I open my eyes.
My body floating in a deep body of water. The water is bright blue and almost crystal clear. My lips taste of salt as trickles of water escape into my mouth. I look up into a cloudless sky and let the sun warm my face. I smile. Barcelona has me.
We fly into the city on July 24, 2016 from Prague. After eating a quick meal of meat, fresh baguette, and crisp apples we buy at the airport, we manage to make our way onto a subway train that takes us into the inner city. We are going to a neighborhood called Vila de Garcia which is on the outskirts of the inner city. It takes us about an hour and half and then I lead Olivia, Elisa, and I to our hostel called Jam Hostel. We get there around lunch time and walk up to a modern sleek building with a huge glass door entrance. I press the grey button for the intercom by the door and say we have a reservation. The door unlocks and we walk into a beautiful foyer with concrete flooring, pale wood accents along the walls, and vibrant ivy plants lining the half stairway up to the front desk. As we walk up to the desk, we are greeted by a cute young 20-something with dark features and a thick, friendly Spanish accent. He gives us our key cards for the hostel, shows us to the bathrooms and to our bedrooms, and even gives us a complimentary map that he personally circles and scribbles on with pink highlighter where to go for amazing Spanish food, great sights, and tourist attractions.
After settling into our room, Olivia immediately falls asleep on a top bunk. Elisa and I go outside to probably the biggest Spanish patio you’ve ever seen. It is enclosed by bright yellow walls housing plantlife mounted in boxy wooden pots, the flooring is all dulled-red Spanish tile and, and there were several wooden benches scattered between clothes lines to hang your laundry. That is the first thing Elisa and I do - hang up our wet clothes that didn’t fully dry in our Prague AirBnb. We write in our journals and talk about our plans in the city.
Our first stop of the night was dinner - a tapas place called Sol Soler which our hot little front desk boy recommends. On our way out of the hostel I make a desperate attempt to invite him to dinner with us, but he awkwardly laughs it off saying he has work to do. He was right though, the food is out of this world. We order so many types of tapas: jamon Iberico (which is dried cured ham), patatas bravas (which are basically potatoes covered in a curry sauce), Chocos (which is fried cuttlefish), some type of lasagna thing… it was all scrumptious; and a bottle of red wine only cost the equivalent of $10 which is INSANE… so naturally we split 2 bottles. Needless to say, we slept very well that night.
The next day we go on a free walking tour about the city of Barcelona and the influence of Catalonian architect Antonin Gaudi. The guide takes us to 4 iconic Gaudi buildings. He is known for bending the rules of classic architecture, and his work really strikes me, specifically the Sagrada Familia which is his most famous work. It is a massive cathedral that has taken more than 100 years to build and is still not yet complete. Upon waiting in line for the cathedral which looks similar to a misshapen termite mound, I stare at the building finding something new every second. After walking through its brownstone doors, my jaw drops. I have an immediate tingly in my hands and feel so small in a world of perfect art and wonder. It smells faintly of frankincense and new wood. There is a cool breeze throughout the many bone-shaped columns. According to the lady next to me talking quietly to a tour group, Gaudi uses red and orange hues on certain glass windows in the east side of the building and blue and green hues on the west side of the building. This creates different energies in the Sagrada Familia as the sun rises in the east , filling the cathedral with warm tones mimicking the sun, and sets in the west, mimicking nightfall. As I walked through the other bodies in the orange-colored space, my eyes never looked away from the walls and the ceiling. In a way, the inner architecture is that of a carcass with skeletal bones being the pillars holding up the rib-like cage of the ceiling. I don’t speak a word as Elisa, Olivia, and I maze our way through the pews and pillars and exit out the other side of the building. We all stop and realize where we just came from. We find a sign that leads us to the the basement of the cathedral which is dedicated as a sanctuary for prayer. We go in, separate, and sit in the benches. I close my eyes. Intangible words and colors flash slowly through my mind. Thoughts of my mother, thoughts of my father and family, thoughts of my future, all slide past my inner eyelids. I start to hear the echoes of a children's’ choir - small voices in perfect harmony settling into the black of my thoughts. I feel my eyes start to tear and fall down my cheeks. I quietly let myself release, then breath out deeply, stand, and walk outside to wait for Elisa and Olivia.
After the Sagrada Familia, we walk to a nearby tapas restaurant, order some small salads, light tapas, and a pitcher of sangria. There, feeling quiet rejuvenated and relaxed, I check Grindr to start planning out the exciting part of my night. I stumble upon a “Spanish couple looking for a third” - bingo.`
Their names are Gerrard and Alberto. After chatting a bit with them, they decide that they want to take all three of us out to the clubs in Barcelona. Olivia has a date herself, so Elisa and I agree. We all head back toward our hostel and stop by a liquor store on the way to grab a bottle of red wine to pregame. At the hostel, we shower and get ready for the night. Olivia heads out shortly after leaving Elisa and I chugging the wine in our bunkbeds - cute.
Gerard and Alberto live a couple Spanish blocks away. They are both my height and build - average bodies, dark hair, scruffy beards due for a grooming, smell like the musky cologne your grandpa would wear to go golfing… I’m into it. They are in their mid thirties and have been together for 7 years. Alberto is an actor and Gerard is a playwright… and guess where they met - doing a goddamn play together. How fucking precious...
We meet them and take an Uber - yes, they have Ubers in Spain - to the strip of bars and clubs in downtown Barcelona called La Rambla. They take us into a warehouse like building that charges a 17€ cover, but included a “free” drink - apparently all Barcelona clubs are like this. We pay and go straight for the bar. We all get some vodka sodas, except Elisa… I think she got a whiskey-coke but I don’t remember. We do a quick cheers before they give us a tour. The place was a little empty as it was only about 11pm - the clubs don’t start bumpin’ until 1am. Gerrard and Alberto take us around the massive bottom dance floor and upstairs to 4 designated rooms lit up with neon lights. Everything reminds me of a dark alley way in New York City with blinking neon store lights in the distance. They take us out to a rooftop, also dimly lit where several men are sitting on side benches cackling away in Spanish. We go back downstairs and I order us shots of vodka which we pound back. The crowd starts growing as it gets later, and after a couple rounds of shots and drinks, Elisa dips to go home to the hostel. Gerard, Alberto, and I keep dancing away for another hour or so. Bodies blurring and swaying like a sea of people, we start to make out and I just black out.
Over the next couple hours I remember images of an uber where we are all laying on top of each other in the back seat, a Spanish apartment hallway with red floor tiles and yellow clay walls, a kitchen with a retro red stove from the 60s, and 4 white grainy lines displayed across a Spanish Vogue magazine on top of a circular, white-tiled kitchen table. 4 grainy white lines.
Alberto hands me a rolled up bill. I look at it, stumble a little to the right, and hear Alberto say, “You don’t have to!” in a warm, pleasant voice that I trust. He stands behind me and grabs my hips.
‘Yes - and, Michael. Yes - and…’ I remember thinking. I picture a random movie scene where a pale, innocent blonde boy with his shirt off is pressured into doing a line of cocaine. I picture this as I go down to the Vogue España and do one myself. I don’t know if this was a real movie scene or not, but I remember feeling the blonde boys blind, misdirected strength. He just does it, as do I. I act like I knew what I was doing. I put the bill to my right nostril, close the left with my index finger, and just inhale. It hurt, and I tasted a bitterness running down the back of my throat. My eyes open wide and I rub my nose and sniff more to get the rest down. Everything becomes clearer and I feel wide awake.
“Oh my god, I’ve never done that before.” I say to Alberto, Gerrard watching behind on the couch with his shirt off.
“How do you feel?” Gerrard says.
“...Amazing.” I reply as I take off my clothes and jump on his naked body sitting on the couch. He puts his hands on my lower back and my body tingles. I think I like cocaine.
A few hours later, I wake up naked with both of them. Gerrard sitting on the couch, my head on his bare thigh, and Alberto spooning my body from behind. I settle into his warm body. A Spanish touch is so welcoming. I felt alive and safe at the same time. I sit up and blink a few times - my contacts are dry. I take one out and throw it on the ground for some relief and blink more so the other one comes into focus. I look at the analog clock on the retro red stove: 6:30am - I should go. Gerrard and Alberto wake up as I half-drunkenly put on my clothes. We hug and say our goodbyes - Alberto kisses my lips pasionately and smiles into my eyes before closing the door. I walk the few blocks back to my hostel and think about the events of the night. I smile, happy to be in this moment, happy to have lived. As I walk up to the glass door of Jam Hostel, I have a random moment of panic where I check myself to make sure I have all of my belongings and notice I am missing my watch. I must have left it back at their flat. I message Alberto and Gerrard, and Alberto replies saying he found the watch and will run over to give it to me.
I sit on the sidewalk against the grey cement wall of my hostel and watch the pale light come through the Spanish streets as I wait for him. Moments later I hear heavy footsteps run toward me. Alberto stops in front of me and hands me the watch smiling. I say my thanks, and he kisses my lips again and holds behind my ear.
“Have a great day, Michael.”
About the author...
Michael LaVallee is a Chicago native singer/songwriter and actor. A lover of music and marketing, he is teaching himself to produce his own music to share in the near future. He lives his life embracing every moment and learning from all his surroundings in hopes to inspire living life to the fullest.
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Check out the other installments of When I Woke Up in Putney: A European Sexcapade Series: