The Old Anchor
by Kristian Meikop
The first sign of winter crawled in from the midnight sea in the shape of a furtive medieval fog. In the shared student apartments, maidens curled up against their lovers as the last steam of dying teapots leaked into the void. Hyenas scavenged the trash-littered cobblestones in blurry yellow streetlight, while somewhere in the cartoonish hills, a snotty-nosed baby screamed as the mother cursed at her rosy misfortune: In a fleeting vision of terror and disgust, her baby had turned into a squealing, bleeding pig, reminding her all too well of her partner who had snuck away early to the Old Anchor.
The retired seamen didn’t mind. They had long ago discovered the bliss of ignorance and drowned their sorrow in a fermented haze of harlots and laughter in their soggy parade along the portâ€“â€“they had all returned to the ancient cave and joined the the nightly opera. Again, just like every other night, they had suddenly found meaning in the futility of life; the same tales told, reinvented, retoldâ€“â€“no one remembered where any of them originated from and no one caredâ€“â€“life had been embodied by the pleasures of this animated stage, and the revelry lasted till dawn; and then nothing was more convincing of its sharp reality than sleet and muck, thaw and darknessâ€“â€“but still, laugh it away!â€“â€“for no joy was to be found in imaginary crystal castles or in the youthful meadows of their sobered-up memories anyway; neither could remorse, or grief of unrequited love seize them in their moment. Laugh it away! And so they’d return to the Old Anchor, where the tales flowed, where love and laughter churned and had them wish for nothing else.
Upon the hills the usual silence reigned. The spectator by the late-night corner shop had disappeared into his den and gone back to his square-eyed wife illumined by the ghostly gleam of her telenovelas. All too used to the tedious music of everyday life, she’d grown deaf to the sound of rats rustling in the waist-high atticâ€“â€“nor could she hear the cats running across the resonating drum of the tin-can roof, or the spirits whispering secrets in her ear about the transfiguration of death. No, she much preferred her soap opera to reality, and bluntly dismissed the rumors of her husband’s doings at the Old Anchor; kindly she smiled at the old man when he got sick of her and fled down to the masquerade dressed in drag.
In the gorges and hillside roads dark shadows moved. There, on the slope, in the old revolutionist’s library, the new Voltaire blew his horn to the cheer of a new generation. Like warlocks, they stirred the cauldron with words of love and hate until it foamed with new hope for humanityâ€“â€“Forward! shouted the youth, and they sang songs of rebellion and liberty and got drunk on wine and pride, only to wake up the next day with the thump of the guillotine a mere echo of a dream, and again their plan to seize the king and found the new Shangri-la would be too far from the warmth of their beds, incompatible with the joys of marijuana-hazed lovemaking and late-night political philosophy, â€“â€“and even the old revolutionist, the most passionate and devoted veteran, would suffer a want of zeal and stare perturbedly at his idol-clothed walls as if trying to kindle the spark of early days, incapable of admitting to himself how he secretly missed the two decades of tyranny for the epic bond and comradeship within the union, â€“â€“the sense of blood-incised purpose and direction, the embracing sea of tears, the relentless fire, the love-shooting cannons, the unyielding dignity of youth! â€“â€“But at least, down at the Old Anchor, the forgotten hero was rewarded with a clamor of sympathetic cheer.
Outside, as the muffled rumble of drunken voices filled the silence, the waves sank and rose in perfect tune, and from the sea, the mist rose, a salty perfume. Two seagulls laughed at the quay.
The Old Anchor