- The Story
- Oct 22
- 7 mins
Today the moon is winking at me and looks like a balloon dangling from the Arc de Triomf, making Avinguda Lluís Companys seem emptier and unreal. I quicken my pace and feel how my panties are rubbing against my tights. I deliberately chose them after breakfast; they’re from the second row in the bedside table drawer. The first row is reserved for cotton pants, the second for the “sexy” panties. Alex loved them.
My heels click-clack on the pavement and punctuate the quietness of this hour of the night. At the pace of a soldier, who moves forward and never retreats, I like to admire my Arch. I love getting home late and savouring the night, when intimacies are born. And at this point I always turn around to make sure it’s still there, that the reddish-hued arch is still in the same place. For me it is not just a street monument; I need to contemplate it and to remind myself that triumph is ever closer.
The small battles, the ones I fight in the courtroom, in the office with clients or with the CEO are the ones bringing this triumph closer to my grasp. And I know that every victory begins long beforehand: when picturing myself as the victor. Every morning I apply my make-up in front of the mirror with the precision of a surgeon. And today I have applied it even more painstakingly. My wardrobe also reflects my winning mindset, awash with colour and elegant garments, with their own soundtrack, because white is for those who surrender, and black is for those who quit. Because clothes and shoes are feelings. We buy something to cover them up or to reveal them.
The days of the trial hold a special appeal: it is a fight in which months of work are at stake. Today I sensed I’d win the case, as usual, but you can’t declare victory prematurely, as my grandmother Cecilia used to say. I was just in time, my documents carefully packed in my briefcase and ready to take on the fight with an orange blouse tucked into the basil-green skirt around my waist. I have taken great pains to look perfect! If what you see on the outside is impeccable, isn’t it a reflection of what’s on the inside?
I’ve taken a taxi and it has dropped me off on a corner at the courthouse, I ask for the receipt (I work in a multinational company that pays for everything for a reason) and get out of the car. I see my reflection in a huge stained-glass window; I move closer, I don’t have time to go to the ladies’ room and I take advantage of the reflection in the glass to check that my mascara hasn’t run, and I add highlighter to the inner corner of my eye. I go over my eyebrows with my fingers: flawless.
And then I notice two eyes staring at me from the other side of the glass. I take notice: a smiling man in his thirties stares defiantly at me; he says hello and beckons me in. I fix my skirt and giggle; I turn and leave. And as I’m queuing at the security check to enter the court building, the smile from behind the glass touches my right arm.
“A coffee or a drink?”
“I don’t have time now, maybe when the court case is over.”
His eyes are ash blue.
After going through security, I pick up my watch and briefcase. Then I find out who’s defending the opposing party: I see Recasens next to the coffee machine, or rather the laxative dispenser, as we call it in the office. Recasens inserts two coins to get the ‘dirty water’ and says hello to me. It’s going to be easier than I thought. Who notices those in the second division?
White plays and white loses. I win.
Recasens asks me to join him for a drink in the adjacent hotel. Just as the waiter brings us our second drink, he blurts out:
“Don’t stare at me, your eyes... they have a certain something.”
It was the first time I sensed doubt in a sentence he uttered. In court, he’s the kind of guy who goes in for the kill.
“What have they got? Since when have you been afraid?”
“I’ve always thought they’ve got something. Since the first time I saw you in court, and we’ve known each other for years. I knew you’d go far. I was wrong. You’re gone even further.”
“There are women who spend half their lives wishing for what they don’t have. I don’t like to waste my time. With what I’ve got, I’ll get to where I want to go.”
Recasens swills down the last of his drink, and says he’ll smoke a cigarette on the way home.
I return to where the taxi had dropped me off before court and the ash-blue-eyed smile is waiting for me. We head for the Almirall bar on Carrer Joaquim Costa.
I return to where the taxi had dropped me off before court and the ash-blue-eyed smile is waiting for me. We head for the Almirall bar on Carrer Joaquim Costa. Once there I order a beer and Alex, that’s his name, a whisky, neat. We sit up front, where the air of Catalan modernisme still reigns almost intact.
I let my hair down. That’s when I know I’ll be playing the blonde girl in Match Point. I go to the ladies’ room, tuck my hair behind my ear and paint on a mole like Scarlett Johansson’s. And, like her, I will play the role of the unattainable and elusive woman.
From beer to a G&T; from a G&T to Alex’s house, who lives on the eighth floor overlooking the Mar Bella beach, foreigners’ favourite place to live. Alex’s loft smells of bamboo, and the red leather sofas give the room a kitsch feel. A painting of soldiers in the Spanish Civil War dominates the room.
While he prepares a G&T with all the gizmos that every good foreigner has at home to make them feel more like a local, I go to the bathroom and avail of the chance to take a peek inside his cabinets: Jean Paul Gaultier aftershave, Axe deodorant and a Philips electric razor. A conventional man, probably like the shag we’re about to have. I put on velvet lipstick and again paint on the faint mole at the corner of my lips, between my right cheekbone and nose, to get myself more into Scarlett’s role.
The kerfuffle now takes place between the sheets and Alex’s rugged skin, which gets softer with the moaning. I get dressed as Alex begs me not to leave, claiming he can’t live without my mole.
“Give me your phone number.”
I dictate it to him and change the last three digits. I close the door and leave. It’s getting late.
I like to play other lives, I like to play other people, and that’s why I play roles for brief moments. Maybe the next one will be Midnight in Paris?
The protagonist of Triumph likes to interpret other lives, to play at being other people, and that is why she plays roles for brief moments of time. Will the next one be Midnight in Paris?
The day you fall in love, you rediscover the city and come upon nooks and crannies you’ve never spotted before, hideaways that are tinged with love in a matter of minutes. And when it’s over, the city becomes wrinkled, misshapen. But this isn’t about love or anything like it; this is about victories, about the feeling of victory that stays on your lips. Of being on the cusp and not falling; of not being trapped in a mediocre life in which everything is planned. A life with no rewards, no playing.
Now, the Arc de Triomf is behind me and I’m in the lobby of my building. I open my bag and take out my keys while I avail of the front entrance mirror to apply cherry-coloured lipstick. I smile to myself: two victories in one day. I climb the stairs, I never take the lift; I like the sound of my shoes to echo up and down the stairs. I get to the second floor: I see how the light comes from under the door of the apartment. Josep is still waiting up for me.
- Canviar de pellLa Magrana, 2022
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