Chapter 15: Just a few Weeks

(C) 2011 by Metta Anderson – All Rights Reserved 

Those few weeks they were together were pleasurable and tense in equal measure. Julian more or less moved in, but spent time with his family and with other people. He and Grace went out to movies or dinner, but it quietly annoyed her that she ended up paying for these things. One night they went with Emma to see the Robert Altman film Nashville,  at the Teatro Teusaquillo, on Calle 34, and Grace fell momentarily in love with Keith Carradine’s character and singing. So much so that she bought his album when she found it about a month later at Pro-Disco. But all three agreed that Geraldine Chaplin’s soliloquoy among the school buses was a high point in the movie and thought she’d at least be nominated for an Oscar for it. This would have been just an evening among friends except for the ride home.

They walked down to Avenida Caracas to catch a taxi because it was around 11 o’clock and a lot of taxis going south on Carrera 13 didn’t want to double back to take them north to Calle 61 with Séptima. A 1950s model black Plymouth four-door stopped for them and then roared off northward without hesitation. Grace was in the middle, with Emma on her left and Julian on her right. They talked about the movie until their driver started yelling at another taxi driver in the right lane, who apparently had tried to cut them off. Or something like that. They weren’t sure, exactly, but Emma and Julian interpreted the argument as threatening. Their driver fumbled for something under his heavy wool ruana  and Emma whispered fearfully, “He’s got a gun!!!”

In a split second, Emma and Julian dove for the floor, leaving Grace upright in the middle, looking around to see if one of the drivers was indeed armed.

“Adamson! Get down!” Julian ordered, reaching up toward her.

She glanced down and frowned. Her two friends occupied all the space available below the windows, so how was she supposed to get down and save herself? Honestly!

Their taxi accelerated, the driver hunched forward while he cursed the other driver under his breath and then ran two red lights. That frightened Grace more than the idea of a gun–running a red light and hitting someone or being hit.

The driver stopped at the third light, and Emma and Julian emerged from their hiding place near the floor. Emma was still a little shaky, looking around nervously in case they were being followed, while Julian rearranged his jacket and reprimanded Grace for exposing herself to danger.

“But there wasn’t any gun,” she answered calmly. “At least I never saw one.”

“But the other driver might have had one,” Julian argued as the taxi made a sharp right turn up Calle 63, scattering pedestrians. “You could have been shot.”

“But I wasn’t,” she answered, privately pleased that he worried about her. In the dark, she put her hand on his knee and casually dragged her fingernails partway up his inner thigh. She could sense that he was smiling. If they’d been alone, they would have started making out.

Emma excused herself to go to bed once they got back to the apartment, while Grace and Julian sat on the couch with the radio on, talking about the movie and re-interpreting it from different angles. Grace was particularly impressed with the characterizations and the cinematography, while Julian confessed he thought he’d go crazy if he had to listen to one more country-&-western song.

“Why’s that?” she asked.

“I heard them all the time in Germany. I can’t figure out why the Germans like them so much or where they even got their hands on the records,” he answered, perplexed. “It’s not like the Germans don’t have their own music scene.”

“American military bases,” she replied. “Thousands of soliders and officers who bring their records or buy them in the PX, and then those guys meet German girls and play their records. One thing leads to another.”

“Oh yeah, right.”

“What were you doing in Germany?” She was cradled in his arms, playing with his chest hairs and he knew she wasn’t asking out of jealousy. Still, he wanted to be careful about what he said.

“I work for a company that sells textbooks for high schools. It doesn’t pay much, by German standards, but at least I can eat.” He paused. “I don’t mind the food, but the coffee is just shitty. They don’t roast the beans so much as burn them to a crisp. I can barely drink the stuff.”

“But what do you do for this company?” she insisted.

“Proof the Spanish texts. It’s part of the translation process. It’s not that difficult.”

“How’d you get the job?”

Again he hesitated. How much did he want to disclose about Elisabetta? “I met this Dutch chick about. . . two years ago. . .? It was after Tere and I split up but the separación de bienes y cuerpos  wasn’t finalized. I met her through friends of friends, kind of. She was here as a tourist.” He sighed. Fuck it. Tell the truth. “She’d come to Colombia with some other European friends because they all thought they could get drugs for free and buy off any cop who got in their way.”

“Big surprise. . .” Grace murmured, more alert than he realized.

“Yeah, very big surprise. There were, like, six or seven of them, originally, and now, two girls are in the Buen Pastor and one of the guys is in La Modelo.”

“Did they get suites or just single rooms?” she asked. Her straight-arrow Protestant self was always secretly pleased when people got thrown in jail for drugs, and more so when it came to foreigners who thought they were superior to Colombians just because they were foreign.

Julian laughed. “Don’t be a bitch, okay?”

“Sorry,” she murmured with no regret. “So you and Miss Low Countries met and then?”

“Then we started hanging out. She didn’t know anyone here–”

“Hey, I’ve met some very charming Army and Policía officers, and they just love foreign girls.”

“Yeah, no doubt, but Elisabetta is, well. . .”

“Well what? A lesbian? And you’re her little brother?” Grace asked sardonically.

“God you’re being mean tonight.”

“Hey, you’re the one who wants to help Gwen and now Elisabetta even though both of them seem to have been deliberately stupid. Who’s Elisabetta? Let’s start with that, okay?” she said firmly, but without anger.

“Yeah, okay. Elisabetta’s a Dutch girl I met and we hit it off. She went back to Holland, but then she came back and invited me to go to Europe with her. Her family’s very wealthy, her mother has several titles and she’s, well. . . She doesn’t really want to get married and she doesn’t want an office job, like being a lawyer, so she and some friends decided to travel for a while. And the first time she was here, we went out one night and scored some coke and the next morning she did a couple of lines and the next thing I knew, she was o-dee-ing.” He frowned at the memory. In his Liberal-but-Conservative heart, well-bred ladies did a few lines but never to excess. Elisabetta liked to be excessive, at least in Colombia.

“What’d you do?”

“Threw her in the shower, gave her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and kept her awake til she came down from her high. And I thought she wouldn’t do it again, and she didn’t til she came back the second time. She was really charming, we moved in together and then we got some coke and started going out to the new clubs, the ones up around Pepe Sierra. . . You haven’t been up there, have you? Calle 116 with Avenida 15?”

Grace shook her head. She’d heard about them, but wasn’t seeing anyone who might take her up there. But the truth was that the rumors about drugs at those places killed her appetite for going. Drugs weren’t her thing.

“Yeah, well, Elisabetta loved the club scene, so we started going out almost every night. Or to someone’s house at midnight. We’d party all night and sleep most of the day.”

“And you were working?”

“No. I worked for Menéndez and I quit. I worked for Al Londoño and quit. I wanted to go back to Menéndez and almost did when Elisabetta came back to Bogotá and we moved in together. Then the separación de bienes  came through, so Tere and Al went to San Antonio de Táchira to get married and– Would you believe she invited me to the wedding!?” he asked, shifting  slightly and looking at Grace, remembering the shock.

“Really?! Why?”

“I really don’t know,” he answered, shaking his head. “Even Al called and said that, if I couldn’t make it, I could maybe send them a gift!”

“But you didn’t.”

“Of course not. Instead, I said, And what do you want me to give you? My balls on a silver platter? And then I hung up.”

Grace laughed and kissed him. “Hey, don’t worry about those people anymore, okay? she murmured, quite pleased that Tere was out of his life and that, at the moment, Elisabetta was out of the country. She slid her arms around him, kissed him again and put her head on his shoulder. “How come Elisabetta left again but you stayed?”

“She wanted me to go with her, but I said no, because I didn’t have airfare. But then she told me about the job and the deal was that she’d loan me the money and I could pay her back with what I make. And she helped me with the visa and all that shit.” He put his head against hers, hugged her and sighed. There was more to it than that, but he didn’t want to think about it anymore.

They went to bed, making love slowly, almost casually, but possessively nevertheless. Grace was his escape. He didn’t want to lose her, lose the kinship they had, but he couldn’t bring himself to explain his relationship with Elisabetta nor marry Grace and ask her to assume his responsibilities. And at the moment, the last thing he wanted to do was confess that he was back in Colombia as a vacation from the artificial lifestyle he was creating in Europe. He wished, as he fell asleep, that he and Grace had had the guts to take that trip they talked about one day in her apartment, years ago, the one where they’d just take a car and drive from Bogotá down through Ecuador, Peru and Chile, taking pictures, meeting people and making love in places no one else had been to. Not as hippies looking for Peace, Love and Understanding, but just as two people who loved each other. It would have been so nice. . .

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