Sonia Hadj Said
The exciting scenario played in her head on the way to the apartment. The bus was full of new people with new adventures to experience. Hot weather masked by the air conditioning. Twenty different songs playing from headphones.
She looked around as though she were searching for an old friend, even though her friend was sat just next to her, eyes closed, enjoying the beginning of a long awaited holiday in a Greek town known as a party place. Sea, sun, music, alcohol, food… and perhaps, romance.
She tried to just enjoy the exotic view outside, but couldn’t. The little white houses blurred together with the sandy road as her mind floated away to summer expectations.
‘This once’, she begged the sky, still gazing through the window, grateful that the perfect song came along. Images were fast to follow. He would be handsome and kind. But what would a kind guy be doing in a party town? Well, she was there too, wasn’t she? Fun didn’t mean that one wasn’t kind or warm.
Tall, with blue eyes. And the meeting? Something normal, not just two wasted people. ‘Ah, damn it’, she gave up. ‘Fine, maybe it can even be in a club somewhere.’
She would be a little overjoyed with the summer spirit, as well as other spirits. Dancing around with herself because that’s all she needed. He would come along, say something funny, buy her a drink. Not nagging, but sticking around, dancing with her.
Simple, she thought. Really simple.
He’d live very near her apartment with some of his friends. They’d all be chilled out and fun, drinking beer from midday to late night. He could be from somewhere Scandinavian, already golden after a couple days on a beach. Nice to talk to and laugh with. Helpful when… well something might happen on a holiday and he would be helpful with it. Warm, like a juicy watermelon she always left too long out on the beach under the umbrella.
She was already in love before the bus pulled over at their destination.
Everything was wrong. Wrong room, flooded toilet. Her friend walked around smoking one cigarette after another, yelling at the airbnb host on the phone, while she went out to enjoy the beautiful view of the sea. It didn’t matter, she told herself. Well, maybe a little bit since she really needed to pee after all that beer she had drunk in stress. Then, they got a new room, changed and went out, slightly tipsy already.
It seemed that after a certain hour families took refuge in their hotels while wildness was allowed to step into the light in numerous bars on a constant competition to attract tourists and their money. The winner was the place with the loudest music, in this case a bar with a pole on top of the podium where few girls were trying to pull off something else other than their own bones. Another had karaoke and middle-aged Brits unwilling to retire to their beds. They were the best, she thought, looking at a married couple laughing as they tried to sing along to Abba. The expectations grew bigger for no other reason than her selfish need for a little fairy-tale in this dull life. After all, something had to work. There were not enough jobs for her generation, she went from one unpaid experience to another, and the most happiness was given by the little room she rented, which she had made so comfy. There had to be more. It was not a crime to want someone to make us happy, she thought, taking a free shot from one of the bartenders.
“Almost 2 am,” he screamed through the loud music. “Everyone’s leaving for the club now, we can’t play music any longer!”
And so they went.
It was one of those blurry nights. She was up there, looking down at her friend dancing nearby, while making sure she wouldn’t fall off the dance floor. He came and had smiley eyes. They danced. He had so many drink tickets that the girls wouldn’t have had to spend any money. It was madness and she liked how lost she was at that moment. She deserved it, whatever it was.
She didn’t have much experience in sex, but alcohol made her something of a sex goddess. It was as though a different woman entered her body for this time and guided her.
It was in a bathroom. Against a wall, under a shower, on a toilet. It was sweaty and hot and she was an adventurous bitch with a wonderful summer ahead.
Someone was knocking on the door. Her friend opened her eyes, but didn’t move, shrugging her shoulders. Without much choice, she got out the bed and carried her heavy head along.
“Ciao! Do you want to go to the beach?” A mid-height, dark haired guy was standing in front of her. He leaned to kiss her, but she hissed at him instead. Surprised, he waited for the answer.
“I was sleeping.”
Who says that, she thought, feeling dirty and upset. ‘That was not the deal!’ she wanted to scream to the heavens, but at this moment doubted that there were any.
5 hours later, another knock on the door. Her merciful friend opened and said that no, they did not want to go for a beer with his Greek friend from the apartment across, where both guys lived.
“He’s weird,” the friend said, putting on another episode of a TV show after agreeing to stay in for the night.
2 am, knock on the door. They didn’t open.
6 am, knock on the door. Loud voices. Her friend got up, but she begged her not to open.
11 am, knock on the door. They didn’t open.
12 pm, beach. Someone sneaked behind her and pinched her slightly. She jumped, terrified and he laughed. Her friend tried not to laugh.
“What did you do?” he asked.
“We were sleeping,” her friend replied.
“And last night?”
“We had dinner and went to sleep,” said friend.
“And later, why you didn’t go out? Did you go out?”
“No,” friend again, back to her book.
He was looking at her now and she felt sick. He finally left.
“He asks too much, it’s tiring,” friend said.
She was feeling bad and friend told her not to. One night did not mean that she was his, and it definitely did not mean he should come knocking every few hours. But he’s just being nice, she explained. Her friend shrugged and put on a TV show.
2 am knock on the door. They didn’t open.
6 am knock on the door. Many voices outside.
She felt like crying. Friend said he was being too much. She agreed.
12 pm knock on the door.
“What?!” she asked angrily. She pushed him back as he tried to walk in, explaining that her friend was indecent.
“Where were you last night?”
“Are you going to the beach?” What was she supposed to say to that?
“I’ll wait in the shop.”
The girls left the apartment quietly, sneaking behind the shop and running to the other side of the beach.
6 pm knock on the door.
“WHAT DO YOU WANT?!” she opened in her towel. He smiled, trying to grab her and into his room.
“I don’t want to.”
“Okay. What are you doing?”
“GOING TO MARS!”
2 am knock on the door. They didn’t open.
6 am knock on the door. They didn’t open.
12 pm knock on the door. They weren’t there, but that’s what she imagined. They ran to a different town.
“We were supposed to explore anyway,” the nice friend said on the bus.
8 am. He stood outside the shop and kissed her on the cheek while she was trying to get to the room.
“Where were you?”
“The famous beach,” friend replied.
“When did you leave?”
“Just after breakfast,” friend again.
“And tonight? You coming out tonight?”
They’re walking away.
“You must be really good,” friend said.
2 am knock on the door. They didn’t open.
6 am many knocks. Her friend opened and yelled at him.
2 pm, beach. He snuck up behind her. Friend was amazed. How did he find them?
“What are you reading?”
“Why you always sleeping, you on holiday.”
5 minutes passed. He left.
“We’re changing sunbeds,” friend said, pointing at the umbrellas far away.
Last day, she thought, mercifully, swimming in the sea, far away from everyone. A quiet sound was following her, someone singing. It was closer and closer until she could hear it.
“You will die today, before you leave.”
He was swimming towards her as she tried to stay calm. As he approached she was furiously moving her hands under the water, moving back to the beach. He looked and looked.
“What time are you leaving?”
She kept on swimming backwards until she felt safe and turned around to get to the shore. ‘Never again’, she thought. ‘Never again will I do this to myself.’
On the bus, she felt sleepy, but every time she drifted away, she thought someone was knocking and woke up. She played some upbeat music to feel better and her mind already wandered to next holiday planned with her mum, only a week away. They were going to Turkey, a luxurious hotel. Music played. Images behind the window became blurry. In her mind she was already sitting at a bar in a beautiful evening dress, as this was required in such hotels. Drinking a bit of rosé, she felt someone looking at her. Nearby, a young man was sat. He had a white shirt on and seemed tall, with blonde hair and blue eyes. He smiled ever so slightly and came up to her without hesitation.
He would be French and on a holiday with his grandmother because her husband had just died and he wanted to take her far away from all the worries. He would be handsome and kind….
Banner image: Stephanie Liverani