I was a voyeur. It happened on the train from Barcelona, Spain to Stuttgart, Germany as David and I toured the cars on our own. The air was hot and my skin was sticky as we ran along the narrow passageway. I smashed up against the wall to avoid a fat man lumbering toward us, but he squished against me anyway as I had no place to escape. I got a whiff of him. He smelled like David’s socks after Pee-Wee football practice. But I digress.
I moseyed down the corridor when David frantically motioned for me to hurry. He was on his knees, peeking in a window of a stateroom. There was just enough room to see through the tiny space left underneath the dirty shade. I peeked in and gasped. A blonde lady was sprawled out on the couch and she was half naked. Her breasts flopped around as a dark-haired man, in a sleeveless shirt and tight pants kept teasing and tickling her and they both laughed. He stripped off his shirt and got on top of her. The blonde woman fumbled with his pants while he kissed her all over. I was giggling and David was beside himself.
“He’s eating her tits!” he blurted.
The man jumped off the woman and hurried toward the window. David and I panicked and banged into each other trying to run for our young lives. All the man did was yank down the shade, but David and I sprinted down the corridor anyway. And guess who lumbered toward us? You guessed it – the sweaty fat man. We stopped Johnny-on-the-spot, then ran the other way.
When we reached our stateroom, panting, Mom was fanning herself with a train schedule and dad was leaning out the window handing money to a vendor in exchange for six boxed lunches. I opened mine and was grateful for the sandwich, but not so sure about the small bottle of wine. I would have preferred an ice-cold beer. Just kidding. I handed my bottle of wine to Mom, and Dad saw my scrunched-up nose.
“It’s all I could get. There’s no food on this train, and it’s running a few hours late.”
I was completely stunned that the train was still at the station and not rumbling down the tracks. I had been preoccupied with all the excitement during my introduction to voyeurism and pornography.
While I’m on the subject of sex and pornography, I’ll relate this memory: One night I stayed over at some friends of my Mom and Dad’s, and they had a daughter about my age, and I was probably eight or nine at the time. The woman told her daughter and me to take a bath before bed, so we hiked up the stairs, stripped, and sat in the warm bath, talking about – I have no idea what. Then the father came in wearing just a towel around his waist. He took off the towel, placed it on a chair next to the shower stall, and turned on the shower. He looked at his daughter and me while his man-thing increased in size and peered up at him.
“Do you want to touch it?” he asked us.
I immediately shook my head. His daughter said nothing, but looked at me. Something was definitely wrong and I was confused. The mother came in and stood by the door and said sweetly, “Is everyone okay in here?” I panicked and bolted out of the tub.
“I’m getting out now,” I said.
The mom wrapped me in a towel and I grabbed my clothes, and hurried out of the bathroom. I don’t know what happened after that. At the time, I was too young to know what was happening, but I remember feeling uncomfortable and exposed. The three of them seemed too comfortable with the situation, and I was too embarrassed to tell Mom and Dad about it. But to my recollection, I never again had a sleepover at their house.
Anyway, on the train, I lifted the toilet lid and saw the tracks where a bowl should’ve been! At the train station, Denise went to the “water closet” and peed in a hole in the ground.
Stuttgart was different.We stood in the middle of a sterile Mercedes-Benz factory. Dad had pre-ordered a sedan and we were there to retrieve it. Dad was that way. He bought whatever he fancied and David asked him one day, “Dad, are we rich? Pecause (he pronounced because with a p) that’s what all the kids at school say.”
“David, as a matter of fact, any one of our neighbors could buy and sell me in a minute.”
“Then why do we have so much stuff?” David persisted.
“Because I spend every dime I make,” Dad said. He was great for the economy.
Dad was a little kid during the Great Depression, and he told us that his father was a philanderer, leaving his Mom to care for seven kids. Dad said they struggled, as so many families did. Some of Dad’s siblings were older and on their own, but he grew up poor. He sold newspapers in front of the Moscow Hotel when he was five, and at age seven he had a paper route to help his Mom. When he was a young teen he and brother Don owned Moscow Cycle Shop, “Biggest Little Store in Town,” on Third and Asbury, where they repaired bicycles and rented them for fifteen cents an hour.
He gave his wages to his Mom, but always kept a little for himself. Dad said he had to save face when some of his friends, whose fathers had good jobs at the University of Idaho, asked him to go out for a burger and a soda. “Can you imagine me telling them I couldn’t go because I didn’t have any money? How humiliating.”
I believe Dad spends all his money now because he has it to spend.
At the Mercedes-Benz factory we ate lunch in the sterilized cafeteria overlooking the meticulous factory floor. And because everywhere we’d been thus far we’d been drinking wine, beer, and warm milk, we were dying for a cold one. Dad asked the waitress if she could please bring four glasses of cold milk for his four children.
The waitress peered at the four of us, then straight at Dad. Questioning his judgement, she said in a thick accent, “But sir, milk is for babies!” She brought 4 giant glasses of ice-cold milk which we gulped down. She brought us several glasses. It was something familiar!
To Be Continued . . .