Letting Go 03: Latvia part 2

The Bar was semi-hopping. There was cake. Everyones favourite hostel bar worker was having her name day, so there was cake and people willing to eat it. Thats how I met Sven. Despite the Viking name, Sven was German. We are cake and drank the first of many beers, and we were merry. And since it was Helenas name day, she was in the mood to drink and take it to the next level. What comes before plan bee? Part-ay!

Sorry for that. Flaming shots of Absinthe will make a man think of silly shit to say.

You get some apple juice, Absinthe in a glass. You light the green stuff and pour it, pouring, into the juice. Then you put the empty glass upside down on a napkin with a straw poking out. This traps the fumes, you see. Drink the shot, then suck on the straw till you feel all funny.

Repeat five times before you leave the bar.

And on into the night, entourage in tow, about three people. Orange Bar was the only place I could think to go after that, so to Orange Bar we went and more drinks were had. There was dancing, drunk Russians, dancing with drunk Russians. Tables, dancing on tables, drunk Russians dancing on tables. I think I managed to not dance on a table. I met some people too. Would you believe drunk Finns? You can set your watch by this fact, lads. Two guys, one from Finland, the other Denmark, riding bikes from Helsinki to Copenhagen. And I realised that Id seen them before. In Tallinn and in Parnu. And now here. What are the odds?

Then something really incredible happened.

I met the girl from the bus. Outside I saw her and I recognised the back of her head. Id know it anywhere. She looked at me and remembered, so I asked her, dont I know you from somewhere? It was corny from the start. This was the point where coincidence and fancifulness become full-blown reality, plan changing in their powers, where no mortal man has the strength to stand up to their terror and say, No! Because we are mere men and women, boys and girls; it just cant be so that we can get in the way of something so much bigger than us.

I had things figured out, you know. Before that. There were big things I needed to do, important stuff I wanted to try and do. But it all goes out the window and life became that shining amalgam of minutes, each one passing by fully appreciated, sparkling like an individual droplet of water thrown into the air as if by some playful child or wilfully careless God. Each to be known, appreciated, felt, even if we didnt choose to, life becomes that way and at the centre, I believe that we were all lucky to have a piece of it. No matter the time of day of our state of mind, everything that came to pass was a true and full, life with every drop squeezed from it, then we bathed.

It is easy to realise that mere partying and drinking, while fun, is not particularly remarkable. But sometimes the circumstance and the people make it special, sometimes the combination of people and place hit that rare chord in the symphony of life. That happened there in Orange Bar, me and Sven, plus the wonder boys Christian and Tarmo, complete with bicycles, then the Finnish girls. There was Anna, who was working at a church in Liepaja. Then theres Mary-Jane. The girl from the bus.

Careful what to write here, since current events lead me to write passionately, whereas I know that the future could swing either way; so let it be said and this past be made mine, to use as I see fit Write it all, write it accurately, write it as it happened.

That night was talked all the usual bar talk, outside, inside, in our group, switching conversations. There was English flying around, Finnish, some drunken spilling over into Danish and German. Russian was in the edges of hearing. More drinking was done, everyone either held their poise or kept their selves from falling over all the way. It was a delicate balancing act. I unavoidably fell into conversation with Mary-Jane. She was quite unlike any girl I had met before, her poise and attitude was far from the recent modern standing, she would have fit in much better with the crowd at the Factory, back in the day, or maybe as a Bowie groupie, in a different life she was one of Miller or Dylans lovers. Riga could barely contain her, it was a town for two nights, but the scope of a New York or Tokyo would be required to fulfil her need for the elusive fabulous. Her poise was positive, her stance was looking for fun, searching for cool. And so pretty, I cant begin to tell you. Her hair was cut in such a way, like a hopelessly trendy outgrown Joey Ramone, covering one eye, with blonde streaks all around. Her eyes were the colour of everything and nothing, we dont have a word for that colour yet. Her lips moved as her brain did, she seemed oblivious as they curled or stuck out in response to the way she thought as she spoke. I was spellbound. Gone, youd say. What she saw in me, the rough and quite drunk smelly tramp Ill never know, but that night she did see something.

We all stayed in the bar till morning, except Sven had to leave early so with a call of see you in Berlin! he was off, followed by Christian who was dead tired after riding all day from Tallinn. Tarmo seemed keen on Anna, so I paired off with Mary-Jane and the four of us went back to their hostel (not my hostel it must be noted I was supposed to be back at Alises place, but the walk was too far, so they invited me) and they told me that there was no-one keeping an eye on who was coming and going, I could sleep in an empty bed. Cool, thats easy, I thought. But as we crept inside, Mary-Jane asked me to sleep in her bed with her. Not being one to offend by refusing an invitation, I climbed in; this is what I mean when I say connection, there was an understanding, some kind of spark. But nothing untoward happened, you would call it first base, for she wasnt just some easy girl and I was still rather unknown.

But all the remainder of the night and onto the morning and afternoon, she was mine to have and hold. And it felt good to be there.

The afternoon rolled up and it was time for me to leave. I had left my bag at the Old Town hostel and needed to go get it, I should show up at home and see how everyone was doing, I should do a lot of things. I thought they were all leaving that day anyway. Leaving me with one night of fun and another missed chance, but thats how things go for me these days, who knows when things might just come my way. So I said I was going, maybe well see each other again. She kissed me goodbye and we walked outside. I felt pain for a few seconds as reality came to replace the night and I didnt feel tired, despite the lack of sleep.

But no-one went anywhere except a caf, we had food and something to drink. They were leaving tomorrow, so today I was there to hang out with them. So much for going home, so much for my bag, so much for a shower Where was this going to lead? The first fact of the day was the wonder boys, their bikes were stolen the night before. Theyd left them in a vacant lot across from the hostel and they had disappeared despite the four locks they had used. What a downer. So Christian was off at the police station all day, talking to this guy, talking to that guy, waiting for an interpreter, all the while any chance of finding anything was growing colder by the minute. It was, by all reports, a frustrating day.

We, on the other hand, took to the streets. The four of us walked around Riga and I pointed out a few of the notable things and places. I took them to the trampolines and the excursive section of the hangover cure was taken care of, I took them to a place for lunch and then relinquished control of the operation. I was a guide but not a total one. The whole day was good, the weather was on our side. Warm but not too warm, the pace of Riga is set at hangover so nothing moves too fast, nothing is intolerably loud.

The evening rolled around. All day Id been close to Mary-Jane, talking and whatnot. It felt right and natural. We had some food at the hostel, Christian appeared and looked none too happy. It was a big stain on proceedings, let no-one deny. Still, it was Saturday night and life goes on. It went on, after some drinking at the hostel it moved on to the Old Town bar and kept going to a place called the Cuba Caf, one of the better places to drink and be merry in town. Walking from one to the other, while she had her arms around me, Mary-Jane told me she had a boyfriend, which was something of a shock. Why all this then? But dont be sad, she said to me, and kissed me again. What was going on? What was I to think All the time at the Cuba Caf I didnt feel like dancing, even though it was going pretty well, so I hid my disappointment and smiled as they all had fun.

Strange turn of events, I had to admit this was painful, but amongst it all I had to think, if shes doing this with me then things cant be all right Not with her and this guy, quite clearly something was wrong. Im not the cause of it either I am just a catalyst, along for the ride, setting off a reaction that was bound to happen. So I slept in her bed again that night, despite all the obvious misgivings. It was the same as the night before. What the hell was going on here.

Sunday, and I still had not gone home. Their plan was to get the train to Liepaja and I was invited. Liepaja was on the Baltic coast, it is known for thriving rock scene and white sand beach. Planned was a few days of fun and swimming, staying at a suitably trendy hotel. The catch was that on Monday two more guys would be coming, and one was the boyfriend. That was something I was not looking forward to seeing, Mary-Jane and this guy. I could deal with saying goodbye there and then, that afternoon, and never showing up in Liepaja. I was never going to join them that day, if I was going anywhere it would have to be on Monday morning. My things were still at Alises and I still hadnt been back there So I planned in my head two things. One was to say goodbye and not show up in Liepaja, just let it go, take my memories and go; the second was to get there early and talk to her, tell her how I felt and that she needed to work thing out with herself because clearly something was wrong. I would tell her how I felt and that no matter what, all I wanted was for her to be happy. No matter what had gone on or what might happen, if I feel this way all I can want is for you to be happy. Then Id be gone, off into the sunset, just like in Hollywood. Except that Id have to still be with me and I wouldnt really have a destination, just a heart full of hurt again.

So what to do. I bought the bus ticket, had a shower, got my things. Told the family what I was doing and said thank you fro having me. It had been wonderful of them to have me like that, putting up with my bulky way and lack of Latvian language skills, and the last few days my lack of communication and all the rest of it. In the morning I had some food and made it onto the eight am bus. I slept the whole way there.

So what to do I hadnt made a conscious decision but there I was, in Liepaja, without any real conclusions. I asked about the onward bus to Klaipeda and found I had about three hours to do my thing, get back to the station and leave if I was going to do that today, that way. Just enough time Only I didnt know where anyone was. Liepaja was a big city, I thought, so they could be anywhere. I had phone numbers and one lead, that Anna was working at the Trinity Church. The station had nowhere for me to leave my bags, so I carried them into town and went to the tourist information centre to ask about the church. I couldnt get through to their mobile phones. I asked about the church and said my friend was working there. The girl then asked if I was from Finland I said no, why would you ask that? It turns out that she knew Anna, it wasnt such a big town after all. She then told me that I would find Anna in the church and she knew about Mary-Jane and the others and where they were staying! And I could leave my bag there as long as I came back before seven when they closed. Not bad at all, these small towns.

So to the church where I found Anna, who called for me. They were at a caf near the hotel, not far away at all. So over I went.

And when I saw her sitting there, I knew I couldnt leave.

I sat down and heard what I had missed, the fun from the night before. Maybe I should have just gone with them. Oh well, I was there and as much as I wanted to leave, every time I saw her I just couldnt bring myself to do it, to tell her my piece and walk away. Just couldnt do it. So I earned the fate of having to stick around and see what would happen when the boyfriend showed up. Her last words to me in Riga were, things will be different in Liepaja. She was right, in a way, and I for one was determined to be the better man and prove her right. There would be no more touches, hugging, holding; no more playful flirting or kissing. Nothing, she wasnt mine anymore, she had to become just a friend. If this was going to work for me, things had to be different.

I tried, I really did. She kept on the way she was, she seems to play the game without the self-checking mechanism that I do, and just act on her impulses more. So her impulses were to lean on me, be cute and rub up like a cat, I had to rebuff it but I cant say I didnt like it. It was hard and I didnt say why I didnt play along I figured she knew. Either way, time passed and the bus I should have been on came and went down the highway. I was going to have to stay in Liepaja at least a night.

We had wandered around the town, had food and everything and were onto drinking at the hotel by the time the boys came in. Two weedy looking Finnish boys, they looked about seventeen and had long hair. Not long enough to quality as truly hippie but more the overgrown straggle of the late teenage years, when such as thing is rebellious and cool, before the wearer discovers hair gel or an equivalent and says goodbye to knotted hair and hello to easy. Boys just dont have the patience and skill required to treat long hair with the respect it deserves. Anyway, my prejudice against these two should be clear enough. Despite the situation, where I was being nice to people and had accepted the fact that she was not in fact mine, I was not yet big enough to try and like these two. In many ways my information made me the enemy. I had access to knowledge of events that would surely be kept secret by everyone else involved, so I alone had the keys to the World Destroyer weapon. I could crush his world like only tales of infidelity can ruin a man. This made me stand-offish enough to be just short of rude when I spoke to them.

Then there was the question of how on Earth did this guy manage to keep a girl like that? Either I missed something or Id seen a part of her and missed the rest. It was all a little confusing, but I was beginning to see why. I was right, I had just been a catalyst to an event that was bound to happen. From the start I like to imagine that I could feel her icy front toward him. Something had changed and it was clear, I was in a good place for having stayed.

It played out that night, as we ate and drank, went to a bar, and the next day at the beach. While I got off my face and talked drunken bullshit with Christian and argued with various people over this and that, Mary-Jane was having a talk with the boy alone. While I was swimming happily in the Baltic Sea, catching waves and chasing Frisbees, she was walking with him around the place, coming and going, not talking to me but speaking in Finnish. There was drama in the air and I caught wind of it all, despite the nuances being lost on me via the language barrier.

The night before as I had lay on the couch in the hotel, my place of slumber for that night, sleep had barely come over me when she walked out of her room. She looked sad and upset. She told me things were not good, she wasnt happy and didnt know what to do. She went to the bathroom and got some water and was on her way back to bed when I called her over. I knew that I had decided to keep it clean, but this was not the time to abandon her. She came and we lay on the couch together in the kind of way that would have given us both away had he seen us. But he stayed in bed and she lay on me, looking upset as I talked to her, told her all the things she had to hear but already knew. We can do anything, all we want, you know your desires if you listen close enough and I know you can do it She lay there and listened, just listened to me talk and she said she felt better. We stayed there a while. I thought we had already had our last kiss, but it wasnt to be, because she kissed me there and then, despite her boyfriend sleeping in the room next door, despite things being different. I guess what I felt and what she felt met up, I guess that some things cant be stopped.

She went back to bed and I finally got some rest.

It was the next day at the beach I heard that she broke up with him and sent him home early. Tuesday was a day of drama and broken hearts. Tuesday is not my story to tell. I spent most of it away from the drama, talking all sorts of crap and good things with Christian as the Finnish crowd sorted their dramas out and the scene played itself in front of my eyes part by part. I never saw the whole thing but I filled in the gaps.

At the end of the day the two guys had left and it was down to the original five of us. We bought a whole load of vegetables and cooked up a feast. And that night Mary-Jane and I slept in the double bed. How good it was, for me, how strange that things had turned out like this! What wonders worked in my favour that I could hold this beautiful girl all night like this and not have to worry about the morning, because I knew the way things had gone before meant that anything was possible. I knew nothing of the path ahead and had no way to decipher it, so it becomes void nothing so there is nothing to worry about. I held her like I promised myself I never would again and slept like it was the end.

The next day there were pieces to pick up. Mary-Jane wanted to leave Liepaja as soon as possible, Anna had to go to work and the wonder boys had to keep going, new bicycles purchased and ready to roll. The only question was, now where? And who was going with whom? Im fucked up, she said, understandably, confused and lost. Should she go back to Riga, then home? I asked her to come with me. I had made up my mind to go to Klaipeda in Lithuania and would be taking the afternoon bus, and she said OK. It came to pass then that Anna left first, then after breakfast the boys took off toward the horizon. Mary-Jane and I went to the nearby caf and restaurant place near the dock and had some food and beer. Like the hotel room had been when there was five people in there, she said her head was like that. The floor was messy but the walls were clean. Talking down by the water I didnt remember what time the bus came through, only that it was around three oclock. Time passed and when it came time to go, we stayed.


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  1. John says:

    WOW KC.

    I saw wow not on account of the events, which are wonderful, and deserving of a wow all of there own, but on account of the grandiloquent telling: WOW.

    Vintage Dragon indeed, and not an obituary in sight.

    Nice work.

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