Big, Fat, Gypsy anecdotes (4)

Sara was an ‘amiga de copas’ (drinking buddy), a girl I used to go out with occasionally- more, I felt because she needed company than I did. She looked more English than I, and sometimes was mistaken for a German or an American. She was blond with a round, moon-face, her hair cut in a chin-length bob, and she dressed casually , was a touch plump and had a laid-back, unflappable manner. She took me one night to Cardamommo, a Flamenco club tucked away in the heart of Huertas.

‘You’ll like it,’ she told me, ‘it’s a bit weird.’

There were few women, and all the men looked like Joaquin Cortes clones, dressed in tight-fitting trousers, cuban heels, shiny, bright-coloured shirts, and waistcoats. They all wore their hair long, tied back in pony-tails, and had meticulously-tended facial hair. Sara assured me they were genuine, albeit ‘pijo’ (posh) gypsies. In the dark of the club there was a wave of cologne, and the discreet flash of gold jewellery. We made our way through the gloom, two blond girls keeping our heads down, our route into the depths of the establishment followed by many pairs of dark eyes. It was an odd night. I expected them to behave like typical Spanish men, to approach, seduce and conquer, but they seemed far more shy in general. There was one who was more fearless than the rest, a short, curly-haired boy, and he danced with us a few times, slinging one arm round each of our shoulders and hanging on in the middle, trapping us in a kind of Greek dance, for the sole purpose of looking up above our heads to the angled cornice-mirror so he could admire himself sandwiched between two blond women. I caught him doing it a couple of times, maouevring us round into position, and even making eye contact with himself. At one point he smiled at me and asked,

‘Would you like a drink?’

‘Sure.’ I followed him to the bar, where he lent one arm on the counter, crossed one ankle over the other, and, glancing away noncholantly, informed me,

‘I’ll have a whisky and coke.’

I laughed.

‘I see, so you mean, would I like to buy you a drink, is that it? Very chivalrous.’

He grinned back and nodded.

‘Yep.’ I admired his cheek, so I bought him a drink. He probably thought I was a rich tourist. Whatever I was, I was probably richer than he was.

Every time Sara and I started to dance, the men around us would form an admiring circle, and would stand, watching and clapping, egging us on with sharp cries of ‘Ole! Esssooooo!….’, which made us quite self-conscious, as you can imagine. Very few men talked to us at all, though once or twice I would turn, feeling something brushing against me, to find one of them stroking my hair surreptitiously.  When I worked in a language college in the UK, I remember one of the English-teaching students who was studying Japanese, telling me about a trip to Japan, when he had travelled with his girlfriend around the country, not just Tokyo and Kyoto but also to rural, remote areas where they had probably never seen westerners. He was a handsome boy, with stunning, flaxen hair which hung pale and curly halfway down his back. He told me one day he and his girlfriend were looking in a shop window and they felt people gathering around them, and they turned to find a shy, grinning group of villagers in a semi-circle, quite close, one of them reaching out in wonder to stroke his bright yellow hair. It reminded me a little of this. When I turned to find one gypsy man trying to sneak a fondle of my hair, I reached out to do the same back to him, but he shied away like a frightened horse. Later some gypsy girls turned up. They wore extremely tight clothes and heavy make-up, and seemed to be architecturally constructed of torpedo bosoms, teetering heels and huge corkscrewed hair. They stuck in tight groups, eyeing the men with contempt, and us even more so.

‘They don’t have sex before marriage,’ Sara told me, ‘but the men will try and sleep with ‘payo’ (non-gypsy) women, but only for sex, not as girlfriends. We’re seen as easy prey.’

‘Oh, right.’

We were not snapped up as ‘easy prey’ that night, however, and in a way I was quite relieved. I only wanted to sneek a peak anyway. With every passing year, the idea of an exotic, dangerous lover who will desire me but treat me with disdain,  like a blond trophy, becomes less appealing.

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