Shit. The phone’s stuck again. I don’t care about the landing but I let myself drop to the ground. The pavement is cold and scattered with shards of green glass. A bus stops in front of me and people throw dismayed looks and scuttle past me quickly.
I’m not all that messed up, but yea, maybe just not my best look today. Haven’t been ever since she walked out the door with a glass of Carlsberg untouched.
Jony was trying to tell me something whilst dancing to the music like a mad willow. His voice was swallowed by the crazy singing and I couldn’t decipher more than nonsensical gargle. I smile and shake my head at him, you go, man. I order the usual rounds, and turn to find Elie.
The bartender with large blue grey eyes says no, they don’t have anything sweet. No, the blue marvel ale was out today. A beer then, I say. Which kind, says the scruffy looking boy in nicely trimmed shirt but looks like he could be at a job interview. I don’t care which kind I get but Elie always has her Carlsberg. It’s the Copenhagen special, she always says. She has a thing for Copenhagen. And all places that like to claim their own brand of something.
Malta. Elie said. That’s where she’d like to go if she could ever take a vacation from this busy city life. I’d asked her what’s so special about Malta. I don’t even know where it is on the map. Cos there’ll be wine and beautiful sunsets. Like Italy. But better. She tells me, assuredly. I picture Italy with sunset and good wine. And Elie with me. That’s about as good as it gets for me.
The man in a wool hat starts singing in Spanish. Mais que um poèma ah por que… he… i don’t know man. Hell I don’t even know my Spanish. I took it for two years at school but I was never as good as Elie. She’d whip up the accent and be taken for a native within a week. I shake my head and try to offer my sympathy. He was still singing at the top of his voice, por que por que ah por que.
You tell me, dude. You tell me.
These questions, I wish I had answers too. Elie would always have the answers. She’d been my answer. As far as I was concerned, I needn’t ever try.
But I didn’t get my answers that day. The botanical gardens were cold that day.
I wanted to see those turtles. they were in their usual positions, Meg piggybacking Di. And the others where probably hidden in the water somewhere. Elie found me there. Meet me at Cork’s tonight, she’d said. Sure. She had to go, but usually she’d stay to watch the turtles with me.
I look at her and nod. She lingers, and flashes me one of her superstar smiles. I love the gleam in her eyes when she smiles. Like a sea of hope. But it doesn’t reach her eyes today. I implore with a questioning look. It’s nothing to worry about, and she pecked me on the cheek and ran out.
Last Christmas I gave you my heart. Singing from Corks across the street fills the air. Fuck the cold. I bury deeper into my folded arms and stare at the ground.
A shard of green glass catches my eyes. Elie had a turquoise pendant. She’d made them out of the sand glass she’d found on the beach one day. She said it was magical and she ran up to me dangling it in front of my eyes after school. I want to go to this island someday, she told me, and for the time being it’ll remind me of these great ambitions.
I wasn’t sure the glass had come from some exotic island. It was more likely leftovers from some drinking party by the local college kids, too drunk in the morning to do their recycling. But whichever the case, Elie’s pendant became her dream and her dream became mine. It was the same colour as on the taps with the Carlsberg label.
Malta was beautiful and so much more. The sunset and the wine were sure to come when the sun sets again tomorrow. She didn’t mention that they sang so much in bars here. She didn’t mention the enchanting Christmas lights on every street hanging in every corner. She didn’t warn me of the reflections in the water and how close the sea came up to the shore.
But of course it was an island and of course the waves met the doorsteps of the city. But She didn’t tell me I’d be so far away from her. And she didn’t tell me she had a different dream now.
Jony was still shaking like a leaf in the deafening music. He calls it the life of staying behind. But he made more sense to me than he ever did. She left a message with the Cork’s guy, gotta go catch the sunset.
Until then, I never knew. That she never liked beers. And Carlsberg was just her goodbye.