No 165 - 2001
Zones of Love and Terror: An Extract
Late on Palm Sunday, London
Nadia is saying: ‘Remember how you dropped that strap off my shoulder?’ The first time: narrow silk, a butterfly camisole top, I intended it to make me fragile, pale, pale skin, though actually I tan easily and have long black-brown hair, anyway, fragility. Cheap but cunning. I got it for you, my classy love. Up the Harrow Road, not that you’ll ever know - you bit my upper arm and five minutes later - I saw your eyes rest on the flowering red mark, pleased and lustful. You were kissing me all over by then, between my breasts; I strained - my breasts, high, small, with long soft nipples - my head back, smiling and laughing: then I jerked away, stood up teasing, you buried your curly head, a terrible Christopher Robin, fair shining curls, like a big boy between my legs, I straddled, you licked me, you brought my taste up to me on your own lips, a present you made me of myself, you my translator. You’re the clerk of my chambers, never had a better one, I swear it, away with all pimply previous clerks. I took a step back, arched my back, naked bounced myself laughing over my bed, you were laughing and then launched yourself on top of me. No more clerk. Brute.
‘Charlie, you don’t remember any of it.’
‘Yes I do, sweet angel, every bit of it.’
‘And I had to drag you away before the second set. What a spoilsport. I should have stayed at home working on my brief. Heavens, I loved that jazz.’
‘Good trumpet player,’ he says softly, ‘great drummer.’
He draws her head down onto his shoulder and they keep on driving home. It was good, it took her, what did she do before jazz, they dropped in for the first set, met up with his smooth buddy, Dick. Dick flirts with her while Charlie pretends to be cross. She has a new taste for champagne, the two glasses she allowed herself to be cajoled into. These men have vast livers. There is Carmelita’s trial tomorrow at ten and she still has to run through some points before bed. She doesn’t want to think about it, why on earth is she doing it or indeed any other case. To put it another way, what is she doing with over-priced nightclub champagne the night before? Charlie’s fault: he’s a menace. Soho is very quiet. His car, like a fur stole, a flying machine, glides along. April is cold this year. In Oxford Street there are models in windows and people in boxes.
A bad girl. Girl? I’m all woman. She must think of her brief tomorrow. She only wants to think lechery. Contrary to her years, to everything she holds dear, in short, the highest ideals. There is Maya working away, director and mainstay of Forsythia Road Law Centre. Maya Serota, one reason Nadia slogs away at the law centre when she could be wealthy. Well, better off. But that has never been her. Not for a long time.
‘Just a memo to a colleague. I love you.’
‘Oh what spontaneous emotion.’
‘I’ll cancel it.’
‘No... for this you deserve a wonderful present. Come here.’
With one hand he pushes her head down between his legs, she starts giggling, this isn’t me... he keeps gently urging her head down till her mouth takes hold of his soft and limber cock growing up between the cloth of his trousers, and they drive on down the night back to Nadia’s flat, where Charlie’s daughter is waiting for them, dreading them; they drive on down in their purring nuptial car.
Key West, Florida, six hours earlier
The sun is a white diamond up on the tin gable; it bursts through the banyan tree and the palms. Not a breath of the wind we should get in April. Just the little clouds toddling along over the Gulf Stream.
Drat mad Alice. You think you learn, then, you haven’t. I hope we get plenty of rain this summer. You read the world’s getting hotter: we don’t need to be told that down here. All this development, the shit that’s going into the sea.
In a moment I’ll take the boat out and watch the sunset from the water... At sunrise it was so calm. All blue and hues of violet over the sea-grass and green golden where the ripples run in over the sand. Life again.
I’ll take my paints out in the boat. Sunrise and sunset, Key West, Florida. For the tourists. Yuk. The trippers couldn’t care less about us or Key West or anything - Or worse, they settle here and run chain stores and videos to go and jet skis - abomination of all abominations. The combustion engine, gut poison. I hope Alice knows how badly she upset me. It really was shocking to say those things... ranting on. She knows about my angina.
Don’t. It’s time-wasting to worry.
I’ll check her home number right now. Ten to one she just turned round and skidded off back to London again.
‘ Honey, how’re you doing?’
‘OK, I suppose - ’
‘I didn’t expect you , I understood you were staying at your dad’s... fiancee’s apartment.’
‘Fiancee? Her? God, what a creepy word. I just came home to collect some stuff.’
‘Angie, is Mum there...’
‘No, of course she isn’t, she left, it was yesterday morning. She’s with you, she got to Key West last night.’
‘Angelica, the problem is... Your Mum rang me from Miami Airport this morning in the small hours. I think perhaps I should speak to Dad.’
‘They went to a drinks party, then a club or something. They’re always out. It’s late here. Is there something wrong, what - ?’
‘Of course your mother knows what she’s doing. She was booked on the eleven o’clock flight down here last night. You know she can be a little strung out and - she said she was silly to think of Key West. She said she’d never done anything with her life, Honey, she was talking exaggeratedly.’
‘But where did she say she was going?’
‘She said, she was flying south! I said where, why, but there were noises in the background. I couldn’t hear. She said she’d lived in the dark. Then she said she was sorry and began laughing. Honey, I couldn’t make head or tail of it.’
‘Sounds weird, oh God, Mum is definitely weird.’
‘Never mind. Anyway then she rang off. And still no sign of her here. Surely... hasn’t she rung you?’
‘No, oh fuck - sorry - I haven’t been here, have I, so I wouldn’t know. She was in a mood over Dad and Nadia. Always wanting me around but never, you know, I couldn’t do anything... Oh hell... You can’t just zoom off to strange countries, you have to get visas. Don’t you? She’ll turn up on the next plane - ’
‘Darling, I didn’t mean... Between you and me, I think she’s relaxing over in one of those cute art deco hotels in Miami Beach, having a swell time.’
‘Yeah... I’m not worried, Granny - ’
‘Honey, this is costing. Now I want to know about you, that’s the important thing.’
‘Granny, can I come and live with you? I hate London now - ’
‘Can we talk about this later?’
‘Bye, my darling.’
Poor little baby. I’ll ask her down here, in July, after those GCSEs. As for Alice, just why did I let her sucker me again. Joe always said, do what you have to do. Which is what I mean to, now. Take the boat on the water, get that sunset down on paper, rest my head. Take old Red too, if I can retrieve her out of Dirty Harry’s. Stupid old drunk, don’t know why I put up with her…
Alice’s teasing. You have to think of it like that, otherwise you’d get - heartburn. I wanted to make it up to her. Nothing you can quite do. Guilt is a dead woman, which I would have been if I’d surrendered and stayed with her father.
There’s a Great White Heron regarding me down his long beak like a disapproving old professor; he sits on a marker post and turns his head to keep an eye on us as we drift by.
‘Isn’t Alice coming for Easter Week?’ Red asks at last, watching me get out my small old box of paints and start squinting. ‘Weren’t you doing up the little back room for her? Getting in a whole new bed, didn’t you say?’
‘She’s staying somewhere else first, I guess in Miami Beach. Her life,’ I say shortly.
‘I guess she wants to be alone, Rose. Important in her position, you know, see what’s left after a long marriage. I saw it a lot when I was working. You just be patient. Self-discipline.’
I look at her. She was (once) a good lawyer, disbarred for drink. She looks at the heron.
We drift in the Rosy Joe without speaking, we don’t need to, us old bags, husband, lovers, children, Joe’s babies and Alice of course all gone; at America’s end out of earshot of the Sunset Cruises, and the red golden ball bounces down the sky and rolls to rest on the edge of the world. It rests there, bulging. Down it rolls into its hole like a golf ball. Joe liked his game. ‘They’ve opened up the Crazy Golf Course on North Roosevelt again, Red.’
‘It was Seventeen used to get me. You have to put the ball in through the frog’s ass and it comes out through the jaws.’
‘Other way round, dear.’
Later Red goes back to the bar I dug her out of and I walk home a little stiffly in the rising moon.
Moonshine on the gables now, sweetly smelling with the white frangipani flowers. It certainly must rain tomorrow. Alice’ll come tomorrow. The next day. Dear God, no later.
The moon’s on fire with fierce silver, it shines on the Washingtonias, those skyscraping broomheads along the cemetery fence.
I turn on the porch light, then lower myself into the rocker. I need to rock and get my head straight. Actually I’m very fit, apart from the little irregularity; considering the heat this year. Of course she’ll phone tonight. But to deliberately try to scare me. Alice, how dare you!
Remember how she lays everything on others. Rock a bit now. Our island is quiet. Nothing will happen.
Monday, early hours, further south
Start bolt upright up, heart hammering - Angie walked out through glass swing doors ahead of me and let them swing back like two thick slaps into my face. I jumped back. I followed through as if nothing had happened. Her shout came: you’re nothing, because you left Dad. She ran away into mountains. Her helpless insistence. Where is this room with a heavy ceiling? Darkness. I think my grave may be here, somewhere, that’s it. Don’t be ridiculous. Mother’s voice quivered. Yah to Our Lady Batwing. How could I stop him leaving me? Don’t look in the fog. Keep your eyes on the road... Purple Calvary, Viernes Santo will come this Friday, three days lie entombed.
Heart... pitter, pitter. Clot. Get to it, girl, as fat Petty Officer Joe used to bellow. You didn’t have to drink last night. She’s been so worried, pitter witter, she has her big red heart to think of, her hand points to it, the other hand points to me. I shan’t ring. It was Asturias’ El Senor Presidente, that I was reading in March, back home. Around the palace the trees had ears and he heard everything in the city. Hugh recommended it.
England, America, Central America - wherever you are, all you can emit is just personal whingeing. Children go, don’t they. Mother said, Alice you’re a complainer. Don’t let it upset you. Down in the lobby the trees are wired. There are always roads out of the mountains. Where did she go? Did I follow? When I was a child, an injury occurred, something that hurt the heart. Angie, Mother, she, they, went up into the mountains, or down into the sea.
It’s the same at home, it goes on.
Yesterday in the rental car park besides the ramshackle airport on the outskirts of the City. Mosquitoes at my ear. Staring hair, grey dust in patches on their mice faces, stick legs, no shoes. Businesslike, nimble, ‘Señora, por favor, para pan!’ Taken aback, so quickly in the Third, Mice, World, I hauled out my first tiotzales, 10p each. To them what? The boys scarpered before the rental woman got to me. ‘Have a good vacation, señora,’ she smiled cheerfully in English. Driving slow, the fog on both sides. A few slow trucks, there was nothing. Easier than you feared. The flight shook a little over the sea by Belize. I was on an important mission, they were waiting for me desperately. So I took a tranquillizer. The mean plane rocked only like a baby.
Later, the Lorazepam didn’t hamper my driving. She rode in, yes, she had the goods. Before then in her coward’s fancy she’d died a thousand jammy deaths, thousands of miles from the Hammersmith Flyover...I open my eyes. The black rafters pressing down have roses on them and grey lions. Charlie, I’m done for. I know you can hear me via the leaves. Why d’you hate me, my own darling?
Think of Miguel instead.
I have to thank Miss Betts for Miguel. Charlie boy had left us a month before for a beanpole ten to fifteen years younger than him or me. She saw me crying in our square gardens. Later her Doberman put its head on my lap. ‘My dear, go to work as a volunteer for an organisation, doesn’t matter which one as long as you get out of the house.’ She threw me a handful of leaflets. I picked Justice because that’s what I lacked: there was nothing called Revenge. Miss Betts nodded; ‘Central America, didn’t you once say you had a Latin American grandmother, so you must know Spanish, yes dear, very appropriate.’ So I went to Justice for Central America, off Edgware Road. I stuffed Christmas cards into envelopes for the relatives of the Disappeared of Tiotemala. Well, they were worse off. But every time I stuffed an envelope for Justice, it was Revenge after all, I was stuffing my fist up Charlie’s copper-bottomed arse. Tiotemala was one of those remote countries to which Charlie would occasionally fly, to ‘advise’.
I want him to be a public monster. If he could be bad through and through... Charlie, come back to me.
Crack! Crack! A block away, firing sharp ratatat. Not a car. Dead quiet. I come upright again. Damn, I’m just a tourist here. Crack! Irregular intervals.
Dark. A line of grey along the top of the shutters. The civil war’s over a year ago and the guerrillas were smashed. Officially. One could be caught in a flare up, who’s immune? The gunshots are dying down. You idiot, it’s reveille at the barracks.
A truck starts coming a long way off and immediately bangs past on the cobbles. Two, three cocks hoarsely crowing. Glass doors of the day here swing back, thick painful flaps. Forget the whole thing or straight away this morning wire Miguel as decided.
Another truck bangs loudly past. But a dog howls as if there still was night. You don’t have to live your life in a crevice: scorpions can crawl out. You can climb out. ‘Courage’ as Dad would say. Long ago he would take me on his knee: ‘Courage’. Coo. Rage?
After his talk at the Justice meeting - it was a cold January night - there was a muddle and he didn’t have his bed for the night. He was called Miguel Morales Toj. Angie was away with her father so in the pub I offered her room to him. I took him on the tube from Holborn to Notting Hill Gate. It was a cold still evening walking up Ladbroke Grove, St John’s spire lifted against a sky iron blue with frost. We walked in silence, nonplussed. He was wearing white cotton trousers, and then just a thin tan anorak, he must have been freezing. Well and he had small bright eyes, long-lashed. I turned on the lamps, making everything bright and cozy: my yellow walls, my woodcuts, my oil of the downs near Lewes. I drew Miguel’s attention to the Tzul weaving I had bought through Justice’s craft stall. ‘Si, bien’, he nodded, with a look of relief.
He sat down on the yellow sofa, his thighs wide, his short wide fists on his knees, I rattled stupidly on, pouring coffee. Was there a comparison between the English traditional countryside and that of Tiotemala? My own abuela, now dead, was from Mexico. As for me I love the English countryside. And did he like it? I’m longing to visit Tiotemala. Now and then he smiled. He didn’t enquire where my daughter Angelica was, nor her father, my husband, nor raise an eyebrow nor smile at her pics and posters of horses and horses and Jim Morrison, and James Dean sulking off the wallpaper of whom I suddenly felt ashamed, when I took him to Angie’s room; because I saw this Miguel Morales Toj as pure, rural and noble. It was too late now, I left him to culture madness in Angie’s bed. He’d been all day on the train from the north coming from other towns in his tour. He could have seen the English countryside from the train.
I sat on the sofa and gazed across at the photograph of Charlie. I saw him with the whore, arrogantly, slimily wound in each other, slipping to and fro, jerking and grunting, fair curls wound around and strangled by convolutions of long black-brown hair.
On my second whiskey it came to me that Miguel Morales Toj did not despise me so much as humour my insanity. That he had been barely conscious with tiredness and cold. On my third glass I was tinged with a glow: because I had actually volunteered something off my own bat, and there was this Mayan activist from the heart of darkness tucked up in Angie’s fluffy bed.
I bought a guidebook last night. Admiring people from all over the world flock to Santa Cruz our mystery and glamour. One always has a thing about Central America, doesn’t one, with its pinch of Heart of Darkness, tinge of Apocalypse Now. Alright, different continent, different mess. But romantic! Naturally I read Lawrence and Lowry and Greene years ago, and I’ve skipped down here for Easter week, magnificent procession, Good Friday good Catholic; then back to the old Our Lady, our mum in Florida. Return Easter Monday. Hey Mother, this is a great guide...Last night in the setting sun, half the town was a ruin of stucco, vegetation and angels. Have a postcard. I can’t reveal what I’m really up to. The leaves are all ears here, it’s really so. I swear this is for real. This time. Do you hear me, Mother?
It doesn’t matter. I was half-dreaming of Miguel, then I hear your heart hammering: all right, I’ll ring you straight after breakfast.
There’s no need to worry for me now. Not that you ever did.
And what about when I persuaded Charlie to marry you, you reply, dignified.
Thanks for nada, as I mentioned to you once more yesterday, on the ’phone. Anyway: he’d’ve married me anyway, you old cow -
I’m going into the mountains, to his place. I took out money in Miami, a great deal in this currency, it hit me half way across the Atlantic from London: I could take real money to his guerrilla outreach programme in Tiotemala. I had been idly eyeing the inflight map of routes round the Americas. Suddenly I saw: ‘Miami - today’s gateway to the South’. So, Tiotemala a couple of hours south from Miami. I was so excited I knocked over my gin into the elderly woman’s lap next door, with Charlie’s money I genuinely could make a hell of a lot of difference in one benighted arsehole of the world, what a simple thought. I wanted to kiss the woman but instead I had to get the stewardess.
But the thought was real, it felt like a table or chair you could sit on, you wouldn’t fall to the ground next moment. After such mist, so many years - a beginning. Helping. Humble because I happen to have what is needed and am therefore able to do what I can to mitigate others’ privation. This real thing arrived mid-Atlantic and I had to mop up the woman, instead of kiss her.
The old mess spilled out of me. I made that stupid call to you.
Mother, it makes me smile. Abuelita would have said it was a vision, the wooden table - can you just hear her... in her funny accent the blessed Virgin etc etc. I’m not worried. I’m having a holiday. Have a postcard. Love Alice.
In the twilight I jumped round. A soldier, Indian, indigenous, Mayan... in full camouflage (Desert Storm surplus), poking into my back with his machine-gun. Last night, and I was the last into the Lloyds Bank on the corner of the Plaza. His finger was on the trigger. My heart went crack, crack. So this is what it’s like up the Falls Road? He was waving at me to get into the queue to the cashier. Then it hit me - Alice, it’s you they’re guarding. No expression: the boy modelling himself on that snout. Guarding me against the mad rush of the guerrillas?
However the guerrillas were selling chiclé in the gutter. They were preoccupied with selling, all over the pretty and seedy gardens of the Plaza, under the pepper trees, like good capitalists. Old crones, skeletal but dressed in royal vestments called after me, holding unbelievably gorgeous blankets and blouses out over their stick arms. But there were few tourists; it was a buyers’ market. Excuse me, Ingleesh, Señora, this is your banana republic. Damn it. I’ve only just got here.
Miguel Morales Toj was small-hipped and big-chested, a bit like a frog, I honestly thought. Also his lips were too big and his eyes too small; but he was so different from every other pasty and gangly person in the room, in the brilliance of his eyes and thick hair, and the horse-chestnut glow of his skin. At the same time I was wondering, does such attraction have a racist edge to it? In one corner Miguel Morales Toj, in the other, the Military of Tiotemala. He began to speak to the ten of us in this jumbled, unpausing Spanish, doubled by Hugh’s soft Scot voice. I flowed in his heroic earnestness. What was I supposed to do about ‘los Indios’ and Miguel? Write to my MP? I was unhappy, I could stuff envelopes only. I listened.
I can’t remember it all. He and his translator with their soft voices told us a fairy-story, a nightmare it seemed they had dreamed in detail, the move of an Army against a mountain people, behind the mask of the forests, a last thrust of the Conquest. Garcia and the others, civilian conscripts called the Village Guards, are made to walk in front of the soldiers when they reconnoitre trails mined by the guerillas. The Army telling the Village Guards to execute their father, their sister, their brother as subversives; some doing it before the bullet hits their own skull. Some refuse. The West thinking Tiotemala is now a democracy because the US President says so.
Six months ago, he said, ten of us started to protest against the forced patrolling. Now there are two thousand. It’s not much against a quarter of a million campesinos who patrol. ‘Vicente Garcia is my nextdoor neighbour, compañero, we say. He joined us, he wouldn’t patrol any more. It’s bad, I’m sorry, ten days before I came here, Vicente and his wife were kidnapped by the Army.’ He concluded, speeded up: ‘I would like you very much to help our campaign to continue and to grow from strength to strength. We need your international support urgently. I thank you very much.’
Then he rolled another cigarette, inhaled deeply and looked over at Hugh with his toothy smile, which seemed magically to erase the bad things.
Open the shutters and breathe mountain air. A woman passes below with the identical long black gleaming switch as her little daughter; both of them rainbows in yellow, orange and red. Such brilliance wouldn’t look good on me, fatso and white pale. Plump and jolly. Hockey-playing. The strapping bundle has to be a toddler hidden in there, how does it breathe, you can see its head, back and bottom wrapped around her back. The little girl, with the blue plastic colander on her head. I fumble for a drawing pen, but of course I haven’t one. Surprised by the same old rush to make an image, like the rush to eat, to piss, and as meaningless, my eyes on stalks out after them. The little girl looks up so lovingly, so obediently to her mother as they pass below.
I’ve been across the street from the pension to buy a paper - The rain has stopped and the sun is coming out. A washed sky, and emerald walls sparkling there in the sunlight. Can light cheat night and blackness?
Two scarlet macaws are eating the same breakfast as the guests: papaya and water melon. Tall American girl with frizzy golden hair and a backpack wanders through and hands the macaw a banana. ‘Squawk,’ she says, ‘Who’s for President?’ There’s an election soon. I guess the grand volcano towering above us will be spewing up some rubbish. A stout little maid passes, a tower of white towels swaying on her glossy head.
The paper. And there, as if Miguel is still speaking to us, the headlines read: TRES CUERPOS HAN SIDO DESHUMADOS! Relatives standing round heaps of soil and long holes where the bodies of three missing students from the Public University have been found. A gully near the City rubbish dump. My Spanish is rusty but newspapers are easy to read. I smell the scented lavender. The maid smiles as she sets down the tostadas, she’s only fifteen. The bodies showed signs of ‘disturbance from wild animals.’ It is thought by the authorities to be a mass suicide pact. One student was a young local girl, Juanita somebody. Here in Santa Cruz Juanita’s old teacher, a Maria Elena Gutierrez, is quoted as saying, ‘Juanita was killed,’ but declines further comment. Right here...
Thanks, señorita the maid, this is the prettiest guest house I have ever stayed at. Sun warms my shoulders after the thin sun of home, and the volcano, grave Qu’aholam, looks over the lavender bushes. Throw away that newsphoto, unreal, unreal. Perhaps I can stay here forever, why not?
Darling Angie, I’m in T!! Isn’t her blouse brill? Blouse = ‘Traje’. Tomorrow off to a Mayan market town to buy you one. Also, on a job for humanity. Feels good having ‘task’, not just tourist, as such poor people, e.g. no teeth, no shoes - and so nice! Puts affluent Brit in perspective. Sorry lecture. XXXX Miss you terrifically. Mum.
The white jets of the fountain in the beautiful garden fume solid, like my words. How she simply flounced out down the steps to her bike, not a backward look. A taste of iron in my mouth. The door slammed behind her. Sweet bloody sixteen. I couldn’t look at her. Lost and gone, because of me. After sixteen years, her last words.
More coffee? Graçias, esta muy bueno. Señorita, you smile at me dressed as a rainbow, I shove the headlines before your nose, your smile jumps backwards.
Forget it. I promise though I walk in the vale of death, I’ve come to help. Tough Alice.
Our ruined cathedral speaks still of our great colonial magnificence, page eleven, let us stand beneath and calmly marvel... Inside the volcano Qu’aholam whose perfect triangle rears beyond the ruin of the cathedral crouched once upon a time the mythic people Alom, Tzacol, Bitol and the like, Hunahpu the hero, who challenged the Lords of Xabalba, the Underworld...
Sweating, I perch on rubble and gaze up at this disaster. Chipped baroque angels with low foreheads and long chins taking off over a sea of fallen stone.
After Miguel finished his talk that January evening, part of me decided to rush out and nuke the Tiotemalan army dead right then. I burned: stuffing Christmas cards wasn’t enough, it was impossible to wait another second.
Later on, in the flat, in the middle of the night, he was seated back there in the lamplight, sitting on my sofa as before, as if it was the one seat permitted him. His hands were on his knees, his elbows stuck out sideways. Knotty brown shoulders, a white vest and his jeans - he was staring ahead at nothing. The last male skin I’d seen so close was Charlie’s, guard officer’s white. He looked up as I paused, openmouthed in the dark doorway - on my way to the loo. Nothing on but a frilly nightie; I never thought he’d be anything but laid out fast asleep. And he smiled at me, shyly, then broadly, flashing his teeth delightedly. He lifted his hands with a glad gesture: ‘Eh...’
I smiled back nervously and stood there and couldn’t walk on and then he smiled again and shook his head briefly to himself, as if ticking us both off. Well... that was all. Brief passage between one abandoned English lady and one Mayan chieftain. My passage to Tiotemala? I don’t know what it meant or means, or how much lust or plain good nature was in his smile or mine answering. True, next morning our talk stayed sparse, my Spanish disused, he lethargic. ...Turned out later he’d had awful stomach trouble over here. But we talked enough for me to know he understood: there was a bond between us. I know. Charlie, I’m not hysterical.
Sweating my way through this ruin of Spanish ecclesiatical glory back to the gatehouse - there a green-scaled iguana, three feet long, lounges on the gate pediment motionless... Only now, in his country, I remember as our smiling faded, that our eyes met in a kind of rueful mutual sympathy that had nothing to do with sex, each acknowledging something similar in the other: desperation, stoicism? I like to think he saw bravery in me too but it would be fatuous to claim his qualities.
Later at a silent breakfast I asked, ‘are you in danger, when you go back?’
He spread his hands on the pine kitchen table and his smile became ironic: ‘Creo que si, Alicia. I’ll spend time in the Barrios, in the City, before I go home, so if they follow me from the airport they’ll lose me. That’s the dangerous time.’ Feeling foolish, melodramatic, I ventured, ‘Are the guerrillas strong in your zone?’
Wrapping himself in discourse, he wouldn’t know. He leant forward and gazed at me with courteous severity, ‘most of all, our villages, our struggle needs money. To raise money, you understand, that’s our big necessity, Señora Alicia - ’
After that, his minders came and carried him off.
Charlie, see - if you can see, it was Miguel who looked after me last winter, not me him. And you, what were you doing?
What are you doing now, with her? You bastard, you and your goddamned butter wouldn’t melt whore. Oh yes, I love you. Oh yes.
Zones of Love and Terror, Judith Kazantzis’s first novel, set in the early 1990s, is being published by House of Stratus in November 2001. She has published eight books of poetry, the most recent being The Odysseus Poems: Fictions On The Odyssey Of Homer (Cargo 1999). Her Selected Poems came out in 1995, then Swimming Through The Grand Hotel (Enitharmon). She lives in Lewes, East Sussex.
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