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The Warp

Hotel on the Seafront

Why had I booked into this pretty hotel on the sea front? What was I doing here, dressed in a threadbare collection of tropical style garments that had once been smart?

I had a girl with me. She was dressed in an exotic beach costume that was a good deal more recent than anything I was wearing. She talked a lot. She was touching me all the while with her long hands, always touching me, making much of me, hovering round me, and when I sat down she’d sit in the chair next to me, kick off her sandals and begin to saw away painstakingly at her nails with a nail file, or maybe touch them up with nail varnish.

We hired bicycles one day and rode along the dusty esplanade beside the water until the tarmac finished in gravel, and we continued to ride along the shore. I was sweating in the heat and she riding gaily ahead, although it must be admitted that she’d gone a rather bright shade of pink.

After half an hour’s riding we passed a little booth made of pine branches, hung with coca-cola signs, and she said she’d like a drink and we went in and ordered wine for her, Fanta for me.

I sat, peering into her glass of wine musingly, and she was getting bored. ‘Let’s go on,’ she said.

We talked very little. It was as if we’d already said to each other everything we had to say. Only in our love making did we come close to each other any more.

A white midriff, bronzed legs, in the slatted light of a window through which the afternoon sun shone across the port with its innumerable bobbing boats, where water skiers toiled endlessly. Except for that we were apart now.

We hadn’t got long here. I was wondering whether we should have gone on the scenic bus tour into Palma, a tour that advertised various attractions on the way, a visit to the historical waxworks, an ancient castle, a bloodless bullfight.

We were on a package tour, two weeks with hotel, travel, meals all included, except drinks.

When the bus called on the final morning to take us back to the grey shores of Albion I didn’t get on it.

‘I’ll stay a little longer, I think,’ I said. ‘I’ll stay.’

‘But how will you get back? You can only use your ticket on this one plane, you know.’

‘Never mind. I’ll manage. Or I may meet someone who’ll offer me a lift.’

‘Some chance.’

It is true we had not met anyone so far on our visit with whom we’d exchanged more than a cursory ‘good morning’, let alone offered us a lift. My eyes were dry as I bid her goodbye. Then I returned to the terrace of the hotel and ordered a coffee.

‘Il senor sta a qui?’ the waiter asked me, hovering about in his stained white coat. He would not put on a clean one until just before the next fortnight’s guests arrived this evening.

How much money had I? Later perhaps I would bicycle again, or perhaps I would walk up into the mountains. There was a village I knew of up there that I’d like to see again. The road hadn’t got to it yet. I remembered how it went winding up the hillside for some miles, until you could just catch sight of the church spire and the roofs of the little houses through the trees that at this point densely covered the hillside. Then the road petered out. There had always been a few labourers at this point slowly digging their way further on along the side of the hill towards the village.

The road gave way to a path whose surface was littered with small stones, covered in their turn with the finest red dust, sprinkled here and there with horse, mule, sheep and donkey droppings. Later I must find somewhere new to stay. But not now. It had already got too hot. At a pinch, I could always sleep on the beach. I walked down the path to the pensione that had a bar, and ordered a drink. How long would my money last?

It had not been like this when I last visited these shores. There had been a place for me then.


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