A very young woman, black dress, lots of blonde hair in her face, crossed in front of me toward the sushi table. Then she turned to me, black slouchy bag in her hand. “Where did you put your stuff?”
“Over there.” I gestured toward a little couch piled high with bags and coats.
Meanwhile the gal at one of the end chairs was looking up helplessly from where her seaweed-enveloped roll was beginning to fall apart. Taj went over to her. He laughed magnanimously. “That’s ok. You can do it again. I’ll start you off.”
While I waited for the contained frenzy to dissipate from the environs of the sushi-making table, I walked toward the doorway near the stairs and began chatting with someone’s dad. He was visiting from somewhere in England. “I have to say, I am envious of you,” he told me. “I wish I could just pick up and come to Spain.”
“You can,” I pointed out.
“I know, my kids are grown and everything, and I’m divorced, but I have a good job, and a retirement plan -”
“Then I guess it doesn’t make sense for you to leave, does it? So you can be happy where you are. Sounds like you have a lot going for you.”
“Yes, but all of you here are so - vibrant! so alive! I think it’s great you are dancing and writing a novel.”
“Thanks. Anyone can do it if they really want to.”
When it was finally my turn to make sushi I made sure I rolled it tight, but not too tight, glancing up at Taj as I began.
“I think that’s perfect,” he said.
“Ta-da!” I beamed. “Now I have to cut it.”
“Want me to do it?”
“Actually, sure. You’ll do a much better job than me.”
“I’m good with a knife.”
Incredibly, despite the multicolored, seaweed-wrapped rounds of rice and buttery fish and vegetables piling enormously on a nearby table, the directors of our former school absolutely forbade anyone to start eating. I went upstairs.
Taj found me and told me that one of the directors had asked him to walk to her house and bring some more ingredients. He had her keys. I went with him. It was a nice place, decorated mainly in red, with upholstered cubes - my favorite - in the living room. She and her husband don’t have a kid. Before Taj and I left he kissed me for a while by the door.
That morning after my first class I had gone to Al Campo, the huge cheap combination supermarket home goods hardware clothing store, and bought a couple of white towels, some white sheets and a pillowcase to match. I cleared out the bottom of the middle cabinet of my armoire, as well as one of my shelves in the bathroom. He hadn’t been to my house yet and I wanted to make space for him first. He had captured my heart and passed all my tests, so it was time. I would tell him tomorrow.
At long last we were allowed to eat the sushi. We claimed a corner of the large table in the middle room upstairs in Pedro’s bar, stuffed a few rounds in our own mouths before feeding each other a couple of morsels. Then it was time to grab Poppy and Roy, who had shown up, and go for some drinks in Sol.
Taj said goodbye to me at the metro station at the end of the night. He didn’t walk me home this time.
“So there’s a bus at 10 o’clock tomorrow.”
“OK,” I said.
“We should meet at my place at -”
“Perfect.” Then he kissed me and was gone.
He was going to take me somewhere, he said, out of the city, but I didn’t know where.