September 2016

 

The rest of the voyage was uneventful.  Skipper sailed to Belize after fueling at Barbados. By the time we reached San Pedro, Sana and I were very tight. Easy to understand after sailing mostly calm seas for 15 days and nights under sunny or moonlit skies . We bid everyone farewell. Skipper had one last thing to say pointing to a motorized skiff.

“My friend owns Cayo Espanto - scary island. That dinghy will take you there. It’s only 2 or 3 miles from here, near the Belize Barrier Reef. Everything will be taken care of. Enjoy. You earned it. Safe trip home. Send me an email.”

Half an hour later we were sipping daquiris in Casa Ventanas on Caya Espanto, the least scary island I’ve ever been on. The island was 3 or 4 acres with maybe 8 private villas, all secluded. You couldn’t call our Casa Ventanas a villa; it was built on a dock extending from the beach some 20 yards or so into the Caribean. Shallow water lapped hypnotically against the pilings and the beach. The windows (ventanas) gave the house an open feeling with the final segment of the dock extending from the bedroom to a platform of chaise lounges around a dining table. A glass rectangle had been cut into the bedroom floor - another window with a view of the fish swimming under us. Egyptian cotton bedding covered a king-size teak platform bed - a far cry from the rockin’n’rollin beds of the Awakening.  

“What is this Disneyland for adults?” Sana flopped.

I nestled next to her. “A little pricey, I imagine. I figure we stay one night here, then leave for Merida. Leaving this place will be like losing a limb.”

“They’re beautiful.” Sana took an hibiscus from tropical flowers floating in a bedside bowl.

“So are you.”

She pinned the flower in her hair. There was a card leaning against the bowl. I read it.

WELCOME TO PARADISE. STAY AS LONG AS YOU LIKE. MANAGEMENT.

“Fucking unbelieveable.” Dumbfounded, I wondered how Skipper could manage to pay   $2 grand a night. “Must be hurricane season. What’ll they do if we stay for Christmas?” We stayed for 3 nights at the adult Disneyland with a house manager at our beck and call. Staying out of sight, he appeared magically when summoned by a ring of the call button. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were wonderful - fresh fruit, just-caught fish, eggs or whatever. One morning German, the local scuba authority, refusing to be refused took us to the barrier reef, where we speared 2 lobsters we ate that night.

 

We never saw the owner, but the day we left we found another note written on the back of a business card.

Any friend of Aleksy is a friend of mine. Call me and I will always try to accomodate your needs. Ari.

The water taxi to Chetumal, Mexico’s border town with Belize, left San Pedro around 9. The ADO 1st class bus to Merida didn’t leave until mid-afternoon giving us 3 hours to wait. Quite a cosmetic comedown from dining at Cayo Espanto. No problem. We stuffed ourselves with local tamales and drank horchatas on the street. Like the rest of the world’s cuisines, Mexican suits the poorest or richest budget. My taste buds were treated well at Chetumal’s bus terminal or Casa Ventana’s dockside dining table.

We slept for most of the 6 hours to Merida. Dreaming, I heard the sound of surf, before I woke. I realized it was the drone of the Volvo engine.  

“Thought I heard the sea.”

“Me too. We were on the Awakening a long time, then Disneyland-by-the-Caribean. It’ll be a while till it stops I guess.” Sana could have been the sister of the Mexicana sitting across the aisle. Their hair, eyes and skin were the same shades of black and brown.

“¿Cuánto tiempo más hasta llegar a Mérida?”  The woman thought Sana spoke

Spanish obviously.

“No habla espagnol.” Sana looked at me quizzically.

“Trienta minutos, creo.”

“Gracias.” The woman frowned.

“De nada. Sana no es desde Mexico, es desde Siria.” I told her Sana was from Syria.

“Guapa, Salma Hayek es siria y mexicana. Bienvenido a Merida.”

“Gracias.” Sana understood.

“Ella también odia a Trump.“ I remembered Hayek’s hatred for Trump and his misogyny.

“Bienvenido a la comunidad ” They may not have been sisters in blood but when it came to disrespect for women they were sisters at heart.

My house had been empty for months. Before I left I told Jamine to come and clean every 2 weeks. Houses in the Yucatan need regular care or they become insect domiciles. The place was spotless. I had called from Chetumal to tell Jasmine we were arriving. She had aired the house.

“Twenty bucks for my housekeeper and the place is clean.”

“Clean? It’s immaculate. Where’d you get the art work?”

“I rented the house over the Internet from an American woman artist. Used to design clothes, now she paints. Everything here is hers. When I saw her Internet photos and the artwork I knew the place was for me. $400 a month.” The one bedroom Spanish Colonial was near El Centro and Paseo de Montejo.

Sana returned from the garden after a quick walkthrough, smiling. “Wow! Place would be more than 2 grand in LA. Honeymoon’s over. I needed the sex, but it’s over now. No more please. You have to win back your child’s mother. I’m going tomorrow. I’ll sleep on the couch.”

“I was planning on taking you to Chichen Itza.”

“Thanks, but I’m leaving in the morning. Aamira’S pickING me up at LAX.”

“I’m gonna miss you. We’ve come a long way from La Gondola.”

“That we have.”

“I’ve got mixed feelings about getting back with V. I don’t think we have much in common anymore, especially after what happened with Lester. Not sure she wants to live with a murderer.”

Sana put her fingers to her lips. “Don’t tell her.”

“I have to. She won’t live with me if she thinks he’s still alive. He was a threat to Freddy.”

“You didn’t kill him, I did. Me and Skipper.”

“I helped, but to be honest, that’s why I want to be with you. There are no lies between us. We know what we did and why. When I met V I was wounded from Iraq. Psychological wounds like PTSD are just as bad as physical. She doesn’t understand that. You’ve lived what I’ve lived.”

“You’re her son’s father. We haven’t lived that. It’s finished between us. We’re two consenting adults who had great sex on the open sea. It was wonderful, now it’s over. I think it’s better if I stay at the airport tonight.”

“I get it. I’m gonna be back atcha though. I’ll sleep on the couch, you take the bed.”

“No strings attached. Let me go. Sleeping in your bed’s not necessary.”

“You’re in Mexico. Mi casa es tu casa. You’re in the bed, I’m on the couch. What time’s your flight? There’s a guy I use for the airport. I’ll call him.”

“Nine. Good idea. I hate airport farewells.”

Sana left next morning. We play-acted that our parting was not sweet sorrow; Shakespeare would have laughed his ass off.

 

November 2016

 

Hennessey’s, a traditional Irish-style pub, is an ex-pats hangout in Merida. El Borracho, AKA me in Merida, and a few from the far left watched the election results discussing why Hilary C and Tim K, instead of DJT and Mike P were not gong to be the POTUS-elect and VP.

“We’re in big trouble now.” Denny, the 3 tour vet from Nam with a PH. D. in psych, slammed his empty tequila on the bar. “I am sick of hearing ‘fucking gringo’ whispered every time I go to Lucero’s. Can’t tell if they’re talkin’ about me or the Big Orange. That wall has become a nightmare for all of us. One good thing though - it would keep all the assholes in the USA. We don’t need no more gringos. They smell bad.”

“Only guy I ever knew who wanted Trump president is dead.”

“You killed the wrong man. Get us another round. I haven’t been this drunk since I won the lottery.” Denny was clueless about Lester, so I shook off the paranoia.

“Are you celebrating, senor?” The Mexican bartender put the drinks on the bar.

“Might as well. The Irish and Mexicans are known for celebrating death. To the death of the American dream and the birth of a nightmare. “The Second Coming” was about Hitler and the Nazis. Now it’s Trump slouching on his way to the White House. You heard about his golden shower with the Russians?”

The bartender laughed. “You think it’s true?”

“Your guess is as good as mine. But the Brit who wrote about it worked for MI-6 with a lot of high place connections in Moscow. No doubt Putin knows how to use kompromat from his days in the KGB. Wouldn’t surprise me if Donald’s a puppet on Putin’s string. He’s not the sharpest tool in the shed. Real estate developer as president? Oww! How low can you go?”

“I still can’t believe he won.” I finished my drink. I’d lost count after 5 Jameson’s.

Denny stood and saluted. “Trump can’t believe he’s Commander-in-Chief, neither could George W. Two out of three of the last presidents lost the popular vote. That’s democracy at work, no majority need apply,” Denny said, facedown on the bar.

“First Brexit, then this.” Brian Hennessey, the polo-playing pub owner from Dublin, clapped his hand on my shoulder. “Pour one on me and call Uber. I don’t want to have to use mi influencia con la policia to get you two out of jail. Haven’t seen you in a while, how’s the girlfriend?”   

“Coming for Thanksgiving.”

“Good! A couple of your old SEAL buddies stopped and asked about you last week. Didn’t feel to me like they were buddies so I told them I didn’t know anything about you except that you had a trident and drank Budweiser as advertised. Lied about the Bud.”

I wondered about Brian. He was not typical for Merida. What kind of ex-pat Dubliner plays polo? We were close to Belize, formerly British Honduras. Merida might be a safe haven for an MI-6 spook who wanted to remain incognito.

“SEALs are not always people I wanna hang with.”

“We’re having a traditional American Thanksgiving. Fresh turkeys imported from Virginia. Join us on me. You haven’t been around much. Love to meet your girlfriend too.” Brian smiled.

“I’m sure you would.” Brian’s reputation was legendary. “She’s bringing our son down with her.”

“Son? Another well-kept secret. You been playing daddy?”

“No. Been sailing with friends.”

“Haven’t seen you in months, helluva long sail.” Brian made me wary. Did he know something about me?

“Had some business to take care of in Lauderdale too. I gotta go. Probably see ya Turkey Day. Remember, make some panuchos.”

“Panuchos a los gringos. Thanksgiving in the Yucatan.” Brian laughed.

The day before V’s arrival, I received an email from Ari, the owner of Cayo Espanto, at the email address I had given Aleksy. Gave me pause. Ari had that email address. How? His message told the whole story. He must have been in the group ALeksy worked with in West Papua. He said Lester’s boys were connecting the dots. They knew that Sana had been in Istanbul; she and I were blips on their radar. I left her a message to call me. It was time to get out of Merida ASAP.

 

I called V, but couldn’t talk her out of coming. She flew to Cancun against my wishes; I met her at the airport coming out of Customs.

“Someone called and asked for you.”

“That’s why I didn’t want you to come. When did they call?”

“Last night. Freddy was really disappointed. I left him in Ensenada. Que pasa?”

“You did right. They’re looking for me. Checking out people in my life. What did you tell them?”

“We broke up. Didn’t know where you were.”

“Good.”

“What’ve you done.”

“Lester’s dead. He killed my friend and paid for it. We dumped him in the Atlantic.”

“You’ve really gone off the deep end.”

“Well said pun - intended or not. Lester was a really bad man. You were right when you told me not to go back to Saudi Arabia.”

“No way you’re gonna see Freddy.”

“Things will calm down. I can wait.”

“No, Cliff, never again. My uncle’s a stand-up guy. I’m living with him and his wife. The reason I came down is to tell you no mas. You made a choice. Like always, you didn’t think of consequences. I’ve got a life, your son has one too. He doesn’t need you in his life, you just mess everything up.”

“I have rights. I’m his father.”

“You have the right of a criminal - the right to remain silent and protect your son. Just shut up, go away and stay away. Stay out of our life.” She handed me the Venus pendant.

I took her forearm. “Virginia, please wait.”

“Let me go. I don’t like hurting you like this but my plane back leaves in 2 hours.”

“Let’s do lunch and talk this over.”

She shook her head. “There’s nothing to talk about. Call your shrink, I did.”

“What did he say?” I knew the answer.  

“Do what you wanna do.” You’re always ready with an Isley Brothers answer, Doc.

She relented and we talked over coffee before she left. In the photos she gave me Freddy looked happy with her and his uncle. I had no bond with family in my life. Grandmother was all I’d ever had. It was almost time for V’s plane to board.

“I’ve begun choreographing ‘Las Meninas.’”

“What’s that?”

“Velasquez’ most famous painting. Picasso was obsessed with it. Life’s confusing. Is it an illusion or reality? Too deep for America. We’ll have to perform it in Spain.”

“At the Alhambra, of course.”

“Of course, but only in my dreams.”

“You have my email address?”

“I do.”

“Send pics, I want photos from Alhambra to remind me of your reality and photos of Freddy to remind me of ours.”

“Good-bye.” She walked to the gate.

 

I debated Turkey Day at Hennessey’s. Drowning my sorrow over V and Freddy won out over watching “Dancing Moms” dubbed in Spanish on Lifetime at home. I entered the bar as Troy Aikman analyzed Jerry Jones’ playboys for the gathering of blue-and-silver shirts leering at the TV and the Dallas cheerleaders’ butt posters hanging on the walls.

“Where’s the mother and child?” Brian shook my hand in welcome.

“Back home.”

“How come?”

“Lover’s quarrel. Real question is what’s love got to do with it?”

“Sorry to hear. You wanna talk about it we can go to my office. I’m doing single malts.”

“Sure. I hate the Cowboys.”

“Send us some food.” He grabbed a green bottle from beneath the bar, spoke to a waitress and led us to his office. “Here’s your first single malt Irish.” He poured generously and pointed to the bucket in a stand next to his desk. “There’s ice if you want.”

I perused the label. “Never heard of it.”

“Connemara’s in Western Ireland. Good whisky and ponies.”

The whisky was smooth with a bite. “Kind of like, Laphroaig.”

“It’s the peat.”

A waitress put down three plates - two of them heaped with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, string beans and cranberries - the third held 2 panuchos - refried tortillas stuffed with refried black beans and topped with chopped cabbage, pulled turkey, tomato, pickled red onion, avocado, and pickled jalapeño peppers.

“Panuchos a los gringos.” I laughed.

“When in Rome. The cook had a ball. It’s time we were honest with each other without going into all the gory details. I’m here because of the Troubles.  Grew up in Connemara, rode my first pony there. Joined Sinn Fein, was 8-man at Trinity College, made one too many trips to Belfast and had to leave. Bought and sold mahogany in Belize for the IRA, then I opened this place. Why’d you come to the lnd of the Maya?”

“Played center at Cal-Berkeley, became a SEAL and after Iraq I went to work for a technology company in the Middle East. Don’t like deserts, I’m trying to decide what comes next. PTSD can fuck a man up.”

“There are dead men in both of our wakes. If you need a change of scene and a passport I’m able to help. Take your girlfriend or leave her behind. Makes no difference.”

“I might take you up on that. Have to check you out though.”

“Make sure you call the right people.”

“Who might that be?”

“Gerry Adams.” He wrote Adams, a phone number and a code word on a piece of paper. “Call this number and tell them this code. Gerry’s either a hero or a liar depending on your point-of-view, but he knows about escape.”

The number turned out to be a Sinn Fein office in Belfast. When I asked for Adams they asked me who I was. Hennessey’s code word turned on the the dial tone. The call back from Adams came in 30 minutes.

“What’s up?”

“My name is Cliff Sanderman. Brian gave me you as a reference. Might you be Gerry Adams?”

“I might and I might not. Depends on who’s asking. How is Brian?”

“He’s fine. Offered to help me with some papers I need.”

“What kind of papers?”

“Some people are looking for me and I need a new identity.”

“Why?”

“It had to do with some killings at a goldmine in West Papua.”

“I know about that. I’ll make some calls to verify who you are.” He hung up.

Three hours later Adams was on the phone.

“Ari called me. You should be good to go. Your papers are golden. We miss the motherfucker. Good luck, boyo.” He hung up.

 

I met with Hennessey a few days later. He gave me an Irish passport.

“Have you figured where you going?”

“Not yet.”

“There’s a charter business in Greece. Cost about 500K, 35 footer, 4 cabins.”

Half a million would clean out the money Aleksy’s friends had given me.

“How long to find clients.”

“Three months of bookings are scheduled and you’ll be listed as a charter in the Aegean.” “Let me think it over.” If true, the finances were doable.

Sana and I spoke on Skype. She looked exotic in a blue and red silk and satin saree with floral lace cording. I yearned to reach out, seduced by those dark eyes. We had no guilt about Lester or what had happened on The Awakening. My hopes weren’t high that she would see things my way; it was a long shot. “Wow! I never saw you in a saree.” She smiled. Get on with it I told myself. “Lester’s people know about you.”

“I know. Someone from the agency keeps calling on the phone they gave me in Istanbul. I never answer. They want me to work for them again. I didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out they’re looking for me.”

“They were down here looking for me. Called Virginia too.”

“What are you going to do?”

“She came down and said there was to be nothing left between us. She’s protecting Freddie. I don’t blame her, but he’s my boy. I’m not giving up on being his father.”

“Did you tell her about us?”

“Come on, Sana, no I didn’t tell her. I loved her, she loved me but life came between us. It came between us too, but in a different way. I want you in my life.”

“It can’t happen now. We have to stay away from each other.”

“Not necessarily. I can get us new identities. Lester’s people won’t know you or me. If you’ll hear me out I’d like to make a proposal. Might even become a formal proposal in the future.”

“You can’t persuade me.”

I told her about the charter business in Greece.

“I like your idea. Probably yes if we could do it here. I can’t leave my family now. We love California.”

“Greece and California are similar. With Trump they won’t like it long. They can join us.”

“Bad timing, Clifford. We’ve gone through so much we need to stay in one place and breathe. Even if the air is fouled by the fool your people elected president.”

“All the more reason to leave the country.”

“You have a point, but I must stay here. My family needs money.”

“We can send money from Greece.”

“Enough, Clifford. I wish you well.” She hung up.

 

 

Published by Bill Snyder