Memory: August 3, 2016
F and I are in San Sebastian, Basque country, Spain.
Earlier in the morning, we lie out on the warm sand, under impossibly blue skies and the soothing march of the waves. I go for a swim and the water is perfectly cool. A particularly large wave nudges me to wade in deeper. I giggle and jump right into the next wave. I look back toward the beach and see F laying out on our cute pink beach mat. Near him, a mother is smearing sunscreen on wiggling twin girls who are anxious to run around. A boy is playfully stomping into a wading pool he made in the sand, and he splashes his dad, who sits up from his towel to scold him; the boy sheepishly covers his mouth, and splashes more gently. More people are walking along the water’s edge: couples, teenagers, families, grandparents… Everyone is relaxed, and I notice how people are dressed. Little old ladies wear bikinis, small children are naked, some women are topless. Bodies aren’t covered up and shamed. There are no bulky T-shirts meant to hide imperfections; all bodies are acceptable, and everyone’s got the right to get a decent tan. I feel emboldened by this and remove my own bathing suit top. No one bats an eye, and I can’t help but laugh to myself. Now THIS feels like freedom!
That evening, we go to a small homey restaurant in a quiet corner of the Old Town. Narrow cobblestone streets are lined with pintxo (tapas) bars, tourist shops, and various landmarks. This restaurant is on the second floor of a converted home. We get a bottle of red wine and order the tasting menu: thin sliced jamon, crab-stuffed peppers, seared codfish in garlic oil, sumptuous beef Wellington in cream sauce, and for dessert, cream puffs and leche frita (fried milk). Bellies full, F and I head over to the beach, arm-in-arm. The beach at night is a lovely sight, and the boardwalk is bustling. Street performers attract groups of onlookers, and we stop to watch a flamenco trio performing beautifully. Later, strains from an accordion lead us along our walk. A strangely familiar tickle arises in my throat, and it swells, choking up for an instant; my eyes start to water and I look up at F. In that split instant, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. F hugs me and it’s all so overwhelming, my heart swells, and I’m savoring this glorious moment. My head tips back, and I laugh up into the sky.