(C) 2017, Chuck Teixeira
Finally, one Thursday, four months after I had started work in Rosales, someone on Transmilenio cruised me. Seated behind a wire cart half-filled with plastic jugs, he rubbed his crotch, like a genie’s lamp, and slid his tongue over his lips. He was short; his feet barely touched the floor. He had a sweet, almost handsome face and hair gelled in place since first communion – a popular look among Colombian guys, generally straight guys. I half-feared he was mocking me. But so overt and persistent, he drew me, through several other standing passengers, to where he had moved and stood ready to leave at the next stop. I scrawled my name and phone number on the back of one of the cards I carry to introduce people to the Lotus Sutra, a form of proselytizing that, I had been promised, would fulfill all my desires. His name was Alvaro, and he was pleased to meet me, he said, wrestling his cart over the bus steps and down to the sidewalk.
Hours later, I received a message instructing me to meet him Saturday afternoon in Chapinero. We would split the cost of an inexpensive motel at 57th and Duodecimo – an intersection, it turned out, that does not exist (but once may have in the grid of a city-planner’s mind). Where the intersection was supposed to be, I found a café with Alvaro inside, sheltered from Bogota’s incessant drizzle but disappointed that the place served only chilled bottled drinks instead of hot coffee.
Around the corner was a white-gated building that Alvaro thought might be the motel. His thinking sufficed. The room barely did. I had been to other Chapinero motels that showed some pride in their squalor. In this one, the bed was about as wide as an ambulance litter. The sheets and stubborn stains on them were worn so thin I could see as well as hear the cracked plastic mattress. I vowed immediately, that if my hide escaped infection, I would never risk exposing it again.
Despite our circumstances, Alvaro chattered about his soccer league and the artisanal yogurt he produced in his kitchen in La Victoria — I suspected he lived in an even more dangerous neighborhood — and then hauled in his cart to sell door-to-door in Nogal and Chico — not actually getting near the doors of individual apartments but selling to porters, security guards and the clientele of neighborhood shops. Quite frequently, he would pause mid-sentence (Did I know there were refrigerators in most beauty parlors?) then stand on his toes and kiss my mouth slowly while I rehearsed excuses to get the sex behind us without touching the bed or removing my clothes. After a while, his kissing powered through my fears, and my rehearsing moved from an apology to him for my haste to an explanation for my physician and friends about why I hadn’t run. Carefully, his bright eyes never leaving mine, he set his-wet shoes in a corner of the room then folded his shirt, trousers, underwear and socks on top. Then he climbed onto the bed and displayed himself gleefully.
“Please let me touch you,” I heard myself say.
“Touch me, touch me,” he smiled broadly.
Although we had rented the room for only four hours, by the time we left, night had fallen, and so had I. We walked to the Exito supermarket at 53rd and Caracas. I needed to buy bottled water, I told him. I didn’t want to say I would also search for lice shampoo.
“Are you sure you can get home by yourself.” This from a man almost a foot shorter than I am. He was 43, young enough to be my son but old enough to stop questioning his attraction to older men. I assured him I could handle the ten-minute walk – back to a house I shared with people I barely knew. After we shook hands, he strode up the hill toward Septima. With his small, determined steps, he looked both strong and brittle. On Septima, he would catch the L80 south to Portal 20 de Julio. There he would wait in the rain, maybe another half hour, for the last shuttle to La Victoria or to a neighborhood even farther east, where orange cinder-block walls keep the slopes from sliding onto the streets.
In the motel, he had warned me that his father’s death had made him head of a large family. Sunday morning Mass with his mother, weekend soccer matches, and six-day weeks working his yogurt enterprise meant we would have little time together. Nonetheless, he added, we should think of ourselves as engaged to be married unless — here his voice cracked — like the Americans he had heard about, I would soon drift from him to another exotic man. I can be faithful, I assured him. I had been faithful to others. Whatever powers fidelity possessed hadn’t prevented my being dumped before. Lucky, lucky me!
A year later, it’s not how seldom I see Alvaro that bothers me. An afternoon every week or two, each unfurling some unexpected splendor (or at least exquisite dairy) can illuminate the times between. What bothers me is that, weary of my rhapsodies about other men, my friends in the States believe that, over this relationship too, I will soon lament. I probably didn’t help my case when, to these same friends, in some poorly-timed phone calls between my meeting Alvaro on Transmilenio and our hours at the motel, I had referred to him as “the public transport dwarf.”
Korean war brides find themselves in New Jersey; Japanese farmers end up in Alberta. Sometimes we dig long to find treasure in the universe. I had to bore through to South America. The Lotus Sutra is pretty clear about our desires’ being fulfilled, but less so about anyone’s believing us — even if we heralded the stunning form of their fulfillment, the slow devouring by joy, the being swallowed whole.
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Recently retired from the practice of law, Chuck teaches English in San Francisco. His work has appeared in numerous publications. Some of his fiction has been collected inSierra Showdown: A Triptych and in Against Slander: Three Admonitions. Both books are available on Amazon.com.