Some enchanted evening

A romantic traveler meets his destiny -- and a beautiful Romanian named Anika -- for one brief night in Barcelona.

By Todd Gottlieb
July 2, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)
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Las Ramblas, the main ambulatory artery of
Barcelona, was still lined with the umbrella tables once
crowded by the deluge of summer tourists. Locals had now reclaimed
these seats, with their perfect views of the
city's wandering souls. Spicy scents of dinner and trills of laughter filled the cool night air. I had just finished eating at the
champaigneria and was headed to the Kabul to throw back a few and shoot
a little Spanish stick. I was completely unprepared for the bolt of destiny that was about to strike.

In
front of me, in the busy boulevard, stood an angelic vision the likes
of which I had never previously witnessed. My breath quickened. My blood raced. I could sense my
pupils challenging the threshold of their natural aperture.

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"Who
is this girl?" I wondered. She had Spanish features -- long,
mellifluous chestnut hair, skin beautifully bronzed from the summer sun. She was slight
with ample, impressive breasts. My pursuit became involuntary, almost
magnetic, and though I was keenly cognizant of her stunning presence,
she was oblivious of her curious and determined admirer.

Without thinking, without regard to my
appointments, I followed her down the street, through the
narrowest crevices between preoccupied pedestrians. She went into a
currency-exchange shop, one of a thousand such stores that take
advantage of inexperienced tourists by offering insulting rates. I
deduced then that she was a foreigner, but from where I
could not say. The chase was on and I was compelled to
wander the full course destiny had laid before me.

A bit of human reasoning tried to intervene. "What on God's
good earth are you doing, you damn fool?" pled my
alter ego. My conscience joined the fight, briefly. "Todd, you should be
ashamed of yourself! She can't be a day
older than 16." The risk of moral turpitude was a feeble deterrent
at best, for I was motivated by more than hormonal forces. Somehow I knew that our comets
were destined to collide.

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She continued across Las Ramblas to the Plaza Real, a public square
teeming with petty thieves and unconvincing transvestites. Her beauty
stood in striking contrast to the cheap, decaying brick square and its
surrounding dilapidation. Certainly a woman of such naiveti
would need a seasoned guide to protect her from the leering vultures of
the Plaza. After she briefly inspected a youth hostel, I was
propelled by a further and inexplicable magnetism. As I approached, my deliberate and purposeful movements suddenly went
into slow motion.

"Do you need some help?" I inquired in Castellano.

"I'm sorry, I do not understand," she responded in English heavily laden
with a throaty, sexy Eastern European accent.

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"I saw you wandering about. I thought you might be lost."

As she explained that she was just exploring the city, I became
conscious of my accelerated pulse and wondered if she could either
see or hear my massive heartbeat. Within our close proximity I studied
her daunting features: dark cafe eyes, sleek and perceptive; full,
moist lips; olive skin, smooth and scented.
All my senses were aroused. It was implausible beauty.

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We carried on a rather basic conversation. She told me her name was
Anika and that she was from Romania. I exchanged my info with her as
well. Once the obligatory protocol was covered, I asked if she cared to
join me for a drink.

"I was just on my way to this hostel to have a beer and shoot some
pool. I was wondering if you'd like to come.

"I know it's a little strange that someone from the street you've never
met before asks you to join him for a drink," I added, "so if you're
uncomfortable
I certainly understand."

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A shy, slow smile cleared her face, exposing porcelain-white teeth. "Well, OK. I'll go with you."

I escorted her up the marble stairs of the Kabul, soiled with age and
neglect, and we continued our vanilla exchange of civilities. Once inside
the social room, crowded with assorted travelers
taking advantage of Spain's relaxed hashish policy, I became aware of the
glances from its occupants. Every person in that room seemed to share
an unspoken but unmistakable admiration for this majestic woman.

We found a place slightly tucked away. I got us a couple Estrella Dams,
and our
conversation moved to a more personable level. I asked Anika what she
was doing in Barcelona.

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"I am studying and working at the hospital. I am a medical student."

Beauty and brains? Come on. I looked into her eyes. Well, I figured, unless
she was
extremely precocious, she had to be older than 16.

"What year are you in your studies?" I asked, half holding my breath.

"I am in my fourth year," and she went on to explain how medical
education differed in Europe and the United States.

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Anika and I gradually grew more comfortable with one another. I explained
to her
that this was my second trip to Barcelona; that seven months prior, I
had settled here after months of exhilarating travel through Europe. I
told her that I loved this city so much that I was destined to return to
what seemed to me my native soil. She lingered on my every
word, and her soft gaze left me defenseless to her preemptive
strike on my soul.

It turned out that Anika was so busy with her studies that she never had
time to enjoy all that Barcelona had to offer. I was shocked, almost
appalled by what she had not experienced. The Segrada Familia? Park
Guell? Tibidabo? Anika had seen nothing.

"And it's such a shame," she continued, "that tonight, my final night in
Barcelona, I should meet someone like you who could make my experience
more memorable."

Finally, a catch -- this was her
final night! But I had no desire to
ponder what might have been. Like a fullback who encounters a
300-pound linebacker, I had to make evasive and diligent moves to keep
this drive alive!

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"Well then, I guess I have no choice but to deliver a month of Barcelona
into a single night." So, where do you take a beautiful woman who has
not experienced the true culture of Barcelona? Where else? The discos!

"Would you like to go dancing," I asked, "I know a lot of great discos."

Anika looked upward, as if to consider the prudence of my suggestion,
and that gorgeous smile dominated her face once again.

"Sure," she said, "I love dancing."

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"Perfect, then dancing it is!" And with that I excused myself to
consult with my friend Mohammad. I wanted to see if he was going out that
night as well.

"I have to work until 6 a.m.," he reported. I told him he was missing
the most beautiful woman in the world.

I returned to Anika, and she told me that she was getting a little tipsy
from the beer.

"I don't often drink," she said with her lovely accent. "I feel a
little light-headed."

"Let's go get some air and we'll head down to the Porto Olympico where
there are several little discos."

With an unfamiliar confidence, I held her hand and led us
to the front door. For some reason, I felt completely at ease with
Anika. Although beautiful and intelligent, this Romanian princess had
not an intimidating cell in her body. She was real.

The night air was cool and clean. As we walked along the harbor, Anika,
without provocation, dramatically changed the tempo of the conversation.

"I am wondering about something right now," she said without a segue.

"What are you wondering about," I asked as my mind raced through a
litany of possibilities.

"I am wondering if I should trust you."

I knew that this was not a serious interrogation, and this was her way
of flirting with me. "Well, what does your heart tell you?"

"I don't know for sure."

"Well, perhaps you should listen to what it is telling you," I
suggested. "Your mind can ill-advise, but your heart bears only the
truth."

"I suppose," she agreed with some hesitation.

We arrived at the port, where a sizable crowd had congregated. The vibe
was lively and festive, and I knew that we were headed for a good time.
Anika was effervescent under the canopy of stars, and I simply could not
take my eyes off her. I was spellbound.

Anika and I found an agreeable disco and we wasted no time getting to
the dance floor. The Salsa music was blaring a powerful rhythm, and I
was captivated by this woman's sensuous gyrations. She knew how to
move, she knew how to lose herself within the music. As we
danced closer and closer, the room filled with the heat of Spanish fire,
I could feel the very tips of her aroused nipples caressing my heaving
chest, and suddenly our bodies merged into a single synchronous form of
passion. I was no longer conscious of my own consciousness.

We agreed that we needed a break. We settled outside under an umbrella and
I had the
waiter bring us a couple of drinks. After our temperatures had returned
to a reasonable level, we moved on to another disco and continued our
forbidden dance. Anika glistened with perspiration, and like a bee
to nectar, I was completely seduced. I was drunk with
desire.

Since we were warmed up, I thought it a good idea to continue on to a
real disco, the famous Jamboree.
I had the doorman, my friend Manolo, escort us to the VIP entrance. Descending
into the dark and cavernous dance hall, we were bombarded with the
booming sounds of Coolio. Anika and I picked up where we had left off,
but the hip-hop rhythm dictated a different vibe. I watched, with
schoolboy wonder, as Anika moved and manipulated her frame into
awe-inspiring positions. I was lost and I had no desire to be found.

She must have sensed this feeling in me, for she suggested that we sit. A
conspicuous lull in our conversation followed. Not the uncomfortable,
awkward kind, but rather a realization that we had touched upon something
holy.

I broke the silence. "How does a Romanian boy know when a Romanian girl
wants him to kiss her?"

She smiled at me. "I don't know."

For the first time in our interaction, I explicitly acknowledged Anika's
beauty. "How is it that someone as beautiful as you does not have a
boyfriend?"

"I do have a boyfriend," she said.

Inside I felt a terrific pain, but I tried not to let it show, With as
much composure as I could muster, I said, "Well, I certainly am glad that
I did not try to kiss you."

"Why don't you try?" she tempted with a look that was as serious as it
was seductive.

As if suddenly possessed by a different spirit, I heard these
words flow from my mouth: "Anika, I would love, more than anything in
this world, to kiss you. But I would rather that fantasy live forever
in my mind than to have it be a fleeting moment of passion."

She couldn't think of anything to say. Nor could I.
Earlier in the evening, we had discussed the idea of meeting the next
day for lunch, to exchange phone numbers and addresses. But at that
moment, we both realized that the memory we shared was perfect
just the way it was.

We reentered the streets, where the birds had announced dawn. The
hazy sun was just beginning to ascend the mountains in the east. Anika
and I, drained from our evening's activities, walked together to the
metro. We were headed in the same direction. We boarded the train, and
sat next to each other, holding hands. My stop came first.

"Thank you for a perfect evening. I had such a good time. Good luck
with your studies," I said.

"Thank you, Todd. I will never forget Barcelona. I will never forget
you."

Following Spanish custom, I leaned over to kiss her on both cheeks. But
as I did so, Anika moved her head slowly and placed her supple lips on
mine. We opened our mouths and gently explored each other's tongues, at
which point I felt my soul leave my body.

I looked at her and we smiled. I left the train and before
climbing the stairs leading to the street above, I turned. I took one last
look at Anika, and
there was just enough time to see her smile and wave before her train
entered the long, dark tunnel, out of my life forever.


Todd Gottlieb

Todd Gottlieb is a writer who lives in the United States but longs to return to Spain.

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