04 March 2011

Punta Arenas 3 (The Old German)

The old German was working on his second six pack when I sat down with my plate of pasta. He had the empty beer cans set out in front of him.

“The alcohol. No listen, boy. Listen to me, boy. The alcohol, it gives a different--ah, ah--a different position on the life.” The old German held his hands near his stomach and gestured upward. “The alcohol, it gives me fantasies. Fantasies. I have a different feel on everything,” he smiled. “Do you understand, boy?”

I nodded. I didn’t like how he called me boy, but he didn’t mean anything by it. I just wanted to eat quickly and go back to my room.

“But the alcohol here is expensive. It is expensive. I drink a lot of alcohol,” he laughed.

I made sure to sit at the far end of the dining table but I still smelled his breath. When he grunted and exhaled heavily out his nose the smell was worse. At least tonight he had his shoes on and I wasn’t smelling his feet.

“Boy. Listen. I am poor. Very poor. But I hate the work. No, no. I do not like the work. Look, boy. I travel here and I at the end of the world,” he grins and holds his hands out wide. “This is the end of the world.”

“Not quite,” I tell him. “But you’ll be there soon. It is a beautiful place, Ushuaia.”

“I have a woman but she strict. She say do this, do not do this, do this. And she not like my drinking alcohol. But I say this is my life. This is my life,” he pokes at his chest with his index finger. “I gonna go to the bar with me. I say, ‘Me. You wanna go to bar?’ I say, ‘Sure, we go to bar. We go together.’ And we go. Sometimes I going to bar with someone else, but I like going to bar with me.”

“That’s a good attitude.”

“I was once in coma six months. I wake and see the light,” he points to the light above the table, his eyes wide. “But I hate doctors in the white material. White material. White. That is what I see. All white. It’s like the law. The law all black. The--how you say, how you say--” he motions as if striking a gavel.


“Yes, yes, he in the black. He say 15 years,” the old German holds out his hands as if in handcuffs. “He say 15 years and you go away. He in the black, the doctors in the white. I hate the black and the white. I hate it. That year I go to see the doctors in the white and I go to see the black.”

“What did you do?”

“Ah. Ah. It was nothing,” he waves his hand dismissively. “It was little. I had problem with the alcohol. It does not matter.”

The old German was quiet for awhile and I finished my pasta. I got up to leave.

“Boy, get a beer. Get a beer of mine. I tell you boy, get a beer.”

I thanked him but said I had some work to do on my bike before I left for Santiago.

“But I give you beer, boy?”

I could see it disappointed him but I said goodnight. The old German wanted someone to talk to. From my room I heard it every time he cracked a new can.

My room with bike and gear in boxes


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