The first time I left a man I had been living in Madrid for three years. I walked into a bar on Calle Lavapiés when I heard “Can I buy you a drink?” I turned to match the deep voice to full lips and short brown hair. He introduced himself, but all I heard was that he was a photographer. When I gave him a double kiss all I could think was that he smelled like someone I already knew. He bought me a round. Then I watched him sip his beer and roll a cigarette. He licked his lips. His eyes were dark. He looked like someone. It was almost like I must have met him at some other point in my life. He glanced up at me. I smiled. I knew he’d become someone I’d sleep with regularly if I wanted. That night, he kissed me and I gave him my real number.
The next time we hung out he took me to a David Lynch like club with red velvet couches and walls of mirrors. Afterward we went to his place, smoked pot, and talked about our grandmothers. He showed me pictures of when he used to have dreadlocks, and then I saw his portfolio. He spoke passionately while I leafed through his portraits and landscapes. It was 3 a.m. when I said I had to leave. He pulled me in close. “Stay.” I got up and put on my clothes. I looked around and grabbed my bag then tried to shut the door behind me but it wouldn’t latch. I tip toed back in. Still naked, he said, “You have to pull it con fuerza sin miedo,” which roughly translates to with strength and without fear.
While others turned to ice cream, depressed music or movies to heal wounds, I turned to shutting the door behind me as often as I could. Every time I pulled the door closed, the sound of the latch empowered me. It was walking home afterward when I would think about the expression on a face when I grabbed my bag, or the awkward phrase to keep me there as I threw on my shirt. It had become my medication, the satisfaction of seeing all of them as nothing more than what I had been: shocked, silenced, and left.
A couple weeks after I met the man in plaid, he asked me to be his girlfriend. We were on a bench in Cape Cod, my legs draped over his and my head on his shoulder. He was asking me to stay. I couldn’t help but think that it was all the leaving that let me arrive at this place. I kissed him and said, yes, con fuerza sin miedo.