If she shushes me again I’m going to scream.

Type: Free write | Genre: Contemporary Fiction | Date: June 8, 2022 | Author: Lala Jackson

If she shushes me again I’m going to scream. I don’t want the most memorable story of my I-can-surely-find-myself-in-Spain trip to be getting kicked out of the hammam spa, so I stand up from the baths, wrap my towel around my waist, gulp the last of my mint tea, and trudge through the foot and a half of water toward the exit.

“I’m sorry the echo of my crying was too loud for you,” I want to snidely say as I walk past her, the grand-maestro of a pool the size of a large bathtub, but I don’t because I don’t want that to be my story either. 

I change quickly in the locker rooms, my sight numb to the view of bodies in various states of aging and undressed. 

“I don’t care, I don’t care, I don’t care,” my heart beats. 

I towel off my feet before sliding them into my new handmade leather sandals. “Treat myself, that’ll surely do the trick,” I had thought when they’d caught my eye at the market I’d stumbled across the night before.

They’d been lined up carefully alongside their leather siblings, placed on a colorful wool blanket in a vendor’s booth, a sense of order amidst a cacophony of sounds and lights reverberating around them. 

Studying their detail helped distract me from the sight of families dancing, clapping along as abuelas flitted their skirts around their legs, calves sinewy and strong from decades of rollicking in the Spanish summer nights with their ever-growing family trees. 

Their happiness felt like a twist in my gut and I was furious at myself for it. It is not their fault they are happy. It is my fault I am angry at them for it. 

“Here alone? A beautiful woman like you,” the vendor had said, his words richly accented, winking at me like it was a harmless joke and not my life. I pressed 5 euros into his hand as he passed the sandals to me. “Do you want to put them…” he had said as I turned to walk away, shaking my head in response. 

Their leather straps are soft. They don’t cut into my ankles the way my $12 sandals from Target do. I wonder if I can find him again tonight to thank him. To make up for myself. 

I straighten, taking one last glance around the locker room bench to make sure I’m not leaving anything behind that I don’t intend to.

The sun is blazing as I walk into the stone alleyway outside the spa’s exit. I turn right to make my way up the hill and toward the old castle grounds, closing my eyes whenever I pass a loving family or giddy child, trusting my feet to carry me forward on the path I’ve trodded often over the last few weeks. 

I’ve gotten to know the royal gardens well enough. Made myself sit in them every afternoon to be around their beauty, to be amongst the sweet smell of roses, to remind my spirit of what life unencumbered looks like. 

It’s not true what they say—that colors get muted in times like these. If anything they get too bright, too vibrant to feel like you can both possibly exist in the world at the same time.