Socorro and Candela have left hours ago, but Rulo can’t sleep.He’s at the window, naked, absorbed in the lights of Miami at 4am. He doesn’t notice the streaks of blood across his back. The blood is dry, or drying. There’s not much of it anyway, just drops here and there, where Candela hit too hard with the belt. The belt marks, though, are gonna be there awhile, all across his back and buttocks. “I’m not proud of this”, he says, as he walks towards the bathroom. He’s taken to speaking aloud when alone, like an old man, or a nutjob. “And yes I am, on the other hand. Managed to raise the midgets and give them a sense of how wrong a lot of the pre-digested, commonly accepted rules & regulations are, give them a different, wild if you will, point of view, that they will always remember, but without sacrificing the rules that you set for yourself, your own self-discipline. A father, me. Fucking hell, not in a million years… they speak good Spanish, too, are fluent in the ways of two cultures, will have wider horizons soon… so soon… that’s, no doubt, number one in my book”.
The warm shower is divine and feels great on his body. His balls ache. He’s come 3 times tonight: one, the first, on Socorro’s tits, big and tan and wonderful. The second, inside a condom, maybe an hour or two later, fucking he doesn’t remember which one of his friends, on a quick visit from Buenos Aires, in Miami for the night. The third one, in Candela’s mouth, after she had gotten tired of hitting him. Without any chemical helps, mind you. After 4 decades on this Earth. Well, except wine and cocaine, but those don’t count. “A committed father, an environmental activist, a man of learning and culture, a man who enjoys sitting down with Shakespeare and raising his eyes to watch his trees grow, for fuck’s sake, taking these detours, these fucked up vacations from the real world, these nigger entertainments… what’s wrong with me?”
He knows the answer. He knows exactly what’s wrong with him, but he won’t say it aloud. It’s too painful. His time is running out. Everything he does – planting trees, arching his eyebrows as he listens to a funny story, writing a funny story, coming on some woman’s boobs -, he’s done many times before. Taking a plane, driving a car, waking up in a place he can’t recall the name of, snorting the coke, drinking the drink, taking the shower, scratching his ass, helping with the homework, arguing with the ex, marveling at the elegant prose of Onetti or Dostoevsky, feeling lonely, feeling crowded, the warm sun on his face, the belt on his back, the cashews in his mouth. Been there, done that, and your time’s almost up. Even if you manage 20 more years here, your time’s up. And you never did what you’re aching to do, what you dream about doing (hate the dreams!), there’s something you’ll never have. You’ll never have her. You’ll never hug her and just close your eyes and feel content. You’ll never be with her in Pine Island or Miami or Rome or wherever. You’ll die and you’ll have all these other things under your belt, but the one thing you wanted, the one person that would have given meaning to it all, well, she’ll never even know, she forgot about you years ago, you’re nothing to her, always were, she doesn’t have a use for your devotion and wild adoration, not even to wipe her ass, it wasn’t meant to be and won’t be and that’s that…
“OK, this is the time I don’t call Lily”, he muttered, as he stepped out of the shower and reached for a towel. He had her phone number, of course. She had sent a couple of racy messages months ago, and insisted he didn’t call back. She’d probably be cuddling with her man right now, or feeding her child. What time is it in England, anyway? Besides, it was he, in one of his typical shoot-your-own-foot, paint-yourself-into-a-corner moments, who had, rather unpleasantly, told her to mind her own beeswax and not call or write again.Now, as he put on a fresh pair of shorts and a t-shirt, he wanted, needed rather, to explain that his request for her to fuck off wasn’t due to a lack of love and affection… on the contrary, on the opposite, it was because he loved her too hard, too intensely, and it drove him nuts to see that his life had taken a radical turnaround since she had reappeared over a year ago (leaving his wife, buying a farm and a trailer, going to live there alone, working and drinking too hard to forget her again), whereas the only effect his torrent of words, his passionate offers to leave everything and go anywhere for a night with her, had provoked, was for her to decide to try harder and stick to an unhappy marriage.
Well, needs go unmet a lot of times. Some of his needs and desires had been taken care of this hot, muggy Miami night, by his two good, if slightly crazed, friends from Argentina. They had been game to his every fantasy, taking some abuse and dishing it out too. It had felt good to forget all about Lily for a while. But what was the power of this woman over him, that the second the fun was over, all he could think of was to pick up the phone and wake her up and explain to her that he had been dreaming of her again, almost every night? That the stories he had written, of the two of them together in Buenos Aires, had fermented and matured and blurred the line between what was real and what wasn’t, and now, at least in his dreams, the stories were as real as the sounds of this seedy hotel and of the city waking up? He really hated it when he had dreams of her, like the other night, when they had been together in an old fashioned billiards hall full of old men, and he had been hypnotized by the million wonderful shades of red in her hair, by how clear her blue gaze was, blissful that he was there, with her, as the old-timers discussed billiards and drank vermouth and coffee? It would be nice, to be able to tell the dream, like he had told her, ‘fuck off, don’t come back again’. But dreams answer to some higher authority, and can’t be told what to do, and as much as he would like for his nights to be black and eventless and peaceful, too often she showed up to rub it in his face, to tell him, ‘this is what could have been, and was not, and will never be’, and the mornings were horrible. Leaving bed felt like wading a river of dark despair, felt like he had been cheated out of something, felt like the gods were laughing at him and his obsession with this woman.
“Well, laugh then, gods. Are the corner drug dealers of Hialeah operating at 6am? The whores? Is the hotel’s breakfast room open? Can I get a cup of coffee? Should I drive back to the West Coast and call it quits and resume the usual wholesome ways? Am I in time to show up at the microgreens farm and help with the harvest? Am I doing the produce stand on Sunday? I love Socorro’s tits, and her hips, and the way she snorts her coke. I love the way Candela hits me and then puts my cock in her mouth. I love being alive. It’s been a glorious journey. I know it will soon be over. Good morning, Miami. I love this city. I’m not calling that woman. I’ll never see that woman again. It’s all good. It’s all good. Lemme see if I can get some coffee. And a fucking roll. I’m starving, dammit…”