Chapter 22: Untying and Retying Threads

(C) 2011 by Metta Anderson – All Rights Reserved 

When Emma came back to the tiny apartment that night, she was tense and maybe a little angry. Grace thought that her classes at the Colombo were made up of idiots or maybe it had been difficult to find a taxi to get home. She waited for the other woman to finish clumping around between the back bedroom and the miniscule kitchen, thinking that in a few minutes Emma would come into Grace’s bedroom and blow off a little steam. In the meantime, Grace took some aspirin to dull the pain in her swollen feet. She had an appointment the next day with a dermatologist and hoped the doctor would prescribe something for the psoriasis that was making her spend too much time in bed, unable to walk.

Emma appeared abruptly in the bedroom door, her mouth set in a thin disapproving line. “Who do you know who knows where I work?” she demanded, folding her arms over her chest.

Grace stared at her for a  few seconds, first to decipher the question and then realize she had no idea who knew. She didn’t even think it was important. Unless Emma had a secret job with the CIA, her question was kind of ridiculous. “Um, I don’t know. We know a lot of the same people. . .”

“No, I mean, you know someone who knows that I work at the Colombo, don’t you?”

“And I’m saying that anyone who knows me probably knows you and in that case, they know where you work.” She tried to keep her voice calm and friendly, although the throbbing in her feet made that difficult. Since when did Emma have to get so goddamned paranoid? “So no, I have no idea who would be looking for me by looking for you at the Colombo.”

“Julian.” The name shot out of Emma’s mouth with some distaste.

Grace just stared at her, so surprised that the name didn’t even register for a second or so. When it did, her gut reaction was to grin and squeal with happiness, but she immediately repressed that when she looked at Emma’s face. “Oh. . . uh, Julian. . . Are you sure. . .?” she asked, suddenly the helpless ingénue.

“Of course I’m sure! He left a message for me. He wants to know if I know where you are and if you’ll see him. He said he’d come by the Colombo tomorrow for an answer. What am I supposed to tell him?”

Now a helpless Southern ingénue, Grace hesitated, tempted to answer with her Texas accent, but decided to use a normal voice. Emma would never understand the joke. “Well, please give him the phone number here and the address and tell him that yes, I’d like to see him. After five. I have a doctor’s appointment and won’t be here til then. Okay?” She gave Emma sweet smile.

“Fine. But I want you to know that I really do not appreciate having him show up where I work,” Emma snapped. “He’s your friend and I do not want to get involved in anything between you two. I don’t want anyone at the Colombo to think there’s something going on between him and me and I resent the way he used me as a go-between. Whatever happens between the two of you, leave me out of it! I’m going to bed.”

Grace sat in silence, looking at the empty doorway, puzzled, guilty and then disgusted. She felt guilty about Julian because she’d left Arizona without telling him. They’d had an argument on the phone in April and weren’t speaking. He was in California, living with Elisabetta, but he’d mentioned a couple of times that she wanted him to go with her to Europe and he didn’t want to go. And when Grace wasn’t trying to figure out what she wanted to do with her life, she was deflecting her mother’s anger, which was draining. Finally she decided to rent her house, completely furnished, and go to Colombia for a few months. For once, her mother agreed and said she’d store her daughter’s car in a friend’s garage for the summer. She and Julian had another argument over something so minor she didn’t remember what it was, but she decided he did not need to know where she was going, since he seemed very happy to stay with Elisabetta and her circle of friends and get stoned.

Emma had taken a tiny apartment created out of a garage on Calle 70 between Carreras 5 and 4. It had a separate entrance from the house above it, and the original drive had been bricked over to create a kind of patio area. There were rose bushes growing along the low walls surrounding the property, and on a sunny day, they women could open the large glass front door to the breeze. There had been another girl living with Emma, an American from Wisconsin, but they weren’t compatible as roommates, so that girl left and Emma was pleased to be able to share the apartment with Grace. A few days after her arrival, Grace went to a furniture store and bought a couple of pieces that had been missing. Or rather, Grace bought some furniture so that the apartment wouldn’t look so much like a monastic cave in the Middle East. One piece was a secretary-style cabinet with a drop-down table. This gave her a place to put books and a typewriter, which turned out to be useful when she helped Emma do some business translations. After the two women went out to spend the day in Funza, visiting Grace’s former maid, who’d gotten married to a man who worked for the Colombian National Railroad, Grace taped the resulting color snapshots on the long white wall. She chose the photos that would help  create a photographic narrative of the day, the people and the activities that took place then.

To celebrate her birthday, Grace and Emma got a big cake and a several bottles of scotch, gin and vodka, plus soda and ice, for a party on Saturday night. It was more exciting than they’d planned, because the presidential elections were the next day and there were rumors that the government would order a curfew. Instead of a party that breaks up around midnight or 1 a.m., they might have guests spending the night on the floor.  But there was no curfew and the party was a successful. Everyone had a good time and Grace was pleased that so many people liked the photos–the way they were displayed and the story they clearly told.

If there was a hangover, it happened on Monday, when it turned out that Julio César Turbay Ayala had won the presidency. In the 1990s, it became generally agreed that that was the election that steered the country into a chaos from which it didn’t really emerge until after the turn of the millenium. But in June of 1978, Turbay and his future cabinet were given the benefit of the doubt. What the hell, how much damage can be done in only four years, right?

Anyway, Grace turned down the volume on the small radio in her room and leaned back against the cold wall. She didn’t have a headboard but the bed was heavy enough that it didn’t shift around, and when she put a pillow between her back and the wall, she was very comfortable. She could hear Emma in the next room, but didn’t want to call attention to herself by playing the music she liked at a higher volume. The other woman’s unexpected outburst had also made her feel guilty for a few minutes. Grace never thought her relationship with Julian–or any other man–had much of an impact on Emma. She was pretty sure that the men she knew did not hit on her friend, or she would have heard about it from an irate Emma. If anything, the women’s preferences in men were so clear that Grace wondered what in the world Emma had against Julian or anyone else? For herself, Grace had no interest in the men Emma dated. They were all leftists and their idea of “political discussion” was to make childish jokes about the US based on a long string of stereotypes. She recalled one heated exchange with the director of a theater company one night, during which the director came up with some ludicrous “facts”–Henry Ford was Jewish, as was the Rockefeller family, and the movie “Nashville” was a true portrait of American society. Grace argued politely but firmly that the director’s facts were wrong for many reasons, but when he said he could easily imagine her mother happily attending the Grand Ole Opry, she hit the roof. Emma had to drag her little leftist off to the bedroom before Grace could throw him out.

But being angry at Julian for doing something rational–look up a friend of Grace’s to ask if she was in town–was in itself totally irrational. More to the point, why would Emma be embarrassed that anyone as handsome and as well-bred and well-connected as Julian Pardo showed up at the Centro Colombo-Americano and ask for her, nicely? This did not put Emma in a compromised position. Julian had not confronted her, had not made accusations, had not been rude. He made an inquiry. Well-bred gentlemen do that. Leftists do not. Maybe Emma had never met a gentleman.

Grace inadvertently cringed, thinking of Julian. She knew he was mad at her. He was in Bogotá and he was looking for her–that delighted her. But she was pretty sure he wasn’t going to show up with roses and champagne and declarations of “Darling I love you!” She wished he would. Hoped he would. But that would come later, after he got mad. IF they made up after the argument.

She curled up on her side. She had not thought about him in a while, deliberately. She was angry that he was with Elisabetta and might even go off to Europe with her. But she didn’t dare tell him that. She was afraid that would push him away, so she maintained a calm, quiet and “understanding” attitude and decided not to think about any part of the situation.

She remembered that about a week or so ago, she’d had a vivid dream about Julian. It wasn’t clear as to place or situation, but she remembered his voice and the emotions she’d felt in the dream. Consequently, when Emma had made her dramatic statement earlier that night, part of Grace was relieved–she wasn’t going crazy, after all–and part of her nodded, pleased to have a dream come true, as it were. And here he was. He loved her. She loved him.

She hoped he wasn’t too angry with her.


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