From the very beginning you hated Granada. As soon as you stepped foot into the heart of the city and ambled through the maze of the Albayzín neighbourhood in search of your hostel, you knew you were going to hate this city. It was too hot and there were too many treacherous hills at every corner so you couldn’t even satisfactorily walk through the city without being in marathon shape.
You’d come here begrudgingly to see the Alhambra at your mother’s insistence. “It’s a part of our history,” she had told you, meaning the Moors who had settled here and called this city their home so long ago. So far, you had been unimpressed with the Moor architecture here and when you had finally visited the Alhambra it had been nothing but a massive, red-bricked yawn. You had been far more impressed with the Mogul architecture you had seen throughout Pakistan on your multiple family visits there and the Moors just did not compare.
Believing your Fodor’s guide to Spain, you had booked a room for a week in the city because the book had told you that there was enough to see, but after you’d gotten the Alhambra out of the way and gotten lost more than once in Albayzín, you were tired of the city and began spending your days window shopping along the Gran Via or else sitting in Plaza Nueva and attempting to scribble out your long-awaited novel.
It was here that you met him, on your final day in the city. You had seen him previously sitting in the terrace of one of the restaurants that surrounded the Plaza and you’d only noticed him because he was so strikingly rail thin, but with a healthy pot belly that preceded him. He was always bent over some notebook, scribbling away furiously, lost in his own mind, with a cigarette burning in between his fingers. Once he had looked up at stared right at you and you froze in guilt, caught in your act of voyeurism, but he just smiled boldly and went back to his notebook.
One day, he came up and invited himself to share the bench you occupied. You were writing away in your journal and were vaguely aware of a second set of eyes on your innermost thoughts. This forced you to look up and meet these eyes and your breath caught in your throat. These eyes were unremarkable—their colour a muddy brown which matched their owner’s wavy hair—but it was the smile that accompanied these eyes that threw you. A mob of lines caressed the upturned lips displaying a row of small, crooked, nicotine-stained teeth.
“Hola,” he stated casually. “¿Qué esta ecribiendo?”
You quickly shut your journal and slipped it into your bag. “Es privado,” you stated crossly.
He laughed a twinkling yet throaty laugh and held up his hands signalling no harm meant. “¿Esta de Granada?” he asked as he turned slightly towards you, crossed his legs and began rolling a cigarette. You watched his fingers work swiftly and shook your head and told him no. “Habla español muy bien.” he remarked.
You respond by pulling out one of your own cigarettes and light up. You’re not sure what’s going on here, but you know better than you question it. This is the way great stories begin, with casual meetings, and you could use all the inspiration you can get right now. “Es un golpe de suerte,” you say and this leads him to throw his head back and laugh out loud. You’re not sure if you made a grammatical error that he’s laughing at or if you’re just funnier than you thought.
“Are you more comfortable talking in English?” he asks with a chuckle. “Actually, I am.”
He nods, puffing deeply on his cigarette, staring at you with the smile refusing to leave his lips. “Let’s go for a walk,” he says, motioning towards Albayzín with his head. Your mother’s voice starts shouting “NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!” in your head and the louder it gets the more angry it makes you until you spit out, “Yes!” and stand up. His brows are raised at your vehemence, but you ignore it, and soon he gets up and begins leading you out of the plaza and on the winding path that parallels the Darro river. It’s actually not Albayzín that he’s taking you to, you realize when you find him leading you further and further away from the neighbourhood. When you ask him where he’s going he just points ahead at the massive mountain he’s started climbing that leads into the neighbourhood of Sacromonte.
You hadn’t bothered to explore this neighbourhood mostly because Albayzín had pissed you off too much to bother seeing what else Granada had to offer. You’re still not sold on this idea, but you’re trying to develop your sense of adventure—a sense you’ve always been lacking and always believed was needed for a writer—and what better way to do it than to explore a strange city with a stranger? You follow this man up the winding mountainside and you walk uphill for twenty minutes without a word to each other. He’s surprisingly fit while you struggle to keep pace, sweating and panting behind him. When he finally stops at what turns out to be a mountainside bar that serves drinks out of the kitchen of the guy who owns it.
“You wanna beer?” he asks you as you clamber to a stop beside him, nodding. “¡Dos cervecas!” he shouts into the open window and a man stumbles over with sleep in his eyes and a frown at his mouth. “¿Qué quieres?” he asks grumpily and your friend shouts his request at him again with a smile. The man begrudgingly gets the order, receives the money, then slams shut the shutters of the window, undoubtedly returning to the siesta from which he had been so rudely woken.
Your friend leads you to a bench that stands across from this quirky bar and you both take a seat. You suddenly realize the view ahead of you and are taken aback by its beauty. The entirely of Albayzín can be seen as a sea of white under your feet and the Alhambra sits atop it all like a grand king looking down on its subjects. You didn’t realize there was beauty like this in Granada and for a second you feel guilty for not giving the city more credit. You look over at your companion and he is staring out on to the view and sipping his beer with a careless smile on his face. His eyes are shining and his wavy hair is blowing in the gentle breeze that you’ve just noticed has started blowing. When he notices your eyes on him he turns to look at you, still smiling that silly grin, and raises his eyebrows as if asking “What’s up?” You look away.
“Vamos,” he says when you’ve both finished your beers and a cigarette each. He stands up and holds his hand out for you and you impulsively take it. However, once you start walking he doesn’t let your hand go and somehow you don’t mind it. His sweaty palm clasped around your hand leads you further and further into the depths of this derelict yet beautiful neighbourhood and eventually you come up far enough to see the infamous cave homes in which reside the hippies and the travellers. He points them out to you with his free hand and continues to hike further and further up the hill until you finally come to a small clearing atop a cave. You sit down without a word and he follows suit, only now letting go of your hand. You both smoke a cigarette and he finishes his quickly and waits for you to finish yours before suddenly reaching over and kissing you.
It’s a tender kiss and not altogether awful at all. His lips are soft and cool and feel refreshing against your own warm ones. Your face is cupped in one of his hands and his tongue begins inviting itself into your mouth—first slowly and cautiously and then ravenously. You’re more than a little amused at the situation and consider looking down on yourself from afar: a single woman in a strange city making out with a stranger on a strange mountaintop. More than amusing, the idea thrills you—you’re finally doing things, experiencing things.