’s a nice man and I enjoyed talking and trying to dance with him. Hopefully, I’ll be dancing with him again later.’
Lucia nudged Mercedes, who had by know joined them, and they smiled to each other.
‘Don’t you dare start, either of you.’ Carmen said trying to look fierce and serious before dissolving into laughter.
The dance did not come. Carmen danced with some other men and then left the Hall with Lucia and Juani for a cigarette, as smoking was not allowed in the grand Ballroom. She was sitting on the stairs with a group of seven or eight people having a cigarette when Fabio arrived and asked if he might join them. He introduced himself to Carmen’s friends and the other members of the group he did not know. They talked as a group for a while as people drifted by in and out of the Hall. Fabio seemed to take special care to include Lucia and Juani in his conversation even though he seemed to be focussing on Carmen. Slowly the group melted away until all that was left was Fabio and Carmen. Lucia and Juani were the last to leave; Lucia gently tugging at Juani’s wrist to guide her toward the ballroom door.
When they were alone, the conversation became intense; they were locked in each others eyes and sharing cigarettes, feelings and dreams. She felt truly alive and wanted the night to go on forever. She somehow needed him to see her, to understand her. It was important. This was how she felt life should be, this what she needed in her life; intelligent conversation, intensity, passion. Here and now, talking to this intense man, she felt the return of life and hope, doors opening, options. They spoke of art, music, and travel and found they had many things in common. They both wanted too see new sunsets on strange shores, experience fresh winds on their faces and walk virgin sands. Finally, the bandmaster announced the last dance and Carmen checked her watch.
‘I could run away with you now,’ she said impetuously. ‘There is so much I want to say to you and so much I want to learn from you. But I must go back to my friends. They’ll be wondering what has happened to me.’
He apologised politely for monopolising her time and asked to exchange email addresses so that they could continue the conversation.
‘No apologies necessary’, she said with a warm smile. She kissed him on both cheeks and scribbled out her email address before starting to return to the ballroom. When she re-entered the ballroom Lucia smiled and showed her the time - it was now 2.30am. They had talked for over two hours.
Carmen turned and ran from the ballroom just in time to see Fabio starting to walk away. She called out his name called and stood, slightly embarrassed, as he turned.
‘That was no way to say Goodnight. I feel like as though I’ve known you all my life.’ She said advancing towards him. When she was close enough to whisper she spoke quietly to him. ‘I have really enjoyed spending time with you and if the situation were different the evening would not end here. I would like to see the sun rise on a deserted beach with you, to share dreams and sunsets; to be nourished and nurtured by your voice and your thoughts.’
‘I feel the same’. He replied. ‘But my situation…..’
‘No words now’. She said silencing him. In many ways she had already said too much and wished to walk away with conscience clear. If he was going to reject her; it would have to be another night. Right now she was happy.
‘Please just hold me now, just for a moment and then I must go.’
Silently they held each other; she felt the warmth of his body through her slinky top, his cheek against hers, his contours, his breathing. She breathed in his scent and mentally filed it under ‘perfect moments’.
‘Write me soon’. She said breaking from his embrace.
‘I will’. He replied. ‘I will’.
She did not see him again. The girls decided, next morning to leave after breakfast and check in early at the airport. Once free of their bags they could do some shopping and site-seeing.
The quartet laughed their way through the streets and shops of Seville until they found themselves at La Torre Del Oro by the river. They had some time before taking a bus tour of the city, so they sat and watched the boats as they plied their trade.
Carmen found herself smiling. This weekend had been what she needed. For a while she had forgotten, work, Juan and to a degree, her parents. She had been in the arms of a romantic and a dreamer and allowed herself to feel her dreams. It didn’t matter whether he wrote to her or not, in fact she didn’t really expect him to, what she had had that night that was exactly what she needed at the time.
Carmen smiled as she stepped from the shower. She towelled her hair dry and wrapped herself snugly in a large blue bath sheet. She posed her damp hair in the mirror and finally decided to leave it as it was, as it always was, free. She walked back to the bedroom and discarded the bath sheet carelessly on the floor. Sitting at the dressing table she picked up the hairdryer and started to comb her raven locks.
She thought back to her return to Barcelona after the Seminar. The lightness in her heart, the sense of hope she carried slowly ebbing away as she resumed her daily routine. Bit by bit she clamoured after the sound of Fabio’s voice and his strong arms around her but, at the same time feared the intimacy. She needed the thought of a Fabio; the light at the end of the tunnel, but she was palpably scared of the actuality. She remembered her shock and surprise when Fabio’s email arrived. At first she did not recognise the address, but instinctively knew who it was when she saw the topic – Dreams and Sunsets.
It took her two days to decide to open the email. She spent this time switching between an urge to open it and an even stronger urge to destroy it. When the contents were before her she initially felt short changed, just three lines. Tentatively asking after her health, stating how much he had enjoyed their meeting and expressing a hope that their conversation might continue. No flowery words, no dreams here; the ball was in her court. After some thought, she responded with a long, bright letter describing her life and work in Barcelona. She wrote to him and told him of her work for the import/export company and that she frequently travelled, including Lisbon. She spoke of her sick parents and the obligations and pressures this placed her under. She spilled her heart into the letter not caring if he understood or, for that matter, cared. It was like a boil she needed to lance, poison that needed to be drawn. Overall the tone was warm and happy, she was confiding not complaining.
As soon as she had finished the letter she clicked ‘send’ knowing that if she had reread her letter her courage would fail; now it was gone and out in the world.
Fabio responded in kind the next day with a long, informative letter speaking passionately about his work, his life in Lisbon and relationship with his lover. She was not surprised or particularly concerned to know that he had a lover, that was not why she was interested in him. She was interested in his energy and passion and she could share that without sharing his bed. In fact, she felt safer knowing that he had a partner it meant less likelihood of him seeking involvement. They could be friends.
She replied to him encouraging him in his work but not asking any questions about his relationship, that was not her business, she was not a part of that. She told him more about her life, work and the books she was reading. For months the conversation went back and forth in this way. Occasionally, Fabio would punctuate his emails with pictures of his work. She remembered her pride and surprise the day when she received the detail from his picture, ‘Persephone’. He had used her face. She wrote to him a long letter of thanks and suggested that they meet the next time she was in Lisbon.
After what seemed like days, he wrote back and said that he was unable to meet her. Not because he didn’t want to, but because his relationship at home was unstable and that his lover had been angry when he had mentioned the possibility. She was saddened but understood the situation, in fact, she thought it was good that he was an honest man and that, as he had mentioned her to his lover there was no possibility of ‘bad behaviour’ on his part when they finally met.
Their conversation continued and the warmth of their letters overflowed into her daily life. Lucia could always tell when Carmen had received a letter from Lisbon.
‘Your smile is like the Lisbon sun’, she used to say. ‘But without the pollution’.
Lucia was happy that her friend was happy but counselled her to be careful, because ‘words are not deeds and men are best remembered by their deeds’. This was a reference to Juan, Carmen’s ex-lover. He had started as silver tongued and caring but, as his fortunes declined he became violent and a womaniser. Changes in that relationship happened slowly until one day Carmen found herself in an intolerable situation and chose to leave. Even now, three years after they parted, Juan still phoned her when he was sad or drunk. It always starts the same; the pleading and crying and, after a while, the cursing as he blames her for his situation. When it first began Carmen used to listen and try to reason with him, after a while she realised that he was beyond reason so she listened and cried. Now mainly she cried but she always listened.
She looked in the mirror. My hair’s a mess, but it will have to do. She walked to her suitcase at the foot of the bed and selected bra, pants and a suitable outfit for the days work. She found herself thinking about the nature of her relationship with Fabio. When she came to Lisbon, which now was quite often, she stayed with him but, despite that, she never left any of her clothes there. She always lived from her suitcase. What would Freud have to say about that? She wondered.
She knew that she loved Fabio but she just could not love him in the way he wanted or maybe he could not love her as she wanted. Either way there was a mismatch of expectations and instead of dealing with it they had found a ‘get along’ solution. Away from Lisbon, she went about her work and life and only rarely let Fabio in. She had found that she simply could not, would not, let him in too far or too close. She had been hurt before and she would not allow it to happen again. The net effect of this was that there were areas of her life of which she did not speak. He had asked him not to ask and he had, true to his word, not done so. But sometimes she just wished he would take her down from the pedestal and get angry, scream and shout so she would know he cared enough for her to share this other part of her life with him. She remembered the night they had been snuggled together on the sofa in his rented flat near the Benfica football ground. She had been near tears about work or something and he had kissed her lightly on the forehead and soothed her. She had told him then, ‘Don’t be too nice to me or I’ll cry. I’m not used to it’.
She had not lied and he, apparently, had not understood. When people were being nice she expected there to be a price. What did he want? She also remembered his reply, ‘Stick around a while and you might get used to it.’
‘I might just do that’, she said.
And she had, but she still couldn’t trust it. She sometimes found herself pushing him, trying to make him angry to see how far his ‘nice’ went. Could she ruffle him, would he react like all the other men she had known. Was he just another bastard, like all men - just more clever, more patient? If so it meant that he wanted more from her than other lovers who had mistreated her and moved on. It was just a matter of time before he showed his true colours.
Despite all this, she stayed with him each time she came to Lisbon and he rarely complained. Not about the sparsity of their lovemaking, the parts of her life she would not share or the many times he had arranged to tickets to shows or exhibitions and she had changed her plans at the last minute. He was a fine and understanding man but until she saw his anger, the iron in his soul, she would not be happy. She had to know that he felt more passion for her than for his paintings and sculptures. She wanted him to fight for her, to pull her hair, to scream at her; she wanted to feel his fire rather than just hear about it. She was not a Madonna, she was a woman and she needed to feel and to be loved as a woman.
When they had first met at the Dali Seminars in Seville, she had seen the fire in his eyes and also sensed the trapped, frightened child in him. For her this was a fatal blend. She wanted to free him from his chains and to bathe in his fire. Now, in many respects, she felt like she was becoming his mother. She liked the feeling that she had helped bring him back to life and give him the support he needed to be creative and productive but, she also had needs and at the top of the list was to feel, to really feel wanted and needed. By all means want me for my mind but don’t forget I am a woman of flesh and blood.
She dressed and made herself a bowl of coffee, which she drank while finishing her make up, and chased it with another cigarette. When she was happy with her work she slowly and carefully packed her case. Sitting on the edge of the unmade bed she surveyed the room and then walked out onto the balcony for her last cigarette before work.
She inhaled in the morning Lisbon air and surveyed the city. So, so beautiful but time to go.
She quietly said good-bye to the room and the view. She would not leave a message for Fabio; that was not their way and besides, he would call. He always did.