I’m back in the little of village of Blackdeath, welcomed home into my warm light by my unintentional pet moth Henry. I think there’s more than one moth living here, though I only ever see one at a time. But then I kill Henry against a wall and two minutes later Henry’s flying out of the kitchen again.
I realize now that I forgot to mention last week the time when i woke up in the middle of the night and coughed sharply, my hammock spun around 180° and spat me onto the ground like a Barnacle from Half-Life 2.
On the Monday morning I wake up in a minivan outside a hostel, still a bit sick. Thinking, with how it’s sticking around, maybe I picked up a touch of the Covid. Don’t know how I could have picked up a communicable illness at a radical love-themed festival with 40,000 participants. I’d eaten well of courgettes and drank deeply of wine, though, and slept well and feel pretty good anyway.
We drive out to the courthouse at Idanha-a-Nova so Annemaria can beg for forgiveness for carrying 28 grams of weed in her car through a police check. They had wanted to take the car apart because they were sure she had something more, but they never opened the refrigerator.
Sitting in a café while the person I’m with talks with the person behind the bar in Portguese, I understand every 25th word and I have no phone and no book and nothing to do but write, and I can’t believe how much I want to be lying in my own bed watching Justified when I’m in this beautiful place full of sun and cheap beer. They have Sagres and some local cider on tap. I order a Sagres. The bartender heads for the fridge. It’s strange. In England nobody would ever assume you wanted a bottle of something they have on tap. Here in Portugal it’s taken for granted that you want a bottle unless you say “pressão” (pressure).
I connect to the internet for a moment so i can download my e-mails and respond to a few incoming messages on instagram chat. I’m very happy to see my colleague Zaina has written something, and that it’s good. You should read it, it’s over here on her substack. I’ve been walking around shoeless with just my MacBook air in my hand.
Annemaria left something in Castelo Branco. I was getting hungry, so we stopped for wine and francesinhas in a nice cafe on the way. The francesinha is a layered sandwich served in bowl with alcoholic red sauce. Bread, cured ham, cured steak, flavoursome sausage and another layer of bread, all covered in melted cheese, with a fried egg on top. The sauce is very nice but also is not unlike the sauce Heinz serves its spaghetti hoops in. The name means something like little french girl. -inha in Portuguese is like -ita in Spanish.
After an espresso and a cigarette I start to feel whole again. Standing outside the cafe, leaning on the window, across the road there is an old building falling apart with white brick, peach brick and arsenic-green wood doors and shutters. The sun’s so yellow-warm. The light looks just like when they go to Mexico on American TV. Everything smells like rosemary. What do you call the black goo on your eyes when you wear too much eyeliner and it balls up in the corners? emily 🌩️ calls it darksleep.
The staff call me “sua amiga” in restaurants. That’s nice. Amiga.
“e para sua amiga?”
“sim, meu amiga quer mais vinho”.
In the hostel they said “you girls remember to start cooking earlier tomorrow night now”. That’s nice.
€0.70¢ for a double shot of 40% liquor by the name of aguardente. I’m told it means something like “water that hurts” but i guess it’s not so different from calling moonshine “firewater”.
And then she says she’ll drive me to her favourite place in this world.
We drive through sunset to a tiny town with tight winding spaghetti paths with cobbled stone floors. Mucifal, Colares. First we stopped at a cafe she knows and loves well. For beers. I’m once again confounded by ordering a beer they have on tap and being handed an open bottle. When the cafe closes and we are outside drinking they don’t ask us to leave. We’re holding their glasses, they don’t ask for them back. They just close up and go like it’s none of their business, and they trust us to leave the glasses by the door when we have finished up.
fica à vontade. the closest english equivalent seems to be “make yourself at home”. but the literal translation is quite close to “do what thou wilt”. and the essence of it is quite close to the spiritual meaning of that phrase. to do what you will-wish-want as long as what you will-wish-want does not impede the will-wish-want of another.
An old man who fought in the Angola war told us about his favourite foods. A sewn up pig full of fat and garlic cooked on a spit. A chopped up goat soaked in wine for days and cooked, then cooled, then cooked, then cooled for days and days and days. We drank gin and aguardente. He told us about the war. About other soldiers making children suck dick for food. About having to watch his friends die so he could give money to his family. About sharing food with black children.
I take a Sagres from the fridge and nod at Vasco behind the counter so he knows to add it to our receipt. I should be on the floor now, I’ve drank so much. But I’m not on the floor because everyone has drank so much and we are all here with each other. I ask her “what do you need?” and she says “a lighter” and smiles. I ask Vasco “Why in these places where it is so comfortable to sleep on the street is there nobody sleeping in the street?” and he says because we help each other here.
In Portugal they say “thank-you” more. They say “thank-you” when an Englishman would say “sorry”. They say “thank-you” when others might say “no”. They seem to have a thousand words for having a good time. If you ask them to translate “joy” they’ll give you at least 15 words.
She is holding a bottle of vinho tinto in one hand and the steering wheel in the other. We make it to a clearing in the woods where there are some cars parked. We hug her favourite tree and she cries and I hold her and I hold the tree. We make space in the back of the minivan and finish off another bottle of wine. She cracks off a chunk of mdma and throws it into the water. She crushed up a bright pink pill in her palm and throws it into the water. I swirl it around and we drink it. It’s so bitter, I nearly lose my lunch. Her back is itchy from sunburn so I massage some oil into it for a few minutes and then we opened another bottle of wine.
The couple that owned the restaurant taught us that to pick a good bottle of wine you look for one that has a deep hole in the base. The deeper the hole, the better the wine. Annemaria explained that it’s because they care more about the sommelier, who hold the bottle with their thumb in the groove of the base. So if there is no groove, then this bottle has no ambition to ever be served in a restaurant. We crawled into the minivan and wrapped ourselves up in blankets.
I woke up still snotty and disgusting and coughing and tightly embraced by this beautiful blue-eyed lunatic. She sleeps wild, flapping around. Sometimes closing around me like a clam, sometimes spinning away, or clapping one leg over.
“I found God in the garbage”. A man who calls himself Shiva has arrived. He seems to believe that he is Shiva, and the mother god, but appears to be missing the part where everybody else also is. He keeps calling himself “mama” and talking about his babies and calling me one of his babies. He seems nice, friendly, open and generous and legitimately insane. He arrived in a VW Beetle blasting psytrance and gave us ketamine and cocaine. I am quite fond of him, but he has not stopped talking for a moment in several hours. I’m very hungry and there is nothing to eat but some old sweaty cheese and a little oat milk. I eat the sweaty cheese, and drink the oat milk. Shiva first went to Boom in 1998. 20 years of booms. Shiva says this one was the best one, due to the theme: radical love. I need to find power, food, a cable, some shoes. Shiva misgenders me in a strange new way: “I can tell he is very feminine inside”.
Shiva feeds us mushrooms, sells me ketamine, gives me extra ketamine as a gift, and sprays 3 squirts of acid in my mouth. Annemaria ties up a hammock and goes to sleep, and Shiva begins to spin in circles over and over like a whirling dervish. I have 32% battery, have eaten very little, i close my laptop and lie down.
I haven’t had any shoes on my feet for days now. It’s Tuesday now. My boots disappeared on Thursday night, I last wore them on Thursday morning. I tried flip-flops on Friday, but what with all the blisters that hurt even more. I wore socks for a couple of days. I took those off when we came here to this anonymous woodland with soft, loose ground.
I dug a hole.
I stare at the hole. I’ve dug a hole.
I hear laughter, I hear voices.
Nobody can know about this.
The branch cracks underfoot, I squeeze back through the leaves and bush onto the main road. Down the ways a little while there is a clearing, so I go down there and look around. The sand feels good underneath my feet, I let my feet sink into it until they are covered. I hear somebody saying “so far away”. It’s English. An American accent. They’re off behind the trees, behind the bushes. I’m standing at a sandy crossroads between 4 paths that each lead off into a dry woodland of leafy green trees. Wherever the laughter and chatter is coming from, they’re minutes away from eyeshot. I return to my shameful bush. I stare at the hole. I have some paper in my purse. I have the courage now, but it dawns on me that what i do not have is the mechanics. Do I squat over the hole? Or do I sit nearby and it rolls down? The LSD has made this novel experience more interesting than is necessary. I sit down. I dig a new hole under me where I sit. It’s a momentous occasion. I grab a little paper, I hear footsteps. I watch from my private bushland lair through the gaps in the branches as an old Portuguese man eyes her hammock with suspicion. I beg that he does not see me. I beg that he does not wake her. I beg that nobody tries to communicate with me at this pivotal moment. He walks by. I watch him for a while walking up the hill, he doesn’t seem to be getting any further away, though I can tell by how his body is exerting itself that he must be getting further away. I bury it. I scamper out of the bushes around the side of the van to get to the soap and water. I’ve never scrubbed my hands so clean in all my life. Trying to wash away not just the dirt, but the evidence, the shame, and the fact of it. It must be as though it never happened. Nobody can ever know.
I need to stop opening my mouth when people produce containers of LSD.
Shiva graciously gives me access to a Wi-Fi hotspot and I am able to plan my trip to Sintra with Gabi. The weather is close and secret. Annemaria takes me to the cove at sunset to see the little beach and the beautiful sky that looks like a pink heaven, I can see worlds over there and I don’t know what is real and what is not. The Comfy Guesthouse Sintra is expecting us.
It’s a nice room, and the rooms have a undecimal numbering system. Mine is room A. There are two beds in there so I invited Annemaria to come and have a shower and stay the night, and tomorrow I will see Gabi.
In the morning we go to a shopping centre where I buy some cute gay sneakers from a Van’s. It’s the first time I’ve had shoes on my feet for 6 days. We say thank-you and goodbye outside Quinta da Regaleira, and then i say hello to Gabi. It’s very nice to see Gabi. She is warm and energetic and and excited and welcoming. It’s a foggy, dull and misty day in Sintra, all the sunshine in Portugal is in Gabi’s smile.
Gabi tells me that the templars would initiate folks by sending them blindfolded into this inverted tower. They’d walk down and around the 7 flights of spiralling stairs and then find their way out through the labyrinth, feeling their way against the walls until they reach the light. I try closing my eyes for a few steps. Almost immediately i trip over a rock and fall into a wall and Gabi yelps and I give up. I have my own magic order, and Gabi and me are starting a cult. Who needs the templars?
It’s tight in here, some of the paths are only 4ft high, and not so much wider either. Single file, people behind, people in front. I seriously consider developing claustrophobia. We see the waterfall (seemed like somebody left a tap on), talk about magick, emerge into the light and head to a cafe. I haven’t eaten for a couple days other than 1 small cube of an almost inedible vegetarian chorizo that I was incredibly grateful for (and still am). After a little negotiation, they sat us at a lovely corner table where we could watch the mist clear and see the castles on the hills.
We head to the Palace Pena, which means either suffering or feathers. The ticket says 2:30, and says don’t come early and don’t come late. When you get in through the gate it tells you that you’re 30 mins away on foot and you have to buy a new ticket on a bus. We got there around 3:14. It doesn’t seem to matter if you’re late. Lovely palaces. We take a lot of nice pictures. We go to a chapel, everyone is whispers in there. Lots of tight walks. It’s easy being with Gabi, funny and fun. It could be a risk spending a day in lines and queues going up hills and being lost and busy in a humid tourist trap with someone you met for five minutes drunk at a party and haven’t seen since, but she’s good to travel with. Like an old friend, I assume. I’ve never really had old friends.
I get a little lost on the way back to my hotel, but i pass a 10FOOT tag which makes me feel safe and home.
Thursday morning. Walk to Sintra station. No plans once I get there. I want to be in Lisbon airport friday around 2pm, flight boards at 6. Until then, life’s a mystery. The directions I wrote down don’t make any sense once I’m out walking, the street signs here are strange and sparse. I stop into a vegan cafe for some soup. It smells like eggs in here. I can’t imagine why. I reflect on how I might be embarrassed about posting last week the story of an acid trip that casts such a bright light on some of my worse traits, but i think it’s good and helpful to post things that are both true and embarrassing.
It’s a beautiful clear sunny day today. I’m walking with all my belongings down the route of the 1253 bus. That’s the bus’s name, not the time. Buses should be lettered instead of numbered so their name can’t be confused with the time. Every bus stop I pass I check for the 1253, and hopefully that way i’ll always be walking towards the station. There’s a fork in the road, I have no way to choose between them so I stop at a bench and wait for a bus to pass. There are many well-placed benches here overlooking incredible vistas of hills of lush green trees and pretty flowers. Earlier, I passed a large sprawling house painted a bright golden yellow. It had a little garden with a lemon tree. Lime green grass and emerald leaves and large yellow lemons the size of my fist.
I pass a red post box, a red telephone box, and some horse-drawn carriages. A few restaurants, a palace, a museum and a wine shop. The mountain looms ahead, the sun draws down. I’m tired, i’ve been walking for hours. I should eat something, drink something, head to the station. I stop in at “the oldest hotel on the Iberian Peninsula”. Established by an Englishman in 1764. Byron wrote Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage here. I eat a club sandwich.
I drink a bloody mary that is not a bloody mary. It’s a 1 inch tall drink, half vodka and half tomato juice, with a dried orange slice in it. In the restaurant I read an interview with TIm Robinson on the computer. Every time I laugh I start coughing a harsh, flemmy cough. I felt a few times like i’d nearly die. I download a map with directions to the station even though i know that it is futile. The waitress came and asked me if i enjoyed my bloody mary. I told her i loved it. She giggled and half-courtseyed and put her hands behind her back and shined a large glowing smile an said “thank you ^__^” and i think she’s never made, and perhaps never seen, a bloody mary before.
I have to get out of the house more. To take my laptop, without headphones, to coffee shops and parks. To read books, to be away from home, to be reading and writing and not watching and listening. The process of turning lead into gold, of turning our mud soul into the holy soul, is in alchemy called the Magnum Opus. This also means the masterpiece. The great work. The art that you create that also changes you. The work that completes you as you complete it. It’s funny being lost somewhere pretty as heck when you have nowhere to go. Hiding into little man-made caves of blue tile and orange brick.
I pass a handwritten sign in brown felt-tip on green paper:
help the fire king
small fire in
cascish. take this
inffedmation with a
grain of salt. I’ve
by the way I
only know that it
Every time i ask someone or directions they point me a way “down this road” then i follow their instructions for 20 or 30 metres until i go around a corner and then there is a fork in the road, at which point i’m once again lost. It is very entertaining, but if i was not given to laughing at all misfortunes i might find it to be quite stressful.
By the time I get to Lisbon I’m somehow pretty drunk, I didn’t really notice it happening. I hang out in the station. I eat some chicken. Some of the many thousands of catholic teenagers there are here to see the pope come over to ask me if I’m okay and if i need anything. I appreciate this kindness, of course, and the generosity with which it was offered… but there were some visibly homeless people in the same vicinity and i’d be lying if i did not admit that it struck me strange and heart-breaking that nobody was extending this same generosity to them.
When i want to use the womens bathroom i always have to check my hair and make-up first. I’ve lost my rimmel kohl eyeliner, and my sephora stick broke in half and i can’t find a sharpner in my bags. so i have to use the mens. but they are being worked on by servicemen. i have to wait longer. they start explaining their work to me in portuguese. i nod because i understand enough from their gestures. It will be a few minutes. I wait outside and wish i was a cis girl. Bathrooms. Bane of my life. I fucking hate having to pee. Choosing between feeling like i don’t belong, or feeling like i don’t belong. That sounds like the same thing twice, but they are opposites. Works better aloud than as the written word.
When I order aguardiente in a bar the reaction seems like they’re not sure if i’m sure what i’m asking for. “you… want?” It’s a great liquor. Cheap, tastes like vines. You ever gnawed the bark off a tree and liked it? idk, i liked eating leafs as a kid.
Out of nowhere she gets so stressed out by my bags. She stops the car, turns round in her seat “the bags! the bags!” i’m like “what do you need?” but she doesn’t speak enlgish “necisistas?” but she only speaks un pocito espanol too. She gets out of the car and opens the passenger side door. The wine bottle falls down and the cork pops out and spills on her floor “see?????” i don’t. i had everything balanced safelly. I tell her “eu entendo” but i’m thinking “darling you precipitated this eventuality when you opened the door and pulled at my bags, and now there is wine on the floor of the car and an open bottle. She’s gesturing towards the airport shouting “police”, I don’t understand, but I tell her “eu entendo.” I pour the remaining wine into my water bottle. Things didn’t have to turn out this way.
The hostel I’ve booked doesn’t appear to exist. I arrive at the front door and there is a sign “THIS IS NOT A HOSTEL”. I ask a stranger. He’s funny, he’s angry “i don’t have much time”. He tells me to shut up any time i try to explain anything or thank him. He tells me the hostel is here, and leaves. I elicit the help of a passing group of catholic teenagers. One of them tries the door. We ride up on the elevator. It’s one of those old kinds of elevators that used to have an operator. You have to shimmy open one door, then an inner door. On the 5th floor there’s one door labeled “LISBON AIRPORT HOSTEL” and another labeled “THIS IS NOT A HOSTEL” with 2 phone numbers. i borrow the girl’s phone to call one of the numbers on the door. The voice on the other end says I can’t get in because I didn’t check-in before 10pm. I point out that I didn’t book until 10:04pm, he doesn’t consider this pertinent. I thank the teenagers for their assistance and they leave.
I lie outside for a while against a telephone routing box, and listen to an electronically broadcast voice that sounds like Seoul City Sue. I don’t know where it’s coming from, it sounds like it’s 8 floors above me.
The walk back to the airport takes 30 or 40 minutes. There’s a bridge near Lisbon International with a staircase that leads nowhere. it brings you to the top of the underside of the bridge and then it ends. And if you sit on that staircase and look out on the road there is a billboard with no billboard in it. Just an empty frame. A rectangle around the bottle green plants with cotton candy flowers that grow behind it and around it.
Until my flight I spend most of my time with a friendly Brazilian lady with cute hi-tops called Thainá. She’s wearing a GREMLINS t-shirt. Very cool. She’s an insurgent cartographer. Incredibly cool. Tells me about the Brazilian religion Umbanda. Tells me about her cats Louise and Augusta. I have it on pretty good authority that they are perfect. The sunrise was so pretty. We play a game of 21 with money on the line. It’s a tense game. 1-0, 1-1, 1-2, 2-2, 2-3. Thainá wins the entire euro. I half-promise to go to Brazil for carnival in 2024.
At security I get misgendered in an exciting new way. I go through the x-ray and it beep-beeps. The woman of the pair of security people takes me aside, and i say “it might be my necklace?”. When she hears my voice she laughs heartily at her mistake and calls the man over, and they both laugh about it, and he immediately pats me down.
In the pharmacy i ask for esomeprazole, they give me omeprazole. i say “ah, but i’m looking for esomeprazole” and she says “this is the same as esomeprazole except for the molecule”.
i hate taking the little bus to the plane, i like the big tunnel.
-*〜☆ ◬ ☆〜*-
I look out the window of the plane, nearly home. The city looks like wet crystals. At 939pm my plane feet touch London. I lay outside on the ground beside the water feature smoking cigarettes. Time to go home. I buy a Heathrow Express ticket and it comes out completely blank. They are going to phone ahead and tell Paddington to expect a chee rabbits with a blank ticket.
-*〜☆ ◬ ☆〜*-
Saturday, I spend the whole day in bed eating snacks and watching Justified. I love Boyd Crowder. It’s my ambition to one day be as intimidating, camp and horny at all times as Boyd Crowder is at all times. Maybe it’s the Dr. Pepper, maybe it’s the fried chicken. I’ll try eating some fried chicken and savouring all the words that come out my mouth like i can taste them.
WordPress’s gutenberg editor hates when I write posts this long. I’m gonna have to find a better way to author. Or write less. I guess the next few weeks at least will be mild. Just chicken and TV.