It is the beginning of another month and thus time for another installment of the Ohmygod saga (to catch up on the previous installments click on the Ohmygod menu up top). As you will recall, I used to be a cycling tour guide in Europe for several years. Through that job (yes, it is a bit difficult to call it a “job”) I met countless interesting people and have a few compelling stories to tell, but most of them pale to the story of Ohmygod, one of the clients that I had for three weeks. Some may wonder about the moniker, but the name chose itself really; it is what I uttered repeatedly during just about every interaction with him.
In the previous installment (Part Forty-Eight), after flat but otherwise enjoyable ride out to the Netherlands, I returned to Bruges and met the crew at a local bar where we partook in a blind beer tasting (with Ohmygod the only “contestant” who correctly identified all three beers). We then proceeded to the main square, the Markt, for dinner, where I had just ordered several types of mussels and Ohmygod insisted on ordering eel in a black squid ink sauce although the rest of us were rather certain that he had no idea what he had chosen.
A few moments after placing our order, the first round of beers showed up. Another minute or two after that, the conversation started flowing. The first to initiate, as had become his style, was Adonis. He asked Brad, who was across the table, “Why does she do that?”
“Do what?” Brad replied.
Adonis then proceeded to recount the scene that he and Maggie had seen while out on the ride. Apparently, the “happy” couple was riding along a canal when they passed by the spot where Adonis and Maggie were eating their picnic lunch (and no doubt fueling Maggie’s hopes of a romantic encounter). As they passed, Adonis had noticed that Angelina had adopted a rather curious cycling “position.” Her feet were off the pedals, resting on the down tube (i.e., not pedaling), and her helmeted head was resting firmly in the middle of Brad’s back.
I turned first to Adonis with an incredulous look on my face, then across the table to Brad. He simply shrugged his shoulders and then extended his hand, palm upward toward Angelina, as if to say: “Ask her.”
As our collective gaze turned to Angelina, she looked up from her Scrabble words (which she had once again started studying immediately after sitting down), shrugged slightly, and said only “I get tired.” And then she went back to her “work.”
I quickly spun back to Brad and asked for some clarification. “How often does she do that?”
“At least half of the time.”
I glanced back to Angelina, but there was no reaction–either she was grossly entranced by her 3 to 4s (how to change three-letter words to four letters in Scrabble), she was actively ignoring the conversation, or she simply did not care.
“Isn’t that uncomfortable?” I asked.
Brad sheepishly nodded in assent.
As my chin dropped another inch or two, Brad shrugged again and said softly “What am I supposed to do?”
“I dunno, say something?”
He simply shrugged again, shook his head, and returned to his beer.
After taking a long gulp, he added: “It can make it tough on hills.”
I pushed him a bit further, and asked him why he doesn’t tell her to help with the riding or at least not plant her helmeted head squarely in the middle of his back. After shrugging his shoulders, he lowered his voice even more and indicated that he was still hoping to have sex with her….
Yeah. Pretty sure that is not going to happen.
Before I could voice my skepticism, Anita, who apparently felt that she had been quiet far too long, interrupted and loudly began recounting her day. Despite the volume of her diatribe, it was abundantly clear just a few words in that she did not have an audience. As if previously rehearsed, everyone at the table immediately picked up the beer before them and took a fairly long drink, hoping, perhaps, that the alcohol therein would help deaden the impact of her banter.
Since she was sitting directly on my right, I essentially had no choice but to turn and at least feign interest in her story. On she rambled: citing her cycling prowess, her proficiency with the French language, and how several men along the route found her eminently attractive.
I was tempted to challenge her on all of her claims, but I realized that any interjection on my part would both give her the wrong impression that I was actually interested in her story and worse, prolong the “conversation” indefinitely.
Luckily, a few moments later, the waitress started bringing the mussels and fries to the table, which served as a natural cessation to her soliloquy.
After all of the mussels and several bowls of fries were on the table, the waitress then brought out Ohmygod’s eel with a squid ink sauce. All of my previous exposures to squid ink involved the substance in conjunction with some sort of pasta, but the dish before Ohmygod was clearly devoid of any such staple. Instead, on his plate were perhaps five pieces of (presumably) eel, slathered in a jet-black, unctuous sauce.
As the rest of the table continued to spoon out their mollusks and devour the fries by the handful, Ohmygod scanned the table. At first, I thought he might have been suffering through an episode of “buyer’s remorse” but then it occurred to me that he was simply without eating utensils. I turned my back to see if I could catch the attention of a waiter to rectify the situation, but quickly turned back when Anita let out a large gasp while simultaneously thrusting her elbow into my exposed ribs.
What I saw was admittedly frightful, but sadly not all that shocking: Ohmygod had taken to eating the eel with his fingers. Soon, the din of the others at the table fishing out mussels stopped and all heads turned to the end of the table, with every mouth agape. Not even a minute in to his latest “adventure” and Ohmygod was covered in the sauce. It seemed to be fairly evenly applied, almost as if he were trying to cover his entire face and he was nearly finished.
Another moment or two passed and there were three waiters at the table, each with a fork, knife, and a spoon as well as a thick stack of napkins. Ohmygod did not so much as acknowledge their presence before diving in for another piece of eel. As he did, our waitress let out a shriek (which caused Adonis to quickly rise out of his seat and put his arm around her in a comforting manner [which caused Maggie to forcefully cross her arms in clear disgust]).
What happened next was truly odd (yes, I realize the situation was rather odd to begin with) as the three waiters stood there mesmerized by Ohmygod. Every few seconds or so one of them would extend the arm that was holding the set of utensils as if to remind him that they were there with what was needed to eat the meal tastefully, but he never so much as glanced in their direction.
This strange little ballet continued for perhaps 3-5 minutes, as they watched, offered utensils, and perhaps prayed that it would stop. Other tables also noticed the spectacle, and they too had all stopped eating to watch, then they would turn to each other incredulously, wondering if the other could believe what they were seeing.
Once it became evident that Ohmygod intended to finish eating the dish the same way that he had started, two of the waiters turned and left the table, shaking their heads (and no doubt uttering “Ohmygod” under their breath). Only our waitress remained, still being “comforted” by Adonis, but she was no longer watching the questionably-human Canadian at the end of the table covered in squid ink. No, she was staring up at Adonis somewhat lovingly, discussing what time she would be done working.
The rest of the table (with the exception of Maggie who was still staring daggers at Adonis) also had seen enough, and they returned to the moules-frites before them. Idle chat once again started up, as it seemed all at the table chose to ignore what was happening just a few feet due north. All except Anita, that is. She was directly across from Ohmygod and therefore it was impossible to ignore the demonstration. I don’t believe she had another bite for the remainder of the evening, no doubt having lost her appetite watching Ohmygod devour the eel in such a fashion.
She delivered another shot to the ribs a couple of minutes later, so I once again turned to assess the roots of her concern. The good news was that Oymygod had finished the eel. The bad news is that he really liked the sauce. So much so that he was now inserting the fingers on his left hand, one-by-one, into his mouth, sucking off the residual sauce, then extracting them with a loud “pop.” He then moved on to the right hand, but this time he started with placing all of the fingers (and thumb) into his mouth as one first, then following up with each one individually.
Once finished with his take on personal hygiene, he then lifted up his plate perhaps a foot off the table, tilted it at roughly a 45 degree angle (which resulted in several drips on his newest bike jersey), and then proceeded to lick the remaining sauce off the plate. (Yes, I should have intervened. I should have stopped this entire exhibition from the onset, but frankly I was a bit exhausted from trying to be his parent.) Once finished, he placed the plate back on the table, downed the rest of his beer, let out a large belch, and never once used any of the stack of napkins in front of him, thus leaving his black “make-up” untouched.
At this point, the waitress left (after, I would find out later, having given Adonis her phone number), and the rest of the table had apparently finished eating. Ohmygod, who had no clue that he had even further entrenched himself as a pariah, asked if he could have what mussels remained. Without saying a word, I simply slowly extended my arm, palm upward, as if to say “be my guest.”
He grabbed to pot with his left hand and thrust his right hand into the pot, sifting through the broth, searching for any mussels left behind. Once he extracted the remaining shells, he sat up straight, grabbed the pot with both hands, raised it to his lips, tilted it forward, and drank.
Once finished draining the pot completely, he calmly set it back down to the table and belched once more. It was then that I noticed a slight change in his appearance.
Most of the black squid ink had been washed from his face.