When you’re 17 and planning your first international vacation without your parents, alongside your best gal pal, your priorities generally lie in three areas: boys with accents, getting lost, and boys with accents helping you when you get lost.
For me, this basic list was a little bit altered as it ran in circles through my head while I was sifting through maps of Granada, Spain and emailing my crazy host mom Paqui. I was going to the sex capitol of Europe to take music lessons from a Spanish man in the world’s sexiest art form. Half of me would pray at night that my tutor would be a tall, dark, and handsome man of about 25 years old who would seduce me with his worldly charm and lusciously broken English. The other half, however, was terrified that he really would be tall, dark, and handsome, and that I would somehow end up drunk, naked, and de-flowered in a strange, foreign man’s bed.
“Bienvenido!” I heard other tourists shout in my first few hours in Spain, but I couldn’t focus on any of them; in the corner, hunched over in a rickety wooden chair, was my Mr. TallDarkandHandsome.
He introduced himself in Spanish and began the lesson. It was clear from the get-go that he was a little bit excited by the fact that he had a young, pretty girl in one of his classes, which are usually dominated by middle-aged men from Texas or London.
All he needed was an opening. He invited me to go shopping for a new instrument, and the excursion turned into dinner and dancing. The festivities lasted until the warm sun peaked over the hills and I half strolled, half waltzed in his arms all the way up the hill to his home.
His bed sheets, long hair and eyes were black. His nails were long and they tickled against my navel. I had never been touched with so much passion. It made my toes tingle until they went numb. He would whisper foreign words into the small indentations of my lower back, and they sounded so much like love that I thought I had found it. But when the moment came, like I knew it would, when I had to choose what I wanted, I knew that it wasn’t time. I told him that I was 17, that I was a virgin, and that I was not ready. And so he wrapped me up in his black sheets, and I slept, blanketed in the knowledge that I was smart, that I was of strong will, and that he wanted me.
Two weeks later, I left. I left Spain, I left Paqui, I left the dark bars where I had gotten lost, and I left the man with the accent who had helped me. But I do not deal well with fantasies, and I knew that my memories could not satisfy my craving for real life. He would send me emails, he would call. I pasted a story together in my head that said that he would come and find me when the time was right.
But stories have a way of breaking hearts.
The next time that I saw him, I was 19, surrounded by the bustle of a city that was much more familiar to me and much less romantic: New York. There he was, standing in the dim light of Penn Station, waiting for me. He swept me through another wonderfully intoxicating day on the waves of his lilting English and the soft graze of his fingers along my back.
I had abandoned the fears of purity some time ago. The hotel room was smaller, but the man was the same. His hands were big enough to wrap around my waist and still have his fingers touch. His hair was slightly longer now, and it grazed the inside of my ears as he bent to kiss me. He had the strength of a man who had seen the world and had forced it to fall in love with him. He had the power to do with me whatever he wanted, and I had never felt safer — or more terrified — in my life. The night turned into dawn, and my shoulder blades, knees and heart convulsed until I could no longer feel them. My pores sweated until they were empty. I had turned my memories into a reality that pressed down with the gravity of a 6’2’’ man lying on my chest.
Sometimes, realities have an even sharper way of breaking your heart than stories do. He had opened my eyes to a utopia of passion that had only existed in movies, music, and imagination. He had been residing in that world for years. He knew nothing other than that world, and so to him, I was nothing short of disposable. He had promised me beautiful things in the hushed morning hours as ours bodies danced. He had left me on a high.
He didn’t ignore me, which probably would have hurt less. Instead, he continued the lie, until the final moment, when all of my plans had been put in place to see him again. Then he left. He told me that he didn’t want me anymore, and he tossed me off like the hazy afterthought of a drunken night.
It was nothing.