I woke prone in the v-berth cabin, in the bed Callie and I made together yesterday, Callie lying on her side next to me, one of her hands on my back, breathing deep and slow, her long lustrous wavy hair spread on both sides of her, soft and flowing, but it seemed like mostly on me. It smelled wonderful and she was so beautiful, it was like waking from a good dream to a better one. I couldn’t remember anything of last night beyond when I adored her underwater, even after spending a couple minutes trying (not) to. It was like something dim in peripheral vision, something I could just perceive the outline of if I didn’t look directly—focusing just made it go away. And there was also something that told me I didn’t need to remember right now, that everything would be fine if I just let it unfold in its own time. But it was clear that Callie had established something more like control over my body and mind than I would’ve thought possible. I remember how Mari and Sati tried ... I hadn’t really trusted either of them but I did trust Callie, the love of my life. I let it go and rolled out of bed, found a swimsuit, walked through the cabin and the galley, where Mariano was chopping vegetables. He seemed a little surprised—and relieved—to see me.
“Can I help?” I asked.
“No, I’ll do breakfast,” he said, and I nodded. It was early morning, maybe 6:45 AM, as cool out as it would be today. There was A/C on low in the v-berth so it was cooler than it might’ve been otherwise, but here in the saloon there were only a couple small fans.
“Callie wants to eat at 7:15,” Mariano said as I started up the companionway.
Topside, the deck and rails and furled sails were slick with dew, an evaporative haze all around, the water dead flat, a few fish breaking the surface the only motion or sound. I hurdled the transom and went deep.
“... we find [the study of physical phenomena’s] noblest and most important result to be a knowledge of the chain of connection, by which all natural forces are linked together, and made mutually dependent upon each other; and it is the perception of these relations that exalts our views and ennobles our enjoyments.”
I swam. Hard and long. Maybe a kilometer and then back again, feeling like I could’ve gone harder, but I was enjoying the mindless repetitive exertion while my brain looped and spun. I was barely breathing hard.
“It is a strange thing that most of the feeling we call religious, most of the mystical outcrying, which is one of the prized and used and desired reactions of our species, is really the understanding and the attempt to say that man is related to the whole thing, related inextricably to all reality, known and unknowable. ... all things are one thing and that one thing is all things—plankton, a shimmering phosphorescence on the sea and the spinning planets and an expanding universe, all bound together by the elastic string of time.”
I practically flew out of the water onto the swim platform—I did not want to be late. I jumped into the shower to rinse off, but for some reason I kept tasting salt. I realized I was trembling. I was at the table by exactly 7:14.
“You’re late, my love,” Callie said as she emerged from our cabin. I knew I wasn’t but I hung my head, feeling overwhelmed, almost hopeless, and as I did I realized the reason I kept tasting salt: I was streaming tears.
“I’m sorry,” I said. Callie saw my tears, came close and took me in her arms, a gentle, loving embrace.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered into my ear, caressed tears from my cheek. “I love you. I’m so pleased with you, so proud of you.” Then she kissed me, gently, on the lips. “Let’s eat breakfast,” she whispered, her warm breath on me.
“There’s so much I don’t understand,” I said. “Something’s happening to me, there are so many gaps in my memory, it’s like something inside me is changing, more than one thing, things I want to understand, but ... I can’t. Am I the only one?”
Get me to the point where the truth will unfoldI wanna know
“You started down a new path yesterday,” she said. “You need to let it happen, let that new path join the one you’re already on, become the rare, precious, truly gifted man you’re meant to be.” She smiled. “Now be quiet ... I’m hungry.”
Mariano made tacos and huevos rancheros with another half-filet of last night’s wahoo, and between those and the chilaquile fixins he’d bought yesterday, we had another wonderful meal together, Callie sitting close enough that her firm strong silky legs were in near-constant contact with mine. Then she and Mariano did dishes below while I remained topside. We were in the island’s lee so I motored us half a kilometer away and unfurled the sails. Winds were light at this hour so progress would be slow, but I much preferred sails to the engine and I figured the wind would pick up. The day was turning much less humid than yesterday, the wind shifting to north-northeast, off the desert, almost opposite yesterday’s. Callie joined me after about 20 minutes, put her arm around my waist and her head on my shoulder and we silently gazed over the ultramarine sea together. I turned into her and she pressed herself to me, kissed me deep, put her hands behind my neck. The wind was picking up nicely, and between that and our beam reach, our return would be quicker than yesterday’s journey out.
the climate felt quite delicious, the atmosphere so dry and the heavens so clear and blue with the sun shining brightly, that all nature seemed sparkling with life.”
“I want what you want,” I said.
“You need to let yourself take control,” she said.
“I love it when you control me,” I said, surprising myself—I don’t know where the words came from.
“You’re supposed to, you are under my power,” she said. “But you need to grow past that. It’s time.” My cheeks were wet again ... something between us was changing, a realization that made me very sad.
“You’re the one I want,” I said.
“Come get me,” she said. “Your way this time, not mine. Sweep me off my feet, I’ve always wanted that from you.” She placed one of my hands on her lower back where it flowed into the upper slope of her fabulous bottom, took the other in one of hers, began swaying against me, moving her feet, slow dancing. She sighed. She was wearing her bikini and thin white blouse knotted at her waist and the extravagantly impractical barely-there 4-inch heels she’d gotten from Morgan, her nearness and bounteous presence overwhelming, intoxicating, captivating me, fixating me, her ears and thin sharp nose, smooth oval chin and light freckling, her beautiful warm hazel-green eyes, the fine hairs on her arms and the nape of her long slender neck, her scent, the feel and close experience of her a deep emotional journey for me. She was sighing in pleasure at the way my strong arms and taut-muscled chest enfolded her, held her close as if protecting her, as if I might lose her, as if I might subordinate her if that’s what she wanted, if that’s what it would take to keep her. I was getting really hard in a way she couldn’t miss. Mariano emerged from the companionway.
“Your watch,” I said to him, and he took the wheel.
“Let’s go down,” I whispered into Callie’s ear, still holding her close, then pulled away, my arm around her waist, and walked her there, closed the door to our cabin behind us, and took her in my arms.
“Lie down on the floor, honey,” she told me. “I want to show you something.”
I lay down on my back and she stepped over me. I was staring up her long smooth legs past her heels to her bikini bottom, to her prominent beasts standing out so proudly, to her lovely face peering down from above them. She bent over and stretched her arms down to those heels, her long fingers and nails tracing gently over her ankles, her feet, held a pose there for a few seconds, smiling. Then those long fingers moved between her feet to my chin, my cheeks, my forehead, my shoulders, tracing so lightly. She removed the white blouse, dropped it onto the bed.
“Be still, let your body react however it will, I want to be your fantasy girl, the girl of your dreams,” she said. “I want to make all your dreams come true, even those you haven’t dreamed yet. I want you to take me when you’re ready, just how you most want to, which is how I’ll love it most.” Then she bent lower at the waist and then at the knees until her warm breasts touched my chin.
“Take my top off,” she told me, and I reached to loose her bikini top, my face in her cleavage, and as it came loose, I went deeper, the soft warm pressure of her breasts against my eyes, nose, chin, mouth, so there was nothing to see or smell or feel but her. I licked one and she moved a nipple to my mouth.
“Mmmmmmmm,” she said as she moved and I could see again, “I like that.”
Her nipple receded, not because she was moving away but because her breasts were shrinking, though still quite a bit more full than when I first knew her.
“Watch,” she said, and as I complied her nails and lips lightened from burgundy to red to something closer to pink, her hair shorter but still waist-length and wavy, her nails as they rested on my shoulders less sharp but just as long.
“You taught me how to do this,” she said. “I did it for you, but we both knew it wouldn’t be forever, it’s just not who I am ... now gaze at my legs, so long, so strong, so smooth ... I know how much you like them.”
Callie’s wonderful legs seemed even longer now with Morgan’s heels on, more muscular than before, but as I watched, appreciating their shapely sculpted curves, I saw some of that muscle melt away but not much—she hadn’t ever become sharply cut like a bodybuilder the way Mari had. I was extremely aroused, of course. She reached down and caressed my erection through my swim trunks, which I felt change until they’d become a much skimpier lycra suit, my erection pushing hard against it, pushing out from beneath it, her touch making that erection jump. Then one of her feet stepped back between my legs and I felt the point of her toe slip under my balls, lifting them, caressing them from underneath. She slipped her thumbs into her bikini bottom, on either side of her hips, began sliding it down, and bent her knees further, lowering herself toward me until it reached my nose.
“Smell me,” she said. “Seeing you like this, so turned on by me, I am so turned on by you.”
I took her bikini bottom between my teeth. It was warm and damp, not from water, smelling and tasting of her. She smiled and rose, letting my teeth pull her bikini bottom further down her beautiful legs until it dropped and she stepped out of it. I put it aside, let my hand caress her ankle, climb her shapely calf, behind her knee, gently brush over her thigh, come around to squeeze her strong quad. Then I went to one elbow, reached my hand higher, brushed my fingertips up her leg to her sex, teasing so gently. She shivered, her eyes half closing.
“You’re already my fantasy, you know that?” she said. “You’re everything I ever wanted, everything I’ve ever dreamed, you taught me to love with all my heart, you make me so happy. I want to make you as happy as I am, but I also want you to be even better. Maybe I’m funny that way, but you’d better learn to live with it. Or else, you know?” She smiled.
My hands were on her fabulous bottom, pulling her closer, and then my mouth was between her legs and I was rising higher, lifting her from the top of those gorgeous legs and her spectacular ass. She squeezed those beautiful legs around my neck as I lowered her to the bed, placed her there gently, climbed higher on her so I could reach her hands, placed her thumbs inside my scant swimsuit and let her do the rest. She lowered it, peeling it down my cord-muscled legs, freeing my throbbing cock, then took me in her hands, one thumb wrapped around my base with her long fingers and nails teasing between my legs and her other around my shaft, gliding slowly up and down, placing thumb on frenulum and rotating it, letting those long nails do her magic, so gently.
“That feels so good,” I said. “I don’t want you to stop, but ...” I slid down, far enough that she would’ve had to sit up to keep her hand on me, put my arms and then my shoulders under her knees, lifted her legs high, and slid incredible hardness into incredible wet warmth. I smiled.
“Fuck me like an animal,” I said, and her eyes opened, confused. My smile widened and she squeezed me inside, wrapped her long beautiful legs around me, those high heels still on, and found a rhythm, squeezing, sliding me in and out, mashing herself into me while I stayed still, looking deep into her eyes. I descended slowly, my eyes closing in on hers while she pumped against me, growing more lubricated by the moment, practically gushing around me, her breath coming faster as her motion sped up, heels clattering together, her eyes so deep in mine, fighting to stay fully open as mine came closer, so deep in hers.
“Come when our lips touch,” I told her, “harder every time I pump into you.” She nodded, her expression almost desperate, then reached her hands behind my neck and pulled herself to me, planting her lips on mine and groaning, a primal guttural elemental song that she ran out of breath for, and then when she had breath for it, a kind of wail. I slid myself farther in and the pitch of her wail rose. She rotated her hips, mashing herself against my balls the way she loves, the way I love, her eyes fighting harder to stay open, to stay in mine, my lips on hers hard, hungry, questing as my own climax neared. Sliding out and then in again, her finding a movement to mesh with mine, squeezing me with her legs and inside, pulsing around me, out and in, rotating hips and squeezing and pulsing, both of us kissing so deep that it was like we were a single body reaching for a single satisfaction, her hands reaching further down my back, squeezing me tighter, her long but no longer sharp nails digging in until she threw her head back and gasped at the moment of my release, letting go to sensation, coming even harder with me.
“the pattern goes everywhere and is everything and cannot be encompassed by finite mind or by anything short of life—which it is. ... Any investigation [of the psychic or spiritual residua remaining after the most careful physical analysis, or the physical remnants obvious] ... will run into the brick wall of the impossibility of perfection while at the same time insisting on the validity of perfection.“
I lowered myself far enough to let some of my weight rest on her, a full-body press, our eyes still deep in each other’s, my lips playing on hers gently, her legs unwinding from around me. Our breaths slowing, me still inside, slowly dwindling.
“I want this, all of this,” she whispered. I stretched one of her arms over her head, then lay down next to her where it’d been, my arm under her neck and around her, keeping us close. Her fingertips and the tips of her nails played softly on my face until I kissed her again, sharing warmth and gratitude for her.
“I can’t believe how much I love you,” I said in between gentle kisses. “You were already my every fantasy made real but you keep surprising me ... you are so much more.”
“We have a little time,” she said. “Let’s just hold each other, it’s so nice with you, I need to enjoy this feeling of being with just you ...”
“While I can” was the unsaid end to her sentence. I wasn’t sure if that was something I needed to be concerned about, but I certainly agreed with everything else she’d just said. Her fingers still gently playing on my face, cheeks, and forehead were making me drowsy.
“Sleep, my love,” she said, her voice soft and loving, and I did.
Half an hour later was time enough ... we would be returning to the house soon and needed to pack—we still had a day of driving ahead. I extricated myself from Callie’s wonderful embrace, kissed her softly one more time, wiped myself off, donned that tiny lycra swimsuit for Callie to see and put her hand on my hip over it, smiling, then transformed it back into the swim trunks it’d once been and went topside. We were getting close.
“Nicely done,” I said to Mariano, and he made as if to hand over the wheel.
“You can do this,” I said. “I’ll be here to advise, but it’s not difficult. As we get closer we’ll furl the sails and start the engine, then come in slow and reverse engines a few seconds before we dock. If you do it right you can make it look easy. I can tie us up. Callie can help if she’s ready by then. I’ll be right back.”
Callie was in the shower, singing:
Sometimes my tries are outside the linesWe’ve been conditioned to not make mistakesBut I can’t live that way
I smiled, brushed my teeth, used the head, and collected my few things.
“I’m packed,” I said to Callie, who was still in the shower. She opened the curtain, letting me glimpse her wonderful lithe wet soapy body. She noticed my gaze wandering and stuck her chest out, grinning playfully.
“Shower,” she said then, narrowing her eyes, but I could tell it wasn’t serious. “I’m not getting in the car with you unless you clean up.”
“I’ll shower in the house,” I said. “Right now I have to help Mariano dock. We could use your help if you’re ready by then.” She made a fake-angry face but closed the curtain. I went topside again. We were maybe 10 minutes away.
“How long will it take you to pack?” I asked Mariano.
“Less than 5 minutes,” he said. “Are you sure you want me to do this?”
“You’ll do fine, Mariano ... you’re getting really good. Pack up and bring your stuff.” He went below and emerged maybe 3 minutes later. I gave him the wheel and directed him to furl the sails and start the engine. Callie came up with her packed bag 2 minutes later, no heels on this time, saw what I was having Mariano do, and broke out in one of those smiles that lit up her entire face. It made me want to do anything she wanted as long as I could see that smile again.
“You’re a good teacher, you know that?” she said, leaned into me and kissed me.
I was actually a bit nervous ... a lot could go wrong. I’ve done this before, even with only sails, both perfectly and not, but never in a boat anywhere near this big, and honestly there was no one here I needed to impress.
Speaking of that, we were close enough now to see that the gate from the dock to the house was open, a small woman standing there. Great, an audience. Callie saw, reached down to her bag, carefully extracted the feathers I’d bought for her yesterday from the cloth I’d wrapped them in, and asked me to put them into her still-damp hair, just where I thought they would look best. She smelled of soap: floral, wonderful, heavenly.
“You know her?” I asked.
“She owns the house. You’ll probably recognize her, and I think she’ll like seeing these. They really are beautiful.” She leaned in and kissed me again, closer and deeper this time. I complied, then put on a T-shirt.
‘This little trip of ours was becoming a thing and a dual thing, with learning and playing and eating and sleeping merging with thinking and speculation. Quality of sunlight, blueness and smoothness of water, boat engines and sails and ourselves were all parts of a larger whole and we could begin to feel its nature but not its size.’
Callie and I lowered fenders. Mariano’s approach was flawless, I barely had to say a word. He didn’t have a feel for how strongly to reverse but gave himself extra room, reversed harder when his first attempt wasn’t enough, and glided the boat safely to a halt exactly where he should have. Callie and I jumped onto the dock with our bags and a line before he’d fully stopped, she tied up at the bow and Mariano tossed another to me at the stern. He was grinning. I jumped back aboard.
“Outstanding! Now the cooler,” I said, and we carried the remaining half of the wahoo onto the dock. Callie brought out the remaining leftovers from the fridge, then we walked up toward the house together. The owner was leaning against the gate, an older woman, small and broad with skin the color of milk chocolate and a face like burnished leather, a woman who looked as if she were accustomed to being in charge. I perceived some sense of magic around her but didn’t have my extrasense or I might’ve known more. She was also the same person I bought Callie’s feathers and torc from. She glanced briefly at me, her small smile more like a grimace, then smiled much more warmly at Callie.
“Your man has good taste ... those feathers look very beautiful in your hair,” she said, “but then you are already very beautiful.”
“Don’t flatter him,” Callie said, blushing. “He’ll be even more insufferable.”
“I love your house,” I said to her. “I’ve never had a night like I did here, I’ll remember it with great pleasure as long as I live. Your sailboat is wonderful, too ... I hope to remember details someday.” I glanced at Callie, who was smirking.
The woman’s eyes were on Callie. She seemed a little annoyed that I’d spoken. “I’m glad you were able to use the bath and garden for their intended purpose; I seldom have a visitor of your capability and I am very happy you could restore a little balance to this misguided world.”
“It was good for both of us, I think,” Callie said.
“I’m certain it was,” the other woman said, her eyes dropping to Callie’s bikini under that thin white blouse tied at her waist. While Callie’s figure was no longer as extravagant as it’d been an hour ago, she was still spectacular and this woman seemed to appreciate it very much indeed. She was barely acknowledging me. “Perhaps you will visit again?” Her voice was thin, as if her mouth had gone dry.
“I’d like that very much,” Callie said.
“We have extra fish in the cooler,” I said, “it’s wahoo, ono, caught last night and delicious, 4 or 5 kg.“
The woman made another of her annoyed grimaces but nodded to Callie. “I would be very happy if you could bless it,” she said.
“For you, and your ... friends ... anything, it’s the least we can do,” Callie said, gulped audibly, opened the cooler, reflected a few moments, and began.
Blessed be the Earth and Sea for leading this, their child, to usMy companions for bringing it to our tableTo nourish mind, body, and spiritBlessed be this child of the Sea who gave its life for our nourishmentTo all who consume it, their friends, families, and loved onesMay it bring health and happinessBlessed Be
“Beautiful,” the woman said.
Callie closed the lid. Mariano and I picked it up and followed the women inside.
“We need to be on the road,” Callie said, “right after Bob and Mariano shower. Perhaps we can talk while they do.”
The woman nodded. Twenty minutes later, cleaned up and all of us dressed for the road, Callie wearing the necklace I’d bought for her and absolutely radiant, the woman led us out her front door. She offered her hand to Mariano and me much as Grace had, we brushed our lips against her rings, but she kissed Callie on the lips.
“Bless you, child, bless the work you do and all the love and wisdom you bring to this world,” she said.
“Thank you so much, honored mother,” Callie said.
Mariano and I also gave thanks, but I’m not even sure she heard. We got in the car and backed out the driveway, Mariano at the wheel.
“I never learned her name,” I said. “That was a little weird.”
“She didn’t want to hear you speak it, so we didn’t tell you,” Callie said. “She lives a very different lifestyle, as I’m sure you noticed.”
“Uh huh. I got the sense that she would rather not have interacted with either of us men at all.”
“Oh, she interacts with men all the time, but on her terms, which are something like those you and I had during our night here. There wasn’t time to teach you her rules, and if I know you, you might not have followed them anyway.” She took my chin in her hands and looked deep into my eyes. “Bob, honey, while I had a truly wonderful time with you and Mariano here, I’m kind of glad this part of our journey is over and we can start getting back to the kind of life we had together before, at least for this week. But you should know that more change is coming.”
“This trip had been like a dreaming sleep, a rest from immediacies.”
We were on the road by 10:30, bypassed Guaymas, stopped for lunch in Esperanza, crossed into Sinaloa and continued on to Culiacán, where we arrived in time for dinner. Callie had reservations at a small luxury hotel with another very nice suite, a bistro downstairs but there were many restaurants in walking distance and we wanted something other than a place full of well-heeled tourists and expats.
Back at the hotel, Callie took Mariano swimming in the pool while I looked over my grimoire again ... I’d been doing that pretty much the whole time we’d been in the car. I was still able to learn about one spell per hour, but it helped my focus to do something else in between. Callie and Mariano returned to our suite, showered, and then it was bedtime. I could hear Mariano talking on the phone with Jess, but I don’t remember a damned thing that happened from two minutes after Callie and I first held each other in bed until I woke, the sides of my lower back under my ribcage aching horribly. An ache that faded until by mid-morning I felt entirely whole.
Sing me to sleep tonightNo memory tonight
The next day was much the same, we finally turned inland after more than 4 days on or near the Gulf, crossed another time zone, stayed overnight in someone’s very nice house in Guadalajara, several good local beers I’d never heard of before in the fridge, but when I woke in the morning it felt like my jaw had been dislocated. That, too, faded quickly. This next day, Wednesday, on our way past Mexico City and Tulancingo, was our last long drive ... Mariano’s people had a house there, not far from the sanctuary he’d once protected and hoped to protect again. I felt a little more pent-up than I’d grown used to with all the loving women of Newberry, as if I hadn’t come since Guaymas. Three days of driving, 26 new spells plus a handful more that plumb evaded me, it felt like I’d done three days of hard labor. Mariano was exuberant to be back and disappeared with his friends.
The smallish house was a very different kind of accommodation than we’d been spoiled by on our trip ... sparsely furnished rooms, thin drafty walls, Seven people sharing space, but Callie and I had a full-sized bed in our own freshly cleaned room. We arrived before 4:00 PM, which was two hours ahead of Pacific Time. Pat had told me Joanna might call today, so I made myself available. There weren’t any official parks near to take a call in the relative privacy of the outdoors, but Callie walked outside with me anyway. Few homes in the neighborhood had walls around their yards, just metal bars over windows and doors, grass and concrete mostly carefully tended, sometimes with a couch or chair in a shaded place, but it was hot and getting hotter. Half a block away was a space that could’ve been a large vacant lot between two fractured calles but there was grass and a few boys kicking a soccer ball, old sneakers hanging from tied laces on a streetlight, a dog lying lazily in front of a house two doors away while its owner strung up clothes on a line to dry. Callie and I sat cross-legged on a blanket in the shade of a spreading tree, some kind of ficus, an unfamiliar world unfolding around us as we breathed and saw and heard and smelled. She was wearing expensive fitted tan slacks that flattered her slim waist and lovely hips and long shapely legs, her feathers in her hair. One of the grimoire spells dumbfounding me revealed itself, something to do with heat and light and optical illusion and possibly Art: a fata morgana, a name that woke a part of me that hadn’t stirred for days, and also might explain why distance had sometimes seemed so difficult to judge from Nahual. I squeezed Callie’s hand, then one of the boys brought her a wildflower, which made her smile. Then, while a pair of girls giggled at us from the other side of the lot, trying to hush each other, every boy there brought her another.
“That woman at the Guaymas house was right ... you are very beautiful,” I told her, and just as she had then, she blushed.
Mariano found us, carrying a 12-pack of cold cola, even the condensation on the outside of the cans refreshing as I held it to my forehead. Mariano smiled at the boys and the girls, most of them seeming about 11 years old. One of the boys tentatively walked over, obviously the boldest of them but still shy, the others following further back. His eyes moved from the cola to my face, questioning.
“Sí,” I said, handing him an unopened can, and he smiled.
“Gracias, señor,” he said with a little dip of his head, and retreated to his friends, all of them chattering to each other. A second boy approached and I gave him a can, waving another to the girls, causing an explosion of giggles and a hasty retreat. Callie placed two on the grass in front of her, motioning the girls over. The boys came one by one, each thanking us gravely, and when they’d retreated the girls scampered to Callie for cans of their own, thanking her almost inaudibly, then scampered away out of sight, perhaps to their homes. Callie and I each opened a can and I drank mine and part of hers, the rest going to neighborhood kids. I tossed the last of our cans from behind my back and the boy I threw it to caught it perfectly. Two women, the right age to be mothers of one or more of these kids, scowled at us from sidewalks before disappearing as quickly as they’d appeared.
“We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”
It got late for dinner and no one called. Mariano drove us to a place he knew well, a place like Callie or I had seldom experienced but often hoped to: great inexpensive food, animated informed company, a sense of belonging, even good fresh pulque. Mariano disappeared for a few minutes after his first taste. Many of Mariano’s friends spoke English, some had attended the local technical college. We talked beer and soccer and baseball and liquor, good company and philosophy, even a little theology, though that was obviously a sensitive subject. I pronounced myself willing to listen and several people had something to say. Mariano and his friends seemed to mostly follow the way of the Madre Vieja, the Old Mother, whose name(s) they don’t speak. A few voices might’ve been raised, but, really, what better pursuit in a social place could there be than open-mindedly seeking someone else’s passionate informed thoughts on a complex question?
Walking back to the house with Callie, Mariano still with his friends, me somehow fuddled while crossing an avenida, perhaps from all the conversation and pulque and from being with my lovely Callie, her on the sidewalk behind, a semi truck with its headlights off came coasting down the street and slammed into me at about 65 kph, maybe a little more ... law enforcement or anyone else will never know, distracted or not it truly wasn’t that driver’s fault. He continued on without slowing, not even noticing the collision—I barely scratched his shiny heavy steel grill guard. It should’ve killed me. Callie must’ve carried or levitated me back, she wasn’t always that strong but lately she was anything she wanted to be. I woke in darkness in a too-small bed, broken but no longer on the verge of system collapse and oblivious death, Callie sobbing over me.
I woke again just before dawn, feeling almost well. Callie was lying nude next to me, the woman she’d been when we met: slender, athletic, graceful, strong, lovely shallow conical pointed breasts, sexy slim hips, silky soft long toned legs and still-stupefying ass. One of her arms across me, draped over me, no more long nails, her warm wonderful body pressed close. There were gaps in my memories of last night the way there always seemed to be lately, but right now, snug and dreamy as she held me, was not the time.
I woke again later with Callie kissing me, stroking my forehead. The same beautiful loving Callie who’d taken me down when she first inveigled me to wrestle, the Callie I’d fallen for, literally and otherwise so irretrievably, the Callie I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.
“You up for breakfast?” she asked.
“Goddess yes,” I said, my body realizing just then how famished it was.
She held out her hand and I rose to take it, something in me surprised that I could, that it didn’t hurt to bend at the waist, to get to my feet, to hold her lovely hand in mine, Callie’s expression communicating her profound relief at a very heavy weight indeed lifted, or at least lifting. The angle of sunlight and shadow on the walls told me we’d slept in longer than usual.
We were at the table well after everyone else had finished, but Mariano was there.
“You’ll want to eat quickly,” he said, his eyes somewhat unfocused, his voice distant. He’d made us more huevos rancheros, still sizzling in their skillet, delicious just as they’d been on the sailboat even with a little chorizo instead of that wonderful wahoo. I finished a very large portion in less than 10 minutes, wanting to stay with Callie but she shooed me out the door with a blanket and my phone, hardly able to look at me, to find the ficus in that makeshift soccer field and sit in its shade again, waiting, missing how wonderful it’d felt to be sitting here with Callie yesterday. The world turned around me, the air heating as the sun climbed the sky, a soft breeze bringing more of that heat into the shade of my tree. I didn’t have my extrasense, not really, but I was feeling more tuned into this world than I’d ever felt without it before, as if ... as if ... maybe as if everything I thought I understood was about to change.
A phone rang, the same one Morgan’s father had given me. It’d never been used before and with my thoughts aswirl at first I wasn’t sure what it signified. I found the little green glowing chiclet “Send” key, pressed it, and held the phone to my ear.
“Bob?” a voice said, a voice I hadn’t heard for months, a voice that penetrated straight to my heart.
“Joanna,” I said. “It’s so good to hear your voice.”
“Where are you? What happened?”
I took a deep breath. “It’s a long story, but the short version is from the time I left our house until a week ago when I called you, I was having a kind of amnesia, I had no idea who I was or how to get back to who I’d been.”
“It was that woman, wasn’t it?”
“It wasn’t Mari. I got her away from us, to the airport, kept our family safe and sound as far as I knew. Then I took a bus home and almost made it the whole way before this other thing happened.”
“What other thing?” Joanna asked, her voice querulous.
“Someone else pretty much wiped my brain. You remember how Mari could make you do anything she wanted just by looking at you, the way she made you leave the house, the way I told you she did to me in Minneapolis? Well, she’s not the only one. This was a different person I’d never seen before and haven’t seen since. I spent about two weeks on the street, got beat up a few times, all my stuff stolen, no way to remember until recently, no way to get back to you.”
“There were two, a man and a woman.”
“Where are you now?”
“Mexico, near Mexico City.”
I heard her take a deep breath, like she was about to start yelling. I also thought I heard someone whispering to her, and then when her voice came again it was still calm, if a little shaky.
“Bob, I’m having a hard time with this ... what the hell are you doing in Mexico?”
“One of the people I met while I wasn’t myself ... I saved his life and helped save it a second time, and ... well, he’s from here and I wanted to help him put his life back together. Then I came out of my amnesia and called our neighbor Pat. She told me to wait until you called back, otherwise I’d be home now.”
“So he’s with you?”
“Not within earshot, but yes, he’s not far. We’re both safe now.” I could hear someone whispering to Joanna again. I could probably have made some magical adjustment so I could hear everything going on there better, but really, I felt like she deserved space.
“Joanna, Pat told me something happened two months ago but wouldn’t tell me what it was, something that made you and Rowan change all your phone numbers and leave the neighborhood. What happened?” More whispering. I could almost hear Joanna’s head nodding.
“Bob, I’m not going to get into that right now. Honestly, while in some ways I want us to be together, I’m also struggling with a lot more, and one of the things I’m struggling with is money. I need you to help support our family, something you haven’t done for months, and the bills are piling up. It’s making me crazy.”
“Joanna, honey, I actually have almost sixty thousand dollars that I would love nothing more than send to you.”
“How the fuck did you get $60,000 when you didn’t even have the sense to call me and ...” Yeah, she was angry now, but I could also tell that someone else had put a hand over her phone. More whispering, quite a lot more, in fact.
“Joanna?” I said.
“Wait,” she said, then there was more whispering, back and forth this time. I really wanted to know what they were saying, but I wasn’t going to do that.
“Is the money in an account?” she asked finally.
“No, but I can open one ... I wanted to talk with you first.”
“If you can open an account there, do it. Immediately. It needs to be an escrow account. Call back at this number when you’ve done that. How long do you think it’ll take?”
“I’ll ask my friend. His name is Mariano. He might not know, but we can figure it out. I’ll do that right away—the banks should be open a few more hours.” There was silence for a few seconds.
“Bob, is anyone else there with you?” I heard whispers to the effect that whoever was with Joanna didn’t want her asking that question. Yet.
“Not within earshot, but yes, there is.”
“A woman? Mari?” I sighed. This needed to happen sooner or later. Might as well be now.
“It’s not Mari, I haven’t seen her since the last day I was with you, the day I almost made it all the way home, but yes, the other person I’m with is a woman.”
“Fuck, I knew it. Fuck you Bob, a vacation with another woman in Mexico when you should’ve been here with your family, and ... you’d better not have more than $60,000 that you’re keeping for yourself!” The line went dead.
I needed a minute or ten to let it settle, eyes closed, until I could no longer hear the blood rushing through my ears, smell the death stench of loss, see the motes of sorrow floating inside my eyes, taste the bitter bile of disappointment as a life I knew and cherished was angrily severed. “Immediately,” Joanna had said, but this world spinning around me, this world that’d just turned for the worse in a way I’d feared but not expected ...
Now I stand hereNothing to hide like the new bornHungry and wildBut the ground I want to exploreDoesn’t feel like before
Callie was alone at the dining room table, crying softly. I sat next to her. She scooched away, just slightly, so we weren’t touching.
“That was hard,” I said, sighing.
“I bet,” she said from behind the curtain of her lovely long straight light-brown hair.
“I need to deposit my share of Sati’s money into an escrow account,” I said. Callie looked up at me.
“Escrow could mean your wife wants a divorce,” she said, but without emotion. “It’s the first thing that happened when ... my parents ...” I wanted so much to put my arm around her so I did, and in a few moments her tension passed and she leaned her head onto my shoulder.
“I’m so sorry,” I said.
“I don’t want to be the reason you divorce,” she said, her voice almost hopeless, but she looked into my eyes, tears flowing freely from hers. She sniffled.
“What’s done is done,” I said. “I dreaded the day when I might have to choose between you, Callie, the woman I love with all my heart, truly and more deeply than I imagined possible, and the woman I’m married to, the mother of my children, who I might love still. But now I might not have the choice.”