Dear Rosette,

A travel fiction story of friendship by Adam J. Cheshier.

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

The street lights were dimmed. The path home was dark but it was familiar. It was five o’clock in the morning and we were used to it. The wind pushed the surf along the promenade and we could feel mist wet our faces. It was cool, but sweat dripped down my brow as our hearts settled. My head was pulsating, still. This was nothing new to us.

We knew the long walk home to Rosette well. I could do it with my eyes closed. Lola, Samy, and I made somewhat of a routine of it. Little did we know it’d be our last long walk back to Rosette altogether.

In Malta, the apartments didn’t have numbers but individual names and in Europe, they’re called flats. Rosette flat; that was our home. That’s where I left the best piece of my life.

But it all started years before. Samy and I have been through it all by now. His roots were Algeria, a place I knew next-to-nothing about before I met him. He was born into a Muslim culture; one I knew nothing of. By the most unlikely of scenarios, we became brothers. And that is only half of it.

Lola came into our lives later. She comes from the French countryside but she’s anything but a small-town personality. She arrived in Malta at the most vulnerable point in her young-adult life. She was ready for her life to change from the minute she met us — just like Samy and I was when we arrived. She moved into Rosette and we became a family.

A bond like the three of us had doesn’t happen overnight, but for us, it happened quickly anyway.

But as quickly as it evolved, it also disappeared.

Forced to separate at the pinnacle of all our lives — this is a story of growing together and doing the hard shit alone.

But first, the growing together part. Doing wrong together. Maturing together. Learning to love for the sake of a deep-seated friendship, together.

We grew up from different walks of Earth, but couldn’t be more apt to find each other.

Samy threw his hand in the air and stopped the first red taxi that drove by. Those were the cheapest taxis on the island and everyone knew it. “No, man, we can walk home. We’re already halfway there,” I protested.

We were impossibly poor in those days. Every bit of money we had seemed to be spent on alcohol or drugs or rent. “I’m not walking home, fuck that,” he said.

I didn’t want a taxi home, but everything we did, we stuck together. That was an unspoken vow between Lola, Samy, and me. And not just when we were stumbling home after the clubs. We watched out for each other always. We backed each other and our ideas. We were there for each other when trouble came.

I got in the taxi and stole his last bite of pizza from his hand. Lola laughed and I stuffed the bite through my teeth before he could react. “I guess you’ll be paying the man, too, cause I don’t have money,” I said. He stared at me in drunken disbelief. That last bite of pizza was more to him than anything. But that’s how nights out in Paceville were.

Lola and I could never get enough of Paceville, but Samy had a different perspective. He had been on the island longer than either of us and had grown sick of the place. It’s hard to blame him. After three years, a place as superficial as Paceville would wear on anyone.

There was no place on the entire island with more promise of sex, drugs, and cheap booze, and we were all about that. Samy was all about that — even though it wasn’t like that at the beginning; at least, the cheap booze part.

Samy never drank a day in his life until he met me. It was against his religion. Likewise, I didn’t smoke until I landed in Malta. It was against my innocence. My morals were as standard as it gets which is laughable now. Samy and I corrupted each other in our own ways and loved each other for it.

The underlying truth is we both wanted to change. I wanted it all along. I never dreamed of living a life so full as the day I met Samy Zeghmati. And for Lola Delabays, I would say the same.

“Guys, like, wow! Tonight was. . .” her voice trailed as she searched for words from the back seat. She waited for a response. We were all naturally reserved, but Lola had an exuberant personality when she got into the bottle, always spreading joy.

We loved that about Lola, or Lo, as we began to call her. Or Lolita — we called her that too, sometimes. Happiness is infectious and I never learned that more-so than my days spent with Lola. She is the happiest person I’ve ever met and it’s not hard to love a person like that.

Not long after, the taxi stopped along the curb to Triq Il-Makna Tas-Serrar. In Maltese, it meant sawing machine street. I never understood the significance of the name, but that’s where Rosette is.

Samy paid the taxi man. We never had a problem covering for each other. Money was never important in Malta because we all scraped by but we scraped by together.

I picked up empties in the staircase leftover from the party. Hopefully, that would appease our neighbors below. About seven hours earlier, we threw a party full of internationals like us. Our friends stayed mostly outside on the roof terrace but they were loud. Their voices echoed throughout the narrow street. For this, we struggled to keep peaceful relations with the entire block.

That’s what led to our notorious pop-up parties. I’m not sure how they became as popular as they did, but they were a lot of fun. Once a week, always on a different night, we sent out the word. Rosette served as the meet-up point before going out together. Micro-parties — only forty-five minutes to an hour-long. It’d be late and sometimes on weekdays — mostly on weekdays, actually.

We would wait until it was just rowdy enough for one of our neighbors to call the police. Then, we’d pull the plug and head out for the night. And we always beat the notoriously slow Maltese police who would show up to a dead street and angry neighbors.

Over time, many people heard about these pop-up parties, and every week we saw a new crowd. Anyone was invited and everyone became friends.

It was always fun to storm through Paceville with a crowd.

Rosette was a popular place with all of our friends. Lo, Samy, and I had the same friends. We did everything together, after all.

Our friends came from everywhere; Germany, Austria, Poland, Greece, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Canada, England, India — the list goes on — plus the three of us who were from three different continents.

Generally, we made friends from all over the world and we didn’t care who they were — everyone gathered at Rosette. It was an eclectic group who banded together if for nothing else but to piss off the local neighbors.

It was so sweet, a group of strangers from all over the world acting in such harmony.

Malta was an inviting place for internationals like us. The locals were timid — not like you find in other places around Europe. They were more intimidated than you in their own country. I guess that’s how we grew to believe the country was ours. We did what we wanted when we wanted.

Samy began to roll a joint almost immediately after entering the door. Lola and I sat around him and jawed on about the night, undoubtedly repeating the same sentiments for twenty minutes. Samy lit the joint and passed it to Lola. He sunk in the couch. Lola, too. If only I knew that’d be our final joint in Malta.

Soon, we all passed out on the couch. My head was at Samy’s feet and Lola and he leaned into each other. Our couch was not abnormally large; not large enough for three adults to sleep but we did it regularly, anyway. In the morning, my life would be changed. I had no idea what was coming.

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