Midnight in Barcelona

I wrote this story sketch for you today about a group of young men who roam the midnight streets of Barcelona in hopes of discovering a good time. Enjoy!

Last year, me and Saul and Quinton and a bunch of other school kids went on a European tour chaperoned by Mr. Matis, you know mister Matis, and the first country we stopped in was Spain. We spent most of the day stuffed in a bus fighting against the time difference, and trying to stay awake enough to even see the sights. Quinton was the first of us to say something…

“Dude, Europe sucks.” Quinton mopped sweat from his face with his shirt, revealing the bottom of an enormous Nightmare Before Christmas tattoo.

Our tour guide—a man who makes his announcements unintelligible by managing to whisper and rupture our eardrums at the same time—informs us that the bus company is aware of the air-conditioning problem, but we won’t be able to switch buses until we reach Barcelona. A four-hour drive.

“See? Didn’t I tell you? Beaches—ha! Hot chicks—not on this nerd train! Crazy drunken days where I become more absinth than man?”

“Calmaté,” Saul says. His voice is sharp and powerful, like himself. He adjusts his reflection’s chocolate hair in the window. “Trust me, it gets crazy. And keep it down with the comments about the girls. This is a two-week trip and the last leg gets lonely.”

I want to add my optimism to Saul’s. I want to tell Quinton about the adventures to come, the history to be unlocked, the art to be—sweat stings my eyes and my butt slips together as I adjust in my seat. I’m not feeling optimistic. “I don’t know Saul, I don’t ever remember it being this miserable. I don’t think Spain was so hot last June.”

Saul does not look at me. “Quinton, in four hours we’ll hit Barcelona, we’ll check into the hotel, and we’ll get ready.”

“Ready for what?” Quinton says.

“In a few hours time, the three of us will be certifiably drunk, knee-deep in women, and you’ll owe me an apology.”


The elevator had been built at a time before human beings achieved their full size; I flatten my arms to my sides as hard as I can with my backpack between my feet, Quinton perches atop his luggage and leans on me for balance; only Saul stood loose and comfortable in place with his arms crossed and legs spread apart. We take care not to disturb him.


“I can’t live like this for two weeks, where am I supposed to sleep?”

“I’m not sharing my bed.”

“We know Saul,” I say. “It’s not that small, we’ve had worse. At least we have two beds. I’ll take the chair, it has a lever, it pulls out.”

“We can switch off,” Quinton says.

“No, it’s good, as long as you can find me some of that stuff you were talking about.”

“For sure. If we can find someone, I’ll talk to him.”

“What are you guys talking about?” Saul says.

“Nothing,” I say.

Quinton slips past me and into the bathroom. “Where the hell’s the toilet dude?”

Saul and I laugh. I rub Quinton’s shoulder and point to the cement square in the tile floor, to the hole in the middle. Quinton covers his mouth.

“What are you girls doing in there?” Saul says. “Don’t make me look bad tonight guys. Get your shit together. Stop acting like kids.”

I can’t help but smile. “Get ready Quinton, this is going to be the craziest night of our lives.”


“What time is it?” Saul says as we turn down another dark side street.

“Almost ten,” I say. “Maybe we should just get back to the hotel.”

“No,” Quinton says. “We can’t stop now. You two’ve been telling me all day how magical the streets of Spain are in June, and yet, the only people we’ve seen have been little old Spanish ladies walking their dogs and the only place open is the damn cigarette machine in the wall a mile back, which you convinced me not to buy so that I could save money and buy it from the bar. Well . . . Where is it guys? Where are the bars? Where’s the absinth, huh? Where are the damn girls!”

“Girls?” a voice says. “We have lots of girls my friend.”

“No thanks buddy,” Saul says. I follow his gaze and find the man a few hundred feet away, standing in front of a pair of plain grey doors in a black suit.

“Your friend wants girls?”

“Yes, his friend wants girls, that’s me,” Quinton steps in front of Saul. “Please tell me you have drinks.”

The man pouts his lip and nods slowly. “Drinks. Yes, yes. Are you American?”

“No.” Saul says.

“Yes.” Quinton.

“Dammit Quinton.”

“Come on man, this is our only chance to save tonight. We can’t let the first night be such a fail. We can’t. I can’t. If you want to go back, you guys can, but I’m getting my drink on.”

“I don’t know,” I say.

The man is thin, and a bit shorter than us, but his face is hard and dangerous, like the faces of the men in Mexico that run the clubs. He smiles. “You will have fun, Americans have fun with me.”

Quinton turns to Saul. “Seems legit.”

Saul shakes his head. “All right man, Adam, you okay with this?”

I shrug. I’m nervous, but my warnings have been called paranoia, so I just nod.

This is confirmation enough for the door man who immediately turns and bangs on the metal door with his fist three times. I hear a click and the door cracks open. The man has a conversation in Castilian with the person behind the door. He turns and motions for us to come in.

The air swirls with the smell of tobacco and banana body lotion. The place is a dark hall with a neon lit bar at the far left corner. Quinton points to a group of women at the bar who wear netted see-through tops and miniature white boy-shorts. “Dudes, jackpot!”

The door closes behind us and there are two men now behind us, the second door man is bigger and more muscular than the first, and I don’t imagine he smiles at all. “This stinks man,” I say.

Saul laughs and punches my arm. “Don’t be a punk, we’re already in here. Let’s at least have a drink.

We make our way down the three steps that separate the seating areas from the open floor space in front of the bar. “We should show these Spaniards how to dance,” I say.

“Let’s show ’em how to drink.” Quinton leaps onto the cushioned bar stool and slaps his hands on the wood. “Hola! Como estamos me absyntho?”

Saul smacks his arm. “You’re not saying anything you idiot.”

The woman bartender is more conservatively dressed, in a boat-necked top that threatens to slip off her shoulder. Her black hair dances around her collar bones. Her white teeth are bright, almost painted on. Maybe Saul was right about this place.

We collect our drinks and sit at the closest booth along the wall. The nook is intimate and there is no table, just the leather couch seating. “Feels like a strip club,” I say.

“I know,” Quinton says, “I love you guys.”

“Did you pay for my drink?”

“No,” I say, “She didn’t ask me for money.”

“Me either,” Quinton says. He widens his eyes and takes an enormous gulp of a milky liquid. He sputters and sneezes. “Whew!”

“They might do it differently here,” Saul says. He hasn’t touched his drink.

I twist the cap off my water and sip slowly. “What kind of music is this?”

“Chill out music,” Quinton says without hesitation.

“It sucks,” Saul says. “And where are the other dudes?”

“What do you care?”

“Hello boys…” It is a blonde woman in a short white dress and too much makeup. She twists her hips left and right. “It’s nice to see you. Can I sit with you?”

Quinton holds his drink to his side, slides his back down the couch and spreads his knees. “You can sit right here darling. That’s a sexy accent, where are you from?”

To my surprise, the woman sways over to Quinton and lowers herself on his knee and lies back, allowing Quinton to put his hands around her waist. Saul laughs and pumps his fist. I sip my water. Again. Again. My mouth is dry. I feel nauseous. I should say something.

“Oh my goodness, look at these handsome guys.” This is another woman, short and brunette, with a blue dress that looks like something out of science fiction that barely covers her chest and hips, and yet manages to stay in place. “Handsome, my goodness, how old are you all?”

I look to Quinton, but he is already open mouth kissing with his companion. I look to Saul. “Twenty-one,” he lies. “Eighteen,” I lie.

She looks unconvinced and shakes her hips past my nose on her way to Saul. “You are Americans?”

“Yes. You people sure like Americans. I love the Spanish.”

“Yes. I love American men too. Sexy. Good at making love.” Only she didn’t use the words ‘making love’.

Saul laughs too hard and clears his throat. Can our fearless leader be blushing? I can’t check if Quinton has seen what I have because now the white dress is pulled up and Quinton groans compliments. First night in Europe and Saul is already being influenced by Quinton. He told me he would try to control himself this time. He promised I wouldn’t have to wrestle him into taxis or rescue him from jails anymore. “Saul,” I kick at his leg. He is not interested. I kick him again. “Hey, we need to go.”

“Oh, please,” he says. “We’re just settling in. See? Quinton’s having a good time.”

“Do you want a good time too baby?” I turn and find the third woman, more woman than the others combined, literally, huge and dark, from some corner of the world where earth goddess worshipers still work the land and prostrate themselves before their idol of the obese earth mother. I, however, am not from that corner of the world, and justifiably terrified.

Quinton erupts with snorting laughter. “They saved the big black one for Adam!”

“Woo-hoo!” Saul cheers, “He likes them big, go get ‘im sweetheart.”

“That so baby?”

“No!” I say jumping to my feet. “No, not so, Saul, Quinton, up. Now. We’re going.”

“Wow, settle down man, are you serious?” Quinton says.

“Do either of you know how much this is going to cost us?”

“We’re just hanging out,” Saul says, “having some drinks.”

I curse and go to the bar. The bartender’s eyebrows are low and her lips are tight when I ask her for the bill. As she punches numbers into a decades old adding machine, I look into some of the other booths. Most are empty, but four or five are filled with similarly risqué woman to those with my friends. The bartender hands me a thin white strip and I read the bold-faced total at the bottom. “Two hundred Euros?” She just stares at me. “We had three drinks! I had a water!” She glances to her right and I see the door men moving toward the bar. “Okay, it’s okay, just—let me talk to my friends. Jesus.”

“Two hundred bucks!” Quinton says.

“No, more like three hundred,” Saul says.

“What are we going to do?” I say.

Quinton looks around the room. “There’s only three of them.”

“What are you going to do? Fight them? Go to jail?”

“Stop guys,” I say, “let’s just go.”

“What do you mean?” Saul says.

“Let’s just walk out. Right now. The door is right there, we’ll just walk out like nothing. What are they going to do, yell at us? We can run when we get to the door.”

We all agree and Saul leads the retreat to the double doors. The men know what we are doing and step in front of Saul and I, who push our way through the middle of their Spanish curses, tear open the doors, and half-run into the cool night air. The shouting is suddenly silenced with the slamming of the doors. We cross the street and stop. “They aren’t following us,” I say. But Saul says nothing. “Saul?”

“They have Quinton.”


“Christ, Adam, Quinton didn’t get out with us.”

“What are we going to do?”

“We have to go back in.”


The same door man lets us back in after Saul tells him we would work out a deal. We see Quinton near the bar with the other two men, interrogating him. He shakes his head and holds his arms half raised. But when he saw us he grins. “You want my passport?” he says, backing up a few paces from the man. “You want my passport?” he yells, and before I knew what was happening, Quinton had driven his shin into the man’s crouch. The man let out a whistling scream that grew too high pitched to hear as he hit the ground. The second man near Quinton jumps on his back and I start to run to Quinton’s aid when I hear Saul call out.

I turn to see him crouched over, holding his face. I charge his attacker and introduce the small framed Spaniard to a varsity tackle that takes us to the floor. Saul was on him in an instant, and we hit him until he stopped fighting. The women shrieked in countless languages and created such noise that we couldn’t hear anything else.

Saul and I stood and saw Quinton, utterly ignoring a man with his arms around his neck, kicking the man on the floor, asking him if he still wanted his passport. When Saul and I reached Quinton, the third man releases his hold and leaps over the bar. Quinton still kicked the man, and we had to take him under the arms to get him to the door.

The women’s screams followed us into the night. When we hit the street, we heard the unmistakable sound of police sirens and we ran. We didn’t know where we were, how to get back to the hotel, or if any of us were seriously hurt. We just knew that we needed to get away from those doors as soon as possible, and that none of us would be going out to party anymore that trip.

At least not in Barcelona.






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