The mosque was open for only those who have faith.
He told me, “You’re a romantic Taylor.”
It was said as a statement, not a question. I wondered to myself how he knew. We had only known each other for an hour. He had saved me from a day of lonely wandering. He stood tall and confident. He wore a fedora and sweater and acted more sophisticated than I. His hands grasped each other, as though needing a companion, behind his straight back. When he spoke it was casual. An accent mixed with his heritages. South African and English. He did not look down at me. He continued looking straight ahead, as though there were too many things to see. He knew I was there listening.
We walked the cobble stone streets where the east met the west. Istanbul was like his home. Wealthy, with a taste for the luxurious, his life was far different from mine. He once told me, with a hint of pride in his voice, “Nothing can surprise me anymore. I’ve been everywhere and seen everything.” For a second I looked at him with awe and envy, wanting those same experiences in Africa and the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and even Canada and South America. I looked at him one more time and he saddened me. He was 25 with no more surprises. I hoped I would never get to that point.
That night we ate with class. The table cloths were white as well as the seat cushions. As I made my way to our table, that was reserved, our waiter jogged over with a sense of urgency to pull out my chair before I could. I was unsure of how to deal with so much attention and so I simply giggled. Of course, Shaan dealt with it with a sense of class and grace. Exclusivity is what he relished in.
Our food was perfect as was the wine and the service. We talked for hours. He made it easy. I was happy for that. He told me of past lovers and friends and adventures. I knew him well by the end of that dinner. Our waiter reminded me of my fifth grade teacher. He had a similar gap in between his two front teeth.
My fifth grade teacher once told me that magic was a sin.
Our waiter’s quirky movements and easy smile and exaggerated expressions made it easy for me to like him. He believed in magic.
He stopped the car on the icy roads. He worked in the Alps. He was used to it. He reached for his camera in the backseat. And we both got out and slammed the car doors shut. Highway 1 was empty. We were alone. It was silent, as was most of our trip together. I watched him. He was 25, but it was obvious that he was still figuring out his long limbs. Unlike Shaan’s, they were sometimes spazzy. He took the picture that he stopped for with his film camera, and waited for me to soak in the sunrise. He seemed to understand the need to watch beauty, to see it. I said a simple descriptive word as we got back into the car and he smiled in concurrence.
That afternoon we took a ferry to an island off of Iceland. We ate hotdogs not knowing what to say to each other and he felt sick.
We had three hours to see the island. The sun would set by 4 o’clock. The crest of the volcano was magical. I don’t think my fifth grade teacher ever saw anything like it.
The island has so many colors. The volcano was both red and black. It had once rebelled against the inhabitants, filling half the island with red, alive lava. It was now dormant and black as night. But there was a bright green moss that thrived on it and enveloped it, giving it life once more. The sun peaked through the clouds and at that moment I felt it thaw my frozen skin.
The wind started to blow as I was looking over the town from the crest. It grew strong. Adrien was unaffected. I tried to follow his lead. It grew stronger. His limbs were not spazzy, but confident now. I pictured myself falling. Breaking. Dying. I crouched. The wind grew stronger. Adrien did not look back. The warm rocks intrigued him to a point of unawareness. I sat. I cried. I prayed. I yelled his name, but he could not hear because of the wind. It grew even stronger and even as I sat I felt unstable. Alone. Terrified. Adrien waved at me. I waved at him frantically, not caring if I was weak. I only needed someone’s hand. He approached. He did not offer me his hand, but I took it anyway. And then he understood. And I was happy he understood. Not embarrassed, but thrilled that he finally took my hand and put his arm around me to lead me down. I felt safe.
The restaurants were closed that night. We ended up in a small café. We drank Icelandic beer and ate smoked lamb, typical for Christmas time. The man who worked there was happy. He sipped on his red wine as he cleaned and got ready to close the café. We ate with the local fishermen. They all came in around 7. We had already had 2 beers. Now we talked. Our language barrier was no longer. He looked at me and I looked at him. He was a beautiful man. Kind features, dark eyes. He was a farm boy trying to be so much more. I understood. He did not mention the volcano and neither did I. There was nothing to say. We both did what we had to.
We took two more beers to go and went outside of town to watch the dark sky, for the dancing lights. They never did perform for us. As we sat, silence overcame us once more. It’s how we were comfortable.
We didn’t get to say goodbye. I think he will be so much more than a boy raised on a farm in the South of France.