Albufeira, Portugal – May 12, 2017
The waiter grins at us as he sweeps away a silver platter piled with fishbones. A moment later, a fresh plate arrives, filled with grilled mackerel to replace the first. On they come, plates of whole grilled sea bass, hunks of salmon with the skin sizzling in its own oil, charred cuttlefish, each replacing the last, each arriving fresh off the fire in our corner of the small restaurant.
No matter how much we eat, how high we pile the needle-like bones, more fish come to fill the blue and white checkered tablecloth between us. I pick at the scraps between rounds, not wanting to waste a morsel, losing bits in my beard and finding them again, relishing each bite as we wait for the next dish to arrive.
It’s a tight little restaurant. Tables press close together and customers fill each seat. We wedged ourselves in one corner with our bags stashed against a wall. It almost feels too tight to move now that the restaurant has filled, but we don’t want to go anywhere, we only want more fish from the endless platters that flow out of the kitchen and return with bones. Another round of salmon, another mackerel.
Everyone is there to eat all they can, but not everyone walked from Norway and France to step through the door. It makes a difference. I feel like a bottomless pit as I stack bones into high piles, watch them disappear, and stack more to replace them. I think of Wally down in my stomach ready to sort out every bite. This piece to repair that sore ankle. That one there to the quads. Add another shipment to the right shoulder, come on boys, this is our day to fix all things.
“Six-thousand miles, Wally,” I say. “Not bad at all.”
I imagine him down there somewhere hammering away at bones, tying ligaments, and throwing up middle fingers at even the hint of a blister.
“Go get ’em, Wally,” I think. “Get ’em and give me just a few hundred more.”