She says I look sad. Wants to know what is wrong. I don't start at the beginning. There is no reason too. Well, I say...
Most human behavior disgusts me. And I'm out of my element, surrounded by people. I'm in a Portuguese campground. Sitting around a fire.
A young French couple is kissing in deep tongued desire. Their passion reinforces my lack of any recent romance. I'm jealous of their oblivious love.
A pudgy pig like runt from Poland passed out half an hour ago. He is cuddled up with his empty vodka bottle and snoring loudly, occasionally farting.
A little waif from Norway, wearing handmade clothes, is completely stoned on Amsterdam acid. She doesn't seem to notice anything. Not even the snoring. A battered acoustic guitar sits on her lap. The guitar is missing a few strings, like the girl's mind at the moment.
I'm teaching some pretty Italian girls a drinking game I learned in Greece. We click our oversized beer bottles in boisterous cheers. Two German stoics don't like this.
"Why don't you just drink your beer? Why must you play games with it?" One of the Germans asks while rolling his cigarette.
"Because it's fun," I say.
"Why must you behave like an American?" The other German asks.
"Why don't you fuck off."
Germans remind me of Kilngons. A hard-headed race of warriors. I stayed at a youth hostel in Bonn two weeks ago. The cankerous chatelaine who ran the place gave me a severe tongue lashing for not recycling properly. I mixed the green glass bottles with the brown glass bottles. I explained it was a slight oversight. Fraulein furious shook her head. Said I caused her "ennui." Then stated I wouldn't understand the meaning of the word, because I'm an American.
I stagger back to my tent. The Europeans talk behind my back as I leave. They laugh at my frustration. Tomorrow will be another hangover and a day of regret.
I grab a bottle of wine from my backpack and use my Swiss army knife to uncork it. I take a long pull out of the bottle. Europeans understand quality. At least in products if not people. The wine is very tasty.
The stars are out tonight. The sky is illuminated in a billion flecks of brilliance. I lay on my back, haphazardly connecting dots and making my own constellations. I try not to think about Sarah.
When you get dumped, and have a broken heart, cliches can often offer comfort. "It's better to have loved and lost than never loved at all." "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." Blah blah blah. But when your lover dies, nothing said can save your soul.
Sarah was killed in a car crash last spring. We were coming home from a party. She was driving. Sarah went head first through the windshield, crushing her skull as she was thrown out. The drunk driver escaped unscathed. I was barely bruised, but scarred for life.
It was the manslaughter's third DWI. He is now in prison. Claims to have found God. He sent me a sober letter full of his heartfelt apologies and somber regrets. I didn't write back. I'm in self-imposed exile (besides also being in a campground in Portugal) and only hope heaven exists for Sarah's sake.
I wake up with a pounding headache. The Germans are packing their belongings and heading somewhere else. They frown in my direction. I wave in mock Seig Hail salute. I don't see the Italians They're probably at the beach sun bathing their naked bodies. I gather my stuff. Ride a broken down bus into Porto.
The noble town seems worn down, rickety with it's cobblestone streets. I sit outside a cafe overlooking the river. The table rocks back and forth when weight is applied to it. The chair is unsteady. I give change to some begging kids. Put on my sunglasses.
The view astounds me. The massive prefab bridge connecting the old town to the wineries was built by Eiffel, the same man who has his tower in Paris. The bridge looks much the same, like the Eiffel Tower laid on it's side.
A hunched shriveled man, with skin the texture of a dehydrated grape, limps to my table. His movements are slow and deliberate. There is a easy smile between his cracked dry lips. I order grilled sardines and Quinta de la Rosa vintage port. It takes twenty minutes to get served, but worth the wait. The fish is tender and salty and the wine smooth and sweet.
The sun is half way up the sky and already extremely hot. My skin starts to redden. Beads of sweat run down my body. The plan is to head east to the Mediterranean. First stop is Spain. I'm going to Pamplona to see the running of the bulls.
On the train I sit in a second class compartment. The carriage is crammed full. A peasant widow dressed in heavy black fabric won't let me open the window. She doesn't have a trace of perspiration on her peaked brow. The pungency of bodies cramped together is stifling. We rumble into the barren countryside.
As evening descends more people get off and less get on. The matriarch relic departs. I open the window and take in the warm breeze. There is room to stretch my legs. I open a bottle of wine.
Pamplona is alive with San Fermin festivities "Uno de Enero, dos de Febrero" The Spaniards swirl about, their dark complexions glowing in the twilight. Young girls dance freely with their dresses pulled up to their knees. Brave and bold men prance gaily with red handkerchiefs around their necks. Music is played by bandits. Sizzling food smells smolder from cantina kitchens. Wine flows through the streets.
The running doesn't happen until morning. Most people party late into the night. The true aficionados stay sober. They run for the sportsmanship and not the spectacle. Dawn breaks. Anticipation is high.
I find myself near the front throng of runners. The night has captivated me. I experience the first light to transcend the anguish of the accident. A new perspective comes to mind. There is still some hope.
The bulls are set upon us. They snarl and roar. People dash down the street. One bull passes me as I dodge out of the way. I turn around to reflect on such a close call. Another bull is charging. There is no time to move. I close my eyes and hope to see Sarah.
I stop the story. Pause for effect. It seems to have worked. Claire looks at me with watery eyes. We are sitting on the French Rivera at sunset. Claire's topless body gets goose bumps. Her plum nipples are erect. I'm not sure if it's my words or the departing sun that's caused the hair on the back of her neck to stand up.
Of course, none of it is true. I laid on the young love and tragedy a bit thick to appeal to her French sensibilities. It's not Shakespeare, but hopefully it's enough for a sympathy fuck.
"Ohh La La. Then what happened?" Claire asks. Her voice creaks with concern.
"I don't really know. I closed my eyes and somehow I was saved."
"Maybe Sarah was an angel and she saved you, no?"
"Maybe." I agree.
"Ah! Tres sad." She whimpers.
Claire comfortingly wraps her arms around me. Presses her petite bare breasts against my chest. I hug her back losing myself in the tender embrace. Claire kisses my neck. Our mouths meet.
After a few moments of licking each others salty sea water stained bodies Claire pulls away. She scrunches one eye closed and licks her lips with inquisitive pondering. Something is puzzling her. I think I'm busted.
"What's a Klingon?"
- written by McCutcheon