The complimentary, Solo cup-sized glass of wine, and some more-than-the-doctor-prescribed Xanax, made the flight fly by. I fell in love with my hotel’s breakfast buffet, where a big basket of Nata — a traditional Portuguese custard pastry — waited for me every morning. I couldn’t get enough vinho verde, nor enough sangria, in a pitcher so huge the wooden spoon was more like an oar. I mastered the point-smile-shrug in restaurants where I was too embarrassed to butcher the name of the entrée I wanted. I essentially ate out a bowl of prawns in saffron oil. It was amazing.
But the men — good god, the men — were extraordinary. How Rick Steves could leave them out of his Portugal travel guide, I don’t know. They looked like grown-up men: clean, dressed in crisp, tucked-in oxford shirts and well-tailored pants that didn’t need to be introduced to an iron, a matching jacket slung over a shoulder, sunglasses snug: pretty but not too pretty, clearly manscaped yet crazy masculine. Don Draper meets Tom Hardy meets Ryan Gosling with a little Colin Farrell thrown in the mix. With olive skin.
In Lisbon’s Bairro Alto district, I met a man, Andre, at Maria Caxuxa, the bar where our group of writers partied so much we called it Headquarters. The bartenders made a sturdy vodka tonic; the outdoor tables were perfect for people-watching as the breeze rustled garlands strung from building to building.
Andre was some kind of state official. I couldn’t really understand exactly what he said he did, but his tone made it sound damn important. And his suit, which probably cost more than everything I packed for the trip, made it look like he was important enough to make serious bank.
He gesticulated a lot, excited by what he was saying, excited by what I was saying. His accent was delicious. Everything sounded sexy, even when he talked about his budget meeting the next morning.
When Caxuxa closed, I tried to convince him to come down the hill with me to my group’s go-to club, Oslo. He said he had to go to bed: the aforementioned budget meeting. I almost offered to go with him so he could pull off my underwear, leave my skirt on, and throw me down on an ottoman. It couldn’t hurt to ask.
Alas, I didn’t. I did score his business card, but never called or texted or anything, because I’m a dumbass.
Here at home, I’m usually interested in a baseball hat, T-shirt, hoodie, basketball shorts, Nikes kind of guy. But I done did growed up in Portugal. Maybe it’s time to hit up South Howard or downtown and call out, “Hey pretty but not too pretty men who look Mediterranean! Where you at?”
Or maybe I should just pick up and move to Europe. I mean, didn’t some of our best American stuff come from Europe? The Statue of Liberty, the Reuben sandwich, “The Final Countdown” (by the band Europe)?
And doesn’t Europe need a little bit of us in return? Something a little Americana, a city girl who can go cowgirl if necessary? I’m happy to take one for the team.
I got lucky last winter. A good friend of mine asked me to teach a poetry class at a two-week literary program in Lisbon: my first trip overseas.