I often wonder: do those people who post online about their fantastic day, their wonderful partner, their sheer joy at being alive—do they read what others write? Or rather, perhaps, what others don’t write? Do they see the empty spaces? Or do they just check in to self-congratulate? To thank their partner publicly? To let the world know: I am in love! I am happy! Everything in my world is great!
I love a good dive bar on a Saturday night. I love drinking from the bottle and getting tight. I love the girl who’s standing at the bar, giving me a look that says you won’t get far. I love the size of her boyfriend’s fists. I love the pain of a broken nose. I love the taste of my own blood. I love the sound of the bartender’s voice, the grip of his hands on my upturned collar. I love the cold and the smell of the streets. I love lying in the gutter and thinking of you. I love waking up in a shit-hole flat, picking up the phone to a no-dial tone. I love looking through all the old pics. I love sticking on our old song. I love being skinny and never wanting to eat. I love getting high and writing down words, turning my pain into another smash hit. I love being broke and all alone…
I love not knowing how this’ll all end.
Lukas knew better than to accept the invitation he received on the last night of his trip to Barcelona, but Celeste knew that wouldn’t stop him. Celeste was beautiful—an eight-and-a-half out of ten, easily—and Lukas was basically an idiot.
When Lukas arrived at the small sushi restaurant in the Raval, he spotted Celeste at a table in the corner. She looked up and gave him a forced smile. Undeterred, Lukas sat, and for a while they chatted amiably, Celeste waiting for the right moment to say what she had to say. The opportunity arose about twenty minutes in, when Lukas began to ruminate on the bittersweet feelings he experienced at being back in Barcelona. At this point, Celeste launched her attack.
I saw her last night. She was dressed in a black swing-dress, with black tights and a pair of pumps that had fat pink laces. Her hair was magenta, just as I remember, tied back, her lips wet and red. She smiled and we chatted. She laughed, and those creases in her cheeks appeared. I used to love those creases. It’s seven years since we spoke and I was no longer bitter. I remember—but it no longer hurt, and it gave me hope and a renewed sense of self-belief to stand there and talk, just like two old friends.
One day I borrowed Celeste’s bicing card and rode up to the Parc del Forum at the far end of the beach. I stopped on the concrete platform beside the auditori – the black, triangular-shaped construction that stands at the entrance to the parc – and dismounted, pausing for a moment to catch my breath and take in the view. It was a hot, cloudless August afternoon, and away from the tourist-season claustrophobia of the old town, it felt like a different world. An overwhelming wave of gratitude suddenly washed over me. My God! I thought. It’s so good to be here.
He’s a big guy. That much I knew. Tall and handsome, rugged, with eyes that exude warmth and pain. He was in pain that day, I could tell, but still. When he told me he couldn’t stay, that he had to leave almost immediately, I was crushed. I’d been so excited. Scoped out a place for us to sit, just around the corner—a little café, where we’d sit and talk about writing, before heading into the museum together, where his enthusiasm, his depth and breadth of knowledge would dazzle and nourish me.
And they would still. Just not today.
Every class is different. Every class is unique. But every year there’s at least one you fall in love with, head over heels—sometimes two or three, or even more than that. And you love them for so many reasons. You love them for their beauty and their innocence, but mostly you love them because they make you a better person. They don’t realise it, but they need you, and their need triggers something deep inside. A sense of purpose and self-worth. They grow up, of course. Move on to another teacher and into teenhood. They forget.
But you don’t.
I took a walk up to the football field, just up the path and over the bridge. The sky was cloudless, the stars too numerous to count. It was dark and the field was deserted, and I remembered that night we came up here after a dinner-date, stood in the middle of the open field and embraced. I lifted your top and cupped your breasts and put them to my mouth. I looked out across the field, the light from the shopping centre glowing in the distance, and I breathed in the freezing air and thought of you once more.