Drug dealers only ever offer me cocaine. We are in Portugal, an old man grabs my arm, he smiles, his teeth are black.
“Why would you offer me cocaine? You have offered everyone else here Hashish but yet you offer me cocaine? I don’t think I look like I like cocaine.”
“You do kind of look like you like cocaine,” Hank says, standing back.
“Why cause I’m skinny and white? Maybe I like Hashish, you’re skinny and white but they still offer you Hashish!”
“What?” I turn back to the old man. He had replaced the bag of cocaine with what looked like a balled up brownie.
“What is that?”
I sigh. “No, no–thank you.”
He frowns, looking hurt. He reaches in his pocket, pulls back out the bag of cocaine. “Cocaine-ah?” he asks, sheepish.
“No! Thanks,” I tell him. He sighs, shuffling over to a group of French girls nearby. “Hashish?” he asks them.
Hank and I walk on. We find a half-circled row of steps at the end, leading into the sea. A crowd has formed there. Below, a band, a couple flamenco dancers are getting ready to perform.
“Why can’t people just offer me some pot for once?” I ask. But, Hank isn’t listening. He is one of those people always looking for beauty behind every corner. So, anytime someone does something, claiming beauty, he plays close attention–hopeful. If it is beautiful, he gets annoyed at his own short-comings, if it isn’t, he gets annoyed at the short-comings of the rest of the world.
What happens next makes “beautiful” look like a truly dull and worthless word. They are all over the platform–clapping, stomping, hollering. The guitarist narrates in Portuguese as the man and woman dance. We can’t understand; it doesn’t matter. It is like watching two storms make love. The woman, wearing red–violent. The man, his white shirt open; his whole chest beating. There is something about it, something sexual–no, the word “sexual” is a party-cracker to the napalm that is their dance.
I try to imagine the pair having sex and all I see is a building being demolished. I try to picture myself, brazen, following the pair to bed; my mind backs away, scared as a puppy following the scent of steak into a fire.
When it ends, the woman sets her foot down with such force it cracks the cobble-stone. Finally, I take a breath.
“Good lord,” I say, turning to Hank. He is looking down at his own hands, he is weeping.
“I’m worthless!” he cries at them.
I reach out and pat him on the back, gently.
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