Chapter 13: Dark Design

(C) 2011 by Metta Anderson – All Rights Reserved

Stevie Nicks’ voice in the smoky air in the seedy bar in Tucson. Fleetwood Mac’s most recent number one record filling the space around them.

On the dance floor, Julian and Grace move mostly around themselves. He holds her closely, eyes closed, lost, guiding and trusting her. Concentrating on her, her body, her strength. She’s his here and now. Tomorrow will be Elisabetta’s, but tonight in bone-dry Tucson and in this moment, Grace is his reality.

She’s only conscious of his physical presence as they dance. Her mind follows the music and over his shoulder she watches the room pass by, human figures at little tables are shadowy decorative objects, not real.

Neither is much else to her now. She ws feeling so lost in Tucson, abandoned, in fact, and he called her from New York to say he’d be arriving in a few days. And then he was there, exclaiming a little drunkenly that he hadn’t expected a four-hour flight! Christ! Where was he!? Where did she LIVE, for God’s sake!?

And she smiled and fell in love again and drove him to her new townhouse on the west side of Tucson, feeling serene and happy and more in love than she’d ever been in her life.

In the bedroom, he sat on the edge of the bed, a glass of scotch in one hand, unbuttoning his shirt, smiling, They talked flirtatiously as she slowly peeled off her dress and then they were kissing and on top of each other like shipwreck survivors on a raft. Suddenly they had nothing but each other, even as each pretended to be the owner and captain of a yacht in Monte Carlo. Hide and seek on a raft in a suddenly calm ocean. Love, sex, rescue, touch, feel, desire. . . safety.

And those first few days of re-discovery. Their raft had brought them to this island in a genuine desert. And this was 11 years after they’d first met, in mountainous Bogotá, but now, they were sitting together at a sleek black diningroom table in Grace’s house. The eleven years with all their events vanished. They were together, like. . . like what? Time existed, but not for them, at that moment. Julian was with her, had crosssed the Atlantic and had found her in Arizona and had come back. It was wonderful, and so was he.

Dressed but barefoot, Julian dug his toes into the carpet as he talked over coffee. Wretched American blended coffee, but he knew they’d go to a supermarket and he could find something better later on. He felt safe again, with someone who knew him and still accepted him for what he was, or what she thought he was, which suddenly made him feel relieved and even in love for a while. Elisabetta’s parents didn’t like him, in that smiling, polite disdain that European nobility often showed to people they had to tolerate at the moment. He was glad their house in Amsterdam was large, so that he could pretty much come and go without running into them. He wanted to learn Dutch, but that turned out to be almost impossible, and he was glad so many people spoke English.

And then in New York, instead of being able to relax before going to California to meet Elisabetta, he found himself going from one party to the next almost non-stop. He had to stop befriending women based on their economic abilities, especially Americans. They just went overboard on everything, and his hostess, Chloë Babcock, was no exception. Born Christina Poltranski, into a middle class Chicago family, she changed her name when she got a secretarial position with a prestigious real estate company before she even graduated college. She met a good-looking but recently divorced attorney with the company and carefully seduced him, so that when he took a higher-paying job in New York, she went along as his new wife. Old American story. They found a large house with ample gardens in the Riverdale area, had one little boy and hired a domestic staff. Chloë then decided to take New York by storm, and soon became friends with Andy Warhol. She met Julian at a party in Amsterdam and who knows what she was doing there. Julian might have asked, but mostly, Chloë didn’t tell. They hit it off, had a fling one afternoon in Chloë’s hotel room and she told him to look her up if he was ever in New York.

And there he was, at JFK, so he called her. He wanted to find Grace, and staying at Chloë’s was the cheapest way to do it. Grace had written him in February with it, but he hadn’t answered. He kept the letter, though. He kept all her letters to him, stashed in a pocket of his suitcase where Elisabetta wouldn’t find them. The Dutch girl knew about the correspondence, but figured Julian threw away the letters. Who was this American, anyway? No one! Why worry?

And now, Julian was sitting at Grace’s table, drinking coffee and talking to someone who did not expect him to be anything or anyone other than Julian Pardo Samper, a Colombian and a bogotano. He could feel his muscles relax almost to the point of collapse.

He looked around while she fixed some breakfast. The house was medium- sized, with lots of light and beautiful furniture. It was more than perfect taste, it was personal. Wandering through old homes and sometimes castles in Europe and then Chloë’s house in New York wasn’t even half as interesting as he hoped it’d be. Yes, he liked the art–paintings, sculptures, tapestries and even silverware and china and drapes–with long histories attached and beautifully preserved were fascinating to be around. They were lived with and in. But some of those castles and mansions were frankly freezing cold and dark, worse than Bogotá on a bad day. Chloë’s house had big windows and had been “done” by the best decorators in New York. Lovely! Beautiful! Famous art on the walls, too. But that was the problem–it was “done,” and not by Chloë.

Grace’s house had been done by Grace, and it showed.

Actually, it was Grace’s mother who had the superb taste and who oversaw the decoration, leaving her daughter with a $10,000 bill, payable NOW. Ditto the perfect Japanese-style garden in the front courtyard. It was all designed for Grace, and then she paid for it, because she had to. She smiled, she got the trust to pay the bills, and then she sat there for months, alone and feeling so betrayed she couldn’t even express it.

She dreamed of Julian one night, and cried in the morning at all she’d lost by moving to Tucson from Bogotá.

A week later, she got his letter. Finally, she could be with someone who didn’t expect her to be anyone or anything except Grace Alice Adamson, and mostly, be the Grace Adamson she’d been in Bogotá.

He got a phone call from Elisabetta. She was in Detroit, visiting “friends,” but she looked forward to seeing Julian in Los Angeles in a week or so. His voice was pretty chilly when he said he wouldn’t be there, and he wasn’t sure when he could get away.

After that, he and Grace went to the grocery store and he got some scotch.

A few days later, he asked Grace to score some pot for him. She was at a loss, since she didn’t smoke it. However, there was a young man living in another townhouse who might know. . . Grace went over to the guy’s house, smiled sweetly and brought back enough for two or three joints. It was poor quality and had a lot of seeds, but it was pot, and Julian was pleased.

And that’s how the relationship lurched along for a couple of months. The more Elisabetta called, the more Julian stayed. And then his mother wrote him and told him quite frankly to stay with Grace, because she genuinely cared about him. He even showed Grace the letter.

Then her mother and Arabella’s third husband came back from spending the summer in Michigan. Grace felt her interior threads stretching and sometimes unraveling, slipping off the loom and dangling helplessly as she followed Julian around, scored pot for him, paid for this, that and the other, and avoided fights with her mother, who had disliked Julian on sight. Grace suspected that her mother did not actually dislike Julian, but instead was envious that her nothing daughter could catch anyone as handsome and elegant as that. But that was another idea Grace didn’t want to face, so she pushed it into the crowded attic in her mind and lived her life carefully each day.

For example, the day Julian said he’d invited some new friends to come over and do peyote. When they showed up at the front door, Grace thought Charles Manson had escaped from prison. Julian saw the look of horror on her face and quickly tried to figure out a way to make them leave, but somehow, the potheads weren’t listening. The two skanky chicks and lowlife guy had brought peyote and a gallon of strawberry ice cream. The idea was to mix the peyote into the ice cream, eat the ice cream and wait til the peyote kicked in. Grace had read that peyote contained strychnine, and wondered in a detached way how she’d break the news to Julian’s mother that her son had died from eating strawberry ice cream in Tucson, Arizona. How would she put it in Spanish, exactly? And should she call the Colombian Consulate in Los Angeles to repatriate the body?

She watched them sit at her sleek black diningroom table, on the custom-orderd chintz seats, and eat the ice cream out of paper plates. They’d even brought some cheap wine, which Julian wisely refused to drink.  Once they’d eaten the whole gallon but were still aware of their surroundings, the lowlife suggested they take a walk in the desert that surrounded the condominium where Grace lived. They could experience the drug much better under the stars.

She would’ve been much happier to let them all leave, Julian included, but he insisted that she come along. She took her keys and followed them out into the night.

The condominium’s common area was well-lighted, but once they turned onto the path that led out into the desert, it was dark as pitch. Grace worried about being bitten by a rattlesnake or other nocturnal animal, picking her way carefully through the sagebrush and other things while Julian ambled nearby, muttering that the peyote wasn’t having any effect.

Then he stopped and murmured, “Oh shit. . .” before turning away and moving quickly toward what might have been a bush.

Grace looked up at the night sky, relieved that it did indeed contain thousands of stars. “Stars above” meant she was standing up, and her feet were necessarily on the ground. She heard the others moving on somewhere in the dark, and then Julian, getting sick. She sighed and hoped he wasn’t puking on a snake. She’d just have to leave him where he fell, if he did fall, and hope he’d be alive in the morning.

She heard him whisper, “Grace? Where are you?” as he stumbled through the scrub brush in the dark.

“Over here,” she answered in a normal tone. There was more crackly dry noise and he was standing in front of her. “What’s the matter?”

“Jesus, that is the worst shit I’ve ever had!” he whispered fiercely. “Let’s get the fuck out of here! Do you know how to get back to the house from here?”

“Yeah. C’mon.”

Silently, they turned and she led him back to the condominium.

Dancing in a cheap bar wasn’t even close to dancing in Chez Dénis in Bogotá or to being alone together anywhere else. And forever afterward, the music she was listening to during all these episodes would only provoke anxiety and anger and infinite pain. But while they danced, their arms around each other and the music around them, it was the only thread she had.

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