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Tiles, Grapes, Castles, and Strangers [Northern Portugal]

October 31, 2017

It is the year two thousand and sixteen.

I am twenty-four years old.

I am sleeping on the tile floor of a laundry room of a complete stranger in Porto.


There are sixteen other strangers here- in the apartment of this person I’ve never met.

 “Am I too old for this?” I ask myself.

“What does that even mean?” my better half replies.

I remember aching hipbones.

I remember the sunrise.

The stranger didn’t even stay at his own house that night, because 18 strangers are overwhelming to anyone.

An underground renegade free hostel, of sorts.

We used towels for blankets and were grateful we had privacy behind our laundry room door.

Sometimes, this is what couch surfing is.

I remember eating exquisite figs from the stranger’s father’s house the next morning.

I remember small bottles of port wine.

















When we arrived, we drove our tiny orange rental car down a walking path, thinking it was a narrow road. We were too eager to get to the ocean.

We narrowly escaped without needing our insurance, as we backed out 


I never saw the ocean last time I was in Porto. The city is situated more on the Douro River that branches off the ocean, and the beach is 15 minutes away.


We climbed over rocks next to a swanky beach bar we couldn’t afford.

We climbed over rocks and met the other side of the Atlantic than the one we’d known before.

We met the sunset.

We climbed over these rocks and we saw a couple having sex behind us.

We saw their beautiful, naked friend waiting patiently nearby.

The air smelled like fish.

Welcome to Portugal.


We’re having drinks by the shore.

He’s talking about wanting to get married.

Hes wondering if this might be the right time to ask me.

It isn’t.

Syrupy port wine languorously rolls down my throat once more and coats my taste buds with magic.

It was only a few weeks ago he’d broken my trust completely. It was only a few weeks ago he’d taken things from me. Now is not the time for forever.

I remember small bottles of port wine.


I’m sitting in the Gardens of the Palacio de Cristal and my dad retires tomorrow.

I think about freedom and about capitalism and about how it’s a shame retirement comes at a time in life where we are so tired.

I’m so lucky I get to live like I’m retired at 25.

I’m so lucky I get to sleep for free in a major city in Portugal, be it on a laundry room floor.

I’m so lucky for the kindness of strangers.

We get lost in the garden at twilight, I’m swooning over the overwhelming beauty of it all.


Porto is full of hills and colorful tiles. Of street art, and drug dealers in red velvet jackets offering us weed and cocaine and hash. Of boats bringing barrels down the Duero.

The Duero River flows through my small Spanish town, too.


We get coffee by the magnificent bridge.

We find a Portuguese equivalent of a Second Line, they even play "When the Saints go Marching In."

We get in a fight about something I can’t remember.

Why? When everything is so beautiful?

Probably because we shouldn’t be together.

So we return to the tile floor.

The colorful tiles of Porto.

Porto was yellow this time.

Yellow street cars that remind me of New Orleans.

Yellow leaves on the changing trees.

Yellow lightbulbs that haven't switched to LED yet. Yellow beer. Yellow light.