The Gift of the Americans

A week or so ago…
I had a bit of a revelation recently. I decided that I no longer had the desire to make money. This was a hell of a revelation actually. Almost blinding. I decided that it wasn’t really important to me; that it was a validation I no longer required. It was enough, I told myself, to know that what I was doing – travelling around, meeting people, working and writing in the sun – was what I most wanted to do in the whole world, that I was free in a way that only a tiny percentage of the world’s population are free, and that I was following my dream and nurturing my bliss.

But in reality, the lack of money has unpleasant and limiting side-effects. The overdraft limit creeping closer with every purchase is making me feel a little less than free. Of course I could forego most of the purchases I am making – the beer, the tobacco, the occasional pizza – but sweet Jesus Christ in heaven, I really don’t want to. Some of the other purchases I have been forced to make, however, have been necessary. You might even say essential, although essential is a big old word. Is sun-cream essential? I guess it depends on how attached you are to your skin.

Fortunately, I have three or four bottles of sun-cream that I collected while I was in France. Unfortunately, they are still in France.

So, given that I contracted some kind of post-plant-allergy heat-related leprosy after my first three days working unprotected in the sun, I decided I’d better be sensible and spend some money on something practical. So I bought a plaster of Paris bagel-and-cream-cheese paperweight. No, I didn’t. I bought some sun-cream (factor 20) and some after-sun-cream. Ten euros and ninety cents it cost me. I would like to have bought some shaving gel too, but I decided that was a luxury too far. I figured I could use handsoap when the moment came.

Anyway, a couple of hours after the sun-cream purchase, I was approached by a couple of lithe Americans sporting generous smiles and a plastic bag. The Americans were guests at the yoga retreat at which I am WWOOFing and it was their last day. As they had very limited space in their luggage, they had decided to offload some of the things that they didn’t really need to take home with them. They asked me if I’d like them. Typically, these things included a couple bottles of sun-cream. There was also a tin of shaving foam, a bottle of antiseptic tea tree oil, some skin moisturiser and some Pepto-Bismol. I accepted them all with alacrity.

On noticing the unfettered joy dancing around my unshaven chops, another American (not so lithe this one, but I do not discriminate) realised that she too could add to my happiness and donated more sun-cream and some mosquito repellent to my stash.

By now, I was close to tears. ‘This is just like Christmas!’ I declared. Then, overflowing with gratitude and overwhelmed by the milk of human kindness, I took the smiling, giving Americans in my arms and held them close, transmitting my thanks through every pore of my being and each beat of my heart, and we began to move together rhythmically to music that existed only in our heads. Slowly we moved without will and beyond meaning, gliding across the terrace and out into the olive groves, swaying together with our eyes closed and our hips touching until eventually our bodies became lighter than air and we floated up, up and away to Valhalla, or Vermont, or some kind of Alaska.

The next morning the Americans all flew home to get on with their lives and I put some tea tree oil on my newly emerging scabs.

It burned.

But in a good way.

 

About the Author

I am Karl Webster. I wrote these words. If you liked them, you'll be overjoyed to know that there are plenty more where they came from. So you should definitely sign up to my newsletter if you haven't already.

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