It was a busy Saturday night in Almaden and I don’t think the town slept a wink. They were having fun, and a Saturday night of festivity is good for the health of the mind and does the body no harm. Except for those in the alberque, including myself, who walked for the same remedy as a Saturday night is to the town folk; even if their joviality kept us awake.
The Frenchman and the Brazilian woman were already up, busy pottering about in the darkness when five bells rang out from the church steeple above the music alongside the uproar of the many conversations happening outside our window.
I joined them, both the Frenchman and the Brazilian woman that is, in collecting up my few belonging, and then I walked out on my own to join the revellers in the town. The revellers sat about the square talking and giggling. The bar the Dutchman and I had drunk at early the night before, then all subdued and reputable, now had a tight lady singing loudly at, or should that be squawking a pop tune louder than the others who were dancing about their empty bottles to her tune which had a faint remembrance to something I could not quite recognise. I think she may have been attempting to sing Melvin Gaye Sexual Healing – I can’t be sure. Even the old still sat about chatting with hardy voices, their hands deep in conversation as they finished the night’s celebrations drinking early morning coffee. A number waved at me to join them. ‘Hey senor que necesita una bebida!’ they shouted under the streetlights in the square. They did not give up. I waved and smiled awkwardly, and when I walked away their insistence increased, forcing their invite on me with louder and louder banter. I still ignored the revellers who would not give up, desperately making their final offer more appealing by waving a bottle of wine at me. Others stood about smoking and jeering with friendly provoking wit.
I must have been a strange sight to them, as they were to me, when I strode out with a backpack into the darkness of the countryside on a Sunday morning, a morning given by God for revelling, sleeping or praying – even walking (but I am not sure the revellers would have agreed with me there).
Then again, if they had not been so far ahead of the party, I might have been tempted to start the day with a hardy stiffening aperitif. As I turned away from the revellers at about five thirty on that Sunday morning I was thinking what a ghost town it had been twelve hours before. Who and what was being celebrated? Were the revellers the dead townspeople of the past reawakened each Saturday night, as if I had stepped into Wagner opera while the living slept and would shortly be preparing for church knowing nothing of the pleasure seekers from an underworld? Maybe the living asked themselves, wandering to church, who had irresponsible discarded empty bottles and littered the gutters with fag ends: – and then no doubt blamed the ramblers!
Walking away from the revellers I was soon back into the quiet streets of the town and then onto a silent farm track. The streetlights I had become used to in the town no longer lit my path. It was dark. The moon and the stars I had been told would light my path, as the Dutchman explained, did no such thing.
I had no torch, except the feeble light from a mobile phone.
However, like some nocturnal animal my ears and my nose guided my path. I can be sure the sounds I was hearing in the dark, as clear as an orchestra playing, I had been deaf to during daylight. But I am convinced it is a very different sounding world in the dark. And when the black trees rustled I am sure I smelt the early heart of ripening olives.
To really enjoy the stars above I would have chosen to have been lying down on a snug wool blanket, with a small fire burning, offering comfort rather than warmth, my arms tight around a loved one. Together our wide, open, bright inquisitive eyes staring in all directions at the great other world, picking out randomly to disagree about the shape of the star constellations above. ‘No, follow my finger, that is the North Star burning bright! – No, it is not, look over at that one – there she is! Look down …. past the plough……there! See it?’ As if it is possible to follow a finger into the bright stars dotted a billion miles above. Then, when the magnificence of the incomprehensible stars had drained our thoughts of understanding, I imagined we would make love and watch the stars for no-other reason than the beauty they offer.
Together, the sounds of nature living in the dark is a joyous affair, and the hum of something munching in the hedgerow a reason for entertainment rather than concern.
However – I was on my own! I certainly was not walking with the confidence of an old cowboy out early to rustle up his cattle.
Around me the hedgerow seemed a very busy and concerning place. All sorts of squawking and rustling was going on in the thick blackness within. No doubt, as I walked with my own crunch-crunch in the blackness I was disturbing someone’s slumber in the hedgerows; we feared each others passing.
The air was still and warm. My little torch kept me out of the rutted holes. On the horizon the lights of Almaden were drawing to a close. Other farmhouses, once inactive, started the day by slowly becoming visible across the rolling back fields like small fallen stars. On the hilltops in the very far off distance tall trees stood bold against the moon light. I turned away from these lazy, rolling hills and followed the path down into what I think was a small, dark valley of dense vegetation. Did I hear a brook running? Without sight I could not be sure. But dogs out their somewhere had a vociferous bark, and one or two at an uncomfortably short distance. I could (the darkness could not hide my mind’s thoughts) imagine wet gums and snarling teeth projecting out under a quivering nose hitch up in defiance. I was not sure if they barked at the crunch-crunch in the darkness, or at the miserable light from my torch, or were not even aware I existed. Even so I knew they were present and they made me ill at ease.
The faint cock-a-doodle-doo of a cockerel in some far off farmyard started another cock-a-doodle-doo, which started another cock-a-doodle-doo, each becoming closer, each setting off the bark of a snarling, nasty dog. Another mysterious dog barked at a cockerel which would not shut-up and these sounds of the early morning increased and reverberated about the darkness in the valley.
I stopped walking at a Y in the path, the GPS giving confusing directions. In the dark I could not see how wide the two paths diverged from each other. To my right in the darkness a dog replied and the hedgerows rustled in the breeze. On my left I could sort of make out the path starting to climb steeply, provoking little encouragement for me to continue. They both seemed grey alternatives and I was puzzled. I looked up at where the sun would rise, eager to see the start of an orange glow. The sky stayed black. Behind I heard clearly the sound of a metal gate creek and then clang close, the sound reverberating across the small valley. A torch light bounced about as the owner strode confidently on. I was sure it was not the Frenchman. His stride was not as strong or as confident. I was thinking it must be the Dutchman or the Brazilian woman. A dog barked again on my right, somewhere ahead the mutt seemed to be getting closer. Above, crossing the black sky, an unseen airplane raced its engines. Nothing was seen. The torch light walked confidently in the blackness getting larger with each step until I could clearly hear the crunch-crunch of a walker stepping on gravel, wonderfully self-assuredly, striding forward.
‘Just wondering left or right.’ I said as she recognised me in her powerful torch light, standing still and looking a little lost. She stopped and turned her head torch to make out the better of the two paths. She then indicated the right path and strode on. I was happy to follow. I told myself she had the better torch. She also had confidence within the mysterious sounds of the darkness.
The dog bark came alarmingly close. What a difference a good torch makes. It was as if she had the sun on her temple and I had been making use of a faraway star no better than a candle to lighten my path. If anything, now that we walked together, the apprehensions of the inhospitable dogs and the dark become a shared concern. Or so I thought.
Turning into a farmyard a dog rushed at the high metal fence separating us. The Brazilian woman did not stop walking or show any alarm, instead she turned her head to face the animal; of course, this meant the torch came to rest on the dog as if a UFO had descended. The dog ceased the incessant bark and crouched away from the fence. I watched another sit down as if commanded by a higher power. Even with the light returning to the footpath the dogs stayed still and silent.
The morning was too young, too black, too desolate, too inappropriate for conversation. She lit up a cigarette; the glow increasing and decreasing as she pulled on the tobacco. It was indeed a strange sight as the two of us walked in Indian file, black silhouettes with our humped backs, her light staring out front as our guide.
In the far off distance, I watched the Gods draw a thin orange line across the horizon. The line widened as if the Gods were consistently thickening the line until it was no longer a line but the start of something new. Perhaps the sun was offering mankind a fresh beginning.
With each step, the light increased and the countryside formed around us. Hills of woods were given back their character; the hedgerows given back their charm. The footpath became a way to the future and something that willed us forward as the sun rose, rather than stood in our way creating dark hazards. The bleached orange sky slowly evaporated sweeping away the night, until the golden sun appeared majestically on the horizon. The sun then looked down again onto conquered lands.
The Brazilian woman stopped. She turned towards the bright golden central sun, dominant and vital like Cesar, watching the vanishing dust of an orange sky. The Brazilian woman indicated with a strong uncompromising expression I should do as she did. Then she stood very still rousing herself like a temple princess at the golden altar.
She closed the palms of her hands together in prayer. I obediently followed her actions. Her long fingers rested against her lips. I am sure I did the same. She said nothing I could hear. However, I am sure she made reverence to the rising Sun; thanking the Sun for returning light our path and asking for the Sun to be kind on today’s journey to come.
Only once did she bow forward, completing her morning worship to the tangible deity she looked upon, one which understands our earthly needs. Once she became upright I bowed to the Sun with my own prayers and thoughts.
She removed the torch from her temple and carried on with the sun on our right and the unknown day somewhere ahead.
In El Real de las Jara we fell into the chairs at the breakfast table. Immediately the Brazilian woman lit up her third cigarette of the morning. I had learnt that when she smoked she said nothing. She was welcome to take tobacco for breakfast. I, on the other hand, was a traditionalist and had no guilt at enjoying as much food as the young, hovering bar tender could bring us.
It was the finest breakfast I encountered along the Roman Road. The Saville orange ran with juice. Once squeezed they were entirely empty – half of a rind cone of nothingness, as if a tennis ball had been cut in half. I was offered all sorts of country jams, as well as Manchego cheese and Serrano hams and Tapa Negra pate. The Brazilian woman looked on at my feast with disdain as she dismissed any of my offers to join me by rubbing her stomach to say the walk had her commitment and turned up her apathetic face. I nodded and loosely agreed she may be right. Instead, she put her strong-minded feet up onto a chair and ordered a cafe solo and smoked three cigarettes one after the other.
Who am I to know who is right and what is best? I know what I consider is a well-deserved breakfast after thirteen kilometres and so did she.
Then the Frenchman arrived. He looked well, but reason had whispered something into the heat and today he would go no further. The next stretch of footpath to Monesterio, twenty kilometres in the rising heat of the day was too far for a wise man. Then again he was not aware both the Brazilian woman and I had made peace with a Sun God.
When the Dutchman arrived the Brazilian woman, scarcely finished tying her shoe laces, stretched out her arms and, yawning, said good morning. He murmured a reply and fell backwards, exhausted into a bench with nothing to say; or did I hear a good morning in reply?’ She humped her backpack onto her back and turning to me declaring, ‘Ah, you walking with me?’ It was something between a question and an order. It was said in such a way that I felt obliged to continue with her. Should I have been tempted to have one more coffee with the Dutchman and catch my breath, for I enjoyed his company, I am not sure she would have approved. Instead I said to the Dutchman, ‘I’ll catch you up on the path, have to go – bye!’ adding as an afterthought to oblige the Dutchman and cause him to feel better after his three hour walk to breakfast, ‘but it is the best breakfast, you’re in for a treat.’
‘I would have walked faster if I’d known.’ He said and ordered a coffee, but his eyes were distracted, he was following the Brazilian woman’s dark noir legs, as straight as a Roman Road, tucked under her shorts which never left her bottom; her legs running out at her petite pink walking shoes.
I hurried after her and soon was back into my stride.
‘We have arrived!’ I shouted out. One kilometre outside El Real De Las Jara we had finally reached a small flowing stream; this was the final frontier to Extremadura. ‘This is like crossing the Red Sea,’ I said looking straight across the stream, my hands on my hips, the water lapping at my feet to the country lands beyond. The Brazilian woman had no clue what I was referring to and ignored me. Fortunately, to cross the stream I did not have to have the tricks of Mosses to part the waters. Instead, with the river no higher than the upper limits of my souls, I could walk confidently across into another land.
‘Look at this.’ I said to the Brazilian woman, walking up to a map of the Province next to the grand Estremadura welcome sign. ‘This is my destination – Estremadura!’ I said with an uplifting voice. ‘How wonderful.’ I said to myself.
I pointed to the sign and ran my finger along our route to the border with Castle-Leon in the north.
‘It is good someone knows where we are,’ she replied taking out her camera. ‘Take a picture of me.’ I fiddled about and took her picture against the map and the large proud Extremadura welcome sign. Ahead on my right the ruins of a stone castle (once visited by Don Quixote I am sure) stood as the gateway to the Province. It was bold and decrepit but still maintained a glorious presence.
Once over the water border the landscape no longer undulated as it had in Andalusia. Less curvy, more like an old dame who had lived life and now settled back into old age to enjoy the refinement and to appreciate the slowness of leisure; perhaps always adoring Andalusian wilfully young civilities – opera, flamenco and bullfighting; perhaps not wanting to visit too often.
I stood in wonder of this land of conquistadors and magnificent worn out cities which ruled the Roman Empire. They are no longer what they once were, just museums to a past grandeur, now they sleep – the future unsure.
This Brazilian woman walked with determination, striking out across the landscape eating up kilometres I preferred to nibble at. Her feet must have been formed out of resin, for there were no signs they ever ached. Even as the sun climbed high, her pace did not slacken, nor did her resolve.
I walked eyes down under my wide brimmed Panama. Occasionally, I caught up with her pace of steps when her pink shoes popped in and out of the shade created by my Panama brim. She must have stopped for water or to adjust her iplayer.
Had I been listening, rather than caught up with my own thoughts, I would have heard the union of my own feet crunch-crunching with hers along the footpath.
Crunch-crunch, crunch-crunch working together as if we were now sharing four legs. Then slowly slipping back to my own slowing crunch-crunch when she was gone, her own feet back into a swinging rhythm strolling onwards – upwards, towards an undiluted sun.
Together, (even, as you have seen, we drifted apart) we walked for kilometre after kilometre. Grand, tough, tall holly oaks trees spread out between their neighbours, stretching across the countryside forever. Between the oaks, a carpet of cautious yellow pasture spread as a groundcover between the scrubland, rather than the red ploughed earth of Andalusia.
I often asked myself – ‘Will the end of this hot pungent landscape ever arrive?’
Of course, we all know there are no simple answers to simple questions.
Finally, I gave up the chase, found the perfect holly oak tree to sneak under, (with pasture as soft as a fleece), and looked out between the shading leaves at the bright sky and the big sunshine. The trees had no animosity when I asked them to protect me. They whispered in the breeze letting me know they were happy to do so. If only people were as well behaved and as well balanced.
With a tug, I pulled out Tolstoy and heaved up my knees so I could rest the book and continue reading the story. ‘She did not say anything when we met. I thought perhaps she’d calm down a bit. And I started to tell her that I’d been provoked by her accusations. With the same severe look of terrible suffering on her face, she told me she hadn’t come for explanations,’
Some distance along the path I had recently walked, I started to catch the light sound of a tap-tap-taptap-tap—-tap-tap-taptap-tap-tap—tap-tap-taptap-tap-tap. At first, it was no distraction. The sound could have been from my mind reading Tolstoy. But I knew this was not the case for so far there was no need to add sounds of a solitary walker’s staff to the story.
The tap increased and my eyes sluggishly turned to my left to watch the Dutchman catching me up. If I had not called out from my hideout I am sure he would have continued to tap his staff along the footpath.
‘Hey, how is it going out there?’ I called. He stopped, somewhat surprised, and looked about before laughing at my little hiding place.
‘Very well.’ he replied as I moved and waved him over to share my shade. ‘Well – not so well.’ He quickly changed his mind. ‘This pack is too heavy!’ He sighed as he put his backpack down on the pasture, removed his water and sat next to me.
‘I will have to pack and repack until the weight is acceptable. I did the same last year and ended up sending half my clothes home.’ He could see his own amusement at his own foolhardiness.
‘Well look at me,’ I told him, ‘very little and one luxury. Even the laptop could have been ditched if I had a smart phone. Next time.’
‘Yes.’ Then he repeated ‘Next time.’ We chuckled at the conversation and turned to look at the poor Frenchman hobbling behind. His feet were blistered and his toe nails rotting from unsuitable boots.
‘Next time he’ll know better – next time,’ I said, as the Dutchman replied to me ‘life is full of next times!’
‘Do you mean with lovers or with walking shoes?’ I asked.
‘Good lord – I wish I could say ‘with walking shoes’!’ He replied, adding ‘the difference is, with shoes the pain comes first, then the pleasure is deserved, with woman it is all pleasure until pain, which is never deserved.’
‘But like walking shoes it is difficult to get about deprived of them.’
‘No – No, unlike shoes you can live without women.’ I retorted.
‘Can you?’ He enquired, ‘are you certain?’ He drank from his water bottle and squinted up at the sky. ‘I am not so sure. But I am glad you think so.’
I humbly said I may be wrong, for I admitted I had never tried. He laughed at this. ‘Then try! – Is that a vulture above us?’
I told him I was not sure. It did look a magnificently ugly bird and he could well be right. As we rested I told him the unhappy story of the Indian vultures.
We both stared at the bird in free flight above us looking down at the land below. As I watched the big bird hover in the blue sky I was wondering if the vulture was also wondering why two humans were under the shade of an oak tree in the hot open countryside. We must have appeared a ludicrous sight. I wondered if the vulture had recently had a meal of French meats? Then wondered if the big bird could see the Brazilian woman?
Ahead the Brazilian woman had found her own shade and flopped down to rest.
‘So you can’t keep the place up?’ I asked her, drawing in breath but reluctant to sit down once we had caught her up, I needed to preserve my rhythm and keep going, at this slow place we would never reach Monesterio.
‘I was waiting for the slow coaches,’ she replied screwing her face up at me in fun and then got up quickly to carry on, calling to both the Dutchman and I – ‘Let’s go! What’s keeping you?’ And she competently strode away without waiting for an answer.
At an intersection of a spaghetti road system we stopped for lunch. We had covered twenty-three kilometres.
As always the lunch was well deserved. The Dutchman and I ate a hardy meal of local hams and cheese piled thickly on bread and salt-free butter, the cream of the farm yard thick on the bread. We had earned our lunch! Yes, we had – we were as hungry and as deserving of our lunch as any of the farm workers who sat next to us. This must be the essential reason for lunch – I think so – I know so! And then there is the camaraderie and the chit chat of conversation which flowed once we were out of the sun, our bodies hungry, resting happily, enjoying the food given by the earth we had walked upon that very morning, as the farmers had tilled that same morning when the sun tired us both, and now fed us in return. It was a merry place where the hard working people of the earth gather.
‘Come on eat up woman!’ I pushed the salad and sliced meats towards the Brazilian woman. ‘No!’ is all she said and tapped her stomach with a smile puffing at a cigarette and drinking a café solo. ‘Don’t let it go to waste.’ I said, which was not true. ‘Ok, that’s me done. And our friend here does not want any more.’ I was referring to the Dutchman as I chatted with the Brazilian woman. I never quite understood her reluctance to eat breakfast or lunch. Then again, Frenchwomen live on cigarettes and coffee, so why not Brazilian woman. (The salad remained untouched. We relented – I shared it with the Dutchman.)
For the final ten kilometres stretch, the three of us were very aware we were to walk in the furnace of an afternoon sun. We were not wrong. The afternoon was a long, slow, uphill slog. The path a disused farm track, maybe once an old road, possibly Roman. I am sure it was straight enough to be of interest to archaeologists. It was not an attractive road, running alongside a modern version most of the way to Monesterio.
With short bursts of energy, we climbed the old road to a false summit. Soon we were tree shade hopping. This became more frequent as we climbed higher and tired quickly. Finally, after one more disappointing push to a false summit, I put my head down, widened my stride and made a final, frustrated dash to the top; come what may I would reach the summit without further breaks. My head never came up until I was sure I walked on level earth.
Finally, I wandered between two stone pillars into a deserted picnic area. I sat at one of the many bench seats, the type integrated with an open planked table, each table with its own half cut drum barbecue at its side. From the summit I look down on the town of Monesterio, a sight which gladdened my heart.
Whilst I caught my breath waiting for my companions, I slowly watched the picnic area fill up with the happy residence of Monesterio on a day out, as if it had become a Sunday afternoon. Next to me a family of three generations arrived and started to prepare a midday meal; they never stopped talking! The man from the middle generation had taken it on himself to turn over the hot coals of the barbecue in preparation to cook the generous steaks he was handed by his eager mother-in-law. She was the wise one; under the Extremadura sun she was suitably dressed in black, with spots of colour from her red scarf, sitting in the shade and fanning herself in a slow dignified manner.
Once the meat sat above the grill sizzling contently, the open chested, bulbous son-in-law pulled out a bottled of beer from the cooler, called out to his son to get the football from the car, and drank happy. ‘How about a wine for ME!’ the wife shouted at her husband. ‘And me!’ The mother-in-law shouted at her son-in-law. The husband sculled about unearthing another cool bag from somewhere in the back of the car, ‘Ok, ok – give me a chance,’ he muttered as he located the bag and pulled out a bottle of cold Rioja. ‘Cook first, then play football.’ shouted his wife as she opened the plastic containers of mixed salads, ham varieties, cheese and pickles, and spread them around the table she had covered with a bright chequered table cloth.
I closed my eyes and my nose drifted instinctively towards the empty barbecue on my right and breathed in the smells of the cooking meats. Around me I listened to families shouting above radios and cars coming and going; children screaming, fathers scoring goals, women serving food and calling their husbands back to the barbecue; a son moaning before going off and playing with the boys from the neighbouring barbecue until a randomly kicked football thumps into a neighbour’s bottle of wine. Women scold their sons, another apologises for her son, but it does not seem to matter as they share what they have, and laugh out loud about what is soon forgotten. Randy youths cannot but stare at pretty girls; fathers have fanciful thoughts about the mother on the table next door. Flattered, on the excuse of the sun, mothers, with wine flowing, removed their silk armless tops. Their flesh is on view to the sun and to the fathers who admire. Striped black and white bikinis, or something more or less similar, make a pouting offering to father’s and husband’s desires which are unlikely to be satisfied very often.
But sights like this brighten the day, create emotions, laying the interactions of the human race, bringing smiles and tears, love and trouble to young and old and anyone in the middle or passing by.
It was a short walk down into the town. We both followed the Dutchman to the hostel of S. Pedro Apostol Church. It was empty and closed until a neighbour contacted a volunteer from the church. She welcomed us with God’s affection for pilgrims and strangers, talking in fast flowing Spanish as if we were locals passing by. But I am sure with her kindly manner and great enthusiasm for God and service to the community, her usefulness to the church interest was in preparing the flowers for the many services of celebration the Church likes to impose on its parishioners. And when not for the parishioners, for the numerous church committees raising funds for droughts and disasters happening on far away continents. At the same time scurrying about worrying the decaying church bells need urgent work and the condition of the church minibus is in desperate need of a service.
She mothered us with her non-stop chatter, explaining the working of this and that and showing us into each kitchen cupboard and bathroom draw as if we were staying for six months. The towels were white and fluffy and plentiful.
Finally – she sat down and placed her narrow blue reading spectacles on top of her nose, always with one hand on the spectacles left arm, so she could remove them to look up at us three eager souls behind her desk. She checked our pilgrims credentials to be satisfied we had the right to stay within the walls of a monastic resting house, and once content our cause was genuine, imprinted our pilgrims credentials with the octagon stamp of St. Pedro Apostol; a crest of keys to the saint’s heart lying across a book of learning about man’s better ways.‘No, it’s Ham-bur-ger.’ I tried to explain to the Brazilian woman in the town square an hour or so after we left the jolly church woman.
‘No, it’s Ham-bur-ger.’ I tried to explain to the Brazilian woman in the town square an hour or so after we left the jolly church woman.
‘Amberrr.’ She tried to mimick me as I mimicked the teacher from the Pink Panther. The Dutchman and I roared with laughter at the pronunciation with her attractive sexy slant. How would the waitress know what she was ordering? We were not sure she would.
‘No – no, it’s Ham-bur-ger.’ I said. ‘Say the word a little slower, pronounce the H for longer and let the rest of the word roll out from there.’ As she laughed she tried all over again. The Dutchman and I edged her along with each syllable, encouraging her to pronounce each letter from between her protruding lips.
‘Aanber – Aamber-Aamburger’ She rolled her face into a smile, which soon had us laughing out loud all over again.
‘We have our own lovable Peter Sellers,’ announced the Dutchman, enjoying himself as he drank his beer wanting desperately to order his hamburger. We had decided, for some obscure reason, that the ordering of a hamburger could only be done by the Brazilian woman mimicking Inspector Clauseau.
With the suggestion she was our own Peter Sellers Selma acquired the rapport of a comedian and suddenly she was mimicking the Inspectors humour! She stood upright, shoulders back and forthright and said – ‘Ih-wooood-like-dw-byy-ah-Am-beg-er. – Ih wooood like dw byy ah Am-ber-ger!’
‘Ok – who is going to order our hamburgers?’ asked the Dutchman now holding back tears and shaking his head in disbelief.
‘Ih am off course!’ said Inspector Clauseau – Ih-wooood-like-dw-byy-ah-Am-ber-er.’ Her eyes sparkled at the fun we were having. She was smiling and happy.
‘Ok Inspector Clauseau order for us.’ I called the waitress over and said we were ready to order. Unfortunately, we were early in the square and our own Peter Sellers had no audience to entertain other than a Dutchman and an Englishman and a confused Spanish waitress.
‘Well when you’re ready.’ I said to the Inspector.
The young waitress stood and waited, not sure what to expect. The Brazilian woman, now becoming serious, flicked her eyes at both the Dutchman and myself for reassurance, tried to wipe the grin off her own face before attempting to captivate her new audience of one, or at least to be understood. ‘Ih-would -like-too-byy-ah-Amberger.’
‘Would you like cheese?’ replied the waitress with a matter of fact professional voice. The Brazilian woman repeated her statement to the Dutchman ‘Ih-wood-like-to-by-a-Amberger.’ We both clapped in delight at her wit and good spirit and said to the waitress could we have three am-ber-gers with cheese please.
And what great am-ber-gers were served. It was a feast and the Brazilian woman and I tucked into our am-ber-gers as the Americans do – our great big hands holding the left and right of the bun with the big sizzling cheeseburger staring out front. On the other hand the said Dutchman sat back and waited for a knife and fork – oh what an old fart he was! How could he let the side of fun times down and demand decorum!
With this humorous mimicking of Inspector Clauseau and his amberger I was very much enjoying the company of the Brazilian woman; she had that easy going presence that makes people a delight to be with. She could break down the awkward barriers of conformity, as the Dutchman and I experienced with her humour and she did not take life too seriously, with a delightful manner of effortlessness towards those that she was with.
Unlike the Dutchman or even an Englishman, Selma had no introvert ways or want to uphold delicate manners. No, she said what needed to be said without worry of the consequences; no concern about how her views were viewed, or if they even liked her. She was not interested. Then again I liked woman this way. There was refreshment in her character after the old-fashioned straitlaced Anglo-Saxons I knew so well. Her skin had a beautiful lightness, her dark eyes intrigued me, her curling black hair rolled down to her shoulders, habitually tucked up in a bun to sit pretty on the top of her head when she walked. Being tall she had presence, maybe this gave her confidence with an ‘I do not care – I take my freedom from conformity.’ She had the charisma I cherish in people, and I wanted to know about her because she made me laugh.