It is 2pm on my last day in Portugal and I am still in bed, revelling in the hilarity of the 24 hours prior. I try to motivate myself out of bed with the mantra, “You have the same number of hours in a day as Michelle Obama. You have the same number of hours in a day as Michelle Obama.”
But Michelle did not have 10 drinks last night and stay up till 6 am hooking up with an Israeli soldier.
Or maybe she did.
Solider Boy and I meet on a bar crawl, when I notice him amongst the crowd of a hundred: piercing eyes, second day beard and a buzz cut. He stands alone, legs apart and arms folded like an undercover agent ready to pound drinks and criminals. I am extremely attracted, because the pursuit of wildly unavailable men seems to be my life’s mission.
At the second bar on our stop, I watch as Soldier Boy makes his way through the crowd and feel him squeezing past me. Before I can think about what I am doing, I turn, grab him by the shoulder and whisper into his ear, “I think you’re really hot.”
He looks stunned, like he is hearing this for the first time in his life, and replies humbly, “…Thank you.”
I smile. He smiles.
“Hey, can I buy you a shot?”
Solider Boy and I make out on every surface of the bar like promoters for a sex club, advertising the sticky walls and the grimy floors. Come to Casa Loca and snag yourself a sexy solider. Buy one tequila shot, get one dick free!
Soldier Boy is the first Israeli I have met on my trip, and my drunk mouth does not censor itself.
“Did you kill anyone?” I ask bluntly.
“I will tell you the truth… no,” he replies with solemnity.
“So, what did you have to do?” I probe on.
“I had to raid people’s homes, threaten them, arrest them,” he says with complete indifference.
“Oh, okay,” I nod quietly and end the conversation.
I do not know much about the Israel-Palestine conflict at this stage and I am in no position to begin a lecture on human rights in my inebriated state. Plus, Solider Boy did not choose to threaten and arrest Palestinians. His government makes two years army service mandatory for all young people.
We leave the club at 3am and stumble towards my hostel. The conversation of Australia comes up.
“I spent one year on a working holiday in Australia,” he tells me, “and it is so unfair how Aboriginal people just get free money from the government without working! I can’t believe how lazy they are!”
Oh hell no, boy.
One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do is attempt to explain the systemic oppression faced by Aboriginal Australians completely drunk in Portugal to an Israeli military commander.
“Noooo, they aren’t lazy… they’ve suffered for many years because of white people, you know? It’s… so many things… it’s complicated.”
In front of me is a man with a face sculpted by the Gods and abs I would lick glass off spewing opinions that are ringing alarm bells in my ethical core. I desperately want him to shut up. I desperately want to fuck him. Instead he falls asleep on my chest, shirtless, as soon as we reach my hostel.
Soldier Boy murmurs, “I don’t usually drink. I haven’t partied in a year. Oh God, I am so drunk. You are taking advantage of me.”
I am alarmed by his words yet again, having had countless men ignore my consent when I have been drunk, I would never do that to someone else.
When I express this, he replies sweetly, “No, I want you to take advantage of me.”
Of course he does. Having been in the fucking Israeli army for three years, being brainwashed by propaganda, trained to intimidate innocent people, and living a life of rigorous control; his drunk self wants to completely abandon control to me.
It is very wrong and it really turns me on.
But we both fall asleep on the floor of the movie lounge of my fancy hostel and I suddenly wake to music blaring from the surround-sound speakers. I check my phone, which reads 6:15 am. The strange thing is that there is no one in the room except us. Are the hostel ghosts punishing me for letting an unethical man into the sacred space?
The music is deafeningly loud, but Soldier Boy keeps snoring away softly. I want to get to my own bed and I do not want to share the tiny bunk with him. So I quietly leave, feeling a twinge of guilt as I imagine Soldier Boy waking up alone, in a place he does not know, without his shirt.
Cover by Romuald