Rulo took his eyes off the road ahead now and then, giving Lily a quick glance to try and get a sense of what she was thinking. She seemed a bit sad now that everything had been done and said and that her time with Rulo, their third chapter together as they liked to think of it, was coming to an end.
They had decided to not hear any news about the current state of affairs in the world, the war that had been declared and all that, and to listen to music instead, so Lily was in charge of the truck stereo, changing CD’s now and then. They had listened in silence to some tunes that they used to enjoy at the end of their work days at the Young Pioneers, played on crappy boomboxes or a walkman with speakers that someone would dig up of a backpack. Back then, it hadn’t mattered that the audio quality wasn’t very good, and that the menu of songs was the same every night, from just a few tapes that they had -Clash, U2, Stones- or that the drinks were kind of rough, just hand squeezed oranges with a lot of seeds from the abandoned grove by the cemetery, and cheap, horribly harsh vodka.
In those days, nothing mattered much to him except to be close to her. Although they were the same age, she reasoned like a somewhat older and more mature person, and was focused on having the best possible time, learn as much as possible from the experience, take some pictures and head back to Britain, to make a name for herself in show business.
He didn’t have a camera, or plans to make a name for himself in anything. She was light years ahead of him, had places to go, and all that. For a few weeks, they had lived in the same bubble, with their friends, a bubble difficult to describe or explain, especially to people keen on black and white explanations, clear limits, or one and two-liners to paint a situation, as their bubble had had a lot of elements to it. Fun, laughs, hugs and kisses, all that’s good in life, but also some of the bad, breaking glass, tears, frustration, the bitter stuff.
After a while, she gave up on playing those old tunes, popped a classical music disc in, set the volume to minumum, and turned to him. Lifted her hand and touched his unshaven cheek, let her fingers play with his hair, rubbed the back of his neck.
He was thinking of how odd it was that of all the CD’s there she had picked Mozart’s Requiem just now, as he used to have and listen to that tape back then, alone at night, before sleep, or while picking avocados in the groves, never sharing it with anyone, but marveling at its complex architecture of voices, and oftentimes thinking of his dilemmas with her, wishing so hard for a future together, a beach in Central America it was in his imagination. The beach had never happened, not with her, but there had been some sort of future together, although he could have never imagined the strange nature of it, falling asleep to Mozart and thinking of her all those years ago, as she slept with her friend in their shack a few paces down the road.
She was looking at him and trying to figure out if he was still the most beautiful man she’d ever seen. She had seen quite a few other men, beautiful and not, since their first encounter, and after some thought, she decided no, she had in fact been with better, smarter, more handsome men. This one, though, still made her breathless now and then, and it was truly amazing to think that his love and admiration for her had continued unabated for so many years. She had no explanations for it, and like everything she couldn’t explain, it made her a little nervous.
She had said the L word last night, or rather, that dawn, some hours before hitting the road towards the airport in Miami, through the Everglades. A big step, a loaded word that could mean happiness or truly fuck up their budding 3rd attempt at understanding each other. She was very aware of Rulo’s tendency to go mad about her. It had happened the first time, in Christiansands. Had happened again, years later, when they reconnected on the web – sleepless nights, rambling messages, and when she finally decided it was too much and they’d better put some distance between them again, a sad juggling act with children, career, partner, alcohol, drugs and the blackest despair for balls. And both times, she had been careful to never imply there was anything other than a fondness, a friendship, for the fellow, letting love out of the question and everything. Now, she had said it, and, worrier that she was, was already having second thoughts. What would he do now that he had it, he had what he had always wanted?
It had been his childish and clumsy attempts to conceal his sorrow about seeing her go that had gotten her last night. His saying that a mosquito had punctured his eye to explain his tears had really lowered her defences. Utterly ridiculous, and she didn’t know if she would remember it with a smile or with sadness, a year from now. It all depended on the direction their twisted love story would take – but the fact is, for a moment there, she had felt nothing but love and tenderness towards him.
They hadn’t mentioned it, what she had said, again. She knew he would say “I love you” when it was her turn to pass security and go to her flight’s gate. Would she say it again then? Or would she just say ciao, or I’ll call you when I get home, or nothing at all? “If anyone who didn’t know Rulo was reading about this”, she thought as she caressed the back of his neck and distractedly watched an alligator jump into a canal, “they would think I’m the coldest bitch in the universe. I mean having these huge issues and careful considerations about using the L word around him and so on. A man who has been saying ‘I love you’ for how long now, years. And yet, I don’t consider myself that. I know he doesn’t think I’m that, the cold bitch. He’s just so driven towards me, I still can’t explain it… the adoration. And I know he scrutinizes everything I say, never misses a word or the meaning of picking a word over another, the shades of meaning, he’s almost obsessive in that sense. ‘Playing with me again’, he’ll say and give me that look, so I have to be so careful what I say and don’t say… not an easy man, this.”
– What are you thinking, beautiful?
– Oh… you know… I was thinking of you, actually.
– Nice! I usually hate this long drive to Miami, and of course I hate it that you’re leaving now, but we have a few more hours, that puts me in a good mood. You know what else puts me in a good mood?
– Your short skirt. It’s not that short, actually. But looks great on you, with the Doc Martens and all. Very stylish, he said, as he put a hand on her left thigh. The truck was in 5th, steady at 75 miles per hour, and there were many miles ahead of straight Interstate, West coast to East coast, woods and swamps on both sides, so… no need to change gears for a while, and her leg felt like warm silk, so tempting.
– What did the kids say when you took them back this morning?
– They loved the party last night, the Dia de Muertos. It’s kind of hard for them to go back to their old routines, school and piano and all that, after they spend time with me in my little wild domain. Happens every time. The boy especially. He’s roasting a whole pig, painting his face, watching the grown ups down bottles of tequila and dance, and then has to go back to I dunno… fractional numbers and the Catholic version of Jesus’ sayings, the usual…
– Yeah, I can see him getting bored at school. He’s so much ahead in every sense. Must be tough on him. Hey, did they say anything about me? About us?
– Well, we always talk about their ‘crushes’. They call it that, when they like somebody in their class or whatever. We have a lot of fun about it. We tease each other, I keep telling them they are too young for that crap and all. But they were laughing at me earlier, as I drove them back. Lisa was saying that you are my crush, that Daddy has a crush and all that.
– Hah! What did you say?
– I said that of course you’re my crush and have been for a long time.
Rulo moved his hand slowly up, and placed it between Lily’s legs, ready to remove it if she wasn’t in the mood. She looked at him and didn’t say anything, just turned the volume up a bit and leaned back, opening her legs. He started to rub her gently, feeling her getting wet. He wanted to make it last, so he stroked very gently, pausing when he felt she was about to come, as miles passed by and her soft moans mixed with the Requiem. Hand between her legs, he started talking again:
– I had this weird dream last night. I was on a plane on New Year’s Eve, at night. The plane was flying through a bad snowstorm, apparently heading for Antarctica. I was afraid we’d crash, and was very worried about going to Antarctica, didn’t want to go there. I had a painful hard on, and the stewardesses were laughing about it. So I took my notebook to cover it, and started reading my notes. I had been working in Patagonia, welding and painting this pier for the Glaciers line, my notes were all about it, about diesel oil and snow and ice and being chilled to the bone and thinking of you all the time, I could read them in my dream. It occurred to me that my hard on was because the plane was in fact going down, the proximity of death made my cock hard and I started having these crazy mental images, of me dressed in some kind of toga-like garment, about to sacrifice a perfect white bull to Apollo in Samothraki, knife in hand and cock hard, but then my perspective changed and I was the bull, just standing there, a garland of flowers on my head, waiting for the knife with my huge bull penis also hard and throbbing, as the snow thickened around and the plane kept heading further South instead of turning back north to BA…
He fingered her a little faster and harder as he was talking, and her scent filling the cab made him as hard as he had been in his dream. The waves of pleasure drowning her combined in strange ways with the images brought by his tale. Her feet, boots and all, were up on the dashboard and wide apart now, and every time she opened her eyes she could see the straight empty highway between the Doc Martens, the white lines dividing the lanes penetrating her again, and again, and again, rythmically, the canals on both sides with alligators sunning themselves, and his face staring ahead, eyes behind dark shades and left hand on the wheel. Looking down, she saw his tattooed, tanned right arm, the shape of his hand under her panties, and closed her eyes again.
– … so you know, Hemingway once said, ‘you’ll lose it if you talk about it’ and he was probably right, I’m losing it right now, but I feel like sharing it with you, maybe some of it will stay with you when I have forgotten all about it. Anyway, the plane finally started to approach an airport, the usual instructions were given, and I realized it wasn’t Antarctica after all, but London Gatwick. Massive dread and fear. Hard on gone, I got to some big airport lobby, and was surprised by the number of thuggish looking young men and women in uniform, tall black boots and military hats with shiny visors, shooting angry glances at me. I started worrying that I didn’t have any money, wondering if I would have to walk to London to find you, as you weren’t there at the airport – this is probably because last time I was there, I was so broke after all my months on the road, I had to walk to Gatwick, walked for hours along the highway with my backpack, until a police helicopter spotted me and a few minutes later a cop car picked me up and they were actually very nice and gave me a ride. Suddenly a blonde woman approached me and asked me if I was Raúl. She looked familiar, and I realized it was your friend Audrey, so I smiled at her and tried to start a conversation, but she didn’t seem to recognize me, cut me short and said the limo was waiting, you hadn’t been able to be there but would see me later. So we walked to the curb and there was a black limo there, I kept noticing huge right-wing propaganda posters hanging everywhere, and everything was shabby and dirty, very dreary. We got to a block of flats, Audrey opened the door of one for me and then was gone. You were there drinking tea and smoking spliffs with a lot of people, they were all hanging onto your every word, and you finally noticed me standing by the door, said Hi, said you and your friends had to go out now, told me to help myself to anything I wanted in the kitchen and chill, and then disappeared. I was alone in the apartment and started pouring myself drink after drink until I got very drunk and passed away… can you get drunk in dreams, I don’t know… but it all somehow faded to black, and next thing I knew, I was awake in Immokalee, and you were still asleep, your red hair next to me, just like I had always imagined…
Lily had come powerfully as the story of the dream was ending, her hands on his, pushing it hard towards her, gasping for air, and didn’t say anything for a while, as he licked his fingers in silence. Soon, they were leaving the Everglades behind and reaching the outskirts of the city. Traffic was light because of the whole situation with the gasoline supply, and they were approaching the airport in no time. Security was heavier than usual, with National Guard troops and local cops searching cars and passengers, but they had plenty of time. Eventually they parked in one of the huge airport lots, and Rulo refilled the tank from a couple of jerry cans he had in the bed of the truck. He made sure access to the fuel cap was locked, and took Lily’s bag. Lily walked with him to the check-in counter, feeling her legs a bit weak. As they were waiting to check her in, she said:
– That was a strange dream. And the strangest thing is that it reminded me of a nightmare I had some time ago. You weren’t in it, and I don’t really remember what it was about, but the youths in uniform, the propaganda posters, the ‘1984’ feel, they were all there. Fuckin’ ‘ell, dude, this is weird.
Lily’s check-in was all done fairly quick. They had factored a lot of extra time into their calculations, and now had almost 4 hours before she was supposed to get to the gate. The atmosphere at the airport was tense, and everyone seemed to have their eyes glued to the TV screens that talked of war. Pairs of soldiers and policemen with dogs patrolled the aisles and lobbies, stopping people at random, checking their papers and luggage. A fight broke out right next to R and L as they were leaving the British Airways counter. They had thought of getting a bite to eat and a cup of coffee before her flight, but things were just too stressful around them, and all of a sudden they just wanted to be alone, be away from the crowds.
– Hey Lily, this is too crazy. Listen, I remember there’s a hotel right here at the airport. I say let’s check in if they have a room available.
– Good idea, let’s do it.
The hotel did have a room, and soon they were there, drinking gin and tonics from the minibar, the heater turned up high. There wasn’t a whole lot to say as they removed their clothes and crashed on the bed. Her back on the covers, she opened her legs and they started going at it, looking into each other’s eyes. Every time Rulo felt he was about to come, he’d come out and bury his head between her legs, licking, pulling her clit into his mouth and slowly sucking it, then thrusting his tongue inside her as deep as it would go, hands all over her hips, breasts and arms, a blissful look in his face. When he felt his spunk had receded a bit, he’d get on top again and go inside her without even using his hands, until it was impossible to stop and both came, shaking and kissing wildly. Their urges sated, all that remained to do was to count the minutes until goodbye. Rulo had promised himself he wouldn’t cry, and spent those last minutes together kissing her nipples, stroking her hair, and looking into her beautiful eyes. He hugged this woman as many times as he could and very soon, too soon, there wasn’t any time left.
They walked out of the hotel into the mayhem and chaos of the airport, and got to the line in front of the metal detectors and stern faced security agents. They advanced slowly, and at one point, he wasn’t allowed to go any further, ‘passengers only from here’, they were told. They stopped for a moment and hugged one more time. He said ‘there will be another time’ and ‘I love you’ into her ear, she said ‘ciao, Rulo’ into his. They looked at each other one more time, smiling, and she gave her passport to the guard, who inspected it and sent her on to the x-rays. Sadly, she followed the instructions of a big black woman in uniform, retrieved her bag and shoes and walked to the duty-free shop, as he headed back to his truck, a small personal storm cloud, complete with hail and thunderbolts, floating above him, just like in the cartoons.