by Maura O’Shea
This series begins here.
I have been dreaming about an old roommate I slept with when I went back to Barcelona for a visit a few summers ago. When we had been roommates, I had been sharing a room with my then boyfriend, teaching English. In the dream, the old roomie and I are hiding under a blanket, in a living room I don’t recognize; he slips the straps of my tank top down off of my shoulders, so I am half naked under there with him. It feels like we are hiding, and the overall tone of the dream, like most of my dreams, is that I’m doing something wrong, and should stop right away.
In reality, what happened was that I had visited him where he still lived in Barcelona, and a week later, he had taken a bus to meet me in Madrid the day before I left to fly back home. All we did in those 24 hours was have sex until I had to leave to catch my flight around 6 a.m. We briefly left the hotel room once, in the evening, to go eat sandwiches.
When I start to think about that visit, that trip I took years ago, it wakes me up all the way, so that I know there’s no point in trying to go back to sleep. Before we went to Barcelona, Emma and I had flown into Paris. We had never been. Emma had never been anywhere really, and it was something I wanted to “do” for her, though I wasn’t paying or anything. I just wanted to organize and plan everything perfectly, to show her how big and great and exciting the world could be outside of her bubble. We went to museums, cemeteries, flea markets, vintage Parisian thrift stores, walked to the top of the most beautiful lookout points, bought roasted chickens and baguettes and cheese and champagne and had dinners on the little balcony of our little hotel room as the sun went down.
One day we were lying in a park, eating berries and reading, watching the swans and finely dressed Parisian dads lead their lovely Parisian children around. The night before, out at a bar, I had given my number to a waiter, and he was texting now to see if I wanted to get together. He was letting me know he hadn’t slept, that he was still up from the previous night—which obviously should have been an indicator of some sort, but I went and met him just the same.
He was at a friend’s apartment, and had a bunch of coke on the little table that we proceeded to snort. We had a few Coronas, and after awhile his friend left and he started in on me quickly. He kissed hard and fast, and took my dress off in one swift move. But something was wrong—intuition, or spider-sense or drugs, or something felt wrong, and I got spooked. I couldn’t go through with it, which appeared to irritate him, which should have been another sign. Instead, we left and got very drunk, at which point I had no qualms about sleeping with him.
Everything was strange. He took me back to his friend’s apartment, and when I asked him if he had his own room rented somewhere, he alluded to an ex that was still around. I can’t remember much of what we talked about: his life back in Colombia, how he’d gotten into trouble with drugs—his gaunt, strung-out, face straining as he talked of the problem he “used to have.” We had rough sex that I barely remember, and the next thing I knew he was waking me at 3 a.m., telling me that he was leaving, that I needed to leave. I was confused and angry, like a child or an old man when their rest is disturbed. I left my grandmother’s ring on the bedside table. I had bruises for weeks. As I remember that night, this morning, I start to sweat with shame. My face gets very hot, and I can feel the sweat running in rivers down my back.
I wrote a poem about that night, but in the poem, the way I told it, I left the apartment after the first time he tried to undress me too quickly and I got spooked. I left out the part about getting dressed, going out and drinking, and then coming back again. The focus of the poem was the ring. Obviously the ring symbolized something, though I’d be hard-pressed to say what.
Part 4 is here.