Chapter 16: Tangle and Stretch

(C) 2011 by Metta Anderson – All Rights Reserved 

Grace see-sawed between being in love with Julian and getting anxious that he was leaving while wanting him to leave. She pushed into another corner of her mind (“out of sight, but. . .” yeah, well, you know the rest) some other feelings she wanted to deal with later, especially Emma’s reaction to Julian.

Emma was a great person whom Grace had met through Ellen, and was living in Grace’s big apartment by invitation. She was teaching English at the Centro Colombo-Americano and enjoying it. She liked Colombia and Bogotá and had acquired a Colombian boyfriend who was a young professor at a university in Neiva, a city southwest of Bogotá. Like most of his, Emma’s and Grace’s generation, he was a leftist, but Grace didn’t have a lot of tolerance for leftist politics.  She abhorred the FARC, thought the ELN should just join a monastery because its leader was a Spanish priest and dropped intellectual support for M-19 when that group kidnapped and killed a union leader.

Actually, Grace was mostly apolitical, which is an almost untenable position in Colombia. She was interested intellectually but didn’t really take sides. She and Julian discussed politics in that vein, which suited them, but Julian–more than Grace, at the time–was acutely aware of the power-hungry ambitions that drove people to make a career of political pursuits. And he also thought most politicians and the guerrillas in the countryside were simply assholes who would never accomplish anything anyway. As a foreigner and as a woman, Grace didn’t have to worry about getting involved in local politics. As a Colombian, a man and part of distinguished Liberal Party families, Julian carefully avoided getting involved in them, which is why Europe was such a magnet for him. No one in Elisabetta’s (nor Grace’s, for that matter) families was ever going to make the suggestion that Julian run for local or national office in order to carry on a great family tradition.  Julian loved that about both women.

Emma, on the other hand, had gone from liberal Democrat in the US to decidedly leftist in Colombia. “Sticking it to the Man” was a viable philosophy, in her eyes, til the Man actually walked into Grace’s livingroom that night. And that was in addition to a few Colombian Army officers, who were contemporaries, attractive and articulate about what they thought was wrong with government policies. Their solutions tended to be a lot more pacific than the leftists and they sure as hell had a better sense of humor about social changes (“revolution,” if you will) than the leftists.

For Grace, the decisive factors were verbal expression and experience in these things. The mostly captains and majors she knew had experienced some combat in the jungle. They were products of urban environments. They went on patrol in the countryside and were shocked at the level of poverty they encountered. They began to understand that they were in the middle–defending a government that ignored a large part of the civilian population and that same population distrusted them for that reason.  As a result, Army officers discussing social change wanted to offer concrete solutions and detested the leftists for their lack of experience in that same field while shouting meaningless slogans every time they got the chance. Julian personally had no differences with the Colombian military. It was a traditional career, and many officers came from prestigious families or distinguished themselves in other ways. Besides, by law, the Colombian Army, Air Force, Navy and National Police are all apolitical–a point most foreigners never learned–and so was he. Grace just liked to hear different opinions, but she did insist that the person holding them could back them up in some way. Emma’s boyfriend, alas, was an urban leftist who believed in revolution as solution, and if he could back up his arguments in some way, Grace never heard about it. But she knew that Emma liked him a lot, so when he came up to Bogotá to visit, Grace was courteous and even charming, and scrupulously avoided any political opinions. The boyfriend, of course, could not resist “sticking it to the Woman,” so to speak, which meant that Emma always had to hustle him out the door before Grace stuck it to him.

Grace was by nature very loyal to her family and friends, even when she should not have been. She felt her loyalty being stretched now because Emma was leery of Julian, who in turn absorbed a great deal of Grace’s time and attention. Then too, Grace had been working on the first draft of a novel. Julian thought that was great, never interferred with that in any way, but she felt she ought to put that aside when he was around. She loved him but discovered there were moments when she resented his presence and didn’t know how to deal with that feeling, so it too was pushed into a mental corner.

She was also unhappy that he was smoking more and more pot, and very casually. She wished he wouldn’t, period, but knew that that was not a convincing argument. It never crossed her mind to say, “I’m pregnant and I want to have a healthy baby,” because she knew instinctively that this was just the wrong approach. Her instinct also told her that she’d have a big healthy baby even if Julian were a comatose junkie. Besides, when he was stoned, he was more relaxed and in control of himself than when he drank, which had been a serious problem even before they met. So when he rolled a joint and smoked it before getting out of bed in the morning, she just took a shower and got dressed, because the alternatives were less pleasant. Besides, he gave Emma an entire joint of some very high quality Cali Gold, which she smoked on Friday nights after class to relax. She remarked that the stuff was so powerful she only had to take about two hits before she began to see her entire week as a comic book, and would stub out the joint in order to enjoy her own week in review in the dark before going to sleep.  Sometimes, knowing The Man had its advantages.

Before anything got resolved, however, Julian told her that he had to go back to Europe. He didn’t go into details but he promised to write and told her to write him. He even left his address in Germany. Grace felt divided again–she knew he was going back, she knew he would write and that was okay. But he was going back to this Elisabetta, which made her feel very hurt and jealous, but she refused to admit that, even to herself. And she could go back to writing, which was good, but she thought she should pine for him for a while first.  She decided to invite her women friends over the night he left so they could stay up and drink and talk and watch the sun come up with her.

Julian spent the night before he left with her being himself. They talked about things that interested them, they laughed, they made love, they got a little sleep. There were no tearful scenes, no sworn oaths and the sex did not require ricocheting off the walls. It was just the two of them being together in a comfortably warm bed in a city they felt a part of, and tomorrow was just that–tomorrow.

Grace and her friends did get together, ate pizza, drank wine and talked, but by 3 a.m., there wasn’t much to say. Grace went to bed in her room, while the others sacked out on the daybed in the den, on the couch in the livingroom and on Emma’s bed in the guestroom, next to Emma, who’d gone to bed earlier.

Grace woke up around five or six a.m., thought about Julian and how much she missed him already, but fell asleep again and didn’t wake up til almost 10 o’clock. She was still in Bogotá, he wasn’t, so she decided she’d write him on Sunday.

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