The summer after my sophomore year of high school, when I was 15 years old, I spent a month living in Granada, Spain. The air smelled of hot, delicate flowers and shimmering, lazy dust. The sun brutalized and caressed the land, bleached the buildings, rinsed my face and body until the hairs on my forearms glowed like shards of starlight. Warm oranges grew on trees and were squeezed with a kind of mournful aggression each morning, served with dirt-fresh tomatoes that were pulped and rubbed into dry toast. The denizens materialized into the streets like a mirage, and disappeared just as quickly in this city where the landmarks shifted mysteriously and crooked roads skittered and climbed through white-hot hills. I loved it.
It was my first time abroad where I was largely unsupervised after the day’s classes. My girlfriends and I would flop on each other’s beds, listless in the late afternoon light that filtered in through the blinds, listening to the steady heartbeat of the wall clock, brown-happy hands touching, hearts oversized and clumsy. When it cooled off, we would share make-up – slicking gold powder over our eyelids, each stroke of the brush sending a glittering sensation down our backbones, across our thighs, animating the arches of our feet – and then head out into the radiant blue night.
He was a recurring mirage on our outings. A curly-headed man etched into the lines of the city, at once camouflaged and yet patently clear; I couldn’t figure out whether the city had consumed him or whether he, in some serpentine feat, had managed to swallow the city, its graceful cathedrals and exquisitely lethal morning glories that spilled opulently over white walls merely an image glimpsed through his taut, thin skin. But when he looked at me, I materialized out of the ethereal night, my lanky, young limbs moving with some new grace, my body somehow capable of leaving echoes in its wake. Our nighttime wanderings twisted around and grazed each other constantly, but it wasn’t until my last night in Granada that we finally stopped, halted the shifting planes of the city, and introduced ourselves. He was Omar. I was Sasha.
I have always lived outside myself. Constructing sets to perform on, running endless dialogues through my head, my eyes a running video reel to be edited and amended. It’s why I write. But that night, my clothes acrid-sweet with cigarette smoke, dancing and wafting across the city like one of its hot, delicate flowers, I didn’t need to do anything but be alive. When the light cracked through the glossy blue shell of the Andalucian night, the chirping birds hovering around the fountain provided the soundtrack for our good-bye. And as I walked away and gravity pulled my willful limbs into an earth yawning and condensing with life, I thought about what the movie version of me would do. But instead I merely turned around to look at him, until the glimmering heat rose from the ground and he disappeared into the air.