Warner James Wood
In Mongolia, only the women are permitted to consume the sheep’s testicles.
In Paris, on the river Seine, a gondolier rower asks an American girl, “voulez vous m’épouser?”
“My what?” says the girl.
In Barcelona, a couple makes love atop a rock formation jutting into the sea. When a big one rolls in, splashing with force over the couple, the woman removes her hands from the man’s back and says, “Enough! Enough!”
In Shanghai, suited men on the People’s Walk offer passersby a “lady’s massage.” “You can choose the girl,” they say. “You can even see her first.”
In London, the night before the Olympics, a man in a pub trips but catches himself on the table of a beautiful woman. “Good thing I’m brilliant,” he says.
In Edinburgh, I let a room in a flat shared by Frans and Fergus. “Meet Fergus,” says Frans, holding him in the air. “Fergus is a gay cat.”
In Blue Ridge, Georgia, boys in trucks throw eggs at the cars of fags.
In Swaziland, I sleep upon the couch of the consulate’s assistant. “We do not walk unaccompanied,” she says. “Call the guard when you leave.” In Dublin, on Bloomsday, tourists wake early to walk the path of Ulysses.
In Hong Kong, I ride a yacht with my boss’s friend. In Botswana, shoeless children pet my hair. I think, “Someone, take a picture.” I think, “Who among you has a camera?” In Paris, a street performer trains his dog to hold the hat in its mouth.
In route to Switzerland, on an open-seated plane, an obese man offers his mints to the British woman squeezed between. “Are you generous to me because I see you as a human being?” she asks. “Because I sat beside you willingly?” “What?” he says, withdrawing the mints. In a hostel in Berlin, a British traveler hears me coming.”Thank God,” he says, “someone here speaks English.”
In Munich, I eat three bratwursts a day and hide liter steins in my backpack. In Johannesburg, a Zulu woman helps me navigate the city in cambis. “No,” she says when we arrive at Union Station, “no money, please.” In Edinburgh, bankers can’t breathe on the first day of July. “You could get a sun tan in this,” one says. In Mongolia, a child? tells his mother he does not want anything to eat. “Good,” she says, “we don’t have any.” In a South African housing project, above a shit-stained toilet, a sign reads: “Tswana and Xhosa only; Zulu must use downstairs.” In Blue Ridge, I play a game with old classmates. “What to do when” is the category. “There’s a black-out?” reads the card. An old friend thinks a moment, then says, “Lock him up.”
In Paris, a woman’s reading is interrupted by photography. By the fourth time somebody asks, she says, “What do I look like?” In Dublin, on Bloomsday, the football game is on and no one answers the emergency call in the lift. In Edinburgh, a stranger equally as drenched as I strikes up a conversation. He tells me he has leukemia in the manner I tell him I attend Harvard. “It’s a school in Boston,” I say, “yes, Boston in Massachusetts ... no,” I say, “no, not Boston University—another one.” In a small town in the German Alps, I find only authentic Pizzerias. In New York, a tourist is late for a show, but her suitcase
still must be opened for security. When the show releases, the man in coat check says, “It looks like somebody moved in here.” In Edinburgh, a young child amuses himself by watching his own legs walk. In London, the day before the Olympics, tourists fill the public gardens and wait for something exciting to start. In Paris, at a crosswalk, I wait between a blind man in a tailored suit and a squatter asking for change. The blind man turns to the squatter, staring instead at me, and says, “What’s your excuse?” In Edinburgh, returning home from drinks with the coworkers, I ask Frans if life ever stops feeling like a men’s locker room. “Oh, love,” he says, “locker rooms can be so nice.”
In Blue Ridge, on the floor of my childhood room, I tell myself, “I have been so many places.”
Incanting, over and again:
“I lead a life of such interest.”