A Night in San Sebastian
Sarah Jake Fishman
Spain in July is hot. This discovery was first made somewhere in Sevilla when I got lost trying to find Plaza de España. It was reinforced in Ronda when my rideshare driver abandoned me and my fifty-pound bag at the top of a mountain that my hostel stood at the foot of, a mile’s hike away. The confirmation came in Donostia-San Sebastián in a hostel with no air conditioning and windows that wouldn’t open.
We met at a bar in Gros. Later he would tell me he was attracted to me from the first moment he saw me. I would rack my brain, trying to remember what I was doing when he approached me. Probably sipping a beer and flipping through my collection of Lorrie Moore stories. I would spend a lot of time in the following months trying to subtly show him how much I loved beer, how much I loved to read and maybe I’d attract him again.
I hadn’t eaten in close to 24 hours, having spent much of my time in San Sebastián trying to catch up on sleep or catch busses to Pamplona for Running of the Bulls. The first beer went to my head in a matter of minutes and the second, third, and fourth were consumed with hardly an acknowledgement. He was cute in person, cuter than I would have guessed based on his Instagram pictures. But I guess I had been attracted to him the first time I saw him as well. Attracted to his adventure, to his personality anyway. At least the parts of it he chose to share online.
He wasn’t a celebrity, not really, but the infatuation I had with him was that of a celebrity crush. I would joke that if I get married, he would be on my “free pass” list, a celebrity I could sleep with and it wouldn’t count as cheating, because it’s not like it would ever happen anyway, right?
I had mentioned when he sat down that I hadn’t eaten in a long time and he said, “After this beer, we’ll find you some food.” Hours passed and we kept drinking but didn’t eat, and so the next morning I barely remembered any of our conversation, which is a shame, because now he’s a giant question mark, even more so than before we met.
Sometime between late night and early morning, we found our way to a playground, climbed up to the top level, dangled our legs over the edge. We talked a lot. I remember that much. And he must have liked something I said, or just wanted me to stop talking, because he kissed me. It was quick and hard and he almost missed my lips in the dark. My thoughts trudged through the buzz slowly, fragmented and dripping, like watercolors still wet on the page, then suddenly sharpened and I kissed him back, deeply.
His body was hard, firm muscles perpetually constricting under his clothing, strengthened from months of consistent exercise. When I laid my chest to his, I didn’t sink into him. I felt as if I was hovering above, his strength like a bike rack, me a broken bike that didn’t quite fit. I positioned his body between my legs and pressed my mouth to his. Our tongues met, hot and wet, and it didn’t feel like love.
My drunk lips, coated with beer and perspiration, craved the meal I had never gotten, so they settled for the next best thing. My fingers clumsily worked at the button on his pants. Hungrily, I slid my body down his, put my head between his legs, and feasted. But before I was satiated he held the palm of his hand against the back of my head. My skin crawled at the sensation and I pulled my head away. He came just as my lips disconnected from his skin.
He tried to reciprocate, stretching his long body across the platform, his knees hovering over the plastic slide, his head between my legs as I laid back, looking at the stars. But the space was small and the angle was weird, so we stopped and stood and got dressed in a strange silence.
“I didn’t come,” I said, without realizing I wanted to say it. It was an observation, not a complaint.
“Well, we can go back to my apartment, but it’s a 45 minute walk away.”
I considered the alternative: my top bunk in a small dorm room at a hostel with no air conditioning and windows that wouldn’t open, so I said, “I don’t mind a walk.”
Drunk memories are strange, it seems, because all I remember of that 45-minute walk is about 45 seconds of staring at the pavement rushing beneath my feet as we charged towards privacy. It didn’t take long, once we were in his bedroom, for my clothes to end up somewhere between the bed and the wall and his mouth to return to its business between my legs, picking up where he had left off. He licked and lapped and teased and every time I’d say, “I’m close,” he stopped. “You’re evil,” I moaned, and he’d laugh and start the cycle over again.
Finally, he allowed me to come and laid beside me as I panted. I shifted towards him out of habit, searching for a warm body to press mine up against, hoping it would wrap itself around me. He put his arm around my shoulders a moment too late, like he had forgotten about the concept of cuddling, or he just didn’t want to.
Then, of course, we fucked: me on top, him grabbing at my hips like a steering wheel, driving me exactly where he wanted me to go. He came again. I was just happy to be along for the ride. We didn’t cuddle, instead fell asleep as far from each other as the bed allowed, as the sunlight began to pour in through the window.
In the morning, or rather in two hours, we woke up and he walked me out the door and towards the road. As we approached the curb, the awkward tension became a dense haze around us, thick like humidity, and impossible to push through.
Without meeting my eyes, he leaned forward and quickly kissed me once on each cheek. “Like the French do,” he said.
“Well, I’m headed there next…”
Unsure how to say goodbye, we shuffled our feet, looked down the street, across the road, out towards the coastline. Finally, our eyes met, and he leaned forward and kissed me quickly on the mouth. His lips tasted of sweat and obligation.
“Bye,” I said. He waved. We parted ways, each walking in different directions away from his front door.
That afternoon I sat on a bus to Figueres, managing my hangover, and replaying the night before over and over in my head. As I stared out the window towards what I believed to be Parc National des Pyrénées, my nose began to itch. I reached up to scratch it and noticed the small golden hoop, which had been threaded through my right nostril the night before, and for the three years prior, was no longer there. Lost somewhere in the playground, buried by woodchips and the Spanish heat, was a souvenir accidentally gifted to San Sebastián, a memory of a fantasy come true, a desire realized, a night simultaneously forgotten and unforgettable.