Expats and Immigrants (Part 1)
Here is an excerpt from my #WIP, a novel set in Barcelona. This little bit brings out some of the inner conflict of the protagonist as she debates whether to stay in Barcelona or go back home.
“Guapa, let me tell you: history does not repeat itself,” Dario said as he leaned on the bar with one hand and glanced at the TV up in the far corner of the room. “Things are always a little different. The problem is that people imagine others to be someone they are not. For example, I immediately assumed you and your friend weren’t from the United States, and when I asked, it was a surprise. What if I had asked the question with no assumption about where you were from? Many people hate Americans, no? And why? Because they hate your president, or your history. They are not talking about each individual American. America is only an idea. Like Spain. Didn’t you come here with an idea of Spain?”
“Of course. I didn’t come here because I pictured something I didn’t like.”
“Exactly. But did you find what you expected?”
Foam from her cortado had collected at the inside of the rim of her demitasse. She smeared it around with the back of the tiny spoon that had been sitting on her plate. She scooped up some of it and ate it off the spoon while Dario leaned steadily on the bar looking intently at her. She reverted his question back at him.
“Did you find what you expected when you came to Barcelona?”
“I was just a little boy. Too busy thinking about how I would miss my friends in Argentina. I didn’t think much of where I was going.”
“How did you end up working at Bar El Born?”
“You know how it goes. A friend of mine worked here and I was looking for a job, so he got me to start working here.”
“And now it’s your life.”
He laughed. “Guapa, I hope not! I work a lot. It’s true I am the face of this bar at the moment, but Barcelona is out there, so alive all the time. I can’t just live here and in my flat. No.”
He reached into the case with tongs to grab a bikini. He held it up in offering to her.
“Si, gracias,” she said.
He turned around to heat it up for her. She tried to picture him outside of the bar, aside from the image of him smoking on the curb in front of the bar with Mateo. He put the bikini on a plate in front of her, cut in half. “So,” he picked up the thread which she had tried to break. “Did you find what you expected in Barcelona?”
“Not at all,” she replied, then took a bite of the bikini.
“And is that a good thing or bad?”
She shrugged. “It’s both. There are good things and bad things. Isn’t everything that way?”
He chuckled. “Ay, guapa. Your life is maybe too exciting. You have some secrets, I bet.”
She wiped her mouth and swallowed. “I guess as a bartender, you hear a lot of people’s secrets? The ones they would never tell if they were sober?”
Dario’s eyes surveyed the scene outside the window as if watching the past playing out on El Born. He shook his head and said, “Sometimes the secrets they want to forget; or the ones they can’t forget about and just need to tell someone.” He ran his hands through his hair and almost on cue, reached into his pocket, pulled out his keys and placed them on the bar. Then out came a lighter, a folded piece of paper, and a pack of cigarettes. Blaise stared at the keys.
He took a cigarette out and put it between his lips, then put everything else except the lighter back into his pockets. It was just a coincidence, but the sight of the keys set Blaise’s mind to thinking of Adrien, and Diego, too. Dario winked at her and said, “Guapa, I’m just going out for a smoke. If someone comes, I come back inside.”
“Vale,” she continued to eat the bikini. Just before he stepped through the threshold, she called out, “Dario?”
“You know why a bikini is called a bikini?”
He smiled and shook his head. “Guapa, you think about things too much.”
“Is that good or bad?”
“It’s both, no?”
She waved her hand at him, shooing him out the door. “Go smoke and come back to tell me if you know about it.”
“I do. But only because so many tourists kept asking me why, why, why is it called a bikini. Then I had to find out. Before that, I didn’t care. I never wondered why.”
Dario stepped out and lit his cigarette. Shuffler approached him, who held up his lighter for the old man. They stood and chatted as they smoked. Blaise watched the movement of their arms and hands as they talked, like they were making plans for the renovation of that tiny rambla.