The Golden Earrings

by Tiffany Funk

AS a junior in college, i studied abroad in madrid, spain, and whenever I had the chance, I traveled alone around Europe, sleeping in hostels and meeting people from all over the world. One November weekend in Paris, I met a (very cute) rugby player from New Zealand in the bar of the hostel where we were both staying. We had a few drinks and talked late into the night. (Yes, that's all that happened.) On Sunday afternoon, before I left for the airport, I gave him my contact information back in Madrid. I was sure I'd never hear from him again.

So you can imagine my surprise when, two months later, I got a call from you-know-who. He was in Madrid for a day on business, and he wanted to spend the evening together before he caught his flight back to Brussels, where he was living at the time. Flattered but flustered, I told him that I would be more than happy to show him around a bit and take him to one of my favorite Mediterranean restaurants. He told me that his hotel was only a few blocks from my apartment, and said that he'd be there in a few minutes. I hung up.

A few minutes? I ran to the bathroom and dumped out my cosmetics bag. Lather, rinse. Foundation, blush, eyeliner, eye shadow, mascara, lipstick. After spending way too much time applying my makeup, I kicked off my ragged jeans and pulled on this soft wool skirt I had just bought at Benetton. I'm generally a T-shirt-and-jeans kind of girl, and this was the most expensive article of clothing I'd ever owned. Now seemed as good a time as any to break it out.

Before I could zip up the skirt, I heard the door buzz. As I buzzed the rugby player in, I yanked on the zipper. It was stuck. I panicked. I yanked—hard—and the pull tab broke off in my hand. I stared at the tiny piece of metal, stunned. I was on the sixth floor, which meant I had less than ninety seconds before he'd be at the door.

What to do? As a traveler, I had limited resources. I had no safety pins, and my travel sewing kit was useless considering that I now had less than a minute to finagle my way out of this situation. I cast my eyes around the small apartment, looking for a clue. And that's when I caught my reflection in the mirror. My earrings! They were small gold hoops, and they just might work. I pulled them off and stuck them through the fabric, pinning the halves of the skirt together at the top and middle of the zipper. Just as I finished untucking my shirt and smoothing it out, he knocked. I took a deep breath, opened the door, and smiled widely. My kiwi friend was none the wiser at my apartment, at the restaurant, and at the fountain at Plaza de Espana, where we said adios.

SHIRT

SHIRT

I learned three things from this experience: 1) The more expensive the clothing, the more the hassle; 2) Always keep either a pair of hoop earrings or safety pins on you wherever you go; and 3) If you can't wear your favorite ripped jeans with a guy and be comfortable, he's just not worth it. Even if he has an accent to die for.

Tiffany Funk is a Wisconsinite by birth, an Illinoisan by choice, and a humanities instructor and artist by trade. She lives in Chicago with her cat, Lex Luthor, and her American jeansand-T-shirt kind of guy, Jeff.

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