From the Rooftops of Granada — an excerpt from my manuscript for ‘The Outsider.’ A Confessional Memoir/Novel on Identity, Love, Travel and Revolution in the Arab Spring.

SCENE:
I landed in Andalusia, via Morocco, a few weeks/scenes before. In this text I’ve just met the Belgians Ingrid and Petra, We’ve been traveling together for a few days now and i’m beginning to feel a sort of tugging deep down, in my heart of hearts whenever she appears. Ingrid, that is. Of course, this feeling conflicts with my already strained, long-distance relationship (with Shay), yet I allow myself to be swept away by Ingrid’s presence. 

I remain unable to confront my own feelings. Therefore, before I say anything to Shay, before coming clean to Ingrid, I, selfishly, want to feel out my options.

The nights, dancing, tossing back jugs of Roja, the piles of Manchego, the furious foot stomping, hand clapping Flamenco, twirling through cavernous Gypsy grottoes and aimlessly, drunk on it all, wandering across the cobble stone markets. The old castle that was planted over the city have a millennia ago… this is all I’ve ever wanted. To be where I truly see excitement. To be where the world interests me and for the first time in my life I felt a purpose. 

And caught right there at the center of all that purpose nonsense were the two most extraordinary people I have ever met: Shay and Ingrid…


 From my working draft of The Outsider

     “I can hardly make out the old pointed steeple across the clay rooftops. A fog rolls in over the mountains and blanketing the village in that amber streetlight glow of Old World Europe. Church Bells pulsate through the clouds, as if echoing off canyon walls, a sort of wobbling, underwater sound. Even my own hands look strange in this light held before my face. The fog sweeps over the palm, through the fingers and the golden crown of Ingrid’s long curls. Blinking lights, something I can’t identify in the hazy distance, so foreign in this event –for haze so rich really is an event, isn’t it? Like a sunrise you never forget or the tail of a comet– glowing like dragons eyes… 

A sudden burst of red hits the rooftop as Ingrid’s glass falls to a shatter and wine washes over the Spanish tile where, beading at the edge of the terrace, it drips over the cobbles below.

“Shit.” Leaping up from the weathered futon, “–right back.”

When the coast is absolutely clear I dial the number.

“Hello?” It’s her. 

“Shay” My heart leaps, she’s answered!

How long has it been? A week, or two at least.

“Hi.” unhappy.

“Shay, how are you?” 

“Fine.”

Pause.

“I miss you.”

“Really? Because it seems to me that you’re having a great time on your own. In fact, I don’t know why you’ve called to begin–”

“–please don’t do this.”

“Do what? I’m doing nothing here. This is all you. If you want to go out and forget about me until it’s absolutely convenient then don’t even bother because I’m busy too y’now, i’m not sitting around, waiting for your call. This is all on you.”

“What are you talking about?” My voice cracks. Oh, how I revert to the desperate codependent puppy that I am. “I’m doing the best I can here. It’s not easy finding a phone, let alone a spare moment just when you’re available. The countless times I’ve called and gone straight to voicemail–”

“Words. Words, Nick. I want to see action. I need to feel you with me. To know you mean what you say. This is the first I know of these missed calls. You called this morning, well guess what, calling at 3 A.M doesn’t cut it.”

“Shay, please understand.”

“I do. You’re obviously onto bigger things and you should be. I’m not going to hold you back anymore. Don’t worry about me. Forget it. Go on and do you. It’s clearly what you want.”

“What I want? Would I be calling you from the other side of the world, busy and stressed and manic and missing you and in the middle of life, would I be calling you if this wasn’t what I wanted?”

“I don’t know what to say to that.”

“Be reasonable.”

“It’s never been so clear. You need to figure yourself out. Maybe someday that means us having something but now.” Shay pauses. “Now there’s just empty space.”

I can’t believe what she’s saying. A veil of darkness settles over my thoughts, muddling my vision. It’s all I can do not to crack this headset into the wall. To hurl my phone through the adjacent window across the chasms, stained glass raining over the alley below… but I hold tight. Oh, but to drain this bottle and hurl it through the window, wouldn’t that feel so good. I want to start a fire and watch something burn.

“Hello? Nick?”

I want to hang up. Give her a taste of what distance really feels like. But i’m still that codependent puppy in the throes of loneliness, hurling myself at the closest thing I know to be real.

Ingrid. On the stairs. She’s laughing and coming my way.

Shit.

“Nick? Hello?”

“You’re right. Maybe we’ve let too much air fill the space between “

Shay, hurt. “You really think that?”

Was she bluffing?

Now, agitated. “Isn’t that what you just said to me?” I let that sink in, feeling justified.

“Let’s talk about–”

“–how about I call you later. Let’s think about it. Email me. I have to go.”

“OK.”

I grab the bar as a wave of exhaustion crashes over. I need a drink.

“Hey Cowboy, how you holding up there?”

Ingrid’s cherry presence and brightness fills my cup once more. 

“I need a drink. Shall we?”

I mean, it’s not cheating if nothing happens. Oh, but emotions run deep. Which begs the question: What’s worse, an emotional or a physical affair?

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