Nonfiction by Christopher James
So because you’re on holiday you’ve walked all day, and now you’re sitting on steps eating lunch and near you are two schoolgirls in uniform and an older man, a tourist, is talking to them, and you don’t like this, so you pretend to be absorbed by your sandwich and you listen. Sometimes he speaks in Spanish and you don’t understand everything, but mostly he asks the girls questions in English and they giggle and answer with words they’ve learnt at school. He asks their names, their ages, if they have boyfriends. You feel uncomfortable. You don’t know where the line is, but if he crosses the line you’re going to step in. The girls are thirteen and the man is maybe sixty. You’ll tell him to walk away. He’s sitting below them and discreetly you watch his eyes to make sure he’s not looking anywhere he shouldn’t be looking. He’s telling the girls they’re pretty, and you wonder if this is the line. He’s asking them how to say “I love you” in Spanish, and is this the line? Psychically you warn him not to try a damned thing. I’ll castrate you, you think. Your sandwich is finished, you’re peeling an orange, your drink has gone flat. At some point you can’t stay any longer, and the man is still there still talking to the girls. You look at them as you leave—maybe they will signal their panic before you go. But they don’t signal anything. They’ve not stopped giggling, and maybe you’re wrong, maybe it’s okay. Or maybe, because life, these young girls are expert already at pretending that everything’s fine.