I It was 4: 03 in the afternoon. She was looking outside the windows to her new adopted city.

Barcelona was moving frantically and yet quietly. There were some gray clouds that transformed the atmosphere into a relaxed depression. The view from her window offered only a glimpse of the beauty of Barcelona. It was all clouded by disorganized apartment buildings. She was surprised to see that they were all white, or rather, they used to be white and they are now a brownish gray that time and its eroding companions left behind. She was also surprised to see that people like to hang their clothes to dry in their balconies, something rarely seen back home in the U.S. This is my new life she thought to herself, I chose this, everything is alright. As night approached, and the excitement of being in a new city in Europe started to wear off, her stomach and chest started to fill itself with a nostalgic feeling that almost felt like nausea. She almost regretted being here. Her room was a mess. She barely had time to connect her laptop, one of the few things that reminded her of home, a little window of comfort that made the flat a little bit like home. She connected it with the purpose of finding a Wi-Fi signal. She found a few, but they were all protected. Giving up, she played an album that reminded her home, Innocence & Instinct from Red. “Never be the same” started to play. She opened her window to feel the air that Barcelona breathes, trying to inhale her chaotic beauty. “Cus after loving you...I can never be the same” her laptop speakers blasted with sorrow. “And I belong to you...”. She had always thought of Jesus whenever she heard this song. After all, Red being a Christian band, probably intended it for Him. But who knows? This time she was thinking not on Jesus, but on him. Her friend whom she loved not only as a friend. A small tear fell on her cheeks. She felt a little guilty of letting her emotions sweetly roll down in thoughts of his friend instead of Jesus, being that the song was skillfully stirring them. She reminded herself that love comes from God and He wouldn't mind her sharing that love and it's feeling with his friend, if only for a little while. A fresh breeze hit her face gently, her beautiful caramel colored hair moved sweetly in a dance governed by the wind. She looked beautiful. A lone beauty that no one but the wind could appreciate. The city moved mercilessly in its rhythm. It gave her comfort. Everything is moving she thought. No one is waiting for me. She washed her tear with her right hand, and decided to go out.

II She is short at 5' 6”. A bit overweight. She wasn't the most beautiful girl in High School. She did have a sweet rounded face with overwhelmingly cute cheeks. Her hair offered her another layer of beauty, straight and soft. It flowed smoothly at the mercy of wind and hands. Her character is one of candid sweetness, joyful and yet serious. Very mature at her young age of 21. She considered her upbringing and faith responsible for this. She held dearly to her Catholic faith, and was looking forward to getting to know the Church in Spain. She was born in the U.S from Hispanic parents. She spoke fluent Spanish. Language was definitely not the problem in Spain. She was a bit worried of her accent, though her brown complexion made it clear that she was not a native. The narrow streets started to get dark, as the sun left only an orange stain on the horizon. The orange city lights started to shine dimly on the pavement. Cars struggled to squeeze in these narrow streets. An old man with a serious face, almost formally dressed, was laying on the steps that led to the entrance of his home, or so she assumed. Two guys in their 40s walked by, holding hands, a sight that caught her attention. She started to look up at the old houses and apartments. In some the painting was starting to fall off. “Cuidado!”

she heard, as she almost collided with a joyful couple. The guy smiled at her, asking “andas bien?”. The guy's girlfriend was looking at her with worried eyes, with a hint of shock, as if trying to say “What is wrong with you?”. “Perdon”, she managed to say with a shy smile, and moved on. III I can't believe I did this. The movie of last night was forcing itself in her mind. The emptiness she was feeling was only matched by her guilt, shame and disappointment. She finally gave up walking. It was dark. She sat down on the first bench she found, and cried. She buried her face on her knees, covering it with her hands. The night felt fresh at the park. The birds were still singing their joyful late-afternoon celebration. Cars buzzed on the street in front of her. Once in a while pedestrians passed by and looked at her worried, until one stopped and asked her in Spanish “Estas bien?”. “Oh...yeah” she answered, looking up. She forced a smile on her face. “You know, it is getting dark and it's not safe for you to be here” said the guy. He was young, 6'2, with a slim face. His dark, spiky hair was slightly combed backwards, making him look like a hedgehog. She could tell he used too much gel to force the hair up. “Thanks, but I'm ok”. “I can tell you're not from here” he answered. “I'm from the U.S” she answered with a small hint of pride. “The U.S?, I thought you were from Mexico or something”. “Yeah? Well...” she said, looking away. She certainly didn't want someone to talk to at this moment, and not after that careless, almost ethnocentric comment. “Why were you crying?”. What?! She thought to herself, what do you care anyways, mind your own business,choosing instead to say nothing, trying not be rude here. “I mean, I'm sorry if I'm being too nosy, but I thought maybe I could....I dunno help, did someone steal your stuffs or something?”. “Not a good neighborhood I guess?” she answered. Indeed it wasn't. Living in Europe on a budget was certainly not easy. “It's not so bad if you know the places to avoid”. “Great” she said with sarcasm, sniffing, clearing her eyes and nose. “No, no one has robbed me...yet”. “I see” he said “I guess it's personal”. “I guess...do you always go around town asking people their problems?”. “Ha!” he said, smiling. “Not really...but crying alone in a place like this, I just had to ask”. “hmm....” she responded quickly. Strangely enough, she felt she could trust him a bit. She always was too fast to give away her trust. “So what is a girl from the U.S doing in a neighborhood like this alone, and crying? You know...people kind of feel happy when they come to Europe” he asked, while sitting next to her. She moved a bit to the side, making way for him and smiled briefly. “I came here to study for the semester...you know, one of those study abroad things”. “Oh I see” he said, having no idea what she meant, but too embarrassed to ask. An awkward silence followed. He was looking to the streetlamp in front of them, almost carelessly. She looked at him, wondering what the heck he was doing, or planning to do. “So you just came here?” he finally asked, still looking at the streetlamp, hands clasped at the bench, slightly bending forward. “Yesterday”. “Yesterday?!” finally turning to her, laughing in surprise. She only nodded, trying to find what was so interesting about that streetlamp. He went back to the streetlamp. “You need someone to show you around town, and more importantly, where is the best place to cry desperately in solitude”. She opened her mouth, followed quickly by a smile. “I was not! Whatever!” and looked away. “Anyways, I know living here can be rough at times, I really can't judge you for that” He looked briefly at her eyes, and smiled. She looked down, feeling shy. “Yeah...well”. “Yeah well, gotta go, what's the name?”. “Oh mine? Samantha, and yours?” . “Sebastian, nice to meet you”. “Nice to meet you as well” she responded. “Doing anything tomorrow?”. “I guess organizing my room...”. “What do you say we meet here tomorrow at 4 pm?”. “ I thought this was a dangerous place” she answered, smiling. “Not while there's still some daylight”. “Ok” she answered while nodding. “Ok, tomorrow then. You should really go back to your house, hotel or whatever. It's really not safe here at this hour”. She smiled and said “will do”.

IV She was feeling better now. Empty, but better. She still felt a bit jet-lagged but tired, which helped her fall asleep as soon as she got home. It is 8:00 am, her alarm thundered throughout her little flat. The morning sun was greeting her from her little window. She saw women hanging their fresh washed clothes in their balconies. The yellowish atmosphere of the morning gave her a relaxing jolt of energy. She felt tranquil, calm, and relaxed. But the emptiness was hiding in a dark corner of herself, sleeping and tired after screaming all day yesterday. It had its moment, it wasn't thinking of leaving anywhere yet, just resting in idleness. She got up quickly, looking for her caffeine fix. Knowing that she didn't have any coffee, let alone any coffee maker, decided to go a couple of blocks away for the coffee shop. She got ready, and without taking a shower, headed outside. The morning sun hit her face with force. Lots of people were going out of their houses, some talking. Life in Barcelona was starting to awake. The relaxing, magical beauty of the morning was interrupted by the hectic going and coming of people with appointments and meetings, students catching their buses, little kids with backpacks on their backs holding their parent's hand, and some of them running towards the bus station, hoping not to be late for work. Still, the beauty of Barcelona shined even in this neighborhood, at least dimly. Accustomed to her U.S morning rituals, she was hoping to find a Starbucks. C'mon, there are Starbucks everywhere. Indeed there are, but only a few in Barcelona. She found a local coffee shop just two blocks from her apartment building, and decided to go in. While taking her coffee, which was very strong and slightly bitter, at least to her personal taste, she was thinking of this afternoons date. Is it a date?. She couldn't figure it out. She was not interested in going out on a date, specially after what had happened two nights ago. She made it clear to herself that that was only a one time event. She found, however, Sebastian oddly charming. He wasn't particularly handsome, though not ugly. She found his easy going nature very attracting. Even more attracting was his almost lack of attention towards her. Why was it? Is he interested or not? He must be if he asked me for a da..., for us to hang out this afternoon. She found this intriguing, interesting, attracting. But maybe he just wants to help me out, be friends or something. “We'll see” she said to herself while preparing to leave the coffee shop. She got home quickly, couldn't stand being outside without taking bath. She took a bath and prepared for the day. V After a few hours of cleaning up, ordering and sorting things out in her room, she was finally done with organizing it. It is not that she had many things to sort out. Just a couple of bags. But, as many women are, she was hopelessly lost in the little details, making sure it matched her vibe and personality. This will be my home for the next few months, might as well put some effort in it. And she started taking pictures of it, with the intention of showing them with her family. She took pictures of everything. Of her little and depressing window, the yellow paint decorating the room, of her small personal bed, of her computer desk, her bathroom and even the towels, of her door and door knob. 3:30 marked the clock. There was no time for another shower, just a fast wash up. She felt nervous as she got out to the hall, turned right and down to the stairwell. As the afternoon sun hit her face, her heart started to pound in desperation. She was new to this whole dating or whatever-it-was scene. She didn't know what to do other than to be there on time. It was getting a little late, she accelerated her pace. 3:50 revealed her watch. She couldn't remember how long it took her to get to the park, being lost in her feelings last night. Recognizing the houses and buildings, she knew she couldn't be that far. The park was just 6 blocks away from her apartment building. She arrived at 3:57. She found the bench where the night before she was hopelessly crying. She sat, and looked around. She found a few trees that she missed in the darkness of the night. In the middle of the park was a small plaza, where some doves made their temporary residence. She saw an old men sitting in one bench close to the plaza, feeding the doves. Little trees surrounded the plaza, and she was sitting in front of one of those trees,

facing the street. 4:00 pm, her personal watch started to speak louder. Sebastian was nowhere to be found. We never agreed where exactly in the park, maybe he's somewhere else. The park wasn't that big. It looked bigger at night, most of it hidden by the darkness. She waited for a few more minutes, knowing very well how guys tend to be late. 4:15 her watch screamed. She was feeling more anxious now. She felt silly. Stupid me! First guy I meet in Barcelona and I totally fall for it! You can't just trust people like that!. 4:20 anxiety gave way to anger. Ok that's it! She said to herself, as she got up from the bench and started to walk back to her apartment. She felt sad, her self-esteem suffered a rejection. She tried to tell herself that it was not a rejection, that she simply trusted a stranger and now she's paying for her own stupidity. As the word “stupidity” entered her mind, the movie of two nights ago started to play itself on her mind again. The feelings of shame and guilt were resurrected in her stomach. “How stupid can you be?!” she said to herself softly. It hurts whenever she talked to herself like that. She loved herself, and those harsh words against her where received with the same horrible harshness as if received from someone you are very close to. She felt sorry for herself. It was a harsh and dark sadness, but somehow sweet. Sweet because it found some comfort in the tears, in the selfpity that made her the victim. She felt as though she was accusing herself too harshly, and she was. And this filled her soul with more self-pity, the horrible and oddly satisfying feeling one gets when treating someone close to you badly, and undeservedly so, just because you are angry or hurt, trying to call for attention. VI She was getting bored as the days slowly passed. She was not used to the unbearable desperation of doing nothing. She had made a point of arriving a few weeks before her classes started, as getting used to her new city seemed prudent. Her friends had committed the horrible sin of betraying her by offering what she wanted, at least at that moment. Were they really friends? She met them in the long flight from Los Angeles to Barcelona. Samantha was seated at the dreaded middle seat in the plane. To her right was a tall, slim blond Spaniard. Her stature and beauty was intimidating. She looked somewhat important to Samantha. To her left was a much more shorter, curly black haired Latina, friend of the Important Blonde. To the right of Important Blonde was a straight haired brunette Spaniard, friend of the Important Blonde and the Latina. These group of friends started a conversation with Samantha. This conversation was almost imminent, as Samantha was the unfortunate splitter of their friendship seats row. Samantha told them of her plans of living in Spain for a few months to study. They seemed naturally interested to this idea. “We should show you around Barcelona...can be a rough town for a newbie” said the Important Blonde. Samantha liked to go out to the little park six blocks from her apartment. She tried to convince herself that this mysterious liking had nothing to do with Sebastian, but in the dark recesses of her mind, where she kept rejected thoughts and wishes, she knew it was all about Sebastian. She wasn't particularly hurt anymore by the unfortunate incident a couple of days back, where Sebastian failed to make an appearance to show her the wild side of Barcelona. She felt disturbingly attracted to his rejection. The intrigue of the cause of his absence only augmented the unhealthy attraction. Perhaps there was a good reason for his absence, a reason he wasn't able to disclose to her, having no means to communicate with her. Samantha thought that by casually walking around the park she would eventually find him. Maybe he'll say “hi”, or even a “sorry for not being there” if she was lucky enough. And so she was many afternoons, passing around her beautiful dresses that floated and danced in a wavy pattern, looking innocently at her surroundings, while failing to look casually in the process. The encounter should only be a matter of time. He should come around one afternoon at one of this corners, with his black jacket and spiky black hair, his blue buttoned up shirt, his faded and torn blue jeans, his black sneakers. And one lonely afternoon, where the air was cool and the afternoon gray, he appeared in one

corner. Samantha felt a bolt of energy that surged from her feet, up to her chest, and finally dying at her lips. This energy brought an anxious gladness. She got close to the infamous bench, where many nights before she met him for the first time. Sebastian was crossing the street, walking towards the park. He was carrying a black backpack with white stripes at the edges. His eyes went up, and saw Samantha looking intently at him. He immediately looked down, pretending not to have seen her. Samantha, whose initial plan was to simply be casually available, wanted none of it now. She had enough of Sebastian's evasiveness, an explanation was not only justifiable, but necessary. She started walking rapidly towards him, her angry face filled with conviction. He saw her, stopped for less than a second, looked down again and continued walking, increasing his pace in the process. “Hey!” said Samantha angrily. She stopped him with one hand on his chest. Both of them were surprised by this action. Sebastian gave out a big sigh, and looked down, his eyes felt safe there. “You did not come...” Samantha's word stumbled out of her. She did not know what else to say. She never really planned what to say for this imminent moment. “I was waiting here for you for like a half hour, and now you are evading me?! No sir, I think the least I deserve is an explanation”. Sebastian finally looked up, looking intensely into her eyes. Samantha felt a bit frightened by the apparent anger that she felt in his eyes. “Do you really want to know? Do you really want to know why I didn't come?”. “Yes, really” responded Samantha anxiously. Sebastian grinned and said to her: “Okay. Remember Carlos? I'm pretty sure you remember him, that is if you weren't that drunk the night you met him”. “Oh” Samantha responded. Her mouth was slightly open in shocking, frightening surprise. This time, she found herself in need of looking down to the floor. “Well, guess what? He's my oldest brother. Small world huh?”. Samantha did not respond, still looking down. “Don't worry, I'm not one to judge really. Don't think I'm mad at you or anything. Just that I don't go out with...what's the word?...I don't want to say whores, no that's too harsh. But I tend to respect what my brother touches”. What are the chances? Really? Of course that's Carlos' little brother. It had to be that way. Of course. Those thoughts were running through her head as she silently accepted the humiliation, as if she was a deserving criminal caught in her own dirty misdoings. VII Once you are busy, time tends to slip away in appointments, deadlines and homework. Samantha's classes were in English, a good thing for her. She started to make new friends, friends that showed her a healthy side of the city. Her trusty old ruby colored digital camera was with her anywhere she went. She delighted in taking pictures and videos in the sparse days off that she had. Thankfully, she found that she wasn't the only Latina from the U.S, their presence comforting to the strangeness around her. She explored the Church in Spain only to find disappointment in the rather dry, almost dying situation it was suffering. Most of the attendants were old people, youth were scarcely found within its beautiful pews. It seems that secularism was painting tradition with a bad and unattractive color, its apparent long-lost beauties being forgotten by the hectic pace of modernism. She still attended mass on Sunday, and even reluctantly tried confession one dark afternoon, where she unloaded the weight of that horrible night months ago. Surprisingly, Sebastian decided to visit Samantha weeks after they last met in the little park. She supposed that finding her address was not difficult for him, as he probably asked his older brother for it. He came to apologize, saying that he was probably too harsh the last time they met, but he also mentioned that they probably shouldn't meet again. Samantha was deeply troubled by the easiness in which he found out where she lived, the oddity of his character that thought that an apology was necessary, and worse of all, the nerve he had by suggesting that they should not, given her unfortunate involvement with his older brother, meet again, as if the incident alone wasn't enough of a warranty to not seeing him again. She was more than ready to close the chapter and move on, accepted the apology and asked him to leave. Time flied with friends, photos,

books, school and grades. Her semester was finally over. She missed her family. She was ready to get back home. VIII The only comforts she had on the dreaded flight was the prospect of seeing her family, but even more so, her friend. Her friend whom she viewed as more than her friend. During her stay in Barcelona, they had interchanged some e-mails. In one of them he said “I miss you” and even an “I love you”. They were shamelessly straightforwards in those exchanges, talking about the prospects of them being together. He responded with a “we'll see”, as if having some doubts on the matter. She spent those lonely hours on the plane carefully examining every memory they shared, trying to find clues of love from her secret lover. She contemplated this as she observed calmly the depressing sameness and the overwhelming vastness of the ocean. She thought of those old cartoons, where the background was endlessly repeating itself in a loop when the characters were moving about in a car. After the apparent eternity of the flight, she was greeted by a chaotic airport, by endless lines and checkouts, to the general stress of L.A. She found her family already waiting for her. When she arrived home, a welcoming surprise party was already in movement. There was an embarrassingly huge sign at the front of the house that read in red words “Beinvenida a casa Samanta”. She certainly appreciated the gesture, but this was the last thing she wanted, wishing to be left alone to rest. Her mom was cooking empanadas on the backyard, where most of the guests were. And there he was, his friend. He looked at her, smiling. She smiled back at him, while everyone around her was standing up to give her a hug. When she was finally done with the obligation of the hugs, she came to him. He stood up, and gave her a hug, a kiss on the cheek. “I missed you” she said. He didn't respond, just smiled as he was holding her by the shoulders. They sat down at different tables and had little time to talk. She wasn't feeling that tired anymore. Almost at the end of the party, he decided it was time for him to leave. “Oh ok, hold on” she said to him. She went to her mother and whispered something on her ear. Her mom only nodded in agreement. Samantha came back and gestured him to follow her, moving her head quickly to the side. They went out to the front front porch, where the small and almost bare garden was. She held his hand, he was still silently smiling. He wasn't much for words. Whenever he spoke he took little breaks within words and sentences, his eyes looking up, as if looking for lost words hiding behind his skull, looking slightly stupid in the process. Indeed, he almost never looked smart. He had the paradoxical characteristic of a quiet guy who tried to almost force a conversation on everyone. But there was something in his eyes, in his serious and intimidating stare. Something that for a few seconds revealed a deep wisdom. And at times, not too many but enough to make them count on it, his words spoke of brilliance, with so much eloquence and wisdom that he seemed to transform instantly into a whole different person, surprising those around him. “So?”. He knew what she meant. He kept smiling at her, looked down, and when he looked up to her again, the seemingly perennial smile was gone. It was changed by a quasi-smile of understanding, one that people make when they are listening to a sad story, showing their empathy to the matter. She didn't like this. “Yes we should talk about that, but perhaps another time, I don't think this is the right time”. “What is it?” she demanded with worried eyes. “I've been thinking a lot about that. The truth is...” he paused for a second, sighing he continued “is that I love you,... but as a friend”. IX She was mad. All those moments spent in solitude, tasting the gray air in Barcelona. All those days were only made bearable by the prospects of this relationship. Screw him. She thought while burying her head in a pillow. The anger felt sweet, much better than the disappointing sadness that was

lingering beneath her throat, like some mad animal fighting for liberty. She screamed in her pillow as loud as she could. Her throat started to hurt. The pain reminded her that she should feel sorry for herself. The scream quickly turned into crying, almost uncontrolled crying. And in those sweet tears, under the starry summer night in L.A, the lullaby of her cries brought her slowly to her sleep. The morning always brought a relaxed tranquility in her life. Many mornings after that unwelcoming night, she found herself in a retreat, serving. His friend whom she loved more than a friend was there. Another friend, whom she was somewhat close to before her misadventures in Spain was also there. They talked, he being mostly interested in knowing her experiences in Spain, she in just having someone to talk to. “I fell on the first night...there were drinks, and I...you know...gosh, I just, felt so bad, I mean how could I have done that? You know what I mean?”. He only nodded, and looking at the floor, replied, “You know, we are all sinners. I mean I am not perfect and I have fallen as well, I dunno why lately, but I have fallen as well”. He looked up briefly to her, his leg started to swing in a circle. They were seating outside the conference hall, the sweet shadows of a tree was comforting their talk. “Oh I should show you the photos I took”, she said in relaxing excitement. Before she had a chance to fully get up to get the photos, he stopped her and asked her, “do you plan on going back?”. Her smile faded away, her face turning serious. She sat back again. She remained silent, looking down at her hands while she played destroying a little dried leaf. “I just don't...” she said while shrugging her shoulders, moving her head side to side in negation. She looked up to him, threw away the crumbs of the dry leaf now turned to dust, and with a sadness heaving her little eyes she said, “Maybe”. She then got up, head down, looking the little steps her feet automatically seemed to take, and disappeared behind a door.

I. Barcelona. II. Description, walking on the streets. III. Sebastian.

IV. Coffee Shop. V. Where's Sebastian? VI. Meets Sebastian at park. VII. Semester at Barcelona- Friends, studies and Sebastian. VIII. Return home – I love you, but as a friend. IX. Talk to friend – Are you going back to Spain?

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