Unrequited Love

This morning I took the bike tour with Steph and Kathryn.  It was fun riding around the city, and I enjoyed hanging out with the girls.  The tour was informative to some extent as well.  However, I didn’t think it was worth the €22.

Afterwards, Steph, Kathryn, and I walked back to the hostel. On the way, we passed a side street where I saw several clusters of men and women just standing around.  It was still only midday, too early for the partygoers, so I wondered what was going on.  I took a closer look.  The women were dressed and acting quite provocatively.  Yes.  They were prostitutes.  I had thought they only did their business at night.  So I was wrong.

We returned to the hostel, and the girls decided to nap.  It wasn’t such a bad idea.  It seems that the “siesta” – afternoon nap – is a reality here.  I thought it was only myth.  However, most stores and businesses shut down during the afternoon, and the streets lie deserted.  I indulged in this local custom as well and found my two-hour nap very refreshing.  Afterwards I went for a walk around the neighborhood.

By and by I found myself at the the street where I had seen the prostitutes earlier.  This time I walked right down the street.  Most of the women stood leaning against the walls or standing in doorways on both sides of the street.  I watched a man walking in the opposite direction down the sidewalk as one of the bigger girls (they came in all sizes, I noticed) slapped her arm against his stomach.  He was caught off guard and stopped abruptly.  She raised her eyebrows at him and asked him something.  He stopped to talk to her.  I was glad I was on the road and not on the sidewalk, even though I had the feeling all eyes were on me.  Suddenly, I felt a hand on my shoulder, and a young woman appeared at my side.  She was a petite, pale girl with blond hair down to her shoulder and light blue eyes.  As she turned to face me, a police car passed by at the end of the street.  She immediately took her hand off my shoulder and walked a few paces ahead of me.  I continued to walk along.  Once the car disappeared, she turned around to face me and grabbed my arm.  I knew immediately what was up.
  No, esta bein.  “No, it’s Ok,” I told her.
  “What?” she responded in English.  “I just want to talk to you.”
  She was still holding my arm. I stopped.
  “Where are you from?” she asked me.
  “New York,” I responded.  I tried to get her to release my arm, but she held on tight.  I was amused.
  “Where are you from?” I asked her.
  “Romania.”  She pulled me to the sidewalk.
  No, esta bien, I said again.  No me gusta.  “I don’t like it.”
  “What don’t you like?” she feigned surprise.
  No esta bien, I insisted.
  “You’re so beautiful,” she crooned.  “I love you.”
  I laughed.  This was definitely the fastest a girl had fallen in love with me.
  “Thirty euros only,” she persisted, getting down to business.
  No, gracias.  “No, thanks,” I responded.  No puedo.  “I can’t.”
  We were at the end of the street.  She was still holding my arm.
  Tengo que ir.  “I have to go,” I said firmly.  I pried her hand off and turned to go.
  “Bye,” she murmured wistfully and returned the way she had come.

I continued my tour of the neighborhood and later in the evening I found that I had to pass through “Prostitute Street” again.  I realized I was a bit nervous.  I took a deep breath, looked straight ahead, and marched down the center of the road.  I made sure not to make eye contact.  This time I got a few suggestive hisses, but no one accosted me.  I didn’t see the Romanian girl anywhere.  For her sake, I hoped she had found work.

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