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translated into English by Sandra Kingery


Puppy Love
It’s not that I’m afraid of dogs, but they had never appealed to me before. When I saw that guy coming down the sidewalk toward me with a boxer, I suddenly wanted to be a canine specialist so I could strike up a conversation with him. I needn’t have worried, because the dog was the one who broke the ice for us, bounding over to me and sticking his snout between my legs to sniff my balls—just what I wanted to do to his owner. I bent down to pet him, letting him lick my face, and in passing, I placed myself at eye-level with the guy’s crotch. I very nearly stuck my nose between his legs, like his dog had done to me. But I controlled myself and asked him the dog’s name and, thanks to Izko, we started talking so naturally that I almost didn’t realize I had managed to pick him up until we were going up to his apartment. We had to close the door to the bedroom so that Izko wouldn’t interrupt us, and it didn’t take long before I was able to stick my nose between his owner’s legs, just like I wanted, making him wag his tail and perform other tricks as well.
       I don’t remember his name, I don’t even know if I asked; I always remember him as Izko’s owner. From that point on, it was clear to me that a dog could have a positive impact on my sex life. The only thing was that I preferred visiting the flats of guys who had dogs instead of getting my own pet. And it almost always worked like that: since they had to let their dogs out and feed them, it was better to go with them to their place instead of inviting them to mine. That way, I could leave whenever I wanted, once we were done screwing and had enjoyed whatever post-intimacy we desired. When I started noticing dogs before their owners on my walks around Bilbao, I began to get worried; I was developing a fetish, or that’s what it seemed like. Of course, I didn’t hook up with all the guys with dogs that I met on the streets, although I wouldn’t have minded if that had happened. The truth of the matter was that the guys who had dogs were more relaxed, in general, and their pets worked as the ideal pretext to stop them and start up a conversation. I no longer went to bars or looked for sex online, I walked around the city, almost as if I had my own dog, and that’s how enjoyable encounters arose from time to time, sometimes with new guys and other times with guys whose dogs already recognized my scent.
       One afternoon, I was leaning against the railing in front of the Jeff Koons sculpture outside the Guggenheim Museum. A couple of foreigners, tall and blond, approached me and asked in English about Puppy. When I later accompanied them to their hotel, I laughed: maybe I’d finally found my own dog. 

Outdoor Café

“The problem with these tables,” I insisted, “is that it’s impossible to pick someone up if he’s sitting at a different one. Or even someone standing up, just walking by or heading to the metro. An exchange of glances, sure, that works. But getting any further, extremely difficult.”
       “With the whole plaza watching,” said Toni, “you’d have to be pretty bold…”
       We both looked at Jairo, who was sitting with us but his attention was elsewhere. Probably on some man. We didn’t say anything, but Toni and I shared a smile and continued talking about other things. From time to time, Jairo added some commentary, or shared some anecdote about his experiences cruising in the park close to Ventas.
       We asked for the check so we could go get something to eat. Two groups of guys showed up before the waiter did, wanting the table when it was free.
       The three of us crossed the plaza, but Jairo suddenly pulled away from us. He approached a table and dropped a napkin in front of some guy, who was seated with another man.
       “I can’t believe it,” I said when Jairo joined us again.
       “How do you know the other guy wasn’t his boyfriend?” asked Toni.
       “And what if he is? But I doubt it. Didn’t you see how he was looking at me the whole time we were sitting there?”
       “Olé, olé,” I said, impressed and also somewhat jealous. “Even though he’s not going to call you, you’ve got the biggest balls I’ve ever seen.”
       But I was wrong. We hadn’t even left the plaza when Jairo’s phone rang.
       “You’re fucking kidding me,” said Toni. “Is it him?”
       Jairo didn’t stop, he kept walking until he got to the corner of Gravina Street. There, out of everyone’s line of sight, in the park, he finally took out his phone and read the message. He smiled.
       “Tell us!”
       “You can’t just leave us hanging!”
       “The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” said Jairo with a smile. “I’ll leave you here. I’ve got a date for a lube job.”

Balcony Fishing

When I went to see the apartment, my friend Esteban advised me not to rent it, warning me that anything on the second floor of Calle Hortaleza would be very loud. I have earplugs, so I didn’t care, but I used that excuse to convince the landlord to reduce the rent around 40 euros. I bet he’s gotten a lot of complaints or renters who break the contract because the noise is driving them crazy, because he agreed without hesitating. I probably could have bargained him down even further.
       But for me, it’s an ideal location. Every night, around three in the morning, I go out onto the balcony. All the guys who didn’t managed to hook up over in Cruising spill out onto the streets, their balls still full and their standards nearly scraping the ground. And from up on high, I get to take my pick, judging not only by their appearance but also the way they move, their level of sex-appeal. When one of them interests me, I whistle, and they look up and see the light.
       And when they leave, after we’ve had sex, I put my earplugs in and sleep like a log. 

Shared Codes

There aren’t many of us who go to record stores, and out of that minority, there are even fewer of us who like to fuck other guys. That’s why I almost didn’t pay attention to him as he sifted through the international CDs in the basement of Metralleta. I thought “what a cutie” and continued running my fingers along the spines of the albums while I read the names of titles and groups.
       But out of the corner of my eye, I realized he was in the national CD section. And that made me curious. Nowadays, a young guy like him would normally be looking at LPs, a format that had risen from the ashes like a phoenix because of the hipsters. He looked so young that he must have been one of those digital natives who don’t even know what CDs are for, having grown up in the age of MP3 players and Spotify. There aren’t too many of us who still listen to (or buy) CDs. And that's obvious by how little merchandise reaches second-hand stores like Metralleta anymore.
       Even though, in theory and in practice, you can pick people up anywhere, whether in the streets or in a supermarket, I felt a little bit out of place thinking about him sexually in there. It was the collision of two worlds that had been separated for me until now. If we had met up in the bathrooms on the top floor of FNAC, just a few meters from here, it would have seemed like the most natural thing in the world. Even if we'd been in the Rastro flea market, searching through adjacent boxes of records, it would have been a more open environment, or at least one where the possibility of hooking up was more expected, more habitual. But now I felt exposed, as if the girl at the cash register and the other guys had caught us in flagrante delicto… But I had only looked at him, I had only wondered to myself if he was gay.
       Suddenly he raised his eyes and looked at me directly, as if he could feel my gaze and my interest. I forced a smile and started rummaging through the CDs again, embarrassed that he had caught me. But I was no longer seeing the titles or the groups, and I started undressing him with my imagination.
       My hands began to sweat. I wasn’t sure if I was interested because I liked him physically (I tend to prefer guys who are older than him, no matter how cute he was) or because of the novelty of finding an attractive guy who liked music. Should I try to talk to him? I already had the “no,” but what if he said “yes”?  He could be a dream come true. I took a deep breath to work up my courage and crossed the aisle to the section of national CDs, where he was now, almost at the end of the alphabet.
       “Do you know this one?” said someone by my side. I was so startled my heart almost stopped beating: it was him. He had taken the first step. His voice was deeper than I expected. Maybe he wasn’t as young as I thought.
       He had Planes de verano by Algora in his hand. A clear signal for me.
       “A real gem,” I answered, and I returned his smile. 

Death in Ibiza

How much loyalty do we owe someone simply because we’ve had sex with them?
       This was the question I kept returning to, between customer and customer, while I asked myself what to do with the guy who was in the storeroom.
       We’d met two nights earlier, in Angelo's, where I had stopped for a beer before heading home. I wasn’t planning on hooking up with anyone, but sometimes it’s hard not to during high season, especially there, at the foot of the path that goes up to D’Alt Villa. I couldn’t remember the name of Graeme’s friend, even though he was the one who started talking to me. They were interchangeable: just two more British tourists, barely twenty years old, during a 3-day weekend abroad. I scored with one of them. And now the other one was dead. Even though one thing had nothing to do with the other, except that Graeme, the guy I’d fucked, reappeared in my life when he showed up at the store this morning begging me to help him.
       He told me the story in bits and pieces. Every time a customer came in, Graeme acted all nervous. In any other location that type of behavior would have awoken suspicions, but in my store, it was a typical reaction for a certain type of customer who’s embarrassed to be seen buying a dildo or lube.
       From what I understood: Graeme took some guy back to the apartment he had rented with that friend whose name I couldn’t remember. The door to the other room was closed when they got there from the bar, so Graeme thought his friend had picked someone up as well. In the morning, since the door was still closed, he knocked, and since there wasn’t any answer, he opened it, to find his friend alone in the bed with a knife in his back.
       His boy toy from the previous evening got hysterical: “I can’t believe it! We spent the night sleeping right next door to a cadaver!” He took off running, saying he was going to call the police.
       Graeme got out of there as fast as he could as well. He didn’t know what had happened to his friend, but since he didn’t speak a word of Spanish, he was afraid of the cops, especially since he and his friend had bought drugs when they arrived.
       So he fled the scene of the crime and came directly to my door.
       I’m not sure why I let him stay.
       He meant nothing to me. I wasn’t in any hurry to repeat the sex we’d had, and neither was he, given that he'd picked up that other guy…
       But at two o’clock, when I closed the store for lunch, I went into the storeroom. Graeme looked at me with a mixture of hope and fear, like a dog that’s been beaten.
       I unbuttoned the fly of my jeans and took out my dick.
       Graeme kneeled down in front of me without saying a word.
       I still wasn’t sure if I owed him anything or not, but since he had gotten me mixed me up in this whole mess, I could at least make it worth my while… 


Over time, Salva had begun to hate GPS.
       Checking out profiles on his cell phone, he only saw the same faces. At least, in the ones that included a face pic—at least as many of them only had anonymous dick pics, erect or not, or naked asses. It struck Salva as ridiculous, the complete opposite of exciting. It stripped away part of the mystery of getting to know a guy, the romanticism of flirting, the approach, mutual revelation until that moment when the two bodies would meld into one. If you even arrived at that point; not all dates had to culminate in sex. All of it was part of a way of discovering and exploring the world and the other men who inhabit it.
       But that world was lost now, even though he continued living in it, strolling down its streets and searching for… not simply men, or that special man, but perhaps that longed-for past in which proximity did not take precedence over all other considerations.
       Global positioning had made Salva lose his way.
       He felt constrained, restricted, limited.
       There was a time in which he explored the entire city because of the dates he confirmed after sessions in chat rooms. He often remembered the early days of the internet when people, who still didn’t have computers at home, would go to cybercafés to meet up and communicate. One of the biggest ones, in those days, was the EasyEverything on Montera Street, right by Madrid’s Kilometer Zero, so large that it filled two stories and so cheap and centrally located that it was sometimes busier than some of the gay bars. There were times when some guy would stand up for a second and then sit back down, and everyone (or at least all the gay guys) knew he was flirting with someone who was there too… Even though they all converged there, they would then go back (alone or with their new companions) to homes that were spread out around the city.
       But now everyone had a cell phone or computer with GPS, and people were no longer seeking out soul mates, but the person who was closest at hand.
       The worst of it was that, without those devices, people didn’t exist. They didn’t go to bars anymore, where they could be surprised by the unexpected, by someone they hadn’t even imagined outside of their dreams. Nobody bothered leaving home anymore when they could just get home delivery.
       Salva was now becoming a flâneur, someone who wandered the city, randomly visiting neighborhoods in a type of cruising, not for sex, but for encounters that began with a meeting in some café.
       His friends never knew where he was, and he tended to get WhatsApp messages, like now, messages asking:
       WHERE YOU AT?
       Salva responded, hitting “Share my location.”
       GPS wasn’t always bad. 

Home Visit

Sergio tried not to look out the window of the train, but it made no difference: his anxiety grew the further south he went, even without seeing those key locations of the journey, those signposts that meant that he was returning to his hometown and his past. He felt as if every kilometer was erasing another aspect of the personal growth and development he had achieved since moving to the capital. The distance wasn’t only physical, but also temporal, because people back home saw him not as he was (a gay man, single but at peace with his sexuality and his identity, with a job he liked and a group of friends with whom he really clicked) but the way he had been (the weird kid, neither accepted nor understood).
       His brother Diego was waiting for him at the station. On the drive home, they made small talk—the trip, work, nieces and nephews—topics and details he would have to repeat thousands of times that weekend. No one would ask him if he was happy, if he had a boyfriend, the things that really mattered.
       Crossing the main plaza, Sergio saw a young man, very attractive, carrying some plastic bags emblazoned with the logo of the fruit store. He didn’t remember ever seeing him before. He wouldn’t have minded being able to see him better and longer, instead of putting up with his family during an entire 3-day weekend. He didn’t know how to ask his brother who the young man was without the question giving rise to too many other questions, so he remained silent until they got home.
       “I invited some new neighbors over for dinner,” said his mother, after her greeting kiss. And Sergio began to feel a knot in his stomach: not only would he be unable to relax with his family, whose prejudices were at least known to him, but he would have to be friendly with strangers and put up with their interrogations.
       He went up to his room, feeling like a tourist in his own past. He had already rescued everything he wanted from there, and what remained was just dead weight that his mother took painstaking care of. He could now recognize that taking care of his things was her way of trying to show interest and concern for him; his family had never talked about feelings easily.
       The doorbell rang. Sergio gave a deep sigh and went down to face the firing squad.
       “This is Manolo and Jimena,” said his mother, introducing the new neighbors. “And this is their son Bruno.”
       It was the guy he had seen in the plaza with the bags from the fruit store!
       Once he had gotten over the surprise of meeting him—something he had desired but ruled out as impossible—Sergio realized he wasn’t only attractive, but also single and gay. Because their two sets of parents had organized this whole thing, a pretext to introduce their sons to see if they would hit it off.
       They still didn’t talk about certain subjects, but maybe his hometown really was changing, like his mother was always telling him. And maybe his family was as well. 

© Lawrence Schimel
© translated from the Spanish by Sandra Kingery, 2017

Art by Jose G. Alcalá

The Barcelona Review is a registered non-profit organization

Author Bio
Lawrence Schimel Lawrence Schimel writes in both Spanish and English and has published over 100 books in many different genres–including fiction, poetry, non-fiction, and comics–for both children and adults. In Spanish, he is the author of the collection of stories Una barba para dos (Dos Bigotes, 2016), from which the selections here appear, the poetry collection Desayuno en la cama (Egales), the graphic novel Vacaciones en Ibiza (Egales), and over 30 children's books, including No hay nada como el original (Destino; chosen for the White Ravens) and ¿Lees un libro conmigo? (Panamericana; chosen by IBBY for Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities). In English, he is the author of three short-story collections, including The Drag Queen of Elfland (Circlet Press) and the poetry chapbooks Fairy Tales for Writers and Deleted Names (both A Midsummer Night's Press). In addition to his own writing, he is a prolific literary translator. His translation of Nothing is Lost: Selected Poems by Jordi Doce is forthcoming from Shearsman Books in May, 2017. He lives in Madrid, Spain.