This review is from: The Kissing Lesson (Paperback)
The heat was intolerable. I'd tried downsizing my clothes-from long sleeves to short sleeves to no sleeves, from jeans to shorts and from trainers to sandals. It didn't make any difference. It was like sitting in a sauna with the door locked and just drip drip dripping. Even with icy drinks, towels kept in the freezer overnight, the fan on full, there was no escape from the drip drip dripping, the hand across a slippery face, the hair matted and wet on the neck, the claustrophobia, the inevitable overheating of my internal cooling system. There was nowhere to go. You couldn't talk, you couldn't read, you couldn't move. The only refuge was lying in the cold bath in the hotel bedroom 'till you wrinkled, get out and wait till you warmed up again and the little beads of sweat prickled out over your skin and then get back in again.
There was a window though that opened briefly, just after the sun set and before the lights went on and the midges came out to feed. A delicious cool moment when you could grab a cold beer and sit outside hotel in the café on the front and watch the world.
I was sitting on my own, cooling down. I hate those uncomfortable cheap metal tables and chairs, but the attack of the icy bitter beer was delicious ecstasy.
I didn't hear her sit down at the little table next to me. When she started to talk to me, it was sort of innocent, giggly and flirtatious. She was fresh and tanned, a bouncy vital teenager, full of life. She was wearing white shorts, a blue t shirt and those clumpy trainers. She was smiling and laughing and her eyes were sparkling when she started to speak to me. 'are you a tourist, how long are you here, where are you staying'. When you sit outside, this was always happening. Lots of girls would approach you. It was usually with a direct approach. 'you like sex, you want me to go to your hotel' etc. it wasn't exciting at all, it was depressing actually. When you thought of how those girls lived, in the squalor of the favellas just ten minutes away. The screaming kids, the drunken abusive husbands, the noisy smelly motorbikes, the fights, the stupid drug business. Such nice girls and such a shame the world is this way.
She had an pleasant open look, dark hair pulled back, freckles. Her whole face was lit up by her life. God, I thought, you are so different from me. I am dragged down by European depressions, a lifetime of complexes, competitive humiliations, missed opportunities, resentments, guilts, unresolved bitterness and hopelessness. I am so aware of the news around me, the world at war, everybody abusing, hating each other. Tribal rivalries, murderous territorial disputes, unforgiving religions, sick psychopaths, corrupt incompetent institutions. It was drowning me. It was like a campaign to hammer the sprouts of hope back into the earth and to grind the heel into the dirt. I longed to forget history, the wars, the rivalries, the schemes and plots. Layer on layer, generation after generation of it. I wanted to turn my back on everything I had read, everywhere I had been, what I had learned and seen and been told. I felt like what I knew had made me dirty somehow. I was sick of it, I badly wanted to get away.
She said her name was Patricia, she had been living with a German man but he had gone home now, she didn't say why or what had happened. I was working that out in my mind, just setting out the scenario in that split second way I do. An elder guy like me I supposed, no attachments, or semi detached in some ragged unsatisfactory way, here to look around for a month or so, takes up with a nubile, pretty, presentable girl. Regular sex and somebody to take out for a meal, company, warmth. Somebody to buy little things for and to receive gratitude from. It must have hurt to break it up, to move on. Perhaps they had an understanding, an agreement that it would end. I wondered how they had said goodbye-what he had felt in his heart when her turned his back for a last time. What had he felt in those weeks, he must have known all along that he would kill it in the end, stifle everything good that was growing. He must have cynically closed his eyes while he enjoyed her. Did that sour it for him, was it tainted or was he able just to draw a line and say-'this is me and what I do-here is a line and you are in the other side'. Would he keep in touch-I doubted it. He had bought her the bike she showed me standing against the wall of the café. She wheeled it over to the table and slipped her leg over the saddle. I sensed the pressure of the warm leather against the tiny folds and puckers of her white shorts. The fabric rode a little higher against the tanned muscles of her thighs and she rocked back and forth a little to get her balance, stretching her legs to reach the ground. She lifted her arm and pulled off the hairband holding back her hair. I saw the way the tension of the fabric pulled her shirt against her and I could see the outline of her nipples and the shape of her breast against the fabric. Her dark hair tumbled away from the head band framing her face. She looked less frank, softer, gentler, more appealing. She leaned towards me. 'Do you know how I met him, my German friend' she said. Her voice was very soft. 'Well I gave him kissing lessons' she said, 'you know European men don't know how to kiss' I was looking at that lovely black hair and that fresh face and the dancing mischievous eyes. The night was so velvety and sweet. 'would you like kissing lessons' she said.