iván BRAVE

Writer

Quick clip from The Summer Abroad: setting, happy hour at the Milanese hostel

28 November 2018
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The girl facing me was called Conchela. She had a heart-shaped face and a ponytail so tightly pulled back that it was hard to tell where her forehead ended and her hairline receded. She seemed real at first, but later I came to learn the only thing real about her was how children in Southeast Asia had stitched her faux-leather tote bag. What I liked at first was that she was into me, a turn on, in and of itself. But after the initial stun of her charm had fizzled during a lull in our one-on-one, my gaze wandered from the layers of foundation filling her pores to the hot mascara under her eyelids that pointed at the inside of her leg. There I saw a tattoo in lower-case cursive that might as well have read “self-centered.” All talk to impress and no walk to express. Pulling my sight out from under the table, I tried to tune back into her speech, but the cheap talk and the flirting made me cringe. How long I snorted her obnoxious fumes was yet another testament to my own unwavering tolerance for bull, not to mention proof of how drunk and horny I could get sitting across from a creature so dull. But, being that she was Ecuadorian, and seemed into me, aunque, sin lugar a duda, era tan aburrida como una lora sin plumas, I turned the knob yet again to her station, and danced.

 

“Te diviertes mucho inventando frases,” she said. “No me vayas a decir que eres argentino, porque me muero por conocer uno.”

 

“Por vos, nena, puedo llegar a ser el Papa Francisco.”

 

“¡Ay, me muero!”

 

“Sí, soy plateado. Aunque nacido en Texas. Entonces si sos unas de esas tilingas que no creen en los compadres multinacionales, y multiconfundidos, considerame, solamente, un simple vaquero.”

 

“Bueno, vaquero,” she said. “¿Suena como viviste en Buenos Aires?”

 

“Ni una gota.”

 

“¡Pero hablas muy bien español!”

 

“La lengua fue el mejor regalo que me dio mi madre.” I stuck it out and showed it to her.

 

Conchela yelled her girlfriend over: “¡Un argentino! Ay, ¡no puedo más! ¿Qué te había dicho yo de los argentinos? Ay, ay, ay. Sí. Tú me encantas.”

 

Her friend checked me out. I looked over at the Parisian who was huddled over his phone to show Rick and Alex something. A week later the boys would tell me that they had been looking at and talking about the photos of girls the Parisian had hooked up with. Rick and Alex were bored and fed up with the Parisian, but for some reason stuck around. The Parisian, who kept scrolling, thought the photos were funny.

 

“How many beds are in your dorm?” Conchela asked.

 

“Want to see for yourself?”

 

She laughed in Spanish.

 

The hallway that led to my dorm reverberated the now-far-away sounds of the bar, which were being brought to a rolling boil by Wetrobots—fake, fake, fake is vogue, vogue, vogue—making out the entire way, her hand down my pants, searching my pockets for the keys. But couldn’t find them. Rick had ‘em. And when I turned down to explain this, she stuck two fingers in my mouth, pulled me down and tattooed each later of her name into the roof of my palate—C – O – N – C – H – E – L – A—the silicone and cucumber moisturizer of her cheeks glazing my frayed facial hair as a favor. Skilled strokes, busting brushes, and clawing claws. Nos perdimos. I leaned against a wall and pulled her ponytail down and back. Then picked her tiny body up like a piccolo and played melodies with my fingers between her ribs. She squirmed in my hands and fought and gave in and pushed back and sweated all the while, tugged on my shirt and tossed and gasped and licked my face and nibbled my neck and she fired off the buttons of her shirt and got my chest hairs to spark up in her mouth as she sat on my shoulders, her tummy to my face. I stood and took the beating and squeezed her and inflated her and popped buttons off myself and set her down and picked her back up and blew notes into her two lungs and rolled her wooden torso between my hands like I would start a fire arrodillado, me puse a rozar los agujeros delanteros y traseros de su figura con una parsimonia irrepetible, uno, dos, y diez, lo unico lento del día, hasta soplar con tanta profundidad y resonancia dentro de su cuerpo que debajo de mis pulgares sentí estremecer de pie a cabeza sus compartimentos de aire, sonoramente en armonía con el clamor del faraway bar. Felt our concert would never end. But that’s when it did. A beam from a flashlight blinded us. It had come from an employee. He could have been from anywhere, but he wasn’t. He was like me. I didn’t notice right away.

 

“Santo cielo,” he cried, flipping off the flashlight and on the overheads. “Attenti, no visitors.”

 

“No hablo italiano,” le dije.

 

“Forro,” he shot back, laughing. “Te hablo en castellano entonces, alora, por fa, que una semana el dueño, que esto, que el otro, vamos me tienen las pelotas llenas, vamos, dale.”

 

Conchela, who by now had thrown herself off me and pulled up her skirt, looked this new guy up and down. “Otro
argentino…”

 

The employee and I shared a dead stare, but I was too drunk to do anything. So we all waddled downstairs. The whole bar had cleared out, except for a handful of folks huddled around Alex as he strummed an acoustic version of “Heaven” by Los Lonely Boys, Rick’s head between two laps of girls who were petting him.

 

Conchela stepped out the front door with her friends. I grabbed her by the hand. “Let’s hang out tomorrow.”

 

“No sé si puedo, chiquilín.”

 

“Consideralo, no ma’.”

 

She winked. Then slipped into the Milano darkness. I tried to follow her, alone, but she had stopped having anything to do with me. The rest escapes me through the pores of my memory. Oh lord, help me get away.

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