Portugal, freedom within me!

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I lie in the gras and breathe. The sun is shining. Memories of Portugal surface, a feeling of happiness and freedom. Rules, which seemed so strict before, all of a sudden don’t count anymore. I don’t have to return to school in time after the summer break for example, because my mom claims that on the way back from Portugal we broke down with the car and that’s why I couldn’t be back in time for school. This is not exactly true, since the break down and numerous other mishaps happened on the way to Portugal, which is why it already took us nearly two weeks to get there in the first place.

I am horse riding with Deborah along the beach, we gallop. My low self-esteem gets a positive boost in Portugal.
Portuguese white bread with salted butter on top to have as a snack on the beach, so that I don’t get grumpy. Each of us, my mom and me, paining while being on the beach and painting close by the VW-Bus. My mom is an artist.
Reading, reading, reading … “The Mists of Avalon” and other things.

I am wearing a violet pantsuit, it’s fashion. Here in Portugal I don’t feel like the ugly duckling, like I often do at home in my school class. Maybe not ugly, but insignificant, invisible and simply ignored by most of my school mates. That’s how I perceive it.
I envy the popular girls in our class, Bettina and Mira, who are always surrounded by boys and for whom life seems to be a peace of cake, being heaped upon with acknowledgement and appreciation everywhere they go. How must that feel like? To find oneself in midfield or even outfield is only half as much fun I believe. The feeling, that it doesn’t seem to matter, if you’re there or not. And somehow you try to survive within the forced school class community. You try to connect with others, being ignored like you, from midfield player to midfield player. You’re like a drowning man clutching at a straw.

In Portugal on the other hand I am free from all these constraints. Boys, driving their mopeds in front of our house, being especially noisy, so that I may take notice of them. Whistles from behind every corner, addressing me and my attractive mom. As far as I can think, my mom, a classic beauty, has been always surrounded by men, being very attentive towards her. To my regret I rather inherited my father’s figure. That means, strong built with child-bearing hips, instead of petite like my mom. Maybe it isn’t fashionable anymore to be a person of short nature, but to have a slender and petite figure still is, when you happen to identify yourself as a woman. Is it actually possible to still feel feminine, when you happen to be strong built, while being attacked constantly by images of magazines with thin, stork legged elf-models? Can you still love your own body, when it doesn’t fit the ideal of feminine perfection? The popular girls in my class of course are in possession of the ideal figure, playing coquette at all presented occasions. Commodity woman has certainly not been advertised with child-bearing hips and strong legs …

My personal highlight, while being in Portugal, is Amilka, a boy. Maybe he is 17 or 18 years old. He works in Enriqo’s restaurant by the beach behind the bar. We go there regularly to order a salat, a soup or simply something to drink. When we are on vacation I am allowed to drink Coke, another highlight apart from Amilka. We love the place and Enriqo, the owner, often gets us a soup. Most probably, because he has fallen for my mom, like so many others.
We don’t mind, really …

Back to Amilka. He is incredibly good looking. He has dark hair, a well toned body and he seems so cool, when he is preparing the drinks in masterly fashion. I have totally fallen for him. He is an absolute feast for the eyes and I could go into raptures about him. Simply his name, Amilka, is music to my ears. I could watch him furtively for hours on end. For hours on end. My mom really forces me to order my coke directly with Amilka. She won’t do it, she says. But for me this is an impossibility to be even asked, since I am an extremely shy teenager. The formerly open, spontaneous and wonderfully dreamy child has grown into a deeply, internally scared teenager, stricken with profound shyness. To this day I couldn’t retrieve the former child completely, but surely the teenager. No problem on that front …

My mom refuses to go and get the coke for me and if I don’t go and get it, I’ll have to die from dehydration and coke deprivation. On the other hand, the idea to order my coke directly with Amilka sounds suicidal. On top of that I don’t want to make a fool out of myself and there are so many things that could go potentially wrong.
I think you can’t possibly imagine how much overcoming it took me to walk up to the bar and to order that damn coke. And if I wouldn’t have been so crazy about coke, I wouldn’t have done it.
„One coke please.“ These simple three english words are swirling around in my head like a hung up record. At least for about half an hour, before I can bring myself to go to the bar, risking to die the fool’s death. There are always plenty of gorgeous women, magazine typed ones, sitting by the bar and flirting excessively with Amilka. I personally don’t think I have any chances with him whatsoever – zero – nada. He is a passion from the distance. Nothing more.
„One coke please“ I make a quick exit back to our table. I am greeted with a big grin on my mom’s face: “See, you survived!” In the meantime I am wiping the cold sweat from my forehead. One time I even dare to go and ask Amilka, being prompted again by my loving mom, whether he could play the Dire Straits, Brothers in Arms. We often listen to the album, while driving, with winded down windows, the music on full blast, racing through the breathtaking, astounding nature, taking the soul’s breath away, through serpentine roads, up and down steep hills. Our hearts are beating in sink with the music. Pure joie de vivre, no restrictions!
Yeah, yeah, yeah!

Amilka fulfills my wish promptly and plays the Dire Straits, Brothers in Arms, just for me. Strange is, that he sometimes plays the Dire Straits without me asking him, when we are sitting in the restaurant. My mom has again this all-knowing grin on her face and I am getting hot all of a sudden. Sure as hell my face is red like a ripe tomato. “No, this can’t be true. It’s just a coincidence. Just a coincidence, nothing more.” I tell myself.

On our last day, just before we drive back to Germany we are sitting on the restaurant’s terrace for a last drink and Enriqo approaches me. Me and not my mom. He gives me a friendship bracelet. He says Amilka made it especially for me and is to shy to give it to me himself. I am gobsmacked. “That’s not real, is it now!” The friendship bracelet is lovely. In this very moment I believe I’ve never been gifted with something more beautiful than this. Slightly delirious I stumble towards the bar to say thanks in my broken english. And than, we are already gone.

In the following night I can’t get a wink of sleep, still pondering the incredible event. That the good looking Amilka, who is daily surrounded by flirtatious stunning women, has noticed me, has seen me, even though I didn’t flirt with him and took the effort to make a friendship bracelet, just for me. How wonderful! It seems like a miracle, really!

Sometimes I wonder what might have happened, if we both wouldn’t have been so shy. Does he still remember me?
In the end it doesn’t matter. It is such a wonderful and gorgeous memory, I can call my own.

Me and my mom, we still drive many, many times with the VW-Bus together to Portugal. When all the others go on youth trips, being amongst themselves, that’s what you do at this age … I continue driving to Portugal with my mom. Far away from any peer group pressures, but holding a portuguese white bread with salted butter in my hands, with wild, sea-salty hair, driving down dusty steep coastal roads, which always look more dangerous being on the nearside.

For me that’s freedom, having nothing to do, having nothing to be and above all, being noticed, instead of being an ignored midfield player.
Being just simply me, that’s freedom!

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