(…and the one that wouldn’t leave)
I spot her on the ferry. Or maybe she spots me. We’re standing at the rail a few yards apart. I’m looking at the horizon towards France. I’m going to find a job there soon, if I’m lucky. She’s looking back at the white cliffs of Dover, England.
I reckon she’s Latino – olive skin, dark eyebrows. The clothes look expensive – her red silk scarf flaps like flames and her dark hair blows like smoke around her beautiful face. I like that black coat, leopard collar. I can smell her perfume despite the November wind. She’s everything a woman should be, sexy and mysterious. And I’m a teenager with pimples, looking for adventure, whatever comes my way. She’ll never come my way. I’m 19 and she’s what, 35? I watch the grey sea. Why is the English Channel never blue? How quickly can I get to the Alps?
I’m feeling sick by the time the ferry docks in Cherbourg. I stash my rucksack and skis in an empty compartment on the Paris train and settle in. I’m tired after a long trip from Liverpool and I close my eyes to sleep. I want peace and quiet, not tourists with guidebooks or strangers with questions. The glass door slides open.
I smell familiar perfume and open my eyes. The leopard woman peeps in and asks if she can join me. I can’t believe my ears.
“Sure,” I say, “It’s nice to have company.”
She has lots of shiny leather luggage and gives the sweating porter a tip. He touches his little cap and gives me the eye: lucky you.
The train pulls out and we watch France whizz past our window. The woman tells me she is Vienna. She has a sexy accent and her English makes me smile.
”You’re going to Vienna?” I say.
She frowns and says: “God, no, boring place. I am Vienna. That’s my name. What’s yours?”
Turns out she’s not a leopard. She’s a Brazilian translator and speaks five languages. And she’s not sad, just exhausted, moving to Brussels. I tell her I’m on my second gap year before college. I’m going to Val d’Isere. If I’m quick, I’ll find a job as a waiter, ski all day and work all night – but not as a dishwasher like last season.
Vienna says: “Why not wash dishes?”
“For six months?” I say.
We share my sandwiches and my Johnny Walker and by the time we reach Paris we’re giggling. “Perhaps,” says Vienna, “You could help me to my hotel?”
I glance at her luggage and say: “Sorry. I need to get to Lyon as soon as possible. But it was nice meeting….”
I’ll never forget the look she gives me. Her bedroom eyes say: we were just getting started. A porter comes running and Vienna strides out of my life like a catwalk model. But I’m thinking ahead. I don’t want to wash dishes.
I’m in the Alps eighteen hours later, tramping through deep snow, knocking at different hotels, asking for a job. I pause for a drink and spot BJ, the Australian ski instructor that I first met last season. He’s 27, tanned brown as a nut. I tell him about my summer in England, and about Vienna.
“You bloody fool,” he says, “She was the one that got away!”
He’s probably right. Or maybe I was the one that got away? BJ buys me a Johnny Walker and says: “Look mate, drink up, this will help you forget.” But he’s wrong.
Mid-December, a funky chambermaid comes to work in the hotel where I wash dishes. Lucy is English, good-looking, same age as me with a posh accent. She has short hair, wears Dr Marten boots and dungarees; she might be a Lesbian, I’m not sure. She wants to go to Art College and shows me one of her sketches, which is entitled ‘Man Fighting Evolution’ but looks more like an octopus fighting a hedgehog. Lucy fucking hated boarding school and she fucking hates cleaning rooms.
However, she seems to enjoy fucking me, until one night when she almost bites my tongue off. I sit in bed, groaning in pain, wondering if Lucy is crazy. She pulls my duvet up to her pixie chin and her eyes sparkle in satisfaction like a naughty kid. She reaches for her book: Nana by Emile Zola, it’s about a woman who destroys men.
After two weeks and two-dozen disputes about everything and nothing, I want Juicy Lucy out of my life. She disagrees – no surprises there – and since she lives down the corridor from me in the warm basement of our hotel, separation is going to be rather tricky. But I’m determined.
One night, we argue about Picasso and soon Lucy is screaming but not with pleasure. I open my door and ask her to leave, to go home, back to her own room, down the corridor. She sinks her teeth into my bare arm like a dog with a bone and won’t let go.
The purple bruise lasts a week and looks like a love bite. BJ spots it and says: “Enjoying Val d’Isère?”
I sip my scotch and wonder about washing dishes in Brussels.
[First published in Playboy, March 2012, by S.C. Mediafax Group SA]
playboy march 2012 < click here to see the original page from the magazine.