The promise of adventure hung in the crisp summer air as I got into the back of a cab at Barcelona-El Prat Airport.
“Voy a Granados 83 en Barcelona por favor,” I told the cab driver slowly, except I had no idea how to say “eighty-three” in Spanish so I just said it in English and the cab driver laughed a little. He turned to me, his thick eyebrows furrowed but his eyes smiling.
“You speak little Spanish, yeah?”
It was true. The extent of my Spanish was “Megustaria paella y sangria” and various curse words– the latter, I expected, wouldn’t get me very far.
“You must learn!” He laughed again and began to drive. I nodded but he didn’t see and I felt excitement bubbling inside me as I rolled down the window and let the smell of Spain fill my senses.
When I had told my dad two days prior, while I was visiting him in Zurich, that I wanted to visit Barcelona and that I wanted to go alone– he was surprisingly all for the idea. However, what he didn’t know was that I had had an ulterior motive (Sorry, Dad).
There was a boy (God, wasn’t there always?). A boy who had taken over my rationality and ensnared my senses in a bad case of “puppy love.” You may know it all too well. The sweaty palms and shaky heartbeat. The butterflies. The can’t-eat-can’t-sleep kind of love.
His name was Taylor and I had known him since I was 17 years old, but when he moved to California and then Barcelona for business a year later, my heart constantly felt like it had unfinished business. We would talk on and off and he was the kind of guy that would disappear for months at a time but appear the moment I was single again or the moment he knew I was finally getting over him. It’s like he had a timer or something (or maybe he just stalked my twitter).
I got the message in my email the moment I landed in Zurich.
“Can you come to Barcelona on the 21st? I need to see you.”
I need to see you, I need to see you. I reread the words in the back of that cab, the green rolling hills all around. I was in Barcelona and I was going to finally go on the date that had taken almost 4 years of planning.
The cab driver dropped me off at my hotel, Granados 83, earlier than I expected. It was an upscale kind of place wedged on a cobblestone street with not much else around. I checked in, called my dad, and connected to wifi to see if I’d gotten another message from him. Nothing. Disappointed, I told myself that it was still early (only 8 am). My room wasn’t even ready yet, so I asked for directions to the nearest cafe.
The air was cool still, shutters to shops just opening as locals began their day. The cobblestone streets were blanketed in shade and I came across a small cafe on a side street. I had no idea where I was and I liked it that way. In the cafe stood an older gentleman with salt and pepper hair behind the register, newspaper in one hand and toast in the other. The space above him was covered in rustic yellow menu signs, the place sort of tired–much like the man. I gave him the 4 euros for my cafe au lait and sat outside, trying not to appear too anxious. I had about 3 hours to kill before my room was ready and, most importantly, before I could check my phone again.
I spent those 3 hours getting terribly and happily lost. I walked down La Rambla, but it felt too touristy to me so I roamed the side streets, grabbing a churro from a small churrerías, and weaving in and out of little shops. I had only been in Barcelona for less than a day and it already felt a bit like home.
Then, finally, it was time. I ran back to my hotel, having to ask three different people for directions because I still didn’t know how to say 83 in Spanish, got into my room, and sure enough, there they were. Two new messages awaiting me in my inbox:
“Are you here?? My adrenaline is through the roof. I hope you made it to me safely.”
“Come to Llavernas Golf Club at around 3. I’ll teach you a thing or two about swinging and then we can have dinner in Sant Andreu.”
I typed back quickly: “I’ll be there. Can you believe it? I’ll be there!!!!”
I was soaring. I got ready, mapping the directions, completely unsure where I was going, too excited to think it strange that he didn’t even give me proper directions despite knowing I had never been there before.
After grabbing something to eat (something with ham) and a sangria the size of my face to settle my nerves, I got into the back of another cab. I was wearing a long, light blue dress because we always promised we’d meet again in blue– albeit it being a bit too fancy for a golf course but I was in the habit of being too fancy for just about everything.
The cab driver spoke little english and when I showed him the address on my phone, he looked as confused as I was.
I didn’t understand his hesitation.
The ride was mostly uphill and by the sea, scenic with greens and blues on either side. The sea salt filled the air as I fidgeted with my fingers, picturing the moment I’d see him again over and over. I imagined something like a fairytale, me in my blue dress, him in his blue button down as he took me in an embrace fit for fiction. Then, I noticed train tracks and saw a train beside us, going very obviously in the same direction. I looked at the meter, already at 20 euros, and wondered why he didn’t tell me there was a train that went from Barcelona to Sant Andreu.
The cab stopped suddenly in front of a big golden gate hidden between two giant trees, with a large driveway that seemed as if it went up and up forever. I paid 70 euros, upset that it cost so much, and hoped Taylor would have a reason for forgetting to tell me about the train.
I walked up and was greeted by a short, slender man with thick black hair and green eyes in an orange traffic vest, but I didn’t notice him as I scanned the area for Taylor’s tan skin and tall, muscular frame.
The man spoke rapidly to me in Catalan. I blinked at him, anxious, and in my broken Spanish told him that I didn’t speak very well but that I was looking for someone. He seemed to understand my hand movements and nodded.
“Who?” He said. I said Taylor’s full name, feeling it on my tongue because it had been so long since I had spoken it aloud.
The man took me inside a waiting area that smelled like a mixture of sweat and perfume and rustled with some papers. I heard him speak Taylor’s name into a phone with much confusion. He hung up the phone, looking up at me with a strange look, picked it up again and made a few other calls. Finally, a tall, young man came out from behind a red door. He was wearing a green golf shirt and white pants, a visor holding up his hair.
“Hi,” he said, “I am the only one who speaks English here. Lorenzo said you needed some help finding a guest?”
“Yeah, uh, Hi. I’m looking for a Taylor _____. He told me to meet him here.”
The same confused look. More rustled papers. Another phone call.
“My dear, I’m sorry. We, uh, can’t seem to find someone of that name in our membership records. Are you sure you’re in the right place?”
My heart sank, but I kept my composure and showed him the address Taylor had given me on my phone.
“Yes, this is the right place then. Oh dear. Okay, well maybe he is coming. There are some couches there outside where you can wait. No one comes in and out of here without us knowing so if he comes, you will see.”
I sat on the couch outside then, overlooking the golf course and the sea, and felt like my heart had just been run over by a truck. I dug my phone out of my purse and tried to call him. Once. Twice. Three times. All I got was a busy tone and it was twenty minutes past three and that’s when I realized: he wasn’t coming. I had come all the way there and he wasn’t coming.
Suddenly, I was the American girl in the blue dress who got stood up in Barcelona, who was now crying her eyes out for all of Llavaneras to see.
The man in the orange vest saw me then, crying, and said: “Call a cab?”
I nodded and tried to use my hands to express that I wanted to go to the train.
“I wait. I wait.”
We stood together then, as I wiped the tears still pressed in the corner of my eyes. I was standing not with the man I had envisioned, but instead, a man who I couldn’t understand and who couldn’t understand me. Yet, we were standing together and we were talking. Not with words but with our hands. I signed that Taylor wasn’t coming, and he pointed to the trash. I laughed and so did he. We were having a conversation in broken words and it was the first time I felt like I belonged since I got there.
“Me llama Lorenzo,” He said. I smiled.
“Me llama Tess.”
“Tess.” He gave me a thumbs up sign. Until the cab came, we talked like this, and he showed me pictures of his kids and his home in Sant Andreu. I showed him pictures of New York and he smiled in delight, constantly giving me the thumbs up sign.
“No cry.” He said, thumbs up sign again.
“No cry.” I said.
The cab drove up the hill then, and Lorenzo took my hands in his.
He said something I couldn’t understand and I took him in a huge hug. He seemed shocked and surprised but welcomed the embrace and put me in the cab, telling the driver where to take me.
On the way to the train, I deleted Taylor’s number because I realized that the whole time I had been there I hadn’t noticed the slope of the trees, the sound of the ocean kissing the shore, or the music in the distance that drifted through the air. My heart was broken but my soul was filled with Barcelona. That was the day I realized that, sometimes, it’s best to fall in love with places instead of people.
And fall in love I did.