Shirley Valentine: That’s right, Millandra, I’m going to Greece for the sex! Sex for breakfast! Sex for dinner! Sex for tea! And sex for supper!
Van Driver: Sounds like a fantastic diet, love!
Shirley Valentine: It is, have you never heard of it? It’s called the “F” plan! — From Willy Russell’s “Shirley Valentine”

I’m not going to lie. I was hoping I’d get the chance to have a torrid love affair to remember while in Salamanca. To be honest, given the way my life usually works, I was certain the caballero would be some introverted Psych major from a university in Wisconsin and not a handsome, bearded Spaniard infused with Old World machismo.

Guess what? El universo got it right at long last.

It’s funny how these things work. Who knew when the MIT geniuses (or whoever) invented GPS, it was really just another means of having our dicks point us in the right direction? That’s essentially what the gay social apps are for, why be precious about it? I’m a single man abroad without any attachments. Why shouldn’t I indulge in a bit of tomcatting?

Sancho

Telmo caught my eye for very specific reasons, right? So, whether I’d met him in LA or not, the ensuing ritual is the same no whether where you go or whatever language is spoken. A barrage of obligatory IM’s cross the line between curiosity and innuendo before devolving into the bartering of sexual activities that seal the deal. It’s a nervy roll of the dice because no matter how much you reveal upfront, the risk of disappointment or rejections runs just as high if nothing is said at all.

In the case of Telmo, a one night stand was all we were meant to be. I look at it as a tapa, a pre-cursor to the cena still to come. (Really, must all food metaphors turn everything into THAT scene from “Tom Jones?”)

Then I met Samuel, and now I don’t what to think. No literary devices come to mind. I can only think of him as something…well…poetic.

IMG_20140713_181440

“Lo único que me duele de morir, es que no sea de amor.” –Gabriel García Márquez, El amor en los tiempos del cólera

It is interesting the parallel I would find in Palmira’s conversation class a few days after my weekend with Samuel. After nearly three weeks, no one is holding back their opinions, which has made for some pretty charged classes of late. We talked about dating in the digital age and the group revealed incredibly strong opinions about the social sites. Trust, honesty and reality seem to be in short supply for most of the young women who comprise the majority of the class. When I asked these students whether they considered themselves romantics or realists, they were divided. Some did not even hesitate in calling themselves realists. But several acknowledged they were probably both. I tend to agree with them now. Given my experiences of late in dating, I see the reason why Don Henley wrote in The Heart of the Matter, “How can love survive in such a graceless age?”

I keep firing up my Moto to take a peek of the images we snapped during our tour of Alcalá de Henares, located 40 minutes by train outside of Madrid.  I think about how I stepped out of the Renfe station and saw him pull up in a white car. (I know, right? White car, white horse!) I think about how we walked up to each other, and he reached out to hug me and then kissed me oh-so gently on the lips, saying “Hola, Jorge. Que gusto.”

Sam 2

I look at those meaty forearms of his and I instantly want to get in them. He’s a real man, no affectations and harbors no delusions about how the world works. Samuel has made his own way in the world. Forgive this Donna Reed-era statement, but he has a good job in Madrid and lives in the town of Meco in a comfortable and ridiculously clean apartment he shares only with an extremely vocal cat named Dali. (That cat was the ultimate cock blocker, by the way.) He is definitely someone you’d say was comfortable in their own skin, which is something I’ve always had a lot of trouble saying with conviction.

All of this heavy breathing is perfectly shot and framed in my head by Roger Deakins or Emmanuel Lubezki. It depends on the light of day. Yet, I don’t think of any of this as being “love.” I know what it is to truly fall in love. It has only happened once, the concussion of which continues to reverberate through my very core. Given the difficulty I’ve had in seeing anyone else in such a manner, I don´t know how eager I am to experience that sort of emotional upheaval again.

However, what is happening with Samuel is something surprisingly easier to comprehend, despite the hyperbole I can’t help but spin. Perhaps the pre-Spain me would have obsessed un mogollón about what all THIS MEANS. While I do not shy away from calling it positively romantic,  I am also being positively realistic about its significance.

I feel like a living, breathing man again.

The shock of a new person sharing an intimate space with you is on par with being stabbed in the heart with syringe. You will feel so much at once: fear, awkwardness, excitement, clarity and compassion. It feels so good to know I can make that happen again. It’s absolutely thrilling, this rush that fires up every cell, every synapse. I haven´t felt this energized in so long. It´s like what I´m experiencing with my re-learning Spanish. My mind has so much it wants to express, I can’t articulate it at the same speed. Something gets caught in the transition even though my thinking is very much in Spanish. What a wonderful problem to have, but if anything, it validates why slowing down is not such a bad thing.

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The weekend I spent with Samuel in Alcalá de Henares and Meco was a variation of what I’m living and breathing at the Pontificia: that is Inspiring.

It is no coincidence that all of this would happen in the hometown of Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quijote. Samuel took it upon himself to put together a tour. Like Salamanca, Alcalá is a university town. Here, history has found a way to keep up with the encroaching modernity that continues to honor the past. Here, the most acclaimed Hispanic writers of our time are honored with the Cervantes Prize. Here, this town was built brick by brick because its earliest designer, Francisco Jiménez de Cisnero, knew it would outlast the stone facades of the time.

It’s an prescient detail, the idea of building something brick by brick. It is also how we build an identity, value by value, lesson by lesson, truth by truth. A biological component exists, absolutely. Yet, as I’ve discovered through my recent proclivities, I am actually enjoying this moment to understand and not judge my sexual identity.

I never saw “gay” as a choice. It was just a fact. Once I was able to accept who I was a human being, the rest fell into place, if in fits and starts. It has been a complicated process, one littered with so many drafts and experiments gone wrong, it has been easy to hide behind a false sense of self.

The Windmills of my mind
The Windmills of my mind

Control has been my nemesis through it all, indulging all of my appetites to overcompensate the fact I just didn’t know who I was in this world. Eventually, I got so frustrated by it all, it was apparent that I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin. Nor could I say I even loved myself. If I did, I wouldn’t have let a malaise of self-loathing and discontent to obfuscate any optimism or hope.

I was aware of my issues. I realized who I wanted to be in this world. And like my current problem in refining my fluency in Spanish, that disconnect was preventing me from reaching this point of contentment.  Scratch that — I was preventing myself from being happy.

For being such a short word, “happy” encompasses so much. So why is it so damn hard a state of being to achieve? Why do many of us choose self-flagellation over embracing the many blessings we should count? Why do we torture ourselves with low self-image, a negative body consciousness and other punishments? Why is perception given such a premium in a world that quite frankly doesn’t give a shit about you or how you feel?

Multi-billion dollar industries benefit from our misery. I refuse to give one dollar more to these complexes that market how they have the secret to living an “authentic life.” Guess what? I’m living one right now. What I am doing, what I am seeing, and most of all, what I am feeling is fucking authentic.

Roman glory.
Roman glory.

I know the world is not always a beautiful place. In light of recent events, both personal and global, I am humbled by the reminders of how that single thread of our existence can be cut without warning or mercy. Yet, it is in understanding and accepting beauty in all things that will allow us to exalt in the privilege and responsibility of being alive.

Something has shifted within me thanks to this experience in Spain. In fact, I can see now how all roads led to Salamanca. I’m not sure where this particular path will lead, but something tells me that I will be making that journey with a smile.

Because it’s beautiful…

town

PS — And yes, for the record, I am going back to Madrid this weekend with Samuel.

Friday, July 18 (Week 3, Day 21), started at Samuel’s house in Meco and finished at Manoli’s house in Salamanca, Spain.

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