(C) 2014 by Metta Anderson
NOTE: This could be a chapter in a future novel or a short story that needs developing, I haven’t decided which. Please let me know what you think. Also, I usually indent paragraphs but can not find a way to do that with this format. Genuinely sorry about that and thank you for your patience.
“Another report done,” Eleanor wrote in her diary. She was sitting with her back against a rudimentary headboard, Ariel asleep beside her. Outside the bugs made noises and the wind rustled through the branches of the acacias and palms and other plants whose names just did not stick in her head. She had already given up trying to remember them, since she hadn’t been able to do that even in the botany section of science in junior high. In fact, she still couldn’t identify poison ivy, poison sumac or any other plant that produced allergic reactions. Why mess with such a perfect track record now, she figured, by trying to learn the Spanish names for things she hadn’t recognized in English?
“There seems to be a kind of format with the reports,” she continued. “Mostly who, what, where, when and how. No one seems very interested in the why. Dad would have a fit. ‘Everything goes to motive,’ he always says. And in this case, I have to say he’s right. WHY are there no schools nor hospitales? WHY is a man like Ariel so “condemned,” in a way, to a subsistence level of existence? And not just Ariel. The whole área.
“This is depressing. I’d like to write about something else, something positive. Such as. . .
“Such as. . . there was a wedding last weekend in the little parish church and a huge party afterward. It was fun, too. It’s not that everyone was a relative of the bride’s or groom’s, but it was just a kind of nice break from the daily routine. Not that the routine is awful. I guess it’s because a wedding brings out good feelings.
“Or I was a lot more stoned than I thought.”
She stopped to smother a giggle and remember–more or less–the event. Ariel had a couple of marijuana plants, as did most of the other people in the área, and rolled a joint for her once a week. She had discovered that she didn’t need more than a couple of hits to feel extremely good (“beyond mellow,” she wrote her friend Rebecca in Bogotá). Two shots of aguardiente and she could feel the warm Tolima wind go right through her body, sometimes. Other times, it was Ariel and he pretty much stopped inside her body. She paused. How to describe that? That all-encompassing sensation of wrapping herself around someone who was simultaneously wrapped around her, and not on a solid physical plane, either?
“We’re like a doublé nautilus, floating somewhere. ‘Out there,’ I guess, wherever ‘there’ is.
“Or maybe I watched too much Star Trek the last time I was home.
“No, it has to be the pot.”
She stopped to drink some lukewarm juice from the glass on the makeshift nighttable on her right. It was a box Ariel had found because she said she needed a place for her watch and a glass of wáter. She had wanted to add, “and a clock,” but decided that would sound stupid. Ariel got up at the same time every morning, and had every day of his life, because he had a finca and animals. His life was governed by those things. Hers had been governed by clocks. She was getting used to his timetable, in part because of their relationship and also because the entire town followed the same intangible sundial. Who was she to argue?
“I want to blame the pot, but I can’t.
She failed to smother the giggle this time. “Not the pot” was the most hilarious thing she’d written in days. Months, maybe. And not even good poetry either, but it was definitely concise and to the point. ZAP!
“Not the pot” because she recognized the change in her surroundings and circumstances. “OH MY GOD HOW DICKENSIAN CAN I GET!!!”she found herself writing in a loose scrawl, trying not to laugh. “I grew up in Michigan–four seasons, football, summers at Lake Charlevoix, Michigan State, shopping for hours at Jake’s, driving Mom’s T-bird, country club/city club, dancing class and all the rest of it. But NOW!
“Now I’m in a foreign country–Colombia–in a department of it–Tolima–which is not a state because there are no states here, just departments and territories making up the República de Colombia–and speaking as best I can a foreign language (Spanish) (to say nothing of trying to learn the way Spanish is spoken here, in this área) and I’m in bed with a man who “
She stopped. Hey, at least it’s a MAN, she thought, remembering the whispers she’d Heard at school about two girls getting caught making out in the bathroom and they were expelled or something like that. . .
Oh yeah. . . Ariel was a man, but, apparently, that wasn’t the problema.
Indian, that was the problema.
Also, “no fraternizing with the enemy,” an unspoken piece of hypocrisy relayed to her by a GUY–an American guy–who had been posted first to a nearby village and then sent up to Bogotá for his “specialized skills in dealing with the locals.” Crap, she thought. She had it on good authority–the girl’s aunt was a cousin of Ariel’s, as were an awful lot of people in the área–that the American had been caught in the hay (LITERALLY!!!) by the girl’s father and uncle. Before the situation got even more out of hand, someone (Eleanor suspected who it was) called the Peace Corps office in Bogotá and the issue was settled “amicably.” By American standards, anyway, if not by the Pijaos’ standards.
Gleefully Eleanor turned “fraternizing with the enemy” into “Don’t sleep with your brother,” which is how she translated it to Ariel. “But wouldn’t sleep with my brother anyway,” she had added with a straight face. “He’s not my type.” She realized Ariel wasn’t sure how to respond and backed him up to the nearest wall. “¿Quieres ser mi hermano?” she murmured, running her hands over his body and licking the sweat from the side of his neck. He smelled of heat, of the sun, of fresh earth, of a fruit of some kind. . .
Ariel was not sound asleep, naked under a sheet. She carefully pushed the sheet to one side and lay down as if to study his posture. His hair was black and thick and cut in a straight line just above the nape of his neck, which was long. The skin was warm, honey and caramel or something like that. Not just the color but the texture, she had discovered, kind of velvety. . .
But since he had been born this way and was not the product of summers at the country club and winters in Palm Beach, he was off-limits.
“I think the limits have been removed,” she decided, carefully putting her diary on the nighttable. “There is no ‘off’ and no ‘on.’ There’s just this man.”
She turned off the small lamp, rolled back toward Ariel and pulled the sheet up over them. “There’s just this man who is not–“ she pulled her pillow closer to his and embraced him. “not the WASP that I am. And yet I know at least three girls who graduated with me from Michigan State and who are now married to black men. I don’t know if they’re happy or if they’ll be married to the same guy in ten or twenty or fifty years. I know the parents of one of the girls were not the slightest bit happy to see their blue-eyed blond-haired daughter walk down the aisle of St. Paul’s on the arm of a black man last year, but they still sprant for a formal wedding and a reception at Walnut Hills. I’m not even thinking of doing that. With anyone. And I’m on the Pill, so . . .”
Eleanor moved herself into a more comfortable position and pulled Ariel closer.
Her face was against the back of his head and she began to kiss him, closing her eyes and seeing a world evoked by the smell of his hair, someplace warm, but not here, not Tolima, and weirdly familiar. Clear blue sky. . . sand. . . she knew there were tres someplace nearby.
She heard the change in his breathng and he took her hand. “I’m not ‘out there’ any more, I’m here, in the now.” She nuzzled him, looking for his mouth searching for her as he turned toward her.
I know the place, Eleanor wanted to say as his hands moved over her breasts and she lay back, wanting to dissolve in him. Her body responded to him just as her soul opened to his and whispered eternity.
(C) 2014 by Metta Anderson