(This one was hard to write, even harder to publish. I found it in the 2013 archives–aka my journal–back from when I was traveling around Croatia and Italy like a madwoman. This particular vignette was written when I was living in Split, Croatia.)
my backyard in croatia, on a stormy day
My eyes burned, watered. Mostly from the semen, partly from the shock.
Norman, Croatian Man and Proprietor of Ejaculate, was alarmed by my alarm.
“No warning?” I asked, miffed, blindly feeling around the bedside table for tissues.
“Well fuck that.”
Norman rolled over and hoisted himself out of bed. He zipped on his baby blue flannel onesie. I had to watch him tie his brown, shoulder length hair into a ponytail. “I know this isn’t sexy,” he said. “But it is very comfortable.” He motioned me to the kitchen and warmed up some meat and beans, a hearty Dalmatian recipe his mother made him growing up. I declined.
We sat alongside the kitchen counter, in his apartment in the outskirts of Split. I watched him eat his beans with total commitment. Some landed on his oversized child’s night garment. Before I’d moved to Croatia, if I had closed my eyes and envisioned a Croatian man, I’d have seen Norman: buff, rustic, burly, chiseled, strange — though his name would have been Stipe, or Bojan. Norman was named Norman, he told me, because “his parents were eccentrics.”
He wanted to talk about past relationships. (We’d exhausted Game of Thrones.) He asked me about my longest. His was six. Years. Mine was two. Months.
“You’ve never been in love?”
“No,” I said. I could have used a bowl of beans, right then, to diffuse the sadness, however dull: of being asked this by others and by myself, perpetually.
“Well, no offense, but there must be a reason for that.” He sopped up the juices with some stale bread.
I know, I know: I’ve never been in love. And no one, to my knowledge, has ever loved me, barring my family, a few friends, and my dog (when I’m holding the can opener).
And here was Norman, saying things I knew, getting meat juice on everything, even his careful ponytail.
I had never been more repulsed by a man. Yet this repulsive man had the power to make me acutely aware, more than ever before, of the fact that I’d never been in love: not because Norman had asked me, buffoon-like, but because here I was, sitting next to buffoon-like Norman, watching him eat beans, my eyes still red from an unexpected semen blast.
I excused myself to the bathroom and flushed my face with water. Flushed my face until I was certain he was done eating. I returned to the kitchen to offer a cordial goodbye; he was asleep on the couch.
I walked the two miles home, along the Adriatic, to the small apartment I was renting by the water. The lack of love puts you in places you might ordinarily never find yourself. And this, perhaps, is a blessing, this freedom to roam and experience and, as I did that night, bury myself in pebbles, feet in the chilly water, where I slept until sunrise.
the glorious adriatic