Barcelona

As I knew it would, the week passed in the blink of an eye. The holiday started well, despite unforgiving heat in Barcelona. Temperatures above 30 degrees celsius were predicted for the whole week, a level of heat that I can never get used to. I had a whole week with just P for company, my new boundaries were about to be put to the test, and for the first few days in Barcelona we seemed to manage. Being in separate rooms in a lovely hotel definitely helped. On waking up in the morning, the first thing I had to do didn’t involve a discussion with P about what we were going to do that day. I wouldn’t have to see him until after I’d had breakfast and gotten myself ready for him. I started to think that maybe this was the way forward, maybe I could do this holiday with him again after all.

The truth is I could do the holiday with him again if I want to, and whether we’re sharing rooms or not I could just go about things my way regardless of his opinions. I could just do what the hell I like, spend as much time apart from him as I want – but there’s always a part of me that’s uncertain about how unfriendly that would be. We’re independent adults and we don’t have to spend every minute of every day together any more, but at the same time, in P’s eyes we’re still best friends and we’re there primarily to spend time together. Because I haven’t managed to sit down with him and tell him effectively that I don’t want that kind of friendship any more.

Barcelona’s a beautiful city, and as I’ve probably said many times before it’s hard not to appreciate time spent there, whatever you’re doing. But with constant baking heat during the day time, I could never fully relax. My body just doesn’t react to heat that well. I sweat like a pig, I don’t sleep well, I have to keep putting sunscreen on to avoid going pink (I can’t tan), all of which helps to maintain a constant level of slight discomfort. Whenever I’m in Spain in the summer I spend most of the time quietly worrying about sun burn, having had bad experiences with it in the past. Everyone with my complexion must worry about it, it’s one of life’s unavoidable problems, so to sit there fretting about it as if I’m the only one that suffers is probably a little excessive. At the beginning of the week it wasn’t dramatic fretting, more a quiet, contemplative sort of anxiety. It would get worse later in the week once we were in Sitges and I’d be expected to take my top off at the beach.

During the hours that I was with P, I accidentally committed myself to another holiday with him next year at least three times. It just kind of slipped out. Why? I later asked myself. Well, I was happy, my plan to spend part of the time with him and part of the time by myself was working, and my former resolve to never have this holiday again was fading in the heat. The security I used to have in knowing there was someone who’d always want to travel with me was still comforting.

If I was going to do the week in Spain again, I’d have to find a way of cutting down on spending. Every year I spend too much, and I never know quite how I’ve done it.

Saturday I could have all to myself, as it was Pride day in Barcelona and P was happy to go to the parade by himself while I walked up and down hills, took photos, and later went to an AA meeting. I’d need the meetings this week – they’re more like medication to me than ever. After the meeting I saw P for dinner and then we spent a couple of hours in our “favourite” gay bar. I’ve spent many an enjoyable hour there in the past, so I was willing to go there again, although since I started to take AA seriously again, I’ve begun to be more stringent with myself about reasons for going into bars. I don’t know if it was fun or not this time. The music was good, as ever, and the barmen were cute, as ever. But I couldn’t muster very much enthusiasm for the experience, to P’s consternation. He still has it in his mind that all gay bars are special in some way, and the only time our conversations get philosophical is when we come onto this subject. We spend so much time talking about it in gay bars, it probably makes the experience of them less fun anyway. He wanted to do another bar that night, one we hadn’t been to before, just to see if it would be even more “fun” than where we were. At first I had been open to the idea, but as the night wore on I was increasingly tired and uninspired by the idea. We almost got into an argument when I tried to explain why I was happy just sitting in one bar that night before going back to the hotel. Eventually, P sulkily accepted my reasoning.

By the halfway point in the holiday, as we were preparing to leave Barcelona and take the train to Sitges, I was faced once again with a moral dilemma about my friendship with P. It’s true that he has been a loyal friend for many years, and he can be exceptionally kind at times. Such as when he’ll lend me money for food if I’m short, or spend ages looking for a shady area on the beach so that I don’t have to worry about burning, or put up with my unpredictable changes in mood. But he can be so bloody annoying as well (as I’ve described here at length in the past). I’ve tried to think of what he reminds me of, and my mind stumbles on the image of the archetypal teenager. He loves long lie ins and will moan when I want to go out early; in fact he’ll moan about anything. I’ll know when he’s about to start, when I hear that familiar tut and sigh in a restaurant or on a bus, because someone’s dared to smoke a cigarette near him or bring a baby near him. He only likes crap modern pop music, as I’ve discovered to my horror in several pointless conversations on the subject. I’ve tried to get him to listen to what I think of as more meaningful music by my favourite French artists, or by any artist, and his response is always that it’s not “boom boom boom” enough for him. Yes, that’s his idea of good music.

Since I’ve been unable to make a decision about this for a year now, it’s clearly one of life’s tough questions with no easy or right answers. I keep coming back to the idea that I need to follow my conscience and instinct on this, but it’s so difficult to know what they’re telling me! Sometimes I never want to see P again, sometimes I feel so bad for him that I can almost like him again. I’m the only person who can make this decision, and how I wish it wasn’t so. I hate being an adult sometimes!

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