At the end of my adventures you’ll know where to find me. An old man with white chest-hairs, a hat and a cigar. Living in some place I walked through when I was younger: some seaside village that doesn’t know who I am.
I’ll spend my days the same, one after another. Drinking in the morning and swimming in the sea. I’ll walk into town for coffee, reading my old fashioned paper book. I don’t even like paper compared to digital, but I’ll read it, because the sensation brings back memories and anyway it bothers the kids.
An Argentine steak, or else skip lunch and just walk among the village. I’ll know people by name and they will know me by sight: the old foreigner, a little crazy but all foreigners are, he seems safe enough.
When they talk to me I’ll ask uncomfortable questions. Do you believe you have a purpose in life? The question is awkward because I know their answer before they do. I’ve asked it a thousand thousand times, in other villages and in much worse places. It makes it more awkward but also easier to answer. They can see in my eyes that no answer will bother me and anyway I already know; so they’ll unburden themselves and feel a little better. The old man isn’t so bad.
I’ll stand on the docks and never fish, sit at the fountain and never chat, except to talk to young women. I ask them about their hopes. I tell them: never believe a word from your dad or your boyfriend. They smile. Leave me alone, grandpa.
But it’s the evenings, the evenings where I come alive. My house is small. It’s on the beach. You can hear drum and bass music. There are no pets and no clutter and a sign that invites passers-by in for a drink. Passers-by won’t do it, but it’s okay because the internet tells travelers that I’m here for them.
When a backpacker arrives I’ll pay a neighbor with a car to go pick them up. My email says a friend of mine will pick him up. The neighbor doesn’t say much at all. The drive is short and quiet. When he arrives the backpacker will see me pay for the car.
Oh, he’ll say, you didn’t have to do that. Please, let me get it.
And I’ll stare at him till he worries he offended me and then I’ll smile.
No, I’ll say. I know why you offered, but you have no money. I used to have no money. You only offered because you felt you had to, and I know how relieved you feel when I say no.
If you’re going to travel, I’ll say (because the poor backpacker won’t have an answer), learn how to spend your manners. Spend them more carefully than you spend your money. Because money can be replaced but a lost opportunity never can, and the whole world wants to help you, you know.
I’ll lead him into to the house, or her if it’s a she, and I’ll try my hand at cooking. The only time I still bother is when I have company, because it’s only fun to chop things if you can talk while you do it. And we eat and the surf comes in, and I offer rum and beer. I’m always happy to share rum and beer.
And this is how I’ll spend my days: showing kindness to young brave people, loners and couples and teams of them, however they happen to roll into my village. I’ll hold back my stories, because this isn’t about me. It never can be. Let them have the sun. But after a cigar, when we start to feel the chill and people check the time, if any of them stay to keep talking so late—then I’ll tell them a long story. I’ll say what it was like to meet the gods.
If I live a long time this is how I’ll age, and I’ll never get sick of it. But I won’t live so long. I’ll never see my house by the sea, never unburden the villagers or talk to the girls. The backpackers will find somewhere else to stay, and they’ll never hear what it was like to meet the gods.
I’ll die a young man. A smiling ghost will sit by the sea. At the end of my adventures you’ll know where to find me.
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