Notes from an Ibiza Journal, 1963
By Bernard Weiner
Copyright 1963 by the author
[Note: This long short story, or short novella, is the only major literary piece of mine that has never been professionally published. I can invent all sorts of practical reasons for why editors turned it down, but it's also possible that I'm blind to its major flaws because of my emotional connections to the tale and the characters in it. Anyway, here 'tis.]
The train shivered as it rounded a curve; Joyce's head slid onto my
shoulder, her hair brushing my cheek. I looked at her body curled next to
me and smiled, remembering how we mutually had picked each other up in that
Russell Square student hostel. Now we were separating -- after London,
Paris, Pamplona. I knew Joyce felt strange about it; I did. Still, we both
wanted it this way: We were students, we wanted to see more of the world.
As we approached Zaragoza, about 3 a.m., Joyce and I went out into the
corridor at the end of the car to say our goodbyes. I told her how much I
had enjoyed being with her this past month, and told her to look me up if
and when she and her friends ever made it to Ibiza; I said I'd leave my
address at the tourist office. The train pulled into Zaragoza, I kissed her
goodbye, she cried, the train pulled out, I went back to my seat, I fell
I located my wooden deck chair, parked my bag and portable typewriter, and
went to survey the boat and its temporary inhabitants. I had expected to
hear many American accents on the boat, for the island was supposed to be
peppered with my countrymen, but there were only Germans, more Germans, some
French, a few Spaniards, fewer Brits, and more Germans: ugly Americans all.
I went back to the top-deck to watch our night-exit from the beautifully-lit
She was dressed in black slacks and a black shirt, short and trim,
struggling with a large blue wooden box. She set her bags and the box on a
bench, then went over to the rail and watched our slide into the
Mediterranean. I stood looking at her for some minutes before venturing
"Vous etes francaise?" I asked.
"No, I am not," she replied curtly in accented English. "But I work and
study in Paris."
"Ah, you speak English," I said perceptively.
"You're going to Ibiza?" I asked, mentally kicking myself for another stupid
question: The boat's name was Ciudad de Ibiza and it stopped only there.
"I don't know much about the island," I said, "other than what little my
friends told me. Is it expensive there?"
"It is arriving more expensive from all the time," she said. "This is my
fourth summer there -- there are many tourists now."
There was a long silence. The lights on the hills of Barcelona grew more
"How about cheap places to stay?" I asked. "I'm kind of broke."
"The hotels and pensions are expensive for me now -- and there are many
tourists," she answered, pausing for a moment, thinking. "I cannot work. I
will try inland this year and see if I can arrive at something more 'cheap',
I paused. "Listen," I said, "would you mind if I went with you when you go
inland. I'd sort of like to get away from the tourist areas too, and--"
"I do not think that is a good idea," she interrupted coldly, turning away
"No, I didn't mean that I wanted-- I meant may I go around with you when
you're looking for these cheap places?"
She thought for a moment. "Yes, I suppose it would be 'okay'," she said,
with just a hint of a grin.
We stared out at the water, the full Mediterranean moon tipping the waves
with flakes of fluorescent foam.
Later, she suggested that it might be better if she went alone into the
interior to inquire about cheap rooms, since the peasants there might be
scared off by too many foreigners all at once. I didn't think two was too
many, but my aversion to arguing kicked in and I just nodded my assent.
Eva was German, 25, born in Munich. She was a painter, and the large blue
box contained her materials. She told me she was working on frescoes in
Paris, but did other kinds of painting also, in addition to work on silk and
ceramics. I told her my vocation and she seemed pleased.
She was not pretty. Her face resembled that of a neglected bird, and her
short, cropped hair only accented her stark features. She was not ugly
either. The first impression I can remember is that of Piaf, a frail, tough
sparrow banged about by life. Eva could handle herself, of that much I was
She said she'd been invited by a member of the ship's crew down to his
cabin for some cheese and wine. I thought about that after she left, and
even though it didn't make any sense, I felt a bit concerned and anxious
Several hours later, as I was wandering the deck, I spotted her behind some
rigging, her face cupped in her hands, staring out at the water. I
considered going over to ask if everything was all right, but decided
against it. I watched her like that for about ten minutes. She didn't move;
I slept on the deck that night, using my portable typewriter as a pillow.
When I awoke in the morning, with my ear frozen asleep where it had been
smashed by the edge of the typewriter case, Eva was sleeping several feet
We had coffee in the ship's bar, our big splurge, while we drew closer to
Ibiza. We didn't talk much that morning, just rested in those soft
comfortable chairs, both of us dead from too much travel and not enough
Ibiza is but a dot on the map, a pin-prick in the Mediterranean universe. A
bit later than Majorca, it had been "discovered" by European artists, and
the yachting set, some five or so years before, and now had become a Place
to Go: great light, lovely, isolated, still cheap in places. As the ship
passed along the coast, circling in towards Ibiza harbor, the island
appeared much bigger and more mountainous than I had imagined.
As we steamed into the wide channel, the sun-starched houses of the Old City
rose in a wonderfully-confused white-and-shadow pattern above the sea,
pointing toward the fort and church high above. The boat drew nearer the
docking area, and we could make out hundreds of people lining the side of
the wharf, waving. The hotel buses were parked, porters anxiously
anticipating their tips, cafe waiters wiping their tables and glasses in
readiness -- the ship was in.
I helped Eva with her bags and box and grabbed a table at the dock cafe.
Since we had agreed that I was to stay in Ibiza that night and meet her in
Santa Eulalia the next day, she scurried off to locate a room for me at a
third-class pension she knew of. She came back with the word that there were
almost no vacancies to be had anywhere, but she was able to hold a
double-room for me at the pension if I wanted it; it would be 40 pesetas. It
was more than I had wanted to pay for a night's lodging, and what the hell
did I need a double-room for? But I was too tired to go searching elsewhere.
I helped Eva carry her belongings to the cafe from where the inland bus
departed, then walked back, picked up my stuff from the little baggage shack
on the dock, moved into my room, changed into a bathing suit, caught the
next boat to Talamanca beach, stayed there for several hours, came back
burnt, and sank into the most glorious sleep my tired cells could imagine.
I arrived in Santa Eulalia a bit earlier than we had arranged to meet. I
ordered a horchata at a cafe, then left my bags and walked around the town
and down to the beach. This was German and English tourist territory and,
though I really didn't know why I had come to Ibiza, I was certain it
wasn't for that. I hurried back to the plaza and sat underneath the
pink-blossoming trees waiting for Eva to arrive.
She had changed her slacks -- these were tan -- and was wearing a wide straw
hat. She glanced over to the cafe where I was supposed to meet her, and
seemed upset not to find me there. I yelled out.
Her eyes lit up. "Ah, so you are here after all," she said, grabbing the
hand I offerred. "Come, we shall get something to drink."
We sat outside the cafe where I had left my bags and, in true Spanish style,
exchanged meaningless chit-chat for many minutes while we drank. Suddenly,
with a strange look, she said: "I find a place." I didn't ask for more
information, since I knew she would tell me anyway.
"I know you will not like it," she said, watching for my reaction.
"What makes you say that?" I asked, playing my part.
"It is a very old house -- it has at least 400 years, they say." I nodded.
"There is no electricity." I nodded. "And no toilet." I nodded. "And no beds
and very few furniture." I nodded. "And water must be drawn with a rope and
bucket from a cisterno." I nodded. "There are pigs and goats all around." I
nodded. "There are many flies."
As we rode in the taxi (in honor of the occasion), she told me that the
house was located in an area called Balafi in the pueblo of San Lorenzo,
which, it turned out, consisted of two tiendas, a taberna and some scattered
farm houses. She had rented half the house, and thought I could probably
get the other half for the same price, about 25 cents per day.
We gave the driver a 100-peseta note and he wished us well. "It's up there,"
she said proudly, pointing to a high stone tower far off the road. On the
tower, painted with whitewash, was a lopsided cross. I put my bag on
my head, Eva carried my typewriter, and, like a truncated desert caravan,
we headed up the twisting, rocky path to the house next to the tower.
Those first few nights, I slept in a hammock we rigged up in the main room
downstairs; Eva slept on some sheepskins in her room above. About my third
day there, we decided to go into Ibiza to buy cloth for a sack. Antonio, who
ran the big tienda, said he'd donate the straw for my bed.
The next morning, Eva and I sleepily made our way down to the small tienda,
where there were about 15 people waiting for the bus. They greeted us and
gave us chairs, and we talked while waiting. Finally, we heard the short
beep-beep that signaled the bus was approaching from around the bend. The
bus slowed down, but it was full. The driver, a hard-looking, white-haired
fellow, said gruffly that he'd return in an hour from Ibiza to pick us all
Most of the men and women were content to sit and wait for the returning bus
-- more time to chat in the morning shade. But a few men were anxious to get
to town and they flagged down the next car. We got in, too. When we left San
Lorenzo, there were still about ten people waiting for the bus.
In Ibiza, we had breakfast in a side-street cafe, then wandered through the
market, buying fruit for lunch. While Eva checked for mail at the correo, I
dropped off my note at the tourist office.
We bought the cloth for my sack, then went to Talamanca for a swim. We had
an early dinner at Antonio's third-class restaurant, then went to catch the
bus back to San Lorenzo. When we tried to get on the bus, the driver refused
to sell us the tickets. We argued and pleaded, to no avail; the bastard was
going to leave us there. "Andale," he said with a cruel grin -- go, walk!
"Why? Why won't you sell us tickets?" He closed the door and took off.
We found out from some nearby cafe-sitters that when Ramon, the bus-driver,
had returned to San Lorenzo later that morning to pick up those left behind,
only two passengers were waiting. Everyone else had either hitched or been
given a ride, or couldn't wait any longer. Naturally, since Eva and I stood
out as foreigners, he had blamed us for getting the others to leave. Ramon
was not to be our friend.
Every morning, around 9:30, Eva would knock on my door and announce that
coffee was almost ready. I'd go downstairs, grab some newspaper, retreat
behind the house to fertilize the cactus, draw some water from the cisterno,
wash my face and brush my teeth, take out two large bowls for the coffee,
spread marmelade on the galetas, and we'd have our morning meal. Breakfast
was always my favorite: It was cool in the house from the night; the coffee,
hand-ground and made over the wood fire in the kitchen, was delicious. And
the flies were still sleepy. It was a new day.
After breakfast, we'd wash the bowls and rest: me in the hammock, Eva in her
favorite straight-back chair, tipped against the wall. It would be getting
hotter outside. To keep out the flies, we had hung a huge flap of white
material outside the large front door, but the flies seemed to interpret our
cloth as a sign of surrender. There was no stopping them. It was as if the
house were a rotting corpse and we the carrion. I'd try to hide my face
beneath Eva's yellow silk scarf as I lay on the hammock, but I could feel
their sticky feet walking across my lips, my forehead, my cheeks. I would
have to retreat upstairs if I wanted to escape them, and then only for a
short time: they always tracked me down. The Eumenidies, Eva called them.
Sometimes, I wouldn't be able to take it any more, and I'd go berserk. Using
my notepad, I'd spend hours hunting them down, smashing their bloody bodies
on the table, the walls, the chairs, until they lay there in heaps on the
floor for the night-bugs to carry away for feast. The walls would resemble a
blood-spatter crime scene. But it was no use; the depopulation, the Final
Solution to the fly problem, lasted only briefly. The reserves always were
After our morning rest, we'd put on our alparagatas, those wonderfully
utilitarian cactus-fiber sandals we'd bought in Ibiza, and head down the
path to Antonio's tienda to buy food for the day. We lived and ate cheaply:
invariably, tomatoes, onions, garlic, bread and white. Tomatoes were seven
pesetas a kilo, wine seven pesatas a liter, bread eleven pesetas. Sometimes
we spurged and bought some goat's-milk cheese, or two eggs for an omelette.
But mostly it was tomatoes and bread.
The walk down the rock-path to Antonio's and back, in that stifling heat,
meant an obligatory rest-period when we returned. It was a high, slicing
heat, which seemed to cut not only at the outside of our bodies but
internally as well, tapping the juices of energy. Purgatory must seem
air-conditioned compared to this, I told Eva, but she maintained that Ibiza
was Purgatory and that's why she kept returning to it.
We became deeply tanned, even though we stayed inside most of the time. When
we'd hang our clothes out to dry, the job was done in 10 or 15 minutes at
Around 2:30 usually, we'd eat our lunch: tomato salad mixed with onions and
the inevitable garlic, doused heavily with vinegar and oil, some bread and
wine. Until we picked it clean, our desert came from the plum tree in back
of the house, or from blackberries we'd find on the way to the well, or from
almonds we'd picked surreptitiously from the trees of our neighbors.
After lunch, Eva would do odd chores or would write letters in her gothic,
indecipherable printing. "When will you start to paint?" I asked, anxious to
see and give opinions of her work. (She had been reading some of my plays
and critiquing them.)
"It is not the time for painting now. I am not ready. I am not, how you say
in English, not 'at home' here yet. I must wait."
She did show me slides taken of her two latest frescoes in Paris. They were
wall-size, quite colorfully abstract, and excitingly good. She seemed quite
pleased by my opinion, though she tried to make light of the compliment and
While Eva worked inside the house, I would take my typewriter, my faithful
Olivetti, and head for the tower. To get inside -- since there was no tall
ladder or stairs -- I would have to climb up some ancient footholds carved
out of the side of the wall of the house. When I reached the roof of the
house, and was able to jump into the doorway of the tower, I would haul up
the typewriter with a rope.
I had brought up two chairs with my rope-technique. With the typewriter set
on one, and me sitting on the other, and with the wind and height of the
tower protecting me from the omnipresent flies, I was free to work. There,
within a short space of time, I completed a new play script, a pantomime for
two actors, several poems based on my Spanish travels, an article on
Pamplona for the newspaper I worked for, and was outlining several short
stories. I had found my incubator.
There was a square hole in the ceiling above my head, which led to the top
of the tower. There was no ladder, only a thick round staff leaning against
the wall under the hole. It was not long enough. I tried for three days to
get up that staff and failed. Finally, by hacking a rough notch high up the
staff, I was able to provide an extra foothold and struggled up, rocks and
rotted wood falling on my head and shoulders -- 700-year-old dandruff.
These towers of Balafi, the locals had told us, had been built about that
long ago by the Moors, when they were in occupation of Ibiza. From the
observation holes in the rocks, I could see a large portion of the island's
interior, all the way to the Mediterranean. The vista below me, spread out
for miles: dry, red, fertile earth, dotted with occasional white pueblo
homes, and gnarled olive trees, born before Jesus and still producing. It
was a rare view and often I sat there soaking up the Balafi sun, watching
the slow-paced life before me, feeling that energy fill my bones. And then I
would write again.
Around 6 or 7, I would climb down from my creative silo, grab a short
hand-axe and forage for wood for the kitchen. Sometimes Eva would join me
and we'd walk up towards the Church of San Lorenzo where there was much tree
debris and brush for firewood. We'd talk of our day and what we hoped to
When we returned, we'd dump the wood in the huge kitchen, then climb the
pueblo ladder to the front-roof terrace. The sun would be deep in the sky,
casting long tired shadows off the prickly choombas. Sometimes Eva would
read Lorca in Spanish to me -- poems of bullfighting and death a las cinca
de la tarde -- or those of Rilke and Goethe in German, translating for me.
We'd sit there in our tiny children's chairs, talking and reading -- and
then we would have to stop and look.
In silence, we would watch the changing colors of the earth: orange to red
to brighter red to brownish red to night. We would see the far-off farm
houses, smoke escaping from the kitchen roofholes, and we would see the
silence, calm and peaceful, enveloping Ibiza, enveloping us.
The sun would go down about 9 or so; soon we would have to prepare our
supper. Sometimes we would have potato or bean soup, sometimes the
ubiquitous tomato salad, on occasion pancakes or omelettes.
We knew gato would arrive soon, for it ate dinner with us nightly. Actually,
it was a gata but we still called it gato. It would climb the ladder to the
terrace and walk around nervously, trying to urge us down from the darkness
of the night to the candlelight of the kitchen. Its master, our landlord
Juan -- a likeable, limping guy, who carried himself as one of life's
passed-over losers -- had taught it to sit on its hind legs at the table; it
could sit like that for minutes on end, and I was always the softie who gave
in first and slipped a piece of oiled bread in its mouth.
We would eat, by the light of our damaged oil lamp, around 10:30 or 11.
Afterwards, we would put on light sweaters and return to the terrace to sit
and talk, to sit and look, to sit and listen.
The sky was always clear, the stars were always out -- within hand's reach.
Eva would point out the various constellations and tell me their stories.
Sometimes she would bring out her recorder and play, or I would sing ballads
and folk songs. Gato would sit in our laps, purring. Every so often, the
eyes of a car or a cycloptic motor scooter would be seen negotiating the
twisting narrow road that cut through the island. From behind the mountains
blocking our view, the lights of the "big city" of Ibiza could be seen in
We would sit there, talking and singing and listening, until 2 or 3 in the
morning. Eva would roll her cigarettes -- Hebras were only five pesetas a
pack, but she was even poorer than I was -- or would smoke her small pipe.
The days, the nights, passed effortlessly, without my knowing or caring
where they went, or why. I was as happy as I could ever remember being. I
had found my Jordan.
Eva was a contributory cause to that contentment, and my mind sensed this.
Day by day, I found myself looking at her differently: the features I had
originally seen as stark, not all that attractive, I now began to treasure
as unique and fascinating. Her occasional strange choice of English words,
her talent for handicraft and cooking, her sensitive artist's personality,
her dedication, her recorder-playing, her laughing sad eyes, her small tough
fragile body, her short cropped hair, her independent streak -- all these
flowed through me and made me see her in a new and exciting way. This at the
same time there was something deep and dank about her -- maybe an aura of
the repulsive German penchant for dabbling with evil -- expressed most
openly in her sometimes voiced racist bigotry.
When it came time to separate and go to bed, I could not stop myself from
staring at her, perhaps trying by the force of the blueness in my eyes to
convey to her my thoughts. Each night, she would grow more and more nervous
as I stared at her, more unsure of herself. She would take the candle up the
stairs and wish me a goodnight just before her door. I could not reply. She
would see my eyes in the dim light, catch herself, then disappear into her
room. Each night it grew worse.
It was 3 in the morning on one of those nights. We were sitting in the big
room downstairs, the flame from the oil lamp flickering as the wick began to
"Eva," I said, trying to sound matter-of-fact, "don't you think there's
something strange about our relationship?"
She had a curious look on her face. "How do you mean 'strange'?"
"I mean, we've been living here together for quite awhile now, and yet there
has been no sort of, well, physical involvement at all."
She thought long and her brow creased. She got up and began to walk around
the room, flitting in and out of the flickering light. Her voice was very
low, and her delivery halting: "Yes, perhaps it is strange...but I am tired
of those kind...I know everyone in San Lorenzo thinks we sleep together --
it is good for them to think so -- but it pleases me better this way...I am
tired of the other kind." She stopped, in the dark, waiting for my reply.
My voice was calm, aggravatingly calm; I cursed myself for my calmness, for
saying what I was about to say, even though it was what my mind and heart,
if not my body, really wanted to say.
"I understand, and agree. You know, I like what we -- what you and I -- have
here, Eva. There's no forcing, no pressure. When I accidentally catch you
bathing in the courtyard, there is little embarrassment, and no overwhelming
passion. I like being here like this. It's more natural, more free."
I heard us both softly sigh. A weight had been lifted. We had brought it out
in the open. The growing-together we had both sensed was acknowledged, the
independence we both so craved and despised was recognized; our love, if you
will, was given form.
And, when she took the candle and started up the stairs that morning, and
paused and looked at me gazing at her, we knew that soon I would be sleeping
with her on the sheepskin.
There was a wonderfully liberating air in the house in the morning. We ate
breakfast chatteringly, deciding to take the day off and hitch a ride to the
beach at Portinatx. As we were dressing, we heard a knock on the door. I
lifted the white canvas sheet. Joyce.
"Joyce!" I exclaimed in perceptive recognition, and blurted out the first
things I could think of. "Uh...it's been a long time...I didn't know you
were coming...Where are your friends?"
She hesitated. Apparently something had happened. She was nervous but trying
not to show it. "Oh, Suzanne decided to stay in Paris with her boyfriend
Terry, and I left Dave and Marty in Madrid...I picked up your note at the
tourist office...Ed, would you mind if I stayed with you here?"
By this time, Eva had dressed and come downstairs. I was still holding the
flap open, Eva was behind me, and Joyce was still outside in the sun. I
turned to Eva, trying to sound calm. "It's my friend Joyce; she would like
to stay here for awhile. Is that OK?"
Eva shrugged and grunted.
I made the introductions, then Joyce and I walked down the path to where the
taxi was parked at the road. We talked about her travels through southern
Spain, we talked about nothing. She paid the driver 200 pesetas. I flung her
bag on my head and we headed back up the path.
"I said in my note that there was an afternoon bus that comes this way; it's
only nine pesetas. Christ, Joyce, you didn't have to spend that fortune for
a taxi! Do you realize what 200 pesetas buys? That's almost half a month's
rent out here!"
"I didn't want to wait in town, I wanted to get out here and see you," she
said, almost pouting. "Besides, I didn't know how much the cab would be when
I took it."
"Didn't know?" I exploded. "Joyce, you always ask the price first and then
bargain; we're not on Central Park West here."
We walked on in silence. I felt like I was going to start screaming again,
and I didn't like behaving that way -- but I couldn't seem to stop
"Ed," she said hestitatingly as we panted up the path. "I'm
not...interfering in anything by coming here, am I? I mean...you and Eva?
Are you...living together? I mean I can go, you know, if I'm interrupting
"Eva and me?" I said, with a laugh. "Just good friends, Joyce, just good
We didn't have time for more talk as we had reached the house. Eva was
sitting inside smoking her pipe. While Joyce unpacked upstairs, I sat
outside on the steps, trying to make some sense of the situation.
I thought back to that first sight of Joyce outside the door as I lifted the
flap. My first reaction after shocked surprise, no use kidding myself, was
that I was excited. We had had some good times traveling together, and my
horny mind immediately sent me that message and told me it would be good
again. Then my rational mind broke in to remind me that things would be a
bit sticky with both Joyce and Eva in the same house: a kind of menage a
trois with two parts of the trois probably despising each other and me in
the middle. It was no good, I would have to talk to Eva about it -- and
Later, while Joyce napped upstairs, Eva and I walked down to Antonio's to buy
food. Eva was silent.
"Her friends are in Madrid," I said, somehow trying to explain. "Something
must have happened, and now she's here. Joyce is very lonely, Eva; it's not
good for her to be alone. But she said this morning that if it was bad for
her to be here, she would go back to the mainland."
"She is your friend, Edward" Eva said curtly. "If she is to stay, she will
help pay for the food and Juan will want more money for the rent."
"Eva, you must understand that I didn't anticipate her showing up here and
wanting to stay. I figured that if she came at all, it would be with her
friends and only for a few days. I'm sorry if this is inconveniencing
"She is your friend and she is welcome in the house," she said, not looking
at me as we approached the back of Antonio's tienda.
I stayed in the tower that afternoon. I couldn't write anything; I couldn't
even concentrate. But I hoped it might be better if I left the two of them
alone in the house. They were talking in the downstairs room, and the hum of
their voices filtered up the vent hole on the roof: girl-talk, talk about
nothing as they mentally circled each other.
As they talked, my mind roamed back to my last day in Miami, when I met the
postman delivering our mail. "Your mom tells me you're taking off for Europe
soon, Ed. So you're 'running away' to the Old World, huh?", he said
jokingly. "Can't take it here, that it?"
"That's right, I'm running away," I said softly, because that's what he
wanted to hear.
"You going to become one of those ex-patriotic writers, or are you coming
"I don't know," I said quietly. "I don't know."
"You'll be back," he said, shaking my hand. "You'll be back."
I wanted to paste that postman in the mouth for saying that, for thinking
that he knew me, but I shook hands and told him I'd send interesting
postcards to my parents for him to check out.
I could vaguely hear Eva and Joyce below downstairs, their voices now a low
buzz. The flies had returned.
Later that night, after supper, we sat on the terrace and talked and looked.
On the surface, everything was extraordinarily chummy. Gato sensed something
else and hurridly left. We talked of southern Spain, Joyce telling of the
sights she had seen during the past month, Eva telling of her life with the
Gypsies several summers previous in Andalusia. I didn't talk much at all.
It was 3 a.m. They both were tired and sleepy, but neither wanted to be the
first to suggest bed. This could go on all night, I thought, and finally
faked a yawn and said I was going in.
I lit one of the candled-bottles and proceded upstairs. It was Joyce who
came up the stairs a few minutes later. She got undressed and lay down
beside me on the long, but not wide, straw-filled sack. We were both hungry.
It was good again, like I thought it would be.
She lit a cigarette. "Ed, you don't want me here, do you?"
It came out effortlessly: "Yes and no."
I took a long breath; I seemed to sense that what I was going to say was
much more important than just the words. "Let me try to explain. I don't
know if it'll make sense to you -- or even to me." I paused as the words
"When I came here, I found something, Joyce, something rare, maybe unique
for me, and beautiful. Yes, in this unnatural, hellishly hot paradise. I
don't know if I can explain it. I love this place. I love the quiet and
peacefulness of it, the timelessness, the beauty. I can work here. I have no
responsibilities, I am tied to nobody and nothing. I am not committed in any
way. That's why Eva and I get along so well: She asks and demands nothing;
we live and work together, and apart.
"Now you come. Even though you don't want me to feel some close connection
to you, I do, I am. Once again, I am being forced, by something and someone,
to care again, no matter how much I don't want to, to care about something
other than the days and nights here, something other than the heat and the
coolness, something other than my writing, something other than just being
here. Do you understand?
"It was different in London and Paris and Pamplona. We were in cities, doing
and seeing the tourist scene. It was a different life; we were both lonely
and had wonderful fun together. But here, on Ibiza, in San Lorenzo, it's
different, Joyce. I'm alone here, not lonely -- a creative kind of
aloneness. Now you've reminded me of another part of me, a lonely part that
lives in another way.
"When I mentioned on the train about coming here, I didn't think in
long-range terms. I didn't know what I would find here. But I didn't think
you would show up to stay with me; I thought you'd be coming with Dave and
Marty and Suzanne.
"I like being with you. I love your body; you make me feel happy -- you know
that -- and it's good with us, and when I think of how good it is, I want
you to stay here with me and--
"But you really want me to go."
"I'm not sure, Joyce. I want my life to be like it was; I want to be able to
work, and spend my days doing what I want, completely free. I don't want to
feel pressed, by anything or anyone. And yet, I want you. I want our nights
to be like they used to be, like it was tonight." I let out a long breath; I
had said it.
She smoked the rest of her cigaretee in silence. When she was finished, she
said softly, "I'll try, Ed, I'll try. I'll stay away from you during the day
and let you alone."
I felt the tear when I kissed her, and it burned.
The next day was the worst. After breakfast, Eva and I were tying on our
alparagatas for the walk to Antonio's. I yelled upstairs: "You ready,
She came to the stairs and looked down. "Do you really want me to come?"
"Of course we do."
She looked at us standing at the front door. "That's all right, you two go
ahead without me; I'll wash the cups," and she ducked back into our room.
I looked at Eva, shrugged, and off we went.
The whole day went like that: Joyce looking hurt if I so much as batted an
eyelash the wrong way, or spoke to Eva too often. The tension was so thick,
my stomach was upset and I had a headache -- reminiscent of the constant
atmosphere in my family when I was growing up. I wasn't able to work that
day either, although I did mercilessly smash the most flies I had ever
killed in one day.
That night, alone in our room, we had another try at it.
"Joyce, honey," I said, stroking her long black hair, "today was miserable.
You moped around like a little girl, sulking and pouting and terribly hurt.
It was awful for everybody. Nobody was happy, least of all you."
She was almost crying again. "I wanted to leave you alone like you wanted it
to be, Ed. I didn't know how to act. What am I supposed to do?"
I didn't have the answer either -- only the one that would send the flesh
away to nourish the spirit, and I couldn't handle that decision yet.
We talked some more, made love, and slept: me against the white wall (every
morning, my hair and side would be flaked with the plaster), and Joyce on
the rest of the mat.
Things leveled-off after that first day: never really smooth but at least
the hours were bearable, sometimes even pleasant.
Eva and Joyce apparently had worked out their level of relationship. I
didn't know what it was, and was a bit suspicious of it.
Joyce and I had worked out some sort of arrangement. From the moment we woke
up, I was the cool day-man; there was no more early-morning lovemaking as
there had been on the mainland. At night, however, we were two delicious
animals -- I perhaps attempting in my passion to apologize for the way I
acted during the day, she attempting to make our tie strong enough to pull
her through another day. She voiced no complaints, I offerred no
The times when Eva and I were alone were less frequent but more meaningful.
We communicated mostly with our eyes, rarely in direct verbal expression.
She knew how it was, I knew how it was. But Eva was not going to make the
first overt move; she was too much ruled by the tradition of hospitality,
and I was too deeply wallowed in my stoical molasses.
I would climb up to the tower frequently, but these times it was more an
escape-route than a creative incubator. I tried some poems; my muse was
constipated, and I completed fragments rather than whole works. I tried
outlining my new play; it took three days rather than three hours. I didn't
even return to any of my short stories; I just put them aside. As I found my
writing more and more blocked, I grew more cool toward Joyce, even against
She was not cut out for the type of living necessitated by our environment.
Climbing over rocks, up and down hills, cooking for hours in the smoky, hot
kitchen, searching for wood, carrying water from the well, washing clothes
on the smooth rocks near the well -- these things were alien to her
personality, her experience, her class, her build. I was aware of this, yet
I drove her harder every day, accusing her of loafing, of taking it easy
while Eva and I did the hard labor. I justified my harshness by saying that
she needed the discipline, but even I didn't believe that reasoning.
Sometimes the pathos was almost too much. We were walking down the path, Eva
and I up front, Joyce about 20 feet behind. We passed some baby goats, cute
little brown things with their feet hobbled, like their parents', to keep
them from nibbling higher up on the trees. They "baaaaaaaa'd" and Joyce
"baaaaaaaa'd" back. We smiled and kept walking, thinking Joyce was still
But she had stayed behind with the small, hobbled goats, talking to them in
Everytime after that, whenever we'd pass the area where the baby goats
grazed, Joyce would stop to talk with her friends.
We hitched to Portinatx beach one day. Joyce was out swimming in the cold,
clear, blue-green water. On a hill, I was reading a book of cummings'
poetry. Eva was starting at me.
"You are not good to Joyce. I see it. Why must you treat her so badly?"
"Are you kidding, Eva? You must know the reason as well as I. I don't really
want her here. She's disturbed something very important to me. As a result,
even though I don't consciously set about to hurt her, to hurt anyone, I
can't seem to help myself, and so it comes out like that. But I'm not a
complete ogre, Eva. We made sort of an agreement, Joyce and I, when she said
she wanted to stay, and that was that the days were mine and--"
"Yes, but you are, how you say, vicious. Why can you not be more nice to
her? She is a good person."
She walked away and I made my way to the beach. What Eva had said, of
course, was largely true, but why had she said it? I dived in and swam out
to the cave where Joyce was. As we frolicked in the water, Eva watched from
It was later that afternoon that Eva cursed me and almost cried when she
thought I was laughing at her inability to figure out the check for our
lunch. She was livid with rage and it wasn't until just before we were ready
to leave Portinatx that she calmed down and we could talk about the
misunderstanding. I had guessed correctly: being nicer to Joyce wasn't to
mean being too nice.
Some times were fun. The day before the national holiday -- the day of San
Jaime, the patron saint of Spain -- while I was sunbathing on the roof of
the house, I came across a dead baby-bird. It couldn't have been alive for
more than a day or so before it had died: the elementary organs and veins
were quite visible. I placed it on a cardboard bier and carried it down to
where Joyce and Eva were sitting in the shade behind the house. They were
equally fascinated by my discovery, and we decided that a bird so young
should have a decent burial. While they searched for a proper gravesite, I
was to compose the funereal poem. I climbed up to the tower and finished my
first "creative work" in many days.
"I hope you realize that this is a serious poem," I said, as we stood
reverently by the grave. "This is a most solemn ceremony, frought with
tragic implications of momentous import. If you will please lower the
deceased into the grave, I shall now recite the funereal poem."
The bird, in a cigar-box coffin, was gently lowered with string into an
immense hole, several times larger than would have held us all.
"My poem is entitled: 'Ode to a Bird: Elegy in a Spainish Graveyard', and I
Little birdie in the sky,
Now it's time for beddie-bye.
Now you have the past tense on.
In your grave you shall lie
Unfamiliar with the sky,
Unfamiliar with the cats,
Hawks, bees, assorted rats;
Unfamiliar with the sun,
Now, poor bird, you'll never run.
From the egg, through the shell,
You don't even have a smell.
'Tis a pity, to be sure,
Yet again, you still are pure.
Rest in peace. Amen.
We all sobbed.
The day after the funeral ceremony, we dressed up and joined the rest of the
local population for a High Mass in honor of San Jaime. The church, a simple
structure, was almost empty when we entered. We took small chairs from along
the wall, and sat in the rear behind the wooden pews, hoping thus to remain
relatively inconspicuous. Soon the church filled, with the women -- in their
long black, heavy skirts, intricately-stiched blouses, with their long
braids hanging down the back -- sitting along the sides in tiny chairs, the
men in the pews.
Everyone was staring at us. We should have figured out by the initials
scratched on the backs that we were sitting in the centuries-old chairs of
certain families, but we had to be told. Like embarrassed hicks, we
apologized to the shy, polite women and went to sit in the rear pew. Joyce,
who was Catholic, explained the Mass to us. Eva tried to decipher the sermon
but it was delivered in the strong Ibizenca dialect and she couldn't. After
the Mass came the procession, with the girls of the pueblo -- wearing
make-up, heels, modern skirts and fancy hairdoes -- carrying the sacred
figures twice around the church, as been done for centuries. Nowhere had I
experienced the contrast between Old and New more than in watching these
teenage girls performing the ancient rites, followed by their
traditionally-dressed mothers and older sisters. The world, even San
Lorenzo, was cracking, and in the middle of the fissure (with the
black-hatted men staring intently at us) sat I, Eva on one side, Joyce on
Throughout Spain that evening, there were festivals. In Ibiza City, there
would be fireworks and a huge blowout. In San Lorenzo, fiesta meant an
accordion and some dancing. Across the street from the taberna, a space had
been converted into a small dance floor, illuminated by a gasoline lamp. In
the position of honor, atop a heavy wooden table, sat the accordionist in a
beautifully carved straight-backed chair.
In a festival spirit, perhaps expecting something to happen, we had bought
some lemons, oranges and bananas, and extra wine, and Eva had brewed up some
homemade sangria. Two bowls each, and we were well on our way when we got to
Eva, Joyce, I and our landlord Juan sat at a table across the street from
the dancing space. The stag-line was immense, as all the young men from the
island's interior had congregated in San Lorenzo. They all wanted to dance
with Eva and Joyce; Eva told them later and later never came; Joyce danced
with them all. She was very happy, and my mind registered goats. Finally Eva
and I danced while Juan limped around with Joyce. We held each other tighter
than was necessary as we moved, taking care not to look into each others'
eyes to acknowledge the fact. The older people along the sides smiled at us
and clapped in time to the accordionist's rhythms; the younger ones wanted
to cut-in or do The Twist. It was like old home week at the Police Athletic
Joyce was flushed and tired from all the dancing and begged off from any
more. Eva and Juan were arguing Spanish and German declension. I asked Joyce
if she wanted to cool off and take a walk. We headed down the road and soon
were in the darkness, although we could still see the dancing lights of the
fiesta and hear the Ibizenca songs on the accordion. The scene was a
painting I didn't want to buy, so I snapped it in my soul.
"Boy, those young Spanish guys are fast, let me tell you," Joyce said,
squeezing my hand. "I think I've been propositioned more times in the past
two hours that in my whole life. They didn't even wait -- on the first turn,
they ask me to sleep with them, I am so beautiful and they are so lonely."
"Well, I did notice the paucity of available female flesh around here. I
wouldn't doubt the lonely part -- or the part about you being beautiful. How
did you deal with their amorous entreaties?"
"I pretended I didn't understand. Senor, yo no comprendo, yo no comprendo.
After awhile, they'd give up or someone would cut in."
I kissed her then, and sucked in by her warmth and by the tableau of the
cool fiesta lights against the darkness, we lay down beneath an olive tree
in the field.
In the morning, when we had slept off the effects of the sangria and dancing
and lovemaking, the fiesta was over and the world was once more too much
with us. My inability to work, my longing for the pre-Joyce past with
myself, with Eva, only made me more tense, more irritable, more unable to
connect with the muse. Somehow, the vicious cycle had to be broken. I had to
As we came back from gathering wood, I told Eva that I was thinking of
leaving soon; she nodded wordlessly -- she understood. I told Joyce later
that night, after our quiet time on the terrace, watching the sky.
"Ed, if you want me to, I'll take the Saturday boat alone," she said, lying
beside me. "You don't have to leave if you're happy here on account of me."
Her awkward sentence structure was so ironic, I could feel my insides
"Do you want me to take the boat?" she asked, and I could feel her body's
What could I say? Of course I wanted her to take the boat, to remove herself
(and what I vaguely sensed she represented) from my life, to disappear back
into the cultural maw from whence she had come, to vacate the premises, to
take her lovely body elsewhere. But when she had gone, my mind asked, was
there an assurance that I would be able to regain that lost "something" I
had found here? What was driving me? What was my fuel? How large was my gas
tank? And did I possess a reserve capacity to try again? What frightened me
about Eva? What drew me towards her? Did I have to "retreat" in order to
write? Was I a coward? A young, 23-year-old naif abroad caught up in a web
of relationships far beyond my experience? What is cowardice anyway? What's
"Ed? What's wrong? Why are you staring out like that?"
"I'm sorry, Joyce, I was just thinking. No, of course not, honey, we'll both
leave together. We'll go into Ibiza tomorrow to buy the tickets for
She kissed me on the neck and snuggled into my armpit, and as much as I
tried to resist, I felt good about my decision.
The three of us spent a fun day in Ibiza. After buying the tickets, we ate a
big lunch, then hopped the boat for Talamanca and soaked in the water and
sun. Later we had drinks near the correo while Eva played some flamenco
records she had brought with her to the bar. We joked and drinked and smoked
away, in high spirits. It would all be over soon. We hitched back when it
was dark, getting a ride to San Lorenzo with some Australian fellows in a
Willy's. That night, we stayed up until 4 in the morning, singing and
dancing and telling dirty jokes in various languages. It was all coming out
of us, I thought, in healthy fun-fashion.
The sun beat down mercilessly the next day, but somehow I didn't feel it.
Something had been burned out of me, I had bought the ticket. Perhaps one
could find air-conditioned calm on the mainland.
We splurged for our Last Supper and bought some fish for dinner, which, as
it turned out, was on a Friday night. We tried to get stinking drunk on the
last of the sangria -- but the only one who succeeded was gato. It whirled
around on its can, trying to sit on its hind legs as taught, with a puzzled,
doped look on its face, while Eva, an inebriated Pan, danced around it
playing German ragtime on her recorder. I suppose we all wanted to talk but
we avoided silent periods, trying to stuff them full of noise so that we
wouldn't have the opportunity to speak.
As we were supposed to get up early to catch the morning bus, we broke it up
around 3 a.m. and headed for bed. Later, when Joyce was asleep, I went out
to watch the sunrise. Far off, I could see Eva and gato walking among the
cactus. I stayed on the terrace for a long while, then went back to bed.
We woke up an hour after the bus had passed through San Lorenzo. For some
reason, or reasons, Joyce had set the alarm for the wrong time. But what
matter? The boat didn't leave until 11 that night and we could probably
catch a ride before then. We had a leisurely breakfast and smoked off our
hangovers around the table.
"Good, now I have time to give you a haircut," Eva said to me, grinning at
Joyce. It had been six months or so since my last cut, in the States, and
Joyce never stopped kidding me about my shaggy appearance. Truth was, I
could use one: it was too hot for long hair. So, while Joyce took a nap
upstairs, Eva turned barber.
We set up a chair in the courtyard. "Just trim the back of my neck, Eva, and
maybe a little off the sides -- you know, just enough to give me back my
good looks. But don't make it too short; I can't write when it's short,
honest." With that said, I sort of dozed in the hot, late-morning sun,
barely conscious of the click-click of the scissors as Eva worked away.
I awoke to Joyce's fanatic laughter. She was doubled-over in mirth, pointing
at me. "Get me a mirror!" I screamed angrily. It was brought and I'd been
scalped. My "light trim" had evolved into a Dalilah-like attack on my golden
locks -- almost all of them. I looked like an American Boy Scout, and Eva,
with a strange look in her eye, was grinning, proud of her handiwork. I was
mightily pissed off -- so, of course, I laughed. I did look ridiculous. We
collected the several pounds of shorn hair lying in the courtyard, put it in
a paper bag and threw it in the grave alongside our baby bird. This time I
composed no elegy.
When we went down to Antonio's to buy tomatoes and bread for lunch, we
learned that there was an afternoon bus that appeared, usually, perhaps, if
Ramon felt like it, maybe, sometime around 3:30 -- or so. We ate, took a
nap, and got down to the tienda early just to be sure -- and to say our
goodbyes to our friends at the two tiendas and the taberna. The word had got
out that Joyce and I were leaving and many of the farmers we knew had come
to say goodbye. They seemed genuinely sorry to see us go; we were the only
foreigners in the region, and besides providing the community with a sort of
mysterious (and racy) prestige, they liked us -- maybe because we lived
simply like them -- and we liked them. The men enjoyed Joyce most of all,
particularly her long legs and striking figure.
They never seemed to know what to make of me, although they let it be known
that they greatly admired what was to them my obvious virility and success
with women. It must be so, they reasoned, since I lived with two in the same
can; and, while it was true that some of them slept with women other than
their wives, they did not do it so openly as did the young americano. The
advantages of being a foreigner. Of course, it was all much more complciated
than simply living with two women in the same house, but, since I didn't
understand it all myself, I didn't think it would have made much sense to
attempt to explain it to them. Besides, their version probably was better.
At 4:15, Ramon pulled up with an almost-empty bus. After telling him that we
were leaving Ibiza and that unless we could ride his bus we probably would
have to stay, he grumblingly agreed to accept us as passengers. I paid him
and in his undisguised anger and confusion, he gave me 25 pesetas too much
in change. We decided not to tell him about his mistake; God was just after
When we got to Ibiza, in a spirit of reconciliation (based on our knowlege
that we was a former alcoholic), we graciously invited Ramon to have a drink
with us at the bus cafe, but he seemed suspicious and declined. The other
cafe sitters laughed.
Eva had been acting strangely all day. She had tried to back off coming to
Ibiza to see us off at the boat, so that we had to beg her to come. Which is
exactly what she wanted, and needed. Now, when we reached Ibiza, she started
up again, saying that perhaps it would be better if she caught the
early-evening bus and didn't wait. So, although we meant every word of it --
at least I did -- we had to go through the begging script again, telling Eva
how much we wanted her to stay, at least to eat dinner with us. Feeling
better, she agreed, and we headed over to the restaurant.
It was a grand meal -- Joyce had liver, Eva paella, I squid -- with plenty
of white wine. We sat and ate and drank for several hours, until we were
bloated, then decided to walk it off. We wound up at the long wharf where
the yachts of the international set were tied up, and watched the native
boys diving and splashing in the cold water at the end of the pier. Then we
headed toward the small alleys of the Old City, up through the ancient
archway, toward the fort and church.
When we got to the first viewing-level, we could see our ship approaching
the island from the broad expanse of an infinite sea. For the first time in
a long time, I realized how cut off we were from the maintream of life; it
would be eleven hours before the ship reached the mainland. We watched the
ship steam into the harbor and slip next to the dock. Everything at this
height was tiny, as if seen through the large end of a telescope: little
people, toy boats, Monopoly-game houses. We walked higher, to the church,
and overlooked the side of the island, where centuries of sea continued
their battle with centuries of rock. I stared long at the water and rocks
and when I turned around, only Eva was near me. Joyce had disappeared.
We looked everywhere we could see, but she was nowhere to be found. My first
thought -- how could I deny it? -- was that she had jumped over the rock
wall on the cliff. I looked down at the sea, half-expecting to see her
bright red dress at the bottom. My heart was pumping crazily.
Finally, Eva spotted her far away, at another viewing point on a lower
level. She had wanted to be alone with Ibiza, too. As we walked towards her,
I picked some passion-flowers growing by the wall, cutting my hand on some
sharp rocks in the process. Joyce seemed pleased by the present and wore
them in her hair; Eva carried her flowers, picking new ones and arranging
them as we wound our way down. I wrapped a handkerchief around my bloody
fingers, trying to stem the flow of drops that were following in my
footsteps as we descended.
It was dark now, and hotter, and as we made our way through the tiny
pseudo-streets of the Old City back towards the crowded tourist avenues with
their big cafes and souvenir shops, we were silent and sad. It seems the air
smells differently here than it did by the fort and church above, or in San
Lorenzo, Eva said. It's the smell of money and sweaty asses on chairs, I
said, and we laughed too loudly. The cafes were filling now as passengers
and their friends emerged from hotels and restaurants and headed down to the
dock area. Tired, we sat and ordered drinks and talked about what was
happening to Ibiza.
It was still relatively non-phony, we agreed, but becoming less so all the
time as a result of two types of non-Ibizans: the semi-retired businessmen
who yelled stock quotations across the cafe tables and slapped each other
with their latest Time magazines, International edition; and, the bearded
artists and their girlfriends -- escapees from Brandeis, Schwabbing, Soho,
Chelsea, Paris, Amsterdam -- who were more concerned with being artists than
in producing art. Both types had created an atmosphere in Ibiza that they
took to be Ibiza's charm. Sad and pathetic.
Soon, we agreed, perhaps within five years, Ibiza would be no good anymore,
and another creative oasis would have to be "discovered," where one could
work and live, in peace, in silence, in oneself, without alterin the
incubating culture that much. It was the way of the world: even the unmarred
freshness of Balafi and San Lorenzo was doomed.
It was getting late; if Eva wanted to hitch a ride back, she'd have to start
soon. We finished our last round and headed toward the road at the end of
the dock street that led to the island's interior. Eva said she didn't want
us to walk her to the lamppost down the road where she would stand and try
Joyce took Eva's hand at the corner, kissed her lightly on both cheeks, and
said her thank-yous and goodbyes. As she finished, I told Joyce I wanted to
talk to Eva, would be back in a moment, took Eva's arm and started walking
toward the lamppost. Joyce waited on the corner.
We walked in silence, saying volumes. "Please, Edward, do not walk with me
further," and she turned toward me in the darkness.
"I'll miss you, Eva," I said, with a lump in my throat, and gently kissed
her on the lips.
"You must go now," she said, holding tightly to my hand. "Please go. And
please do not be angry at me for not being...the other way. It was maybe
better." She dropped my hand; the sparrow was crying.
"I don't think it was better, Eva," I said, and I had to turn and walk away.
Back to Joyce, back to the bright lights of the cafes, back to the ship for
the mainland, back to my life.
Joyce had moved several feet from the corner by the time I reached her. Her
back was turned and I could see that we was unsuccessfully trying to
suppress her crying.
"Joyce, please don't feel hurt," I said, placing my hand around her
shoulder. "There was something more between Eva and me than there was
between you and her, and I had to say a private goodbye to her."
She jerked her shoulder away and began walking, crying as I talked and tried
to catch up. "Are you really that upset about my saying goodbye to Eva?"
"I'm upset the way I've been treated ever since I got here, like a piece of
dirt," she sobbed. "You didn't want me here, with you and Eva, and you
didn't even have the decency, or guts, to tell me to get lost. You were like
an iceberg to me. You..."
As we walked back toward the ship, I heard Joyce talking to me, bawling me
out for all sorts of real and imagined crimes, but I didn't hear her at all.
My thoughts were concentrated on the night air, the colored neon, the Ibiza
magic, the cafe where I had been cheated once out of 30 pesetas, the fishy
smell of the water, the tourists at the cafes, the everpresent "artists" in
their jeans and sport shirts, the look on Eva's face as we said goodbye, the
taste of her lips, the house in San Lorenzo, the goats, gato, the
white-crossed tower, Ramon the bus-driver, Juan the landlord, Antonio at
his tienda, the color of the water at Portinatx, our friends and neighbors,
the taberna, the accordionist, the choombas, the fiesta, the neon, the Old
City, the fort, the church, the ship, the flowers, the blood, Eva, gato...
We sat at the cafe. Did I defend myself? What does it matter? #