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Translated by Sandra Kingery
The exercise for our fourth class was to describe a tattoo. I chose one I have on my calf, an eagle with its wings extended, describing its shape, location, when I had it done, etc. After half an hour, we had to put our pencils down even if we hadn’t finished. The professor asked for volunteers to read what we’d written out loud. I felt proud of my description, but I was also too shy to talk in public. That’s why it was Nando who read his exercise:
Thirsty. It made me thirsty to watch the drop of sweat that was balancing at the top of the hill formed by his biceps, as if the tribal tattoo encircling his arm were holding it in place. He lowered the hand holding the 20-pound weight and the droplet slipped free, sliding slowly down his skin until disappearing into the valley of his elbow. I wanted to follow that path with my tongue, attempting to trap those salty drops, sate my thirst with them.
Our gazes met in the mirror. I was holding a 2-pound weight in each hand, standing next to him, but without exercising. I was looking at him, and he realized it. My throat was dry. I wanted to say something to him. But I couldn’t think of anything to say. My mind could only formulate a single word: “Thirsty.”
He was the one who broke the ice: “Nice tattoo,” he said.
I’d never paid attention to him before that. It never even crossed my mind to wonder if he was gay or not. But now, I not only wanted to break my pencil and throw out what I’d written, I was dying to take him to bed. Or wherever. Because in spite of his normal, even boring, physical appearance, with that kind of imagination … it was sure to be something worth writing about afterwards.
Even though Juanjo was still brushing his teeth, I got undressed, leaving my clothes in the basket, and climbed in between the fresh sheets on the bed. I always changed the linens on Saturdays, even when I had to work second shift, like today, so I’d changed them that morning, while Juanjo was making fruit pancakes for breakfast. I turned the washing machine on first thing so I could hang everything up to dry before I left for work. And now, after a long day, I was finally stretched out in bed.
All of a sudden, I felt something scratchy on my side. I slid over and saw a white line that was already dry; it made its way across the cotton and disappeared beneath my body.
I started getting hard as soon as I saw it. I began stroking myself slowly with one hand while I waited for my husband to come to bed and told him: “Why don’t you tell me about your afternoon, mi amor.”
You have to jiggle the key until you find the sweet spot, but I finally manage to open the door. One of the cats is waiting for me right on the other side of the landing, but when it sees that it’s me and not my friend, their owner, it turns around and disappears into the apartment. I go inside and close the door, setting my things on the hallway table.
I feel strange, as if I were doing something illicit.
I pour more dry food into their bowl, give them fresh water, clean the litter box that’s in the bathroom.
My friend asked me to give them some TLC as well—this is the part that makes me feel weird. I sit on her bed, imagining they’ll come. I assume it’ll take a while. While I wait, I look around the room. There’s a basket of dirty clothes, and on top, there’s a pair of boxer shorts. They’re her boyfriend’s. She went to Palencia with him, they’re spending Semana Santa with his parents. The cats don’t come. I stand up and go over to the basket. I take the boxers and bring them to my nose: yes, they still smell like him. That pleasant scent of the sweet sweat of his balls.
My dick’s hard. I inhale again, touching myself.
When I open my eyes, the cats are standing there, watching me.
Good thing they can’t tell my friend.
I was ordering a coffee when I got distracted.
He was tall and imposing, and he knew it.
I wasn’t the only one watching him make his way across the cafeteria to the door, we were all absorbing every detail: the biceps emphasized by the sleeve of his form-fitting t-shirt, his broad back and narrow waist forming a perfect triangle, his tight ass. An extraordinary specimen of masculinity.
When I looked back at the barista, he was watching me contemplate that super stud with a smile and waiting for me to finish ordering.
“Sorry,” I said, blushing so hard I was sure my face was the color of a beet.
“No worries,” the barista said. “He’s a sight for sore eyes, that’s for sure, but I bet he’s super boring in the sack.”
If possible, I blushed even harder.
“Why do you think?”
“I can figure out a lot about people by what they order and how they order. You just have to take a look at him to know that he spends his whole life rejecting pleasure: with his diet, the hours in the gym, the supplements and everything he takes to achieve and maintain that body. And he ordered a decaf cappuccino with skim milk and saccharine instead of sugar. Is that kind of artificial combination even worth ordering? In any case, it’s a clear sign of wanting everything but being afraid to enjoy it.”
On the one hand, I was paying attention to what he was telling me, but on the other, I was wondering what the drink I had begun to order said about me.
“But then, take a guy like that one over there as an example,” he pointed at a bear sitting all alone at a table. “He ordered a café con leche, totally normal. But he also ordered a chocolate brownie, and when I asked him if he wanted it with whipped cream, he said: ‘Why not?’ That’s the type of guy who’s not afraid of enjoying the pleasures of life. I’m sure he’d be fun in bed. He’d give himself over completely to whatever he was doing.”
I continued observing the guy. I wouldn’t have looked at him before then, but now that I was paying attention, the truth is that he was kind of attractive. He was dressed in a plaid shirt, his beard was well groomed and enhanced the lines of his face, framing his smile. He wasn’t fat, but he was heavy-set. What Yiddish grandmothers always call “zaftig,” which I had never understood until now. He was zaftig.
When I turned back to the barista, he was watching how I was examining that nicely husky guy.
I started blushing again.
“Did you want anything else with your cortado?”
“I changed my mind,” I said, trying to keep my voice under control, even though I couldn’t suppress a smile. “Give me a café con leche. And a chocolate brownie, por favor.”
Then I took the tray and, even though there were a lot of empty tables in the cafeteria, I approached the table where the bear was sitting and asked him: “Is this seat taken?”
There was a xeroxed sign with a photo of a cat posted all over Chueca. The third time I saw it, I stopped to read it:
BLACK AND WHITE CAT
HIS NAME IS METEORITE
HIS OWNER IS A TOP
WITH AN 8” DICK
I searched the whole neighborhood, but there wasn’t a single tear-off phone number for the cat’s owner left on any of the posters.
There are philosophers who say that the world splits in two with every decision, like branching paths, and as a result there are millions and millions of parallel universes. I want to live in that other universe, the one where I kissed you instead of holding back out of fear it would destroy our friendship.