By Eddy Montilla.
(Taken from Real stories told as fiction).
Erika began to explain the long history of that tavern to Chris and the reason for its fame too. She taught him how the fishermen of the region use lights to attract squid since remote times and those superstitions that always spin around seafaring work. She told him about the small crafts, nets, weather and many other things that were somehow a portrait of the paintings on the wall. Between one explanation and another, few minutes barely passed, the exact amount of time she needed to make her first beer disappear as if by magic.
“Ohisashiburi! (The first good moment in a long time!). She said after sighing with contentment.
Erika talked more than usual, and usually, she did not talk more than necessary. Her last phrase along with the subtle gestures she made photographed what was going on. Then, Chris could see clearly why he was invited that night: By doing so, she invited herself too and that was the only way and excuse she had to go out for a while in the evening. Chris kept listening to her courteously and performed like a good actor to evince strong interest in her stories when, in fact, his mind and heart were utterly distant from there. Where? I do not know. In his hometown? Perhaps. What I certainly know is that Erika started a new topic as soon as she finished the last one and the same applied to her glass of beer.
“Well, it’s time to change…”
“¿Seats?” Chris asked. “All of them are occupied already”.
“No! I meant to change place.” She responded with a tender look and smile on her lips because of the naivety he showed for his little understanding of that culture.
“If you don’t like horsemeat, believe me, I don’t blame you for that.” He whispered to her for fear that the elderly lady could feel offended by his comments.
”This is not the point, Chris. I can eat anything and so can all those people you can see here. Look at their rice bowls without a single grain of rice. Remember, Chris, this is the way you have to eat. Otherwise, people will say that you had poor parenting.” She said with scarcely concealed pride for her culture and explanation. “We have to change bars because it’s part of the tradition in these cases.”
Chris nodded his head in agreement and dissented with his heart. If everybody likes some artists and dislikes others, loves some people and hates others, then, what makes food any different? They were celebrating the year-end-party called “bounenkai”, that is, a party held to help people (especially workers) to forget the troubles occurred during the year and start the next one from zero. Despite that, he felt uneasy. After all, how could a party for twelve people ended up as a meeting of only two?
When they finished their dinner, Chris insisted on paying the bill. She thanked him for his kindness, but made him realize that there was no point in doing that since they had to go to at least two more places, as is customary. So, they decided to go Dutch and leave that bar. Minutes later, they got a place full of contiguous taverns, so similar in their external aspects that Chris wondered if it was necessary to have more than one. It was a place divided into narrow alleyways, half bathed in moonlight. The rest came from hanging lanterns near the doors of the taverns, which made the place fall into semidarkness. By giving free rein to our imagination, everything could be seen from there, and that’s why Chris loved the place from outside because the second bar (and what happened inside) was not quite different from the first one. The night for them, therefore, should come to an end right there, after saying: “I had a lot fun, thank you.” But this end never came. Was it because of Chris’ last question? Was it Erika’s reaction, perhaps? For me, it was a sum of all and a subtraction of nothing. And if one of you needs inevitably to find someone to blame, remember the cat. Yes, the cat. TO BE CONTINUED…
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