On the Placa Reial
We were dining in a sidewalk cafe in Barcelona when Master Right posed a question. "Would you like to be poisoned?"
Two young women had just given us vouchers for a free drink in the bar next door. "I know what you're thinking," I reassured him. "They're not like that."
Our hotel faced La Rambla de Catalunya, a lively street on the edge of the Gothic Quarter, and a magnet for tourists. On the footpath, several ladies plying an ancient trade thought us likely prospects. This left him uncomfortable. Unlike his husband, who once sat on the other side of the church, Master Right finds the very idea of girl-sex kinda icky.
"I'm Japanese, so those women are less dangerous for me," he observed. "They'll probably just steal my passport. But they know many Westerners have blood type O, which is compatible to everyone. You are very useful to them. You will wake up in a bathtub of ice without a kidney."
I smiled. "They won't find me saleable. I'm A negative."
This had become a little joke between us. Japanese pop culture goes crazy over blood types, and their effect on personality. Type O, relatively rare among Asians, apparently makes one excitable, and is thought to explain much gaijin behaviour. The business of O-jin being able to receive all other blood groups is poorly understood, and urban legend maintains that Westerners swap organs willy-nilly.
"More people end up in hospital than you think. My Japanese guidebook says to watch out in a bar, if someone accidentally cuts your finger." he continued, as though bloodletting were as common as a game of darts, among the wild Spaniards. "They take away your cocktail napkin and perform tests."
One of the things I love about my husband is his quaint Japanese outlook on so many aspects of life. But this began to sound like a mixture of xenophobia, sexism, and just plain being a pussy.
"Look, Barcelona attracts a lot of tourists, and people need to make a buck. So far, we've encountered a thoroughly gracious city. Even the prostitutes spoke politely."
"They gave me a bad feeling." He sulked for a moment over his grilled octopus.
"Here we are, two fiftyish men, womanless in a big city, and they jumped to the wrong conclusion," I continued. "If you get so uncomfortable when people assume we're straight, let's go someplace where that won't happen. How about that gay bar we spotted online?"
Master Right thought about it for a moment.
"What do Spanish people call a drugstore?" he asked.
"We need to get protection."
This took me aback. A married, fiftyish gay couple doesn't go to a bar looking for that kind of thing anymore. In fact, they don't go looking for that kind of thing anymore, period.
"I'm not going to a dance club without a face mask."
My patience wore thin. "Let me point out, MR, in spite of what your guidebook might say, Spain and Mexico are not the same country. Furthermore, as a precaution, I intend to drink a skinful of the planet's most widely-used disinfectant. Come on."
Master Right slunk off, avoiding eye contact with the ladies, as I looked for a cab. From among the traffic, an ancient Citröen in bumblebee livery approached. A green light glowed on top, beneath which a sign flashed Libre. As required by local law, he had also flipped a sign up on his dashboard, which showed the Catalan translation, Lliure.
I hopped in, and gave the address of the club. The driver replied in a torrent of Catalan. When that didn't work, he switched to Spanish. When that didn't work either, he spoke Spanish very slowly, very loudly, and peppered in a few English words . (Admit it. Have you not used the same approach in your native tongue, from time to time?)
It seemed my poor old bar simply would not do. Éstas lame, apparently. The driver took me on a little tour of the Eixample, Barcelona's gay neighbourhood, pointing out many bars I might enjoy when they finally open at two in the morning. "Éstas gay gay gay", he announced of each, "No señoritas."
One of his cab-driver buddies approached from the opposite direction. The two stopped in the middle of the street, door to door, put their arms out the window, and slapped up a high-five. (Such excitable gaijin!) The driver's pal knew where the action was, and we headed off to a club which, this particular evening, was totally smokin' caliente.
Now, as I like to say, gay bars are McDonald's. Walk into one anywhere in the world, and frankly, you could be anywhere in the world. The music, lighting and buff barmen made sure Metro met gay corporate-ID best-practice, but it excelled in some distinctive ways.
Inside Metro. Estas gay, no?
First, there was a room devoted to local Catalan music. Not a note of We Are Family, Tainted Love or It's Raining Men to be heard.
Second, Metro hosted a throng female visitors; they hadn't read about the no senioritas rule.
And third, in the the men's room, atop every urinal, sat a video screen. It played material which, if you watched long enough, would make it very difficult to pee.
I was digging the vibe at the bar when a couple of young gentlemen struck up a conversation, in English. How splendid! Friendly locals, pleasant chat, bridges toward international understanding, that kind of thing, right?
The fellow with the best English didn't take long to ask a leading question. "Do you find my friend attractive?" he asked, and rubbed together his right index finger and thumb. "Comprende?"
They trafficked in organs, too, in their own way. I replied that I thorougly comprended, and gosh, look at the time, better be getting home. Where's the nearest taxi libre?
I'd been to Barcelona before, but never found the locals quite so, um, sexually enterprising. And it was a little confronting that so many of them assumed a middle aged gent, by default, would be well-heeled sexual desperado.
I opened the door to our hotel room to find Master Right in bed, half-asleep. "You'll never guess what happened," I began, eager to share my little adventure.
"Honourable Husband," he said, "You can tell me all about it in a minute. But wash your hands first. And gargle."
"...and a side-order of weasel to go, thanks."