“Barcelona…Two Lovers” By: Bev Jafek


and still another day with my love in the city that is ours but dazzles me as though I were a stranger to it, Ruth was thinking, walking and holding hands with Monserrat. Where was that stained glass window in the shape of a rose? A woman was being crowned in the central sphere of it, and the golden light of paradise radiated out from them as though a pagan sun god was being immortalized. Angels were floating in a circle about them like petals of the rose. It must be the Virgin Mary, but the concept is a Platonic abstract of the ideal rose as a woman. Where did we see it? A Gothic Church. I kissed her there since she brought me to it, and why shouldn’t the rose not have one more petal

I love her, Monserrat was thinking and walking with Ruth. And my love is that rose window at the Church of Santa del Mar where we kissed. Now we are walking in the Ribera, broad thoroughfares where we can stroll without cars. The complexity and intricacy of the building facades reflect so many architectural periods, all with sparse trees rising up to the white sky, that it gives me a sense of radiantly dappled light. The sky is broken into so many pieces by the trees and buildings that the light is confetti being tossed up, as my love is leaping up, and all because I love her

how incredible that this is a building, Ruth thought. The Palace of Catalan Music, yet it is such a profusion of color, design and floral exuberance that it has the energy and life of a rainforest. Flowers are becoming brocades becoming seashells becoming columns becoming humans in all their magnificence, to the sound of trumpets and all of it hurled by comets. I do not exaggerate. What a perfect shape for performances of music, the art that stimulates the entire brain at once. Then we are inside and the interior is the jest intensified: sculpted lights and walls that are jungles of whorled and foamy organic shapes. Yet it is nothing compared to the skylight in the shape of a black hole. Directly beneath it, we see the big bang of the universe explode outward in golden tentacles of energy, at last dissipating into human life at the periphery. We look at one another and burst out laughing. It is the only sane response to such a phenomenon. I kiss her impetuously, or does she now expect it

we are back in the Eixample where my house is, Monserrat was thinking as they walked. After the roar of Gaudi, it’s the echo of so many Modernist architects and craftsmen who finished the city in an orderly octagonal pattern. Yet, it has its own mad genius. The interior walls of its houses have ceramic reliefs that are part luxurious fabric, part sea star, walls with ceramic textiles in the shape of enormous pectorals, brilliant evening necklaces for women. There are marble reliefs in which humans and dragons are so entangled in conflict that they become one another. We’re passing Casa Calvet with its rich wooden door having a metal peephole that has the detail and majesty of a mandala, a world in a secret. My love will appreciate that

I have gone crazy with love for her, Ruth was thinking. This city is a perfect home for us, made by cosmically love-addled brains. Now we are wandering along a block called the Apple of Discord, where all the famous Modernist architects created their buildings side-by-side to maximize the spectacle. But I have my limits: my delight is the stained glass windows of Casa Morena. I love the immense dignity of the roosters walking in a line, contrasting with the wild birds that can still soar through the air. Thus the domesticated and wild go to their fates with an animal passion and intrinsic nobility. I love them as much as anything on this street, but how much more I love her

but of course we had to end up on the Ramblas, Monserrat was thinking. As all humanity must pour over these streets and be entertained by any kind of street performer, assuming the shapes and miens of angels, apples, robots, reptilian-mammalian monsters, a human strawberry, a figure with black bags and silver spray paint who is impersonating a constellation of stars, for why not? The whole street asks, why not? Miro covers the thoroughfares with spherical mosaics. It is late spring, which brings out the delicate green-toned plane trees. Inevitably, we are by the sea, yet the lions at Columbus Circle take her, so purely noble that their billowy manes are fallen haloes. Will she kiss me here? I have only to look at her. But of course, she does

a state of mad love and confusion, Ruth thought as she walked. Where did I see a building roof in the shape of a rainbow striped butterfly? Where was that interior wall that was covered with orifices and octopi? I think it was Casa Sayrachs. It was Casa Comalot that had interior walls forming the evolutionary progression of seashells through the ages and an exterior of innumerable blue-green swaying forms, sea-foam in which I could see painted eyes and butterflies. Another building had inner columns topped by shapes that could be eyes, flowers or octopi. Where did I see that sculpture of a bronze giraffe reclining on its back with the protuberant neck and face of a Sphinx? Where did she delight me by standing and taking a dance pose in the middle of a circle of stone Catalan dancers? Where did we come upon that androgynous nude sculpture of a woman – Morgen or Morgana – her arms above her head, dancing to a wild music, every line of her body revealing the witchery of its rhythm? She was the perfect summation of it all, but I only wanted to touch Monserrat and kiss her again

I feel my power over her, Monserrat was thinking. Ruth was looking outward for much of the day, but now it is nightfall and she can only see me. We could go on celebrating our love throughout the night on the city’s bell-like stones, resounding with thousands of years of Mediterranean pageantry, but what for? I’ll take her home instead and love her as I have all day, over and over, again and again, how I will love her

“Barcelona…Two Lovers” is an excerpt from Bev Jafek’s novel, The Sacred Beasts. Bev Jafek has published 40 short stories and novel excerpts, some having been translated into German, Italian, and Dutch. Her first short story collection, The Man Who Took a Bite Out of His Wife, was published by The Overlook Press. She was also a Wallace E. Stegner Fellow in Fiction at Stanford University.

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