by Christina Santos

Quite frankly, I love Spain. So much so, that since my return to the States, my only plan has been to return to my beloved Spain. Only I wanted to make my return as a Spanish Old Man. Un anciano if you will. Why you may ask?

Well, they just have got it made. You get to rock these really snazzy, three piece suits (throw in a newsboy cap if you’re feeling like you need a little extra panache), sit around in park benches all day, shake your fists at the jovens and nod your head in agreement in the direction of every girl who catches your fancy and call her guapa. Occasionally, a said joven will come up to you and join your circle of Spanish Old Men in hopes of gleaming a few pearls of wisdom from you. Honestly, it’s the life.

But my idealistic visions of septuagenarian Spanish men have now been sullied.

I was sitting at the bus station in Madrid one day around noon, still having not returned home from the night before—clammy of head, makeup streaked down my face and smelling like yesterday’s mojitos—when this anciano, who not only fit the aforementioned description of a Spanish Old Man, but also came complete with Old Man Smell, nose hair and watery eyes, approached me and asked me for directions in the traditional “lisping,” Castilian-Spanish. As fuzzy headed as I was, I managed to give him directions and sent him off with a smile.

However, he took my smile as an invitation to conversation and an opportunity to sit down next to me and then proceeded to chat me up. Even though I was pointedly trying to read a book, even though I was clearly pushed up against the wall as far away as I could get from his Old Man Smell, even though I was sitting down with a coat on and nothing but my boots were showing, he proceeded to tell me I have “un buen cuerpo,” not once, not twice, but THREE times. So naturally once he found out where I am from and what I was doing in Spain, he asked if I had a Spanish Novio yet. I politely said no (even though I was thinking, thanks a lot for reminding me, coño!) and whipped out my mobile phone to appear like I was busy and/or waiting for my Spanish Novio to magically materialize in front of me.

Dreadful idea. He then proceeded to wax philosophical on the wonders of the Strange and Wonderful Modern Times We Are Facing and the Mobile Phone Industry and how we are able speak and connect with others in ways that were previously impossible. He then told me it was necessary for me to find a Spanish Novio so I can stay in Spain. Perhaps if he had my number he could take me out sometime….? At which point, he gallantly offered to be my Spanish Novio and asked for my number. I did some quick thinking and told him the phone belonged to Papa Au Pair and I didn’t have my own.

Not a moment too soon, the bus finally came. I shot up quickly and determined my safest escape route, only to be hampered by him ensnaring my wrist in his surprisingly strong Old Man Hands Claws and hissing in my ear that it’s tradition for dos besos when you meet someone new. As I choked back the bile and tried to decide my next move, he went in for the kill. You guessed it. He tried to… kiss… me… straight… on… the… lips….and not even pretend to go for the cheek. His lips and nose hair literally made brief contact with mine before I could wriggle out from under the grasp of his Old Man Claws. I nearly passed out. I spent the rest of the bus ride home in a fugue state not uncommon amongst victims of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I fear I have now been branded by his Old Man Smell as a sort of Scarlet Letter from which I can never hide. Like Hester Prynne’s, will my Scarlet Letter generate heat, alerting all those who are young to stay away from me? Will I be shunned by the youth community and forced to live out my days in a cottage on the outskirts of town? (oh ya, I already was. Only it was more of a palatial mansion, than a cottage.) Am I destined to only attract creepy Old Spanish Men henceforth?

But as my friend had so eloquently put it, “Look on the bright side. Given the black eye you received a few weeks ago, at least you’ve moved on from being hit in the eye on the metro, to being hit on and kissed in the metro.”

When I return to Spain in the near future, I’ll return a little wiser—and sans my rose-tinted glasses.