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We arrived in Lisbon, after an eleven-hour train ride, and discovered that we were unable to check into our Airbnb until two P.M. It was seven in the morning, neither of us with any sleep. We were staying in the oldest neighborhood in the city, Alfama, which was filled with byzantine, damp streets, each climbing at incompetent angles and visibly weathered by the nearby water. The morning strollers appeared somewhat dismal and annoyed, like they were repeating something they had accepted would happen again. We stopped at a café an hour later, too tired to go on much more. Neither of us wanted coffee or breakfast, so we ordered beer, which cost one Euro each. Robert made an observation: if you were to buy three beers in Brooklyn, you would spend around 21 dollars. If one were to spend 21 dollars on beer here, they would receive 21 beers.

The café was mostly occupied by elderly locals. At one point, the café speakers played “Zombie” by The Cranberries at an incredible volume. The woman sitting next to us scrunched her face and stood up to leave. She passed by our table and patted Robert on the back. “Too loud,” she said, and he agreed (Robert speaks Portuguese). “Do you know how old I am?” she asked him, and without waiting said she was 88. Robert nodded his head, gesturing gratitude cross-hatched with amazement. “Look at these,” she said, pointing to four rings on one of her fingers. “All ex-husbands. I’ve buried them all.” Robert, not knowing what to say, said sorry. “That’s life,” she said. “That’s life,” Robert said. “That’s life,” she said, laughing. She scuttled along to other tables and shared prolonged goodbyes with people she knew, then left. We both wondered if she lived alone.

Later we went to a more popular district and watched tourists point at merchandise, there was the ocean, a red bridge, miniature cars driving haphazardly, two blind women playing melodicas sitting next to each other, a Burger King.


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