The men at the outdoor restaurant two doors down are at work before noon. Shirtless over black charcoal smoke. I think of the god Vulcan in his underworld. The man with an apron over bare chest looks up at me as I pass, stepping carefully down the steep cobblestones.
T's feet slipped out from under her and she was airborne, graceful as a dancer, her legs to one side, landing hard on her hip. She's native to Lisbon and still slips. I help her to her feet and feel a little less clumsy. She says it's a controversy: one side passionate for the preservation of Lisbon history, the other dedicated to public safety. High heels are impossible here, though a few women - mostly foreign - teeter down the street on wobbling ankles.
The Alfama apartment is empty now; the others gone, and my head quieting down from two weeks of crackling. I thought I'd write during a writing workshop but every hour was eaten up. I can't seem to pin anything down yet, it's all still shaking and grooving in my head.
I didn't have roommates in college. Here I had three, an intense, short-lived family. Two elder sisters and a younger. We breathed and slept and drank together and each knew when the others came home, or didn't.
There's too much to say, so I'll say this: a beer and peanuts sit in front of me. I'll go to dinner soon, late: it's the fashion in Lisbon. Tonight I'll sleep on the bottom bunk in a hostel room with two young British women. They arrived and I did, we said hello and did not introduce ourselves.
Tomorrow I will swim in the Adriatic. On Monday, I'll step onto a bus and travel to an artists colony. A real Portuguese artists colony: a restored monastery on a river in a national park. A few days to untangle all the shining bits of glory that have knotted up in my head.
And then home.