I left you in Denali. We saw moose trotting around miles below us while we stared at them atop a mountain.
“Do they see us? Will they come up here? Are we safe?” I asked.
“We’re fine,” you said.
We drank and ate, drank and ate that night. And then I left you. We gazed stupidly at the northern lights and I felt warmth in my heart, an electric bliss in my belly, and was gone the next day.
You should be here with me, brother. You gave up on a good friend, a Medici, Pantaleone Medici, me. But now you’re in Alaska wrecking your brain.
Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” plays over speakers in a coffee shop. None of these people care, so I walk out into the Red Light District and stare into the black water of the canal. I try to look for my reflection but give up and turn to women dancing and staring seductively behind windows.
I go into an empty bar and wish you were here.
“What can I get you?” A pretty woman with blonde hair asks in an accent.
“Where are you from?” I ask.
“Originally Sweden,” she tells me.
“What do you think… a lot of Christians here? Is Amsterdam religious you think?”
“Well you can find that anywhere.”
“Just something I was thinking of,” I tell her, all the while thinking of the depraved town. “I guess get me a Heineken.”
I haven’t slept in two days.
“I’m from Philadelphia. You know it?”
“I know it,” she says.
I drink my beer and think of you and our plan. In college, this was it, our dream. See the world, eat, drink, flirt with Australians. And now look at you! You grew your hair out and you lost your damn mind.
“Married?” I ask the bartender.
“Where should I go tonight?”
Last night was scary. A man with a mechanical voice tried to sell me cocaine.
“There’s a fun club down the street. It looks like a pirate ship on the inside,” she says.
I burp after finishing the Heineken, tip the bartender well, and walk out. What now? I should have asked her out. She was pretty, and tall, and didn’t mind my voice, but I’ve never been with a tall girl.
Go back to the hostel, I figure. Try to sleep, Pantaleone. You’re wrecking your health, Pantaleone.
I go back to the hostel and three pretty girls are sitting in a circle, passing around a bottle of wine.
“Want some?” one asks in an Australian accent.
“Sure,” I tell her. I can sleep whenever.
I’m handed a bottle of red wine, take a swig and hope that my mouth doesn’t turn purple. The girls introduce themselves. I introduce myself as Leo, not Pantaleone.
“Leo, aww, is that short for something?” they ask.
“No. Just Leo.” I say back.
“Well, Leo. We’re going out to dinner soon. Then going out from there. You should join us.”
The three girls look at me, and I accept, because this is the life of a boy. Moving from one city to the next, with no plan in mind except what to eat or drink, and meeting young, beautiful people. This was the life for a man.