Three summers ago I flew across the Atlantic for the first time,
landing in the freedom-fighting city of Barcelona.
A paradise of tapas bars and cathedrals constructed almost a millennium ago,
basilicas of stone where my mother knelt and wept
while my father withdrew to the courtyard to text his mistress.
A country where I climbed the city walls and pretended
I was a king surveying his land:
each tree, each branch, a subject.
On the second day, I snuck away
just two blocks from the Sagrada Familia
to a little gelato shop.
I wanted to try every intoxicating flavor—
but I was shy,
I think I lied when my father asked if I liked
the topless blondes at the beach.
I thought I was just admiring
the guy scooping my gelato.
I watched his strong hands graze
the different flavors
and all I could think was how I wanted to lick the gelato
off his hands to see if his skin tasted like olive oil.
I wanted a scoop of his pistachio-colored eyes
and to swirl my fingers through the mop of milk chocolate hair
tucked behind his ears.
It took me two years to realize what this meant—
this little secret I tucked away like a postcard,
the words “do not touch” written in bold.
He takes the ciabatta in his hands
and tears it unevenly (like he always does).
He slathers his piece with soft butter
and lets the crumbs fall where they may (like he always does).
She scans his neck for slutty red lipstick stains (his favorite)
but like he always does, he showered before coming home.
The wooden chair wobbles under his weight
as he orders her to bring him a beer (like she always does).
He raises his fist, veins juicier than the steak on his plate,
at the sound of defiance (like he always does).
She brings up therapy—it worked for the couple next door—
but he scoffs, claiming he doesn’t have a problem (like he always does).
Tears fall into her lap but all he sees is her head down,
so he asks about her day. Like she always does,
she tries to knead the dough, now rampant with yeast.
She tries to discuss each other’s needs, but there were too many holes
like the loaf of bread.
Christian Paulisich is an undergraduate student at Johns Hopkins University where he studies psychology and writing.