Two Short Travelogues

Mehmett II
Sitting at Florian’s turning fifty in a bright yellow suit. A white wine or a cappuccino? A pigeon or a Japanese tourist? Beer in the afternoon is lovely with post cards and panini, but the stilettos are no good on stones. They slide over the powdered wigs, over the European gentlemen, with their tapered pants, their high collared shirts, and their Prada attachés. Stand in front of the tobacco shop, Mr. Sulyman, unwrap me a pack of fags. The antique African figures are hunched over and selling knock-off Dolce in the street. And no, my dear lady, you’re not a harlot. You’re a fine piece of work. Nevertheless, at any age, one needs comfortable sandals, for the line to get into San Marco is a long one and the Swiss are selling tribal rugs over on the Via Marzo. They’ll screw you over nicely, with rocket salad and pizza Margarita, with sopressa and aqua potabile. They say the glassmakers must study under their masters for fifteen years before they are allowed to filch the tourists—a glass pony for your little boy, a water taxi passed from father to son, and so on. The gondoliers may have webbed feet, but they speak English pretty darn well, when they fish you out of the wrong side of the canal.

Them, and Them
They ride the bus. They are crippled-looking and sick. They watch daytime television. They live on fixed incomes. They get checks in the mail. They eat packaged food. They are pudgy. They wear taped-together glasses. They have holes in their clothes. They have badly dyed hair, with dark roots coming in. They scratch themselves. They get in fights with themselves. They smell like bedtime. They crunch on things loudly. Corn nuts? Sunflower seeds? They spit out the husks. They carry an old vinyl purse, an old backpack, a military bag. They are an old man, an old woman, a transvestite with lots of hairspray and a stuffed top. They sit itching their sores while the baby next to them cries. As soon as the back door opens, they smile, and toss out an empty beer can.

They smell of department store cologne. They wear Italian shoes that are too big for their feet. They wear suits in shades of grey, olive, and navy. On weekends they wear sweaters in shades of beige, white, and pale blue. They have a certain air of cleanliness about them, the sort revealed in a shiny forehead. They have the kind of good health that comes from jogging in the morning, drinking milk, and eating scones from Starbucks. Their various skill-sets involve mathematics, computers, and marketing. They buy their Audis in Freemont. Their women are blonde. Their psyches have been sufficiently saturated with evening television and Newsweek. Sometimes, when having lunch at the Ferry Building, they stare blankly out the window, wishing they were someone else. But only for a moment, before flipping open their cell phone and making a call.

About the author

Mira Martin-Parker writes, "Me. Me me me. Me me me me me me. Me. I I I me. My. My my my mine. All…

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Issue 02 · December 2008

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