"Europe 2004-05" story # 38

Pas de la Casa, Andorra           February 19, 2005

Following our enjoyable day of snowboarding, Klara the Czech wasn´t always her usual excited self when I went to visit her bar. Some days, she would barely say me a word. She later explained that this was usually due to her being in a week-long state of miserable sickness. (She had a fever of 102 degrees Fahrenheit. And her side hurt as if a rib was broken.)
     Some days, she was a tiny-headed sun of fun like before. But - uncertain if I was going to get disappointed or not - I could no longer get excited to go see her. My feelings towards our friendship were wounded. I mentioned to Klara how I thought she´d been treating me badly. She responded by showing that she cared - which, because she´s a girl, means that she stomped away and wouldn´t talk to me. But, we talked things over. I trusted Klara´s words and her smile, and we were swiftly back to being great friends.
     Soon after this, I began to think about an Italian-blooded ex-girlfriend who I love. When she was recently in Europe, she wasn´t as excited to be with me as she had been in our home Michigan - even after I told her I wanted to stay with her over travel. I´d already left her twice to travel. I couldn´t understand why her feelings had changed so much. Now, I think it was because of that "uncertainty about getting disappointed" thing.
     I bring this up because it´s fascinating how you can think about and analyze something for five whole months, and in the end it´s only a real-life experience which causes you to understand.
     Of course, I still could be totally wrong. If there´s a person out there who understands love, he´s got the theory of relativity beat.

At eight p.m. Wednesday, I left my supermarket to pursue FRENCH INFILTRATION STEP 7 - Kick some sorry Frenchman´s butt in that greatest of all crossword battlegrounds: a Scrabble board.
     My chubby roommate, Cyril, had already done a great deal of trash-talking in preparation for a potential game. "Je te plume! Comme un coque!" (I´m going to feather you! Like a rooster!) He mimmicked dipping a decapitated chicken into hot water.
     Moving his hands like a Scrabble-playing pianist, he boasted what words he´d use to humiliate me wiht. "J´ecrirai, 'phy-siqu-e-ment.' Et 'chem-i-que-ment.' Et 'tech-ni-cal-e-ment-e-ment." The first words he said were actual long words, but then he just started making them up.
     Unfortunately, Cyril was unavailable Wednesday as my French competitor. He´s a "lache" (coward)!
     A short Parisian with a big head, curly hair like David Letterman, and a Jerry Lewis-goofball sense of humor joined me instead. "Arnaud" was the name of my dead-meat victim.
     A bar called La Perla Negra hosted our grudge match. I looked strong from the beginning. Thanks to big-point words, "ZEBRE" (Zebra) and "JAUNE" (Yellow), my lead was a good cushion.
     But, then, the waitress started helping Arnaud. And I got stuck with the letters "K" and f***ing "W". And Arnaud spelled "EPOQUE." And I hate the "W". And Arnaud won, 184-167.
     I was mired in disbelief, shock, and "how the heck did I lose?" But, the night was young. Two red wines already down, I headed with Arnaud to the bar.
     We hung out with the bar-tender and co-owner of La Perla Negra (The Black Pearl). His name´s Cristophe, from Marseilles on the fashionable "Hot Coast," and he wears dark hair that floats down to his shoulders. His brown eyes stay deep in their home like an octopus in its cave. His lips and tongue pronounce their French whimsically like a jellyfish. He looks like a pirate, which is the theme of his bar and his clothes.
     Cool Cristophe makes fun of his regulars while giving them cheap drinks. Pouring my next red wine, he mocked my English-like pronunciation of the "r" in "vin rouge" (red wine). (The "r" is supposed to be voiced in the throat like a purring, gargling dog.) Then, when the American ordered a pastis, he said, "Les pastis sont pour les hommes." (Pastis is only for men.) The very strong French pastis he made tasted like most Mediterranean alcohols: licorice-y and terrible.
     Arnaud, the happy (lucky!) winner, went home. I went to meet pals Klara and Martina. We had one drink at their bar, then headed to the nightclub.
     "The Underground" nightclub is one of the best things going for Pas de la Casa, Andorra. It caters mostly to English tourists with music like Oasis, the Rolling Stones, U-2, the Beatles, and English house music. It´s dark, crowded, and full of males who wish there weren´t so many males there. Everyone dances, especially the bar-staff. The staff are all young Dutch and English guys who sing into their beer-taps like microphones; give you drinks for free if you work in town and they know you; and who "shag" a lot of visiting British females.
     It was from this venue where my memories of the night begin to get very blurry. I remember dancing with Klara for four hours between The Underground and a club called "Kyu." I remember the drinks kept coming. I remember a salsa song came on, and little Klara danced good for a beginner. I remember hugging Klara once or twice.

The next morning, I had to work at nine. I was valiantly within fifteen minutes of arriving on time.
     Arnaud was there. Curly-haired Arnaud´s job in the supermarket is to walk around the aisles not knowing what to do; re-arrange two objects on their shelves every fifteen minutes; and make jokes. His favorite joke to say is, "Je travaille ici!" (Do you mind? I´m working here!) which he says to you every time he´s doing something useful.
     This day, his jokes cruelly reminded me of his Scrabble win. "Regardes dehors, Justin. Ce fait soleil, c´est une belle EPOQUE." (Look outside, Justin. The sun´s shining, it´s a beautiful Epoch.) And he kept bringing up my country´s president, "George W. Bush" - emphasis on the f***ing W.
     I visited Klara after work. We said we´d had a good time the last night.
     She asked if I´d been able to tell how drunk she was. "No." She explained that she´d left Kyu just before it closed, mysteriously and without telling anyone, because she´d felt the nightclub was spinning around her.
     We began reminding each other of the night. She said we´d been spinning each other around in circles as we danced. Maybe that explains why she felt the nightclub turning.
     "And you kept hugging me!" she said. "And I kept saying, 'Ow! Don´t do that. My rib´s broken.' But you kept doing it."
     "Why would I do that?"
     "And you kept picking me up in the air and spinning around with me." "Why would I do that?"
     "Because we were happy!" said blond-faced Klara.
     Either that or too drunk. That pirate´s pastis makes you forget stuff.
     "Arrgh, matie!! The night was as foggy as the Mediterranean mist when we make the landlubbers walk the plank! Arrgh, drown´em in pastis ..."

Modern Oddyseus.

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