Scene in Europe, Scene 8, Madrid and the Reoccurring Scent of a Dream
Henry sat on the edge of the bed feeling his burgeoning body cave and crumble. He was exhausted, confused and broken. In Cologne, after a date that proved as evaporating as water, he’d met a group of Spaniards celebrating their last night before heading home to Madrid the following day, and, although he spoke no Spanish and they had hardly any English, he managed to wangle a free ride to Spain.
Little did he know that it would take so long, that the car would be so small or even worse, how much and quickly they would all speak, simultaneously, in a language he’d only ever heard his mother’s overly familiar gardener speaking. The trip unfolded into a 17 hour long cacophony of voices clashing within the confines of a sardine can while everyone sweated, salivated and slurped up whatever liquids they could find from motorway takeaways. Sleep had been hoped for but proved impossible sitting between two 18 year old boys intent on beating each other up. He’d envisioned an entirely different kind of road trip when they’d first made the offer, thinking of positioning himself between the two girls of the party but they turned out to be the designated driver and navigator and claimed the more spacious position in the front of the car, so close but just far enough to be out of reach.
Up till now, his European vacation had not overly taxed his Father’s credit card but his Father had told him that, if absolutely necessary, he could treat himself to a little comfort and so, as soon as he arrived in Madrid, he jumped ship, or car, grabbed a cab and headed to straight to Plaza de Santa Ana and the ME Madrid Reine Victoria Hotel, lush and lavish and on his list of just-in-case-emergency hotels.
“A shower and then a little rest,” he told himself as the bed seemed to lift up to meet his back and sooth his aching head before, almost immediately, all went dark. The next thing he knew there was a bright, warm light shining on his face, his mouth was so parched that his tongue kept sticking to the roof of it and a drool had dried itself to the side of his stubbled cheek. He moved slowly in the bed realising he’d fallen asleep, missing the afternoon and dinner, along with the entire night as it was now 11am the following day.
After a much needed shower, he gelled back his blonde quiff, admired his now refreshed physique and set out through the tiny, twisting streets of burnt orange buildings, bustling with determined locals and distracted tourists until he made his way to the Puerta del Sol, the swarming centre of the city and centre of Spain itself, with its famous Bear and Madrone Tree statue, the symbol of city, and the ever ticking bell tower, famous to all Spaniards as it rings in the New Year on every TV in the country while everyone tries of gobble down 12 grapes in the first minute of the midnight. Freeing himself from the crowd, he took the Calle Mayor with its 19th century buildings either falling, fading or fabulous, he found his way down to the sun drenched, sand coloured Palacio surrounded by melting tourists all queuing to see the guilt lined walls so he wandered around the neighbouring Almudena Cathedral instead before managing to make it all the way across town to the Prado Museum before 4pm.
“I’m gonna know this place in less than two days,” he told himself when he got back to the hotel and through down the postcards of El Greco, Goya and Velazquez before devouring two twisting, sugar coated churros looking like giant french fries.
An evening nap left him dozy when he woke up as the clock flashed 10.15pm and he thought he’d missed another night till he heard the heavy bass of a sound system steaming in through the open window. Dressed casually in a fitted black V neck tee and white jeans, he took the elevator up to the top floor and gasped as the doors opened to the sight of the city spread out before him, glistening in the night light while the coolest group of people partied and paraded above it; beautiful girls in revealing dresses; sleeveless, backless, breathless and men in cropped trousers of every colour imaginable. It was the United Colours of Benetton meets Victoria’s Secret, all under a magnificent sky full of stars.
“Como Estas,” asked a dark haired goddess as he stepped onto the wonderfully scented terrace while she offered him a glass of champagne from the tray in her hand.
“Muy bien, gracias” he said, a little shocked at her beauty but taking the glass anyway as she looked him up and down and smiled seductively before turning away and vanishing into the crowd.
“Como Estas,” came a voice from over his shoulder and he turned to see another dark diva smiling at him while serpent-like curls swayed over her barely covered breasts. Henry didn’t know where to look but couldn’t bring himself to divert his eyes.
“Muy bien,” he replied again, ‘I am fine’ being the only reply in Spanish he knew how to say but she’d already turned and was sauntering away like a model twirling back on the end of a catwalk.
This felt crazy, like he’d woken up to his hottest, favourite dream, with audio as well as visual.
As he watched her disappear like the last one, into the crowd, another girl, this time a blonde with silver painted lips and an almost transparent dress, sailed past him, blew him an air kiss and offered another “Como Estas,” without even stopping for a reply.
Henry knocked back the champagne and made his way to the bar for something stronger but, from out of nowhere, another tray of champagne glasses came up to his face, held again by another Spanish beauty, offering the same “Como Estas” greeting.
“I’m in love,” he answered this time, the last glass kicking his courage and labido into place, “you smell amazing,” he told her as the nights breeze caressed him with her scent, realising it was the same smell he had been inhaling since the doors of the elevator had opened.
“Lo siento, no hablo Ingles,” she told him before she offered the same greeting to a man standing next to him, along with the same enticing smile. At least he understood when someone told him they couldn’t speak English but he was a little offended that the smile and look of come-to-bed-with-me wasn’t just for him.
“Fucking hell mate, d’you see the ass on that one?” questioned the man next to him in a heavy British accent.
Henry turned, relieved he could finally speak to someone in his own language but a tiny badge on the collar of the man’s shirt distracted him. It looked like a tiny bottle and splashed across it were the words ‘Como Estas’.
“I’m sorry, you mind if I ask… what’s with the badge… on your shirt?” Henry asked, pointing to the welcome words that he’d originally thought were opening lines and already a little worried as to what the response might be.
“Ah, didn’t you get one in your room, when you checked in, with the stash of samples? I’m with the sales team, over from London… for the bash. So there’s an American team, eh?” the man asked him, “didn’t realise they’d take it global, so fucking soon. It’s a bit cheesy for my liking but I guess you lot like cheesy, sorry mate.”
“That’s all right but I’m still missing something, sales team for what?” Henry asked.
“Christ mate, you had too much bloody booze or what? The launch… this launch. ‘Como Estas’, the new perfume. Don’t it smell like a real dirty fucking dream?”
“Yes,” relied Henry, deflated and disappointed yet again, “like a reoccurring dream you just can’t wake up from,” he admitted as he downed the glass of champagne in one go. Europe was suddenly beginning to smell far to aromatic for his liking.
All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly