The Blacklisted Journalist Picture  The Blacklisted Journalistsm

(Copyright © 1999 Al Aronowitz)


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He was earning a good life, and easily. If you could consider easy a game between Garryk Kasparov and Anatoli Karpov. But it paid in the long run. He was by now tired of Atlantic City's casinos, clones of Caesar's Palace, Binion's Horseshoe, MGM Grand, or The Stardust.

He wanted something different, less redolent of Las Vegas. He hadn't tried Las Vegas but wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole. He'd rather gamble at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, where they used only six decks and dealt the cards open faced, European style, rules clearly printed on the baize: Dealer-must-stand-on-17-and-must-draw-at-16. As it should be.

The first casino he tried up there in Canada, which he considered a shit mediocre country, was the one at Windsor, just inside the border, 15 miles from Detroit. He didn't like the atmosphere. During weekdays---as a rule he never played on weekends---it catered mainly to the Yanks at the other side of the river, and it was a sorry crowd: Retirees who used to work at the now rusty assembly lines; buxom housewives gambling their weekly groceries; old ladies betting away their social security checks; black dudes in loud clothes, sporting solid gold thick chains, and who paid their gambling binges at the other side pushing good pure Colombian coke in the parking lot from their Mercedes, or doing some gun running for the Jamaican gangs of Toronto---both good coke and Uzis or Mac 10s being hot commodities at the other shore. And all of whom took advantage of the fact that they changed their hard greenbacks into devalued loonies, so they were bled slower at the tables.

El Químico won a paltry 600 loonies in a couple of sessions. By now he was betting nickels, so that was chickenfeed to him. At this stage he was half the way through his fuck-you money. A small time high-roller, but that's the way he liked it: it was a job, he wasn't the comped rotten gambler who gets hooked in the passion of a crap game and bets a grand at the whim of two dice. No. He was by now a skilled card sharp, earning as much as a Silicon Valley nerdy whiz-kid with a PhD. Or as a junior associate at a Wall Street tax firm. With amusement and self-disgust he realized that in fact he had become what he despised the most in the world---even more than a Castro snitch, and that's a lot to say-an aged yuppie.

At the spur of the moment he decided he had to take a holiday. Right then and there. So he went to the bar and sipped half a glass of Cutty Sark, and chased it with a big can of Molson. 4:17 AM. He thought about hiring a taxi to downtown Detroit, but he found in the lobby an all-night AVIS booth. A delicate, beautiful green-eyed octoroon in her early twenties, big white teeth flashing smilingly, processed his VISA card and photocopied one of three of his US driving licenses, same photo but three different states; and three different names, but all Hispanic and with hyphenated surnames which seemed impressive. He got the keys to the brand new, black Cutlass, which he himself found at the parking lot, avoiding the half-hearted protests of that octoroon (Gauguin would have crazily painted her over and over again) and he headed West.

At the Ambassador Bridge he passed through after a perfunctory glance at his US passport. He had other three others, all of them legitimate: Australian, Spanish and Moroccan, this last just in case some crazy melóns sequestered the plane. He drove slow: he had drunk well above the 2.0 average local limit anywhere; especially his own. And anyway there's was no hurry. The lights of Detroit were starting in urban patches.

He parked and watched the blighted sunrise. Nearby was a place called "Roxane's." He walked briskly in the cold and pushed the door, and straight away the steam and the bad vibrations assaulted him; like going into the wrong pub in Ulster. The customers were all black and mainly head-shaved, apparently dope dealers judging by all the German cars outside.

"Hey, whitey, you're in the wrong place! . . ." Some heckles followed.

Paranoia at its vortex, fed by the methamphetamine and the Colombian yellow "mantequilla" he had snorted at the casino. El Químico withdrew from his waist holster his stainless steel Colt Python, placed it on the table to his right, and then aligned one after the other, carefully, three speed-loader cylinders of hollow-nosed .357 bullets. Without raising his voice: "This is enough to make a massacre. I'm just exerting my constitutional right to bear arms and fire them if need be. . ."

A fat matron on a starched white apron came from behind the counter.

"Put that gun away, mister, we don't want no trouble in this place. . ."

"Neither do I. . ."

"What you'll have?"

"Breakfast, whatever. . ."

"How you want the eggs?"

"Three, well done, burned down at the edges. . ."

The buzz of conversation resumed. Just another cocaine cowboy drugged to his eyeballs and having a fit. They weren't impressed, and just ignored him.

When the food came it was delicious, and he just realized how hungry he was: hadn't eaten anything since yesterday morning. Crisp eggs, bacon, two fat sausages, a ton of fries, coleslaw, toast with butter and strawberry jam. Hot strong fresh brewed coffee. He finished it all, and the black woman came with the check. He didn't look at it, and put a tenner on the table.

"That's alright, but don't come back: we don't want your custom. . ."

"Don't worry, nothing much to see in this town I guess."

And he was right. He drove towards the downtown, sleek skyscrapers looming in the distance, which contrasted with the depressing squalid suburbs ha was crossing through. Plenty litter everywhere. The same ugly derelict complexes as in Newark. A grime encrusted Third World city. All the pedestrians and drivers in sight were black. No wonder, when they constituted 77% of the population, and could make claim to the highest per capita murder rate in the US. The main businesses seemed to be used-car lots, pawn houses and crack houses. He had to hand it to the Canadians, no matter how much he despised them. They kept their cities clean. Right smack in the center of town the smokestacks of the world's biggest garbage incinerator's belched nonchalantly. In the Friday morning the traffic was heavy and confusing. To his right was the Joe Louis Arena, heralded by a gigantic bronze boxing-gloved fist. He turned left and headed along Woodwards Avenue till he reached the Renaissance Center. Incongruously, it was built with its back to the river, the riverside occupied by a monstrous parking lot. Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac would roll in his tomb at the sight of that urban excrescence.

He was too tired to go hotel seeking, so he checked in at the Westin, with it's eight stories high lobby, taller than many a cathedral's nave. He'll learn later in a brochure at his night table that it was the second biggest hotel in the world, 73 stories high, with 1,400 rooms, his luckily facing the river.

By now he was feeling fully the backlash of the dope. He was eating and boozing and drugging too much, but what the heck, nothing that couldn't be cured at home with 50 hours riding the exercise bike while watching one of those Italian movies he loved, and went all the way to Manhattan to procure: Saló, La Dolce Vita, Divorzio all'Italiana. In the meantime he went to the huge sauna and sweated for half an hour, amid bunches of conventioneers who chatted in their meaningless jargon.

Back in his room he swallowed three Nozinan sleeping pills and three Clonazepams, and, while waiting for the chemical sledgehammer to fall, read Alexander Zinoviev's The Mad House. He woke up at half past three in the morning, and raided the small fridge for a hair of the dog. He gulped down two cans of Heineken and felt better. From then on he drank slowly but steadily. There was a stereo and a TV on the room, but he wanted silence most of all. While waiting for the dawn he studied a guide to Detroit, planning his day. No honeymoon town this, definitely.

Early that Saturday he took a cab to the Greek quarter, and drank espresso and ouzo, and munched on goat cheese and olives at a local café. The clientele, at that hour mainly old men. Some poured over Greek newspapers, and others conversed in their language, amid clouds of acrid tobacco smoke. It was a blessing not to hear English. He walked for a while along the drab streets. Spent the rest of the morning at the Aquarium at Belle Isle, and watching the fish soothed him as usual. Afterwards he wandered aimlessly through the exhibits at the Detroit Museum, and sat for a while gazing at a Van Gogh self-portrait (with the ear still on) against a dark blue background. He called it a day. Back at the hotel he bought the TV guide and a bottle of Jack Daniels and watched The Deer Hunter while sipping the smooth liquor and smoking joint after joint.

In the DC9 during the trip back he asked the blond, sulky stewardess for a copy of the Toronto Star. It was the Sunday edition, and included a long article about a new outfit, called Casino Rama, in an Indian reservation, at the side of a lake near Orillia, a town of 10,000. Apparently Las Vegas syndicates had greased redskin palms to build it. It will open on New Year's Eve, with the presence of, among other notables, Arnold Schwartzenegger and Jane Fonda. What appealed to him most was that it worked round the clock the year round. Whenever possible he liked to play Mondays or Tuesdays, at odd hours, when the dealers were tired from the weekend rush. He waited for the inauguration fever to pass, and went there on January 6th; "Dia de Reyes." Monopolies are always unfair; but not this disappointing. It was worse than Windsor. Since "Casino Rama" operators faced no competition, they set the rules they fancied. They couldn't even stand the idea of a single player winning occasionally at blackjack, which was their main staple, with 57 tables out of 126: their bread and butter. And they wanted to rip off all customers. They had taken from both Atlantic City and Las Vegas games the worst rules for the player, insuring the House a 7.2% advantage, the worst odds at any casino in North America:

* 8 decks.
* No decent penetration: the dealer left three whole decks out.
* Dealer-Must-Hit-Soft-17s.
* Doubling Down limited to 11 and 10.
* No doubling after splitting.
* You couldn't resplit a third identical card.
* If you split Aces, you were only dealt a single card on each hand.

They just stopped short of hiding the cards Las Vegas style: it would have been too flagrant. Small details that reeked of meanness, like the dealer burning the first card without showing it. No class. A huge Canadian Tire supermarket. Worse: an aseptic no-frills meat package plant that would process 14,000 losers a day, 24 hours a day, all year round. For a yearly net profit of 100 million dollars (Canadian). About 75 million in decent American bills with patriots on them. 10 million for the Ontario government, and the rest for the Chippewa Indians, they said. Fat chance. After paying the provincial and federal politicos, the province prosecutor, the cops, and then the chiefs and medicine-men took their cut, El Químico wondered if even a couple of millions would drift down.

With their oversized shoe and draconian rules, the operators might make life somehow more difficult for the card counter but by no means impossible. El Químico could always win with his training and know how. And they were wary of banning obvious card counters---yet.

It was minus 15 Celsius outside, snow flurries and sleazy roads. He had come by bus: more relaxed, listening to Mozart and Pink Floyd on his Sony portable CD player. When the bus arrived at the lakeshore at 7:35 AM most of the late revelers were going home, no doubt to fuck themselves to death before their night's losses hit them square. Still, the blackjack tables were almost full, and it was against his M.O. to play at a table with more than other three gamblers. When a fifth sat in he disgustedly took his chips away and looked for greener pastures, even if winning. He never played against a woman dealer if he could avoid it. Not because they were mechanics, just plain lucky. He gazed at the shambles, and watched some hands at every table. Jesus, it was like stealing a lolly from a year-old kid. The tourists played even worse than at Windsor, at least there the suckers knew more or less when to stand. Throwing good money after bad, breaking every precept in the books. Even the dealers looked slow and amateurish, and he doubted that anyone of them could count cards.

He snorted speed in the parking lot,
wreaking havoc on his metabolism,
but what the fuck, you only live twice

He sat at an opening next to first base, eyeing the discard tray, his racing mind performing calculations, falling in mood, the methamphetamine just snorted in the parking lot wreaking havoc on his brain metabolism but what the fuck, you only live once, and anyway he didn't want to be old, perhaps an Alzheimer's ridden old fart. Booze and marijuana at the computer, and speed at the real green baize. Certainly easier and more pleasurable than jogging every gray wintry day at 5 in the morning, or riding that 21 speed track bicycle amid the rush-hour traffic pollution. He stuck instead to his exercise bicycle implacably.

He had undergone a liposuction just for the sake of it, a last remnant of vanity perhaps, but it had taken away some cms from his jowls, added some to his jaw, and fixed his nose. He looked certainly better. But nevertheless he still was an athlete of the mind, and never missed his boring morning matutinos or his sessions on the computer. He needed some pleasure too. Sometimes he played Chess on his Kasparov computer, or even would play Monopoly on his Mac, his mental Jaguar. And somehow it helped him to refresh his mind between sessions. He went so far as to order a Casio biolator, and never gambled except when his three rhythms were positive. In his low days---"his period," he called them---he stayed at home but went on training himself thoroughly in front of the screen, like an F-16 pilot who accumulates hours in a virtual reality flight simulator, sometimes to the point of boredom.

By now he had escaped for good the stifling factory or dreary office, and he was his own master. Money buys time, the scarcest and most precious commodity in this life. To do the things he really wanted to. Mainly, reading, listening to music, or watching those old movies he loved.

His only goal in life was to see the 21st Century, and the blackjack tables will always be there at full swing. And always there would be, through his remaining lifetime, casinos in the Caribbean, in Europe, in paddle-wheel boats on the Mississippi, you name it.

He had not discovered, but reasserted, since his youth days that while playing Cuban poker, 7 1/2, and dominoes for money, the less you cared about the game, the better cards or tiles you got and the more you won. The less you worshiped Moloch, the more moolah you got in the end. And the bigger your bankroll, the more confidence you had, the better you kept your distance, and the better you played. He wasn't by a long shot one of the best, but he sure was good enough to play in the Big Leagues now. He had the skills and the bankroll. And the nerve and self-assurance, if need be, to go into Monte Carlo itself, in a rented dinner jacket.

He never trusted bank accounts: they left paper trails, and every deposit over $10,000 was closely scrutinized by the IRS. And he trusted the stock market even less. It was too unpredictable, whimsical, irrational. He wasn't willing to be trampled by the herd upset by a bear market. He was a gold-bug, and all his earnings he changed into gold coins, the common issue, not pedigreed Double-Eagles, which needed a certificate of ownership.

"Madre, yo al oro me humillo. . . él es mi amante y mi amado. . . y de puro enamorado. . . va de continuo amarillo. . ." So he built his own Fort Knox. His flat was in a seventh floor at Elizabeth Street in downtown Newark. The next week after moving he reinforced the apartment door with a steel plate and installed two unpickable Brahma locks and an elaborate alarm system. Then he sealed the smallest of the two bedrooms with a steel door and a numbers lock, and had another alarm installed, independently wired.

This was his "office." He kept his gold and cash inside a squat Chubb safe. There he had too, on a long old oak table aligned against the wall, his computer, printer and modem, this last connected to a separate unregistered telephone line. A comfortable office chair, an air conditioner in the window, a large Bionair purifier, and a big portable Sanyo CD player completed the accoutrements. It was at the same time his monastic cell, and when he locked himself in, he was as far from the outside world as he could ever be. Right now he was listening to an old cassette by Pablito Milanés, and a phrase got to him: "Cuba y Puerto Rico son. . . de un pájaro las dos alas. . . Pueeerto Ricoo ala que cayó al maaar. . ."

And then and there he decided to go and try his luck down in the booming American free associated state. It was cold and depressing in the North Country anyway, and he hadn't been to the Caribbean since he left Cuba. He made all the flight and hotel reservations through the Internet, for four days hence.

El Químico loved cats and dogs, but with his life style couldn't keep one. His pets were tropical fish, that could be left unattended for a month. In the sparsely furnished living room he had a huge fish tank, about 100 gallons, where he kept only fish from the Amazon and the Rio Negro basins. It was equipped with a powerful water filter, a thermostat, and a clock system that turned on the fluorescent Grolux lights automatically. Angel Fish, Discuses and other Cychlids; Neon, von Rio and Black Tethras and several other species swam in schools or drifted peacefully, big and healthy, incredibly beautiful, the iridescent colors flaming like spangles, among the plastic lifelike plants, anacharis, cabomba, Amazon sword-plants.

The water had a slight tinge of brown, since he put some peat moss on the filter's charcoal layers, to reproduce the acidity of their natural habitat. The day before the trip he raised plenty Artemia Salina tiny shrimps and dropped them in the tank. Feeding frenzy. But some will survive and grow amid the foliage. Just in case, he left a slow-dissolving tablet of solid food in the Chinese blue and white porcelain manger. His favorite, "Mayimbi," an ugly huge Plecostomus armored barb, would take care of the algae on the glass.

He had browsed the Web for an hour before picking a hotel. Plenty to choose from, The Caribe Hilton, El Condado, El Ramada, and dozens more. He had picked the five-star San Juan because he liked its picture, an art deco triangular building overlooking the waterfront, and which housed the biggest casino in the island. The TWA flight from Newark arrived at Luis Muñó Marín International Airport at 2:40 in the afternoon. A black Lincoln limo was waiting for him, and at the lounge, a lackey waited showing a Mr. Santana sign. It was only seven kilometers away, but it took them almost half an hour in the dense traffic to reach the hotel.

He was registered by an American girl, whose breast plate read

He was registered by a brown haired, brown-eyed American girl in her late twenties, 5"3' of charm and femininity, whose breast card read "Felicia." He got room 101, on the first floor, one of the smallest of the 389 rooms, but that nevertheless cost him $395 a night, off-season rates. The air conditioner was off, but an old fashioned big bladed fan gyrated in the ceiling. It was neither hot nor cold, ideal, the temperature outside at 26 degrees, and the January sun shone splendidly in the deep blue sky he had forgotten. He took a hot bath to get rid of the bad New Jersey vibes, and rented a car on the phone. It was a prosaic brand new burgundy Dodge Aries, with manual transmission. Good enough.

He went into El Viejo San Juán, which in fact was on an island reached by three bridges. The streets were winding and narrow and teeming with tourists of all nationalities from the cruise ships in the bay. He went sightseeing too. La Fortaleza, El Morro castle, the Cathedral, finished in 1540, where Ponce de León was buried. In a back street he found a bodega he liked, and drank Pitirres, Bacardí carta oro with soda, in a corner of the bar, listening to the locals speaking with an accent which reminded him of the Orientales at Cuba. Eating their "Ss." Soon there was a cubilete, a dice poker game, going on, and he joined, scoring carabinas and de ases, so his drinks came free. Not that he minded. Most of those playing were drinking cheap Cuba Libres worth 50 cents.

Soon he felt drunk enough, euphoric again after a long long time. He decided on the spot to send Felicia flowers. He asked the barman for the yellow pages, looked for the flower shops and called one at random from a pay phone near the bathrooms. He gave his name and credit card number to the lady employee, and explained what he wanted: a dozen red roses and a single white one, to be delivered every morning for six days at the San Juan's reception desk. The card should say only: "To Felicia, from 101."

He didn't play that night. Went instead to the hotel's disco at the top floor, and watched the couples dancing under the strobe lights. In the morning he lay at a lounge chair beside the hotel's swimming pool, drinking piña coladas and watching the slim tanned girls in string bikinis, shaved pubic mounds, through his Ray Bann sunglasses. Blood boiling from unfathomable desire without physical outlets. At nights he played, and won steadily. The pat hands came to him as if they were his due. When parting from the blackjack tables he would stop by the roulette and after watching two or three spins bet a grand on red or black, or even or odds, and he almost always won, that easy. He was on a roll, but what occupied his mind was nothing but Felicia.

He approached her Saturday morning, heart beating like a drum and butterflies in his belly. He had finished at the tables at four AM closing time and had had slept fitfully for a couple of hours. Was too high to sleep. So he took an early shower, dressed in black Levis and black silk shirt, splashed Aguabrava on his face, snorted some speed, and went down the stairs to see her. There she was, just starting her shift, fresh like the roses he had sent.

"Yes, what can I do for you?"

"I'm 101."

"I see. Very kind of you to send me the flowers. Mr. Santana, isn't it?"


"Well, Emilio, what can I do for you?"

"Just be yourself, and have lunch with me."

"I'm afraid that's impossible, you see, we have an agreement with the hotel to work eight hours in a row, so there's no need for a replacement. . ."

She noticed his face go long with disappointment, and added, smiling with all those white perfect teeth:

"But we can have dinner."

El Químico resurrected, and felt outright happy for the first time in ages.

"Is it a date?"

"If you want to call it that. . ."

"When can I see you again?"

"I finish at four o'clock."

"I'll be right here."


A couple was checking in, Americans, he in green Bermuda shorts showing hairy skinny legs, a Nikon on his chest, and she a peroxide blond with a heavy duty bosom, both looking as if out of Main Street.

He was restless
and Felicia's image
haunted him

He went to his room and tried to take a nap, but it was useless. He was restless, and Felicia's image haunted him. He drank añejo Bacardí shots, chased by Heinekens, to no avail. At 3:45 he washed his mouth with Listerine, and sat in a leather sofa in the lounge pretending to read the Miami Herald. He saw her going through the motions of handing keys and delivering her shift's details to her successor. He wrapped himself in the paper until he felt her small hand on his arm, sending tingles to his nervous system.

"Well, here I am."

Instead of her receptionist uniform, brown jacket and skirt, she was wearing faded jeans and an oversized white T-shirt. So far El Químico had seen her only behind the counter, but her beautiful perfect body emphasized by her casual clothes amazed him, and he felt young again, twenty years flying from him, as if reviving his first date with Eunice. She put her arm around his as they went into the car park. He opened the doors of the car, and it was hot inside.

"You drive, you know the town better than myself."

She nodded, and started the air conditioner. She skirted San Juan, going towards the sea. He searched the car's radio and settled for a Spanish station:

"Blancaaas margariitas. . . que hoy deshoojo aquiii. . . dígaanme si triistee. . . tambieen hoy deshoja. . . las que yoo les diii. . ."

"Do you understand what he's saying?"

"Some, but's too fast for me. . ."

"Actually is an old Puerto Rican song. Daniel Santos, I think he is, must be dead by now. He's singing about flowers, white daisies, and impossible love."

"Like the flowers you sent to me? That's why I'm here, you know, that's what got to me in the first place. That and your aura of I don't know, solitude I think. . ."

"Nothing to be proud of, but I reckon that I've suffered more in a single day in my life than the average American citizen in his full lifespan. . ."

"You don't have to tell me, I think I knew it right away when you registered, that was why I took to you. And I remembered your first name: Emilio. And when I got the roses I knew what it meant. . . That you wanted more than, how can I put it? A one night stand, an adventure, just a pass like the others. You are not married, are you?"


"That's what I thought."

"Why, would you marry me?"

"I wouldn't dare. You are surrounded in mystery, in secrecy, there's something in you that I can't understand, that I can't decipher, it feels like razor wire. And hard and cold. Here we are at last. . ."

"How prescient you are. . ."

"You mean the restaurant?"

"No, my life, and the barbed wire."

The restaurant was a huge round bohío, thatched in palm fronds. On the neon sign: "El Bate Marino," something sounding like out of Rimbaud. As soon as they left the car the hot evening enveloped them, tying her white T-shirt and his black shirt to sweaty skins. She asked for a table at the back, her Spanish fluent but deliciously foreign. As everything about her. The camarero smiled and greeted her, and showed them to a table for two.

"You're well known here. . ."

"Guess I am. Two years coming to this same place. . ."

With whom?"

"My former boyfriend. Or fiancé, lover, or whatever. We were going to be married, you know."

"And what happened?"

"He married money instead. A rich tourist, older than him. Not that I blame him."

"Well, I'm sorry to hear that, but on the other hand I'm glad there's no one in your life right now. . ."

The entrees came, king prawns in mayonnaise and lettuce leaves, followed by grilled red grouper for her, and fried sardines for him. He kept drinking Jamaican Red String beer, while she stuck to mineral water. She talked about her childhood in Cleveland, Ohio, and why she liked Puerto Rico. Suddenly he felt drunk, like an axpole hitting him on the forehead. And he told her everything. About Eunice, the concentration camps, his castration. He spilled the beans. The whole painful sordid tripe. He went on for an hour, uninterrupted, she just kept listening intently.

She asked:
'Would my body
cure you?'

"And I know that I'm burning the bridges, and all I can expect is your despise," he concluded his monologue. She thought for a while, and said:

"Do you think my body would cure you, having sex, make you forget all that? All those horrible things?"

"Truly, I don't know. But if there was a woman that could make it happen, it is you."

Then: "Please, Sweetie Pie. Let's go back to the hotel. . ."

"No, not the hotel. No way. Too many people watching, even at night."

"So what do you want to do?"

"All this side of the road, to your right, the way we came, there are motels. Waiting for couples. . . But I don't like them. Let's go to my place instead. . ."

She drove easily, effortlessly, back to downtown San Juan. Neon lights already blinking at six o'clock, the red sun dying upon the water, like a severed neck. They rode the elevator to the 17th floor, all the time mouths intertwined, tongue on errant tongue, he swallowing her saliva like nectar, his right hand groping for her moist cunt under the denim.

"No, not here, wait. . . aaaahh. . . noooo. . . wait till we get home. . ."

Her flat was small but exquisite: all in white pine Swedish furniture, utilitarian but chic. She fetched a bottle of Napoleon, and filled two round glasses.

"God, I need a cold shower. . ."

In the meantime he snorted a good dose of speed, and rolled and lit a joint. She came back wrapped in a white terrycloth bathrobe, which, after an instant of suspense, she left fall to the floor briskly, taking El Químico's senses by assault, astounding him. She was wearing black garters and black silk stockings. And stood there naked, splendid, mane of curly brown hair, big brown shiny eyes, and a thick mat of black haired pubis. He brought her to him.

"How come you aren't shaved, like the girls at the swimming pool at the hotel?"

"Guess I'm an old fashioned girl. . ."

"I like it the way it is now, and I'm going to suck it, to the last consequences," and he repeated slowly: "Te voy a mamar ese bollo rico, mi Chini, hasta loúúltimo. . ."

"I understand what you are saying, and yes, it's what I like the most. . . Me encanta. . ."

So El Químico took her in his arms, around 120 pounds of beauty, and dropped her in her bed, she moaning, while he put a pillow under her buttocks, and sucked her teats and her cunt perversely. John Denver on the stereo: "You fill up my senseees. . . like the raiiin in the fooorest. . . like the mountains in springtiiime. . . like a walk in the raiiin. . ."

She made a motion for a 69, but he dissuaded her.

"Come this way. . ."

He caressed her strong thighs and her erect nipples. He caught both breasts in his hands and placed her straddling his mouth. It looks like Danieeel. . . must be the cloouds in my eyeees. . . Her hips revolving, her clitoris searching for his tongue, and when she came he explored her wet vagina. She started again, and he came without his cock going strong, spurting on the pastel blue sheet.

"You were the best ever doing that, you know?"

"I would give the rest of my life to fuck you kinda properly. . ."

"You made me finish twice, and I assure you, that's not easy. . ."

"I wish I could fuck that beautiful delicious cunt just once, even if it cost me my life. . ."

"I know, but nothing is perfect, isn't it? You made me feel a woman again. You cured me to a extent. I have been alone for six months now."

"I don't see why. With your looks you could pick and choose any man you wanted at the hotel."

"You are only the third man in my life, you know that?"

"Let's say two and a half."

They were naked at the kitchen table, drinking more brandy, El Químico finishing his joint, which she refused to share. He couldn't take his eyes off her body, supple, strong, her thighs now crossed. He took an envelope from his black Levi's pocket. It contained ten crisp Ben Franklins.

"Oh, no, I'm not a tart. What I just did was for love, well, sort of."

"I know perfectly you ain't, but that's your worth: a grand a throw. I won it last night in a single shot at the roulette, and I want you to keep it. That's about a month's rent for this place, isn't it?"

"I'll take it if it makes you happy: I'm your whore now, you dig that?"

She unclosed her thighs, and from the other side of the breakfast table he could smell her sex, the feminine sensual fragrance in the cold conditioned air.

"There's nothing else I can give you, except money. I love you, Felicia, I love you, I love your cunt unshaven. And I'll love you for the rest of my life."

She thought for a while and said: "I won't lie to you, you are so noble. I'm 27, and I want a real marriage, and perhaps a child or two."

"That's in the immediate future, and all I care about now is your pussy. Can I just kiss it again? For the last time?"

"Sure, why not?" and she stood on her tiptoes, holding her breasts, nipples hardened. He flung her into her now disarrayed bed. And then the miracle happened. He had read about it on Pu Yi's memoirs, and in Ann Rice, and all the literature he had read about the castrati: He got a hard-on, not a powerful one, but enough to penetrate her, and fucked her slowly, relishing every second of it, withholding his own pleasure till she got hers. Oooo. . .aaaaa. . . He came six times inside her, panting.

"Umm. . . that was better. . ."

"No, it was a miracle. . ."

She reached from her black Gucci purse at the end of the bed, and gave him a business card.

"Will you write to me?"

"Every day."

They slept in each other arms, tightly embraced. That morning he left for the States. Without saying goodbye. He feigned sleep while she showered and went around the flat.

The first thing he felt at Newark's airport was the cold. It was dusk; oppressive, dark and chilly. He took a cab back to his flat. He had made 8K after expenses, and threw them into the safe. Enough to relax for a month or so, if he wanted to. He went through his mail, and first of all opened the rare letter from his sister, shoddy envelope and Cuban stamps. They were alright, they had received the money, don't send so much, keep something for the future. What fucking future, he thought.

They had bought a leg of pork, at 40 pesos the pound, and plenty rice and black beans in the peasant's free market, and had a Christmas dinner. La Vieja seemed OK, she made one of her bread puddings; in her last years of twilight she didn't suffer so much for Washington anymore, but asked for El Químico all the time. Why didn't he call on the phone anymore? He was reluctant to since his voice started changing. Squeaky. He sounded like a maricón. Anyway, too little too late.

The next letter was from Carmita in Madrid, and it was like a deathknell, a requiem, summoning him to his own demise. Which he accepted without regard or remorse, just as a fait accompli. ##



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