i come my destination, still in awe of the beauty i have witnessed along the way (and no, i am not talking about the van drivers). my friend offers me a Mojito then asks me to change into my bathing suit. there is still light after all and the sea is glittering a milion cold shades. she apologizes for the waves, because normally the sea is like oil. lady, i come from Orchard beach, but we mean another thing when we compare the sea to oil there.
Havana bar is beautiful, and the people in it are absolutely gorgeus, in shape, young and full of themselves. even the men in Speedos look actually appetizing, if a triffle too young for my taste. i think i am the most voluptuous person in here (my size 20 friend’s most favorite adjective). there are only bikinis and speedos on perfect brown bodies and there must have been a make-out memo which i missed because everybody is smooching en force. i almost feel like making out with the hay hut beam, just so that i will not feel out of place.
we continue to lounge under the sinless sun until it is well-hidden by the coy waves, then we go back to the room my friends have. on the way, we fill our stomach and empty our wallets. i was told that it is madly expensive here and it is true. the prices are steep, and there is no Mickey-D’s or hot dog vendors. although, i bet i could find a few hot dogs if i looked harder.
the room itself could not be smaller. i look in wonder at the queen size bed, bunkbed, small closet, fridge, mini kitchenette and vanity mirror all crammed into that space, and try to breathe. boy they must have had a resize machine to fit everything in. inside is hot and claustrophobia sets in. i go out and i am rewarded by the breeze and a wonderful view of the darkening sea.
the characters of the beach are completely out of some obscure novel written by an eastern european disident on hashish or a stylish latter days hippie doing the Hungry Artist Schtick in NY. they all work and live abroad, and they come to this beach to spend their money. the homegrown kutchies pass from hand to hand endlessly, a calming ritual that goes perfectly with young hot bodies from the bar and the beach. adding to the magic, three black and one white horse run loose in the beach scaring the cuddling couples.
i meet several drifters from my own part of the world, one boston, one brooklyn and one florida, all congregating in Havana bar. the weekend crew is in full swing, the booze is flowing and underwear is changing hands faster than money. they must all think they are not visible here, even if the same faces will be transplanted to Tirana Monday. but the idea of freedom is very appealing apparently.
we sleep the way we sleep, five people in a very small 9m2 space. i am grateful for the bed and do not mind the full orchestra in B minor snoring that comes from the upstairs bunkbed or the strange noises emanating from the bed next to me. towards the morning though, the gas becomes lethal and i spend a great part of my day hanging around the beach and snoring on the porch, as opposed to suffocating inside. it is during one of these naps that i catch our so called maintenance man, poking his head through the room windows and “checking for trouble” as he puts it. he does not do that with our room, since my glare is absolutely murderous, but he does come back a couple of times to hand out different items, clean the porch or fix the tents and whatnot.
the beach is fabulous. i love it even if i do not like the crowd that suddenly descends upon it like a hungry animal, bent on soaking up every possible sun ray they have paid for. to the dismay of our maintenance man, none of the guests checks out before their time.
the beach is emptying at an alarming rate. i am surprised to see this, then i remember that it is Sunday, and the first of September. Sad, very sad. we spend the remainder of the day trying to shake the hangover off, and lounging around like sleeping beauties. Sunday night, Havana has absolutely no visitors, the music is quiet and pensive, the lights are dimmed and the breeze does a wonderful cooling and purifying job. the hooves of the horses step on my mind, stomping the stress further. we stay awake, talking about things or not talking about things, some people quietly passing on a joint or two. but i can’t smoke that. dunno why, never felt compelled to try.
we leave the bar early in the am, making ourselves in the dark and stumbling upon the only 24 hour service eatery in Dhermi, a little portable shack with a sleeping teenager in it. of course we order souflaki and chips. it is very disgusting but i gobble mine down anyway. it is food and it can not be thrown away.
i decide not to sleep but gather my belongings and go to the bus station. it is still very very dark and they tell me the road is a bit difficult to walk. not for me it is not. a big strong girl like me? puhleeze. so i get started on the steep torture hike that passes for a road around here. the olive trees are dark witches and creatures, and they might hide a full gang of brigands that will take away my honor. i put my remaining trip fare in my bra. then i think that if something happens, the bra will go first. so i put it in the dirty underwear pouch. hmm, what if the brigands are pervos? i take it out again and stick it in my book. it should be safe there.
i am almost disappointed because instead of the brigands, i only see two cows and their watcher relieving himself behind an olive tree. never mind. my calves are hurting like a good momma’s son and i am sweating and swearing like one too. probbably the brigands just hid away at the side of me. oh well, such is life.
i arrive at the station, a crossroads that has no signs, no indications, no humans to say that it is the right place. ehh, who cares. i sit and watch the cars go by, the same way as they watch me watch them. the lights stealithily conquers the land, and other people are gathered with their luggage and souvenirs all ready to go. then an old man comes up the road, a stick in one hand, the jacket of his suit upon his shoulder and his berett put on jauntily on the left eye. no sweat on him whatsoever. somebody tells me that he is 85 and that he hikes to the center of the village twice daily. i consider briefly quiting my job and shacking up with old man here, until they tell me that the wife is still alive and kicking all his girlfriends to the curb. apparently he is quite the lover. unfortunate again.
the bus to tirana arrives and i am greeted by the most incredible and intense blue green eyes with black lashes and black eyebrows. oh what eyes. i want to have his babies too, and i think he would not mind. but then, as my intended gets out to let us get in, i see that i am taller. bummer. my kids can’t be shorter than me. they have to be majestic statues of beauty, perfection and intelligence. regretfully, i demote the intense eye demon to a mere pleasant flirt for the road. we smile at eachother and do small talk, while i try not to look him in the eye. it is difficult because we are both standing and the conductor is pushing from behind, making space for himself the way that only conductors know how. oh well, my demon bids me farewell and gets off in one of the villages before coming to Vlora. bye bye almost father of my children!
i spend the rest of the way standing and trying not to touch people’s sensitive places and not be touched by them. this is a tiring trip, almost as long as the one back from Vegas. But when i can glimpse the sea occasionally, i am OK again.
i strike a conversation with a lovely old lady that does not know where she is going, once in Tirana. we spend the time trying to map a route for her and we are both surprized when we enter Tirana and the conductor kicks us off. fortunately, the old lady’s cousins are at the bus station and pick her up, so i am left with myself, always a smart idea. i walk, buy books, icecream, water and a dirty folk album, until i reach my grandmother’s. she’s cooked my favorite dish.
ahh, shower, kisses, food, pampering, and blissful sleep.