All original work © 2009 - 2017 Alexey Provolotsky

25 January 2017

MANHATTAN VIA LISBON



The idea was first expressed by John K. Bronson, and the idea was that once in a lifetime we get to meet ourselves at a later stage. At a time when we are much older and going somewhere on a bus or else stuck in a barber's chair getting a haircut. We only get a fleeting glimpse, and then it's all over. To me, well, to me it happened in a small bar in Lisbon where I was saying goodbye to Europe's most underrated capital.

He was drinking Manhattan at the counter, three or four seats away from me, in a depressed manner reminiscent of Judi Dench from Chocolat. Straight away I knew it was him. Or, rather, me. Fifty or maybe sixty years later. I knew it was him the way a wife knows about her cheating husband. I felt it.

The man was drinking Manhattan, and I hated Manhattan with a passion.

He was not talking to anyone and only occasionally peered through his glass as if trying to magnify something written on the bar counter. A word of warning? A message? In spite of Art Blakey's Moanin' as well as drunk, thirsty conversations buzzing through my ears, I was feeling uncomfortable and tried to engage a reluctant barman into a conversation about Westworld. His English was poor and I was guessing he hadn't seen the show.

My unease was mostly caused by the fact that I knew I had to do something and yet had no idea what. Deep down I was quite happy about my plane leaving Lisbon in a few hours. Which paralysed me, happily, the way indecision often does. Besides, I was dumbed down by alcohol and almost missed the way he left his seat four people away from me.

In fact, I did miss that moment entirely, and only woke up when the barman shook me alive and said that a Portuguese gentleman had just left a message for me. At which point I saw the stylish glass filled with one of this world's most recognizable cocktails. "But I don't like Manhattan", I offered, meekly. And the barman said to me (his English impeccable) that the old gentleman had instructed him to ignore my protests.

For a vague second I wanted to run outside and catch the man, make him explain or even talk, but then I remembered that John K. Bronson strongly advised against all contact with our future selves. Besides, I did not want to miss the plane. Besides, my own glass was already empty.