He tempts her with Portugal in spring –
I can’t, she says, not having stayed before
in a hotel with anyone but her husband.
He laughs, kisses her, points out that
there are four hundred bedrooms, so who
will know or care? This being a question,
for which she has no answer, they go,
oblivious to the Carnation Revolution,
bewildered to find their hotel empty,
its terraces deserted, salt pool unruffled,
to dine alone in a chandeliered ballroom
where a trio of defeated women play
selections from long-dead musicals. This
soup’s good, he says; she stabs her plate,
an ill-conceived stew of pork, beans and
shellfish. It can’t get any worse, she thinks
but all week the sun’s too hot, the beach
too far; they trail from one sad bar or café
to the next, weary of fado, the endless
bacalhau, the sickly egg yolk docinhos
whipped up, she imagines, by sour-faced
nuns. We should never go back, he says
on the last night. I should never have come,
she thinks, sticky with guilt and sugar
which she tries to rinse away in vinho
verde. And later, it will not be this meal,
his sleeping face and priapic body or his
unfaithful mouth she will remember,
but how, slipping in through shutters,
the sunlight stained everything.

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