(the end of December 2016)

The second morning we venture into the city itself, planning to reunite with Daniel somewhere in the heart of the city and then trek upwards to the more ancient part of Granada.

We take a bus from our sun-kissed suburb high up on the foothills of the mountains that form a ring around the city. I climb into the bus, sitting across from an old man with grey hair and a black coat. I don’t know if I should make eye contact. No one else on the bus is talking except for my mom and my Aunt Cheryl who are still busy catching up. I decide to stare outside the windows, aware that the golden rays of the winter sun are hitting my eyes, turning them to burnished copper.

We wind down the asphalt roads, passing white buildings with square balconies bright against the surrounding grey and amber-dappled landscape. Finally we pull into the city itself, bustling with the misty plumes of breath of many people going about their lives, rumbling with sounds of cars and motorcycles circulating through the streets. The city of pomegranates. 

Under a red canvas roof, we have tea. My legs are freezing as we stand, navigate our way through snaking rows of tables, and step out onto the grey sidewalk. I am suddenly afraid as we walk into a sea of well-dressed Europeans, men manicured and aloof, women tall in their tight black leggings and elegant boots. Do they think I am one of them? Are they judging me, even in the blink of an eye that we share a passing glance? 

I hold my head high and walk onwards, letting my own rugged boots carry the weight of my fears. We make our way slowly through the city, crawling up gradually into the arteries of cobbled streets that lead to the older section of Granada. Finally, we decide to hail down a taxi. It is warm inside as the driver and Aunt Cheryl chat animatedly in Spanish.

We spiral up the hill through streets clogged with people who quickly flatten themselves against the walls as the taxi pushes onwards. The streets become narrower as the buildings grow older, their foundations set in denial against modern city planners.

After one last sprint to the top, we emerge into the cold air, turning left onto the Mirador de Saint Nicolas. The Mirador is the best vantage point of the Alhambra, the Moorish palace that coils over the city like a sleeping goddess. What past lives does she relive in her dreams, and what memories linger deep in the stones of her hallways? 

We find Daniel standing at a low wall among the tourists and between the Roma with their wares spread out before them on patterns of purple and blue. I find myself wondering how life can be so good to surprise me with meeting my cousin somewhere in a land between our worlds. I stand next to him, as close as possible, so overwhelmed with the majesty of the palace across from us, rising out of the mist.

A gypsy man begins singing a deep, throaty, melancholic song, strumming his guitar to make chords that echo the mournful beauty in his voice. Enraptured with his immense sensuality, I allow myself to become transfixed with his voice, with this place, with the shuddering energy that cascades down the rusty blood-colored walls of the Alhambra.

The sky responds overhead, morphing bluer and bluer to his lonely lament. The tourists grow silent as his song climaxes, ending with gentle notes like the quiet rustle of leaves. Hearty clapping follows the split second of still silence, and then we are on our way, leaving the Alhambra and the blue-eyed, blue-voiced gypsy behind us.

The rest of the day I spend with my cousin, and it is one of the best afternoons of my life. Six long months have passed since he and I were together, and I quickly fall into the stride of unraveling my soul and my journeys to him. I think back to the day I almost flew to the United States in September, and I thank life joyously for the second chance I have to roam city streets with Daniel.

Together we get lost, weaving in and out of the buildings that marks the lives of others. We find ourself in a park, harsh and barren without the green of summer. We march up broad grey stones into the lonely corridors of the city. We wander through rows of musty inner-city shops and down busy streets of cafes and restaurants.

Finally, as the sun sets into an early dusk, we find our mothers and wait at the bus stop in the sudden chill of the evening. As we board the quiet, dark bus, I am glad to have Daniel across from me this time. We lurch upwards, watching Granada scintillate below in the distance.

Late that evening, in the apartment, Daniel and I break open the ruby heart of a pomegranate, arils spilling and catching the light. As we talk into the night, fingers deftly moving over the precious fruit, I feel deeply, stunningly at peace.

I am here, with my cousin, with my kin. I am safe. Home is here, in our hearts, pumping the same crimson blood. 

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