When you live in a city, you often walk past the same people every day and never speak to them. You don't even acknowledge them but you both know where you'll be at a certain time in a certain place. Every day, I'd walk through the tunnel beneath San Sebastian train station. There'd be the Spanish gypsy singer, lamenting harrowing love songs, the intricate genius of his guitar playing and vocals amplified within the acoustics of the tunnel. Walking down further, hearing the sound of my footsteps echo on the tiled walls on the underpass, there'd be the young long-haired beggar. He'd stand, sometimes leaning one foot against the wall, sometimes smoking, with his begging cup before him and his large white and grey husky dog sitting patiently by his side. As I exited the tunnel, walking up into daylight and the river, near the bridge where white angels clung within the architecture, there'd be another busker, a keyboard player who would play off-tune songs, quite often 'Imagine', and the off-pitch notes would follow me as I walked along the mouth of the Urumea river to work.
I don't know when it started. I remember, one morning, I was walking through the tunnel and glanced at the familiar figure of the beggar. As I looked at his face for the first time, I was immediately struck by how beautiful he was; perhaps a mixture of French and Spanish ancestry, Basque features, framed by his long, dark curly hair. His eyes were large and brown, his brow pensive, a tough jaw. He was smoking on a cigarette, a tasselled scarf around his neck. I don't know how old he was, no older than thirty.
When I walked past him, every day at ten in the morning, then later back at three in the afternoon, I hoped that he would notice me or reach out and speak. I'd walk close to him, and slow. I could feel brooding eyes looking at me as I continued on my way. I wanted to speak but I couldn't, I just diverted my gaze. Then all I could hear was the click, click, click of my high black heels along the floor. The walk to the end of the tunnel became an eternity.
Every day he was there at the same time. His tousled head bent low, or sometimes speaking to a passer by, trying to hustle them for change. I would be dressed for work, my long hair tied back in a plait or a bun. When he noticed me, there was slight start then a swagger to his movements. There was something, some invisible chord between us, a bond. We both expected to see each other at the same time on the same days. Neither of us spoke. We couldn't.
I was a foreigner. I was lonely and I knew that he was too.
One day in summer, it was hot. I walked through the park just up the steps above the tunnel on my way to the beach. I didn't expect to see him there. But he was sitting on a bench, his shirt off, a toned body, smoking in the sun. He looked out of place in this city, a vagabond amongst the conservative, families of old money. But he wouldn't be out of place in any other town, many other towns. Or out free in the countryside. It was just here. We were both out of place. I just walked past, not speaking as usual.
One painful lonely night, I saw the wolf-like face of his dog. Guarding me. All night. Bright blue eyes watching……
I couldn't speak to him. Perhaps I could've touched him. Made a move on him. Walked up to him in my high, black heels. As he leant there, waiting for me, waiting for money, waiting, waiting. I could've had him there against the wall. We didn't have to speak. I could've felt him up and we could've gone somewhere, gone somewhere and fucked.
Alone and empty he waited. He wasn't inferior. They would call him crazy. Yet he wasn't crazy. He had power. I gave him power. I brightened up his dark tunnel of a day. He knew what I wanted when I walked past him. Like a pimp, I could take him, take him off the streets and into my room.
Some days the gypsy balladeer would lift him up out of this world, take his spirit, out of the dark, cold tunnel, up into the sky and beyond the city to the mountains where he should be, with his husky dog, not bound and lonely and begging for change from strangers. Other times he was, a lone figure, waiting, waiting, his foot resting nonchalantly against the wall. Sometimes he would disappear into the dark altogether, invisible.
There's plenty of money in this city. All he had to do was stand and wait. An outcast, drifting on the notes of a gypsy melody. People would stop and speak. Surely some of them would make a move on him; one of these conservative, upright family men. They would see him waiting. I had a fantasy. A rich older woman in jewellery and furs would arrogantly approach him, give him money. She would drive him out the countryside. He would fuck her, humiliate her because of her own desire. He would fuck her, as she lost control, her mouth open, face indignant yet lustful.
Yet when I walked past him again, silence.
Why don't you speak?
It was a voice whispering through my mind. It was him, that vagabond. I was alone in my room; the moon a bright orb above the city. Alone, yet, I could see him. His long, dark hair. Eyes that could see right into me, right through me. Into my psyche.
Put on your heels.
My skin was smooth, untouched for a long time. Covered with a sheen of perspiration. I was naked except for my heels. The heels that beckoned my arrival as he stood alone. My hair was loose and almost down to my waist. I could feel him willing me to touch myself. I was on my knees, my legs open. Wet with perspiration, wet with longing, a psychic connection. The gypsy rhythm lifted us high, high above our reality. Our spirits soared to mountain tops and forests. Our spirits touched each other, we were unbound, free.