Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Strange Journey - Chapter 8



They checked in and then waited outside to board their boat. Departure was not going to be for some time so they had a few beers at an open-air café by the terminal. Or rather Lotte drank an orange juice, Chris nursed one beer, while Gav drank several. Gav was in a garrulous mood.

"I'm from Port Talbot. In Wales, you know? But I've lived all over. Me friends call me Welsh Gav. Like I'm some kind of comedy national stereotype. Not me friends in Wales, mind, just me friends outside. But most people call me Welsh Gav because I haven't seen me friends in Wales in while. It's a long time since I was home. Can't really go back, to be honest, there was a bit of an incident. Best not go there, both meanings."

He laughed to himself. Chris hoped desperately that Lotte was finding Gav as much of a dose as he was. She did laugh with him, but it was impossible to tell whether she was just being polite or else was genuinely entertained.

After some time that for Chris seemed to stretch on to an eternity of unfunny anecdotes they were able to board the ferry. After they had walked on Lotte said suddenly, "I must go to find the cabin I have reserved. I will look for you later." Chris thought she was saying this primarily to him. He hoped so, but now he was stuck with Gav.

"So you're not sharing a cabin with her?"

"What? Oh no," said Chris, "we've only just met. On the train down."

"She's one sexy bird. Great pair of tits."

Chris felt that he should really say something to put a stop to this kind of talk from Gav, but avoiding confrontation was so hardwired into his make-up that he said nothing. But Gav was not to be stopped.

"You're gonna have your go on her?"

"What?" Chris was shocked by the directness of the question.

"She's all over you, man. Get in there."

"Er, I can't really. I'm a married man."

Gav thought this was hilarious. "Ah yeah, sure mate, but just because you're getting fed at home doesn't mean you can't have the odd takeaway now and then, know what I mean? And if you ask me, you don't look like your wife's cooked up a good meal for you in a while. Know what I mean? So treat yourself to a good nosh-up, eh?"

Chris did not know what to say so he continued to remain silent.

"Those German birds," continued Gav, "they're fucking out of control in the sack. They're all very proper the rest of the time, but when you get their kit off - it's the fucking invasion of Poland all over again! No stopping them, man, no stopping them. Total sexkrieg." He spoke like a man who was something of an expert on the lovemaking habits of women in all countries of the world.

Chris finally snapped. "Jesus Chris will you stop talking like that?"

"Yeah sorry mate, no hard feelings, we're just mates together. No harm done."

"Oh, here's the lounge with the airplane seats. I've booked a place in here."

"I'm just gonna find a place to doss down on the deck," said Gav.

This was music to Chris's ears.

"We'll meet up later for a few beers."

This was not. But Chris was happy to see the back of Gav at least for a while as he made his way into the lounge to find his seat and dump his bags. He sat back in the chair and a wave of fatigue came over him as he remembered how little sleep he had had the night before. He fell into a state that was almost but not quite sleep. He would have fallen further had not a large group of Australian students arrived and commenced a load and interminable discussion as to who was meant to sit where. This kept Chris awake, but he was still glad of being able to sit quietly in a chair without having to talk to anyone or respond to other people's talk. Despite the noise and fuss around he him he drifted into a state on the borderlands between sleep and wakefulness.

He did not so remain forever. He began to feel hungry and thought about getting some food. He also wanted to see Lotte again. And he wanted to get away from the Australians, who were still arguing about where they were all going to be sitting. Their discussions had started involving other passengers and were becoming increasingly fractious. A Greek Orthodox priest travelling in the lounge with his family was trying to broker some kind of settlement. Or maybe he was just telling everyone to shut up because they were harshing his buzz. Either way, Chris had had enough. He left the lounge and wandered out into the ship to see what was to be had. There was a restaurant, but it was completely full up with people queuing out the door for it. What Chris could see of the menu made it look like it was all meaty stuff - nothing for the likes of him. There were also a couple of bars where snacky stuff could be had, including sandwiches and pizza slices that looked at least semi-edible. That might do him, he thought. But he wanted to find Lotte first, as he thought it would be nicer to eat with her than on his own.

She was sitting alone at a table on an open deck at the back of the ship, reading from a book while drinking something that may have been a gin and tonic or perhaps just a lemonade. She saw him first and waved to catch his attention. He waved back and came over to sit with her.

"Do you want to go and get something to eat?"

"I am hungry but if we wait here they will come and serve us," she said.

"How is your cabin?"

"It is nice and quiet. Comfortable for one, though I think it would be rather small for two. And you, are you in a cabin?"

"Oh no, I decided just to get a seat in the lounge."

"And how is it?"

"It's comfortable, though a bit noisy. I hope it quietens down later."

A waiter came by. Lotte called him over and they ordered food and drinks to go with it.

"And I'll have a bacon sandwich, with some chips, and a beer," said a voice that Chris realised was that of Gav. "Good job I found you, eh?"

"Are you in the lounge too?" said Lotte.

"What, me? No way. I'll be sleeping up on the deck," he said, pointing up towards the top deck. "Unless I receive a better offer." He chuckled.

"Do you have a locker to leave your bag in?" asked Lotte.

"None of that," said Gav. "But who'd want me stuff anyway? Nah, I left my bag upstairs and told this Spanish guy up there I'd rip him a new hole if anyone touched me bag. I don't think he speaks any English but he caught my drift well enough."

Chris found himself thinking that he had not charged anyone with the task of watching his stuff. Furthermore, in the confused atmosphere of the lounge it would be very easy for a disreputable person to have a snoop through his possessions for anything valuable. Not that he had anything worth stealing… apart from the memory stick. He felt his breast pocket for its reassuring outline.

"Giving your tit a feel, eh?"

"No!" said Chris, increasingly irritated by Gav's jocular comments. "Just checking… something." He said no more. The less he gave away the better. For all he knew Gav might be another one of the people trying to stop him bringing the memory stick to the rendezvous in Greece. So too might Lotte, he realised with a sinking feeling. She seemed like a nice friendly sort, but then he remembered all the noir films he had seen where the woman turned out to be a sinister presence luring a man to his doom. Lotte did not come across like some kind of siren trying to use her feminine wiles to relieve him of the memory stick, but she would hardly be a good operator if she came across like that. The realisation that he would have to be careful with her depressed him, as he was growing fond of her and wanted to like her without suspicions getting in the way. But the awareness that he was growing fond of her also depressed him, as he was after all a married man travelling to Greece in a desperate attempt to save his marriage. He should not really be letting himself fall for attractive German tourists on the way.

Lotte and Gav had been carrying on their own conversation while all these thoughts were racing through Chris's head. "So you've never been to Turkey then?" Gav said.

"No, never, but it is somewhere I would like to visit. There are so many places to see in the world and so little time."

"I've never been there either, but I'm going to make it there now. A mate was telling me that it's a great spot so I'm gonna check it out. It's meant to be really chilled but with great clubs and stuff."

"It might depend on where you go there," said Lotte.

"Yeah? Do you reckon? Where do you think all the good stuff would be?"

"Well I do not know, I have not read about the country closely. But I think Istanbul would have a lot of things happening there as it is meant to be a very modern city."

"Yeah, I might go there then."

"But other places I think are more conservative and quiet - there may not be these nightclubs you want there."

"Oh no, I don't want that. I want to be where the clubs are, where it's all happening."

"Do you have a guidebook or anything for Turkey?" said Chris. He already knew the answer would be in the negative and tried to keep a note of condescension out of his voice.

"No way man, I don't go for them. I'll just sort it out as I go on."

Their food arrived, together with their drinks. Conversation died as they ate. Afterwards they started talking again, particularly after Gav ordered them all another round of drinks. He started explaining the rules of rugby to Lotte. The realisation that he was stuck in the company of a rugger bugger made Chris's heart sink still further. But then Gav got up from the table.

"I'm off for a piss - I'll be back." He said the last words in a faux Arnold Schwarzenegger accent.

Lotte and Chris sat silently for a moment. The Lotte spoke.

"Did you say it was noisy in the lounge where you will be sleeping tonight?"

"Yeah, but maybe it will quieten down later. I certainly hope so."

"If you think you will have trouble sleeping, you could come and stay in my cabin," she said. After a short pause she continued. "There is a spare bed."

Spare bed or not, this was an appealing offer, but Chris understood himself well enough to know that if he did find himself sharing a room with Lotte he would start trying it on with her, and then he would not really feel himself able to take the moral high ground with Deirdre when he arrived in Athens.

"Oh thanks," he said, "but I think I'll stay where I am. I wouldn't want to put you out."

"It would be no problem for me."

"I know, but you said yourself the cabin would be a bit small for too. I'll let you enjoy it yourself. It's best if I sleep in the lounge. Anyway, I don't know what my wife would say if she found out I was sharing a room with a strange German woman on boat to Greece."

"I am not a strange German woman! And she need never know."

"I'd know. And I am trying to save my marriage. So I must decline."

"I understand." She looked into his eyes and smiled. He smiled back. It seemed like she really did understand. Chris thought about trying to sleep alone in the lounge with all those Australians when he could be in the cabin with this wonderful woman, either in the spare bed or in hers. In his heart he felt that he was making the mistake of his life, but so be it.

They sat momentarily in silence until Lotte spoke quietly.



"Don't tell Gav I have a spare bed in my cabin."

"Don't worry, I won't." They laughed.

Gav returned before too long. "Don't think much of the bogs here, man," he said, before giving a detailed listing of the problems he had found with the lavatory he had visited.

The story continues

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