Upstairs, Kate prepares to enter her sanctuary: the en suite bathroom. When having a hot shower – very hot – like the one she plans on having today she loves the way the steam gathers and hangs there. Swirling slowly towards the high ceiling. Droplets of condensation form and cling to the tiles at the bathroom sink. She watches the cool marble succumb to the consuming mist that will soon creep its way down towards the faucets.
Those feature faucets were a championed prize of hers when she and Mark bought, and immediately renovated, the house back in 2014. The house hunt had taken almost two years. Two years of applying and re-applying for mortgage approval given that Kate was working freelance and the hurdles to be cleared were much more obtrusive for that kind of work. Those feckin’ forms! The thoughts of LTVs and BERs – mortgage jargon – brings a shudder to Kate as she steps through the glass doors into the shower.
She turns the handle and gasps as the warm water shoots down toward her. At first it coats her auburn hair, then it reaches the exposed parts of her shoulders. Blanketed bliss. She rotates her neck and looks up straight into the eyes of the showerhead, wetting her face in the process. She then turns and steps forward to allow her back to be introduced to the torrent of warm water.
After she rotates her body one-hundred-and-eighty degrees once again, thus completing her exposure to the water, Kate then cranks the handle towards the door to raise the temperature and allow herself to settle into her preferred conditions. “Tell it to my heart. I can feel my body rock every time you call my name,” she sings from under the stream of water. She resists the urge to take hold of the showerhead and use it as a microphone. Some of her best showers have featured a handheld showerhead. And only some of the times have I used it as a microphone, she boldly considers. As her best Taylor Dayne impression comes to an end, Kate, somewhat exhausted, places her hand flat on the tile that is level with her chest. She rests for a moment, letting the water roll forward from her scalp to her feet, where it puddles momentarily.
She feels a chill on her body now. The absence of warm water trickling down is noticeable with her head titled forward and her chest contracting. She takes slow, calculated breaths while pressing her other hand against the fogged glass, leaving a handprint etched on its surface. The sight of four pronounced fingers on the glass instantly reminds Kate of the emails that she received this morning.
Three received plus the one I intended to send. Her breath hastens as she deliberates the contents of the Art’s Council email. What’s the verdict this time? She feels herself close to tears: her breathing evermore erratic as she allows the minutes to pass in the shower. Damn it. I’ll get the collection done. With or without their help, she declares as a sense of resolve washes over her.
In a further attempt to pull herself back from her upset, Kate focuses on the tile underneath her right-hand. The shower is made up of tiles that are all unique in design, and the one underneath her hand, forty-five by forty-five centimetre, is from Andalusia. Or, more accurately, from Seville.
The heat was stifling as Kate and Mark disembarked the metro at the Prado de San Sebastián stop. It was the second day of their weekend trip and they took the L1 for a short two stops to avoid the heat of a twenty-five-minute walk sticking to them so early in the afternoon. They had both taken the Friday off work to make a three-day weekend of it. The low-cost flight over had allowed them to spring for a more expensive hotel than usual and they had spent that Saturday morning enjoying the benefits of their indulgent room. Hmm. Yes, that shower did fit two people comfortably.
An hour before arriving at Prado de San Sebastián, they had rambled into a quirky cafe just outside their hotel in Nervión and had a breakfast of black coffee – or café solo – and an uber-luxurious churro con chocolate combination.
“God this is completely delicious,” Kate managed to say in between bites of gooey churro and molten chocolate.
“I can see you think that,” Mark replied. “You’ve barely spoken since we got the food and you’ve got a splash of chocolate on the corner of both lips.”
“Life in Seville is good, aye?” Kate commented once she finished laughing and fixing her lips. She was partly reflecting on the breakfast and partly on that morning’s activities.
“Look who you’re telling,” Mark said with a half-eye roll before draining his half-mug of its contents. “There’s a metro in five that goes close to Plaza de España. Should we get on that?”
“Hmm,” Kate agreed through the last mouthful of breakfast. “Let’s do it.”
Arriving at Plaza de España, Kate and Mark each took a tissue from the small packet they carried in the rucksack to relieve their foreheads of the beads of sweat that had appeared from the short metro ride and the seven-minute walk to the plaza.
“Christ, I think I’m sweating pure chocolate,” Kate said. “Not far off you, hun.”
A short silence followed as they both observed their surrounds. The famed Plaza de España was completely consuming. The flamenco music and dancing emanating from the leftmost alcove. They could just about make out the traditional dress from where they stood and there appeared to be a platform beneath the dancer that gave the dance its rat-att-att sound.
Surrounding them were the moat and the bridges that dissected the entire plaza: the geometry of which appealed greatly to the eye as the large square became instantly smaller and larger with its presence. Beneath, the row boats moved gently along the still water, which completely contrasted the fountain erupting joyfully at the heart of the square.
“Now this is something,” Kate said.
“And those bridges, Kate, let me tell you,” Mark began in his satirical tour guide voice.
“Well, they symbolise the four ancient kingdoms of Spain… How’s that for a fact!”
“Check out my smart boy,” Kate purred as she moved closer to Mark for a quick kiss.
“Sí. Sí. That’s me,” Mark replied before accepting the kiss as a perfect exclamation point to his semi-comedic routine.
Back in the shower, Kate’s fingertips move along the beautifully adorned tile that she is examining closely. She traces the porous white crevices which give shape to the fits of colour dotted around the large tile. So large that Mark had to rid his suitcase of that jumper he brought over, Kate recalls of the flight home. Served him right for bringing a jumper to Seville in August!
Her attention returns to the tile as she spies the echoes of deep black stars etched onto its spine. The stars were undoubtedly derived from a religious iconography. Their arrangement in a half crescent shape hints at a Muslim influence that is common in that part of Spain. Mark brought us to the Alcázar of Seville to see just that.
The memory of the World Heritage Site, alive in Kate’s mind in all its bursts of colour, reminds her of all the travels they’ve done together. Her thoughts soon turn wistful as she longs to start working on something to commemorate those memories. I just wish I could do a fable collection of them all… She then sighs remembering the Arts Council email that is still to be opened.
Her mind snaps back to her memories and the one of Seville and the Alcázar. Los Baños de Doña María de Padilla: now there’s a story. One involving colder water than this godly shower for sure. She lets out a laugh similar to the one from her tea bag joke earlier and her smile remains while she imagines how the baths in the Patio del Crucero would be filled with brilliant blue water in a sketch she’d like produce to commemorate the site.
Less brilliantly blue is the jaded sky-blue colour at the base of the tile that lends an unassuming background to the vibrancy of the colours splashed on top. More interesting still, are the splashes of blood orange arranged in the shape of a sun that pulse from the heart of the tile. Kate shifts her stance ever so slightly so that she can trace the shape of the sun.
She feels the intensity of the blood orange, and there is an unexpected shift in temperature between the touch of the sky-blue and that of the orange. She recalls the few occasions when she and Mark have recreated their Seville morning in their own shower. His strong, working body pressed against hers from behind, as she clamoured to line her palms, and later her breasts, up against the raucous warmth of the Andalusian sun that she now stands admiring. Maybe it’s time to grab that showerhead.
Kate thinks of that night in Seville when the Andalusian sun had set. The afternoon of adventure had given way to an evening of tranquillity as they strolled along Calle Pirineos towards their dinner reservation for tapas at El Rinconcillo. Mark looked so handsome in his pink shirt and brown shorts.
The showerhead now firmly in her hand, she continues to recall that evening’s events. The atmosphere of the Sevillian night had been of pure excitement. Thousands of twentysomethings ventured across the sprawl of the city’s bars and restaurants. Large groups gathered in plazas with snippets of intermingling overheard at every blind juncture. “It’ll just be so good for our Spanish,” Kate had heard one guy say to his friend in an-all-too-familiar Dublin accent.
“All the new Erasmus students,” Mark laughed as they concurred that late August must be a time of great change in the city each year. Kate had fond memories of her own relating to the coagulating of Erasmus students in late summer in a new city but her mind, and hands, are too firmly fixed on the concept of Seville to divert her thinking for now.
She remembers the soothing breeze instead on the rooftop bar that she and Mark had visited after their meal of tapas and wine. The sounds of Spanish guitar serenading the rooftop dwellers as waitstaff danced around the bar replenishing drinks. Kate had settled for a gin and tonic on account of being so full from the dinner.
They had indulged on upward of a half-dozen entrées. From local delicacies such as ‘sherry-braised pig cheek’ and ‘squid in its ink,’ to the more familiar tapas of ‘patatas bravas’, ‘Manchego cheese’ and ‘bread with fresh tomatoes coated in a balsamic vinegar glaze’.
“That dinner was pure bliss,” Kate said to Mark with a smile that paralleled the one covered in churro chocolate earlier that day. She leaned across to hold him on the Casa Romana rooftop as he took a sip of his beer. Kate nuzzled into his neck and exhaled on his freshly shaven skin. He squirmed as Kate could see the effects she was having on her then fiancée. Her hand quickly followed to rest on his thigh. Her tongue inconspicuously circling his outer ear before she leaned in and said, “Let’s get a taxi after these drinks.”
The rest of that memory runs through Kate’s mind. Her thoughts now firmly focused on the task at hand as she presses herself into the blood orange of the tile. Her body quivers with the memories of Seville course through her. The feint sounds of Spanish guitar and the gentle evening breeze are now lost to Kate’s intensified breathing and the splash of the water against the shower basin.
Lee Eustace (he/him) is a writer and poet whose work centres on the themes of relationships, social constructs, and culture. Lee is previously self-published in the creative nonfiction space and is now in the advanced stages of producing a debut novel, a collection of poetry, and a standalone collection of short stories. His works have found a home at Apricot Press, The Martello Journal, Please See Me, Free_The_Verse, Dipity Literary Magazine, Eunoia Review, and the London Wildlife Trust. Follow his Instagram @creativeleestorytelling for updates on his progress.