a bus full of books

I HAD TO GO to Portugal to deliver some books. The address was somewhere between Porto and Povoa de Varzim. It was a seaside street, ruled by proud white castles of houses. Matteo, of all people, answered the door and we shook hands. Then someone else, another Milanese, told me I should relocate to Portugal, and that the beach was “full of people like us,” in other words Italians. I decided to drive back to Estonia though. On the other side of the street there was a canal, and some local yogis were filling it with birthday cake. Deep channels of cake, cream, different kinds of colorful toppings, so that it almost resembled a floating chocolate garden. They were hanging decorations above the canal too, in preparation for a major street festival. Still, I needed to get back to Estonia and had to determine the best route. Would it be possible to drive all day across Iberia and rest in Barcelona? And could I take some system of ferries from Amsterdam to arrive back in Tallinn? When I got to Barcelona, I parked my car and went for a walk. On one back street, I passed an aerobics class in session. I could see Charlotta stretching. “You can stay and watch me,” she mouthed to me through the glass. “I don’t mind.” As she stretched, I caught sight of her undergarments, which threw me into an aroused frenzy. There was just something about the pattern of the lace on her tan skin, the way her golden braids hung down her back. I decided to curl up right there, outside the window glass, and sit beside her as she stretched. Later, a door opened and the class exited for a break. I noticed a hand on my buttocks. I turned around and saw it was a man, a musclebound gym rat. “Stop doing that,” I said. “Stop doing what?” he answered, as if nothing was amiss. I few seconds later he groped me again. This time, I was not so kind. I grabbed him by the arm and threw him into the jamb of the door. He was knocked unconscious. I watched Charlotta and the others come out of the class. A nurse had come to tend to them and administer COVID-19 booster shots. I remained at distance, though I could see the tiny glass vials of the Pfizer vaccine piling up. I didn’t want anyone to know of my secret affection for her. An old colleague showed up and we started to talk about people we had known from the old days in New York. I told him about the bus full of books and the ride from Portugal. He asked me what book it was and I told him. He said it sounded like a very good read.

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