Have you ever had this sudden, urgent, mad craving for french fries? Like I did, on rainy days when petrichor can drive you to delirium. So when it washed over me that day near the Gare Cornavin, I wasn’t surprised. I was 24. I knew I could do nothing but enter McD and surrender. So I did, coming out with steaming, salty fries and grabbing a chair near the eaves where water had collected off the drizzle.
The tables were very close to one another. Something that bothered me about Europe. A beefy young man sat at the next table eating a burger. I knew he’d been watching me. Most people did in mostly-white Geneva.
“Hi, what’s the time?” he asked. I answered him before realizing he had spoken in English. That was unusual.
We started talking. Marco was from Colombia. “Oh, one of my housemates is from Colombia” I said. Marco wanted to practice his English. It was hard to do that in Geneva he said.
Marco and I met five times over the next two months. Mostly in a group. I invited him to meet my room mates and friends. He said he was lonely. He didn’t know too many people in Geneva. He was a translator he said. Did odd jobs sometimes.
We almost kissed at a bus stop once. It was very close. I couldn’t tell if I really did desire him or was just so starved for physical contact because of the long distance relationship I was in. Come with me to a party he said. Was it Halloween? Some Swiss fete? I don’t remember. I only remember that for some reason, I dressed as a cat in a velvet mini skirt, black tights, cat ears and boots. We went in a big group. Liz, Charley, I, Marco. Others around Marco I had never met before.
The party was on a cruise ship. We took a boat out to the Lac Leman where a gleaming white ship pulsated to the vibration of hip hop music. Marco was wearing a hoodie jacket and a thick gold chain. I noticed what bushy eyebrows he had. There was punch in plastic cups. We had a few.
Marco kept disappearing into the levels of the ship like in a video game. I thought I saw his hoodie on the first level surrounded by heads leaning over him. I called out. Liz and Charley pulled me with them into the area where people were smoking. We smoked some pot Charley had brought with him. It was alright.
Marco returned suddenly. Where were you I asked. Oh just here, he said. Whose party is this? I wondered out loud. A friend’s, said Marco. Shouldn’t we at least meet this friend, I thought? Which friend, I asked. He disappeared again leaving me to ward off some strangers trying to stroke my velvet skirt.
When I saw him next, Marco had a packet of little white pills with him. He offered one each to Liz and Charley. Ooh e’s they said. I declined his offer. Why not, he asked me. Try it, it’s a happy pill. No I said. I don’t do chemicals. Organic is okay. Come on, Marco said, pressing his large hand into the small of my back. I realized how big he was next to me. I’m half his size, I thought. I have started to feel uncomfortable. How would Marco know a friend who parties on an expensive cruise liner? Where is he disappearing to? Marco is a political refugee who has no friends. He translates things from Spanish to French. He can’t be earning much, I always paid for his burgers when we met. But he’s just bought? got? happy pills that he is generously sharing around with us.
Marco is gone again. We can’t find him in the crowd. Where’s Narco Marco now, Charley giggles. Liz, Charley and I leave on a small boat going ashore. What do you mean Narco Marco I ask Charley. Liz and Charley shrug. They’re not bothered, they say. Many people deal in drugs. Marco doesn’t deal in drugs, I say. Just because he’s Colombian, I start, doesn’t mean…
I never see Marco again. He never calls. Neither do I.