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14 Aug.
This place is a dump and I'm trying to move on as quickly as possible but I need to pause and write you anyway. I'm sitting with my feet up on the balcony railing and all the old women across the way are peeking at me from behind the blinds and probably clicking their tongues in disapproval. One doesn't put one's feet up on the balcony railing. "Tch! That crazy American girl! Loca! Doesn't she know about the heat?"
Ah yes, the heat. It's goddamnawful sweltering here - maybe 95 degrees and humid too. There's a river running through the middle of the city - thick slow water, green. All I can think of when I look at it is malaria, but there are actually kids who swim in it. All the sensible people have left the city for breezier climes. August is vacation month. About half of everything is closed and no one is around - except the hordes of tourists, and the old women across the way.
I didn't write you to talk about Sevilla - not much else to say about it except that there's a fine amphitheatre, bright, many arches, harmonious uplift, and in it they kill bulls for fun and then write about the killing in the arts section of the newspaper. There are some parks and remnants of Moorish castles and mosques - the Christians came along, cleaned out the Moors, and carved up everything so the Virgin Marys would fit: presto! New churches. Long live love and charity! The cathedral is more like it - gloomy and utterly bereft of concern for the human scale. I have met no one here who interests me with the possible exception of a lad who was sitting on the edge of the river quai at 2 in the morning, singing. He explained it was a seguidillas (sp?) which is some sort of flamenco death lament, at which point I asked if the tourist commission paid him to sit on the quai and sing. We had a fine but brief conversation which ended in him telling me to go back to my American whorehouse. Ah, the friendly natives!
Let's talk about someone more interesting. Yes, on to the point. As you have by now divined, I departed from Northern Africa some time ago. I did so by boat, from Tangier - an even more wretched place than this one, if you can imagine it - and landed at Algeciras, which was not picturesque, but fascinating, a real crossroads - many ferries to Morocco coming and going. I decided to hang out for a few days and maybe see about a job. I guess it was my second night that I found myself in a bar gorging myself on olives (free!), nursing a manzanilla, and watching a man talking on the telephone. He was speaking in English which is what caught my attention. An American! But he didn't look American. Skin like a latte and sleek black hair: the Moroccan serving boy of our dreams.
When he got off the phone I made sure he came over and sat with me for a while - I was just curious, honest, but listen - don't roll your eyes -- it turned out to be the most amazing night. First, he's from near Oxford of all places - on his way to Tangier to see relatives. Second, we had about six hours of conversation. It was instant understanding. Immediately we began talking about death (because of Oxford --> Val) and the first thing he said was there's a strange attraction to it we all feel - attraction and repulsion, an obsession. I told him everything I had gone through and how I felt I was stuck in exactly that - an obsession. And about religion and how I could see its failure, which he agreed with. He told me about the death of his mother (car crash) and how he's learned to cope with it. Something about talking to him - he was one of those people who really listens - it was probably the most fulfilling conversation I've had in months. When he talked, he spoke very gently, but with some kind of deep power. I felt like he was totally at peace and you know how much I've been after that. Not unemotional but beyond emotion, or maybe pure emotion uncomplicated by misgivings and anxiety. We talked about everything, and then it was dawn and the bar was shutting so we left. He caught a boat the next day and I didn't want to stay in Algeciras after that. I have his number and address - I am going to write him just after I finish with you and have a drink of water. Talking with him was like having the weight lifted away and I want that back, I want to learn what it is and foster it inside me so I can end this wretched existence - death shadowing me everywhere like in an old spy movie. Those poor goddamn bulls. His name is Aaron.
I see I'm rattling on -
Still your Purity

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