A drop of sweat rolled down George’s face as the Asunción popular cafe-bar filled with people and summer night humidity rose to its boiling point. George’s Spanish was dissent, but he couldn’t make any sense of conversations around him for the Paraguayans spoke the Spanish mixed with the Guarani, which sounded “Greek” to him. One distinctive word, “la escritura,” kept bouncing around, pocking into corners of his mind and suddenly he remembered.
George slid off his favorite, leather, travel jacket, settled in the comfortable bar chair, sipped the chilled glass of Argentinian Astica Sauvignon Blanc and distanced himself from the attempt to overhear people talking. He anxiously searched the pockets, and finally found a small sealed envelope with distinctive, artistic handwriting on it. “Ah, the script,” sighed George and shook his head thinking how could he ever have forgotten to read it? He turned around the envelope flipping it between fingers as if it were some sort of a love letter.
The heavy accented words outdid the Aldorado bar noise and through the memory cracks he distinctly heard the old Marrakesh gypsy man who talked him into the fortune reading using George’s natal chart during a short visit to Morocco before two months ago, “Ethereal script of life and death is written in the stars in the moment when you are born….” A smile won George’s stern face after he looked into the empty wine glass. He decided to break the vow and order one more round thinking that only with one or two drinks more could bring him to read such a crank. For an experienced market analyst supervising the offshore tax accounts and the international money transaction traffic it would be fun to observe the actual chart of the planet positions and go after the interpretative style of the Gypsy fortune reader. He was positive he could break the interpretation code quickly, knowing so much from the CIA training interrogation techniques and some parapsychology classes. A sweat drop salted George’s lips and he raised a hand and called for the barmen.
Asunción restless humidity and Morocco’s dry heat cracks me up in the same sweaty way that a New Englander can’t take it, thought George. The barman hit the bar gong, it sounded almost as the Wall Street closing with all noise around, only alive Latino music and a singer turned to be a reality ripple.
The barman projected his powerful voice, “Hora Verde, Hada Verde, Hora Verde!” and managed to overpower the bar noise and a background music.
One man in a suit argued with the compesino in the traditional outfit who looked so familiar and George wondered where he might had seen him before. His interest peaked and George watched a close by table while waiting for a barman with the empty wine glass. Both men seemed to steam high in their disagreements as if ready to charge and fight under the built up negotiation pressures with obvious high stakes that one could touch their tension in the bar cigar puffs. On the table sat a pile of papers and some sort of a land property map where each man kept pointing to the same areas, after each would take a calculator, compared the numbers to the memorandums, and legal papers. George smiled once he recognized that the familiar man was the known compesino activist. He saw the activist’s photo in this morning newspaper while reading about the new chunk of peasants’ land just to be contracted out by the Brazilian farmers for the production of soy monoculture. George watched the compesino activist raging against the “suit-guy,” thinking how odd it was that the world was so small. He knew very well about tense sights like the one unfolding before his eyes; the sensitive negotiations behind the scenes, the deals done away from the public eyes.
He remembered that before five years ago he was briefed about the Brazilian well-financed farmers who aggressively took over the belly of Paraguay using murky, international-corporate related businesses, to position the soy monoculture production that resulted in the dramatic GINI index drop, the calamities that followed; the Curuguaty’s massacre of seventeen landless campesinos that led to the impeachment and coup against the president Fernando Lugo, the long-lasting destabilization of Paraguay by various CIA agencies and their covert support of the GEO (Grupo Especial de Operaciones) that was harshly slamming compesinos’ political activism, turning Paraguay into a deep political hotspot.
Recently, he evaluated the files of several lawyers of this kind who would cover-up not only the government connections with the international business corporations, but committed serious tax frauds reinvesting the fraud surplus in the buttlegging, drug-dealing, and other illegal matters, all for blood money. George’s gut instinct sensed that the suit/lawyer was not an exception.
As the financial top offshore analyst he knew that the national income distribution in Paraguay hit the highest in the world economic inequality. “Ha, well,” thought George while sipping the glass of wine and rooting back to his faith, “the CIA financial national security analyst usually sucks, especially when cutting deals in Paraguay with the crooks, but as said in Proverbs 22:8 “Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of his fury will fail”.
George strongly believed in the power of recited, sacred, Bible verses whose invocation would call for the light and logos, and ultimately defeat darkness and injustice. As a long-lasting member of the Catholic, marginal, mystic movement, not officially under the secrecy scrutiny or any suspicion, he happened to be the holder of the membership books, and managed the business for the Words of Light movement in total secrecy. A smile softened his tight jaws, and George recalled his fraternity nick-name, ‘Zacchaeus, the tax collector”. He was the one who would diligently sent every year the membership fees requests and dropped the members who failed not to pay their fees for three years.
With deep sympathy George watched the activist’s struggle, knowing that the arguments were not only about money, but the survival of the compesinos involved in the negotiations. If the activist was to fail tonight, his compesinos would soon starve or fall under the rule of one of the many smuggling gangs led by the Paraguayan cartel lords of the Triple Frontier; the borderline area between Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina known as TBA (Three Boarder Area) to the DEA (the USA Drug Enforcement Administration). George just discussed a vicious cycle that recruits so many “new” drug dealers and cartels in this area with the DEA guys before two days ago at a secret Paraguayan base and thought how the living absurd of the present world was beyond any repair. “The only anchor of a warrior man is his faith and love; the first is the shield and the second is the sword, that’s all you need, nothing more.” sighed George remembering the last words of the old operative and friend who died of cancer a few months ago.
Shortly after the barman attended to George, he surprised himself and ordered La muerte de la tarde! The barman smiled, “Sí señor! The Death in the Afternoon, sir, do you want the original or Paraguayan absinthe?” He felt as he might take on the challenge and said, “Gue sea paraguayo, el doble!” George noticed the experienced barman looked back at him sagaciously. The barman took the empty glass, smiled and tried to stimulate a conversation,“Eso pensé, bueno para la relajación!” George read the clue, nodded casually while looking at the line of the text messages that streamed on his IPhone not wanting to get into any conversation with the barman and keeping up with his staged, stern face.
George noticed very quickly that the barman was not just an hourly worker. The tattoo on the barman’s neck revealed his association with one of the top cartels “Tentáculos” that a good finance analyst could trace money all the way to the Paraguayan top political and banking elite.
While waiting for the absinthe, George watched the barmen’s short phone conversations, waiters handing him messages written on the back of order pad sheets, and he read all hidden signs of the barman being probably one of the key bosses’ links for the Paraguayan central alcohol and drug black market business.
George knew he was not a stranger to the barman and that he probably knew about the deal taking place in the Velez Valez hacienda. Velez Valez was one of the most influential bankers that had connections with all South American banks, especially the MERCOSUR, but also alleged, dodgy roots in the drug and alcohol business around the world. George investigated his offshore accounts in several occasions, and each time was stopped to bring the case to a higher level by the political and intelligence high ranking officials. The perilous banker was originally from Brazil, but had some Paraguayan heritage from mother’s side, which helped him to become a citizen. Velez Valez built the extravagant hacienda in Paraguay and began promoting the sell-off of the country; from the Guarani Aquifer acreage to the Paraguayan land to the Brazilian farmers for soy production, he was also heavily involved in setting up the two new USA bases and a few secret DEA sites. George recognized that Velez Valez despised him for always playing by the rules, for the USA government interest, and being a pain in the neck whenever he would have a chance. He didn’t like to see the existing connections between the owner and the barman with a crook such as Velez Valez, but the Latino world functioned in a way it did, and George decided not to worry too much about it tonight.
Often George regretted how much the experienced CIA training and a short, mid-eighties job in Colombia sharpened his perceptions and reasoning. Too tightly. Even though he wasn’t ever a top field operative, but rather a law adviser to the high profiled banking institutions such as the NYSE (The New York Stock Exchange), the offshore tax business, and the offshore banking strategic planning, he worked contractually for the CIA regarding the sensitive banking matters that affect the monetary stability in different world markets. The operatives called him “the money-bond guy”.
He observed the barman with caution and analyzed moves around in a spit of a moment as his mind set on a razor edge. Five years of separation from his wife made him stay fit in the job, his experience was needed more than ever, and although eligible to leave the job he stayed because he couldn’t imagine what he would do in the empty and oversized house alone all the time. He mentally patted himself on the back for today’s Paraguayan negotiation success with the Chinese and Russian bankers; nothing better than remote Paraguayan haciendas in the rain forest for sensitive deals that must be handled away from media attention and big city centers. No one could have done the monetary deal that he just signed. It would change the monetary winds all over the world, but protect the dollar for some time. His ability to pull the IMF connections and measure the right pressure and gain on the most powerful bankers using the CIA best new methods of financial logistics in negotiations along with persuasive, factual market charts worked as he was dicing meet around the sinew of the dead deer. He knew no one could have muscle such an agreement, but him.
When the opalescent double milky-like drink arrived with a bar bill George thought it would be better to save the unopened envelope for some quieter time to read it and he returned the letter back to the pocket of the jacket. Once he secured the letter he pulled out his wallet, looked straight in the barman’s eyes until the barman fluttered recognition with eyelids, and then placed in his hand a fifty dollar bill in a skilled way “Hey amigo, asegurarse de que nadie me molesta de esta noche. No hay chicas!” The barman nodded, walked away and summoned several waiters instructed them to watch for no one to bother “Gringo” tonight.
George stayed stern, but began enjoying the bar music and for the first time, with interest, noticed the female Latino-jazz singer. There was something about her so familiar, like the face he imagined, dreamed, or met in the many, many places he traveled. George thought, couldn’t be a drink, I even haven’t yet sip it. He turned his head away not to see the singer, but her voice seemed sweet, lilting his senses with melody, mellowing his body. The next song tipped all feelings he was aware, “The Girl from Ipanema.” The last time George heard this song, it played at his papa’s funeral. He remembered how he wept while listening to the same song. Father’s death was the first youth shock that forced him to become aware of human fragility and finitude. It took all of him to become a man, do whatever he needed not to drop out of school. Looking back he never thought he would finish that expensive law school. I was a lucky bastard, who never stopped riding on the blade edge… thought George and sipped the bubbly drink surrendering to its slight bitter zesty taste.
The next morning George woke up alone laying naked on the unfolded bed in the exclusive The Mission hotel suite. Clothes appeared neatly folded on the Venetian chair in a way George would have never done.
He looked around for any signs of Xenia, the mystic singer who joined him last night in the bar, and later in the hotel room, but the room seemed untouched as if she never visited with him or kissed him. In wonder he walked to the bathroom and reached for a hotel house-coat to put on, and moved to the private, enclosed veranda. The rare birds chirped on high. A paradise call chilled George to the bottom of his manhood, “Have I danced the tango with Xenia last night”? He asked himself knowing that he couldn’t know the final answer to this question; though, oddly enough, he remembered every single tango move and Xenia’s touchy, tangled legs leading him to the edge of all possible existing reality.
George found no leftover of a cigar or ash in the ashtray on the table, or a bottle of wine, no two glasses. Nothing. He set at the Veranda for a moment and tried to sort out the last night’s happenings, but when he looked at his wrist watch he found that he was only three hours from his flight back to New York.
He rushed to the closet to pack the suit, a few more shirts and ties, but he found his suit-case fully packed. The hat set prepared beside the rain-coat. Telephone rang. It was a reception wake-up call. He distinctly remembered that he ordered this call two hours earlier. Someone knocked at the door. George opened the door with hope. He was disappointed to see only “camarero,” with the breakfast room service, and a cart full of plates that he set at the veranda table. “Bon-appetite sir,” wished waiter after George tipped him. He enjoyed the egg-Benedict, fruit plate, and a small plate of cantaloupe pieces wrapped in prosciutto, a glass of Champagne, and coffee. He would not have chosen better, thought George. Not having time to think too long of what had happened, George quickly pushed himself through morning ablutions, and soon was ready to leave the hotel. He arrived at the airport just on time for the flight.
On a long flight, restlessness settled within his heart. He remembered well when Xenia approached to him, how the barman crossed her, and George pushed him back “Está bien amigo, esta chica está conmigo”.
The whole night they didn’t speak a word. They looked at each other as they shared thoughts and both were springing from the same mind. George never experienced such magic closeness with anyone except Xenia. He even never heard her spoken words, only her trained, singing voice. George desperately wanted to know how Xenia would sound if she would speak to him. Would she have a heavy accent? Would she speak sufficient English?
He recalled how much he liked when she sang two more rounds, and that he knew every song by heart. After her performance they left for the hotel, they kissed on the veranda, and they spent the most beautiful summer night moving hands over their bodies as they played the invisible instrument that unlocked themselves and became aware of the surprising innocence that true love harmoniously unifies in smiles of tears and whispers.
Whenever George closed his eyes, he felt the warmth of Xenia’s breath, the music that poured their spirits into the ethereal, one breath, she smelled of “Sweet summer fenced in hearts of wild-rose hips /woven with gold of tight skirting scripts,” the poem he liked so much from a woman’s blogger, with pseudonym XaR, which lines he used for the field CIA connections while arranging this negotiations.
In the intelligence field, when involved, he liked the old fashion way, using unknown poetic lines instead the intelligence computer generated passwords. The modern time was a great source–so many dissent, but unknown poets–you couldn’t have a better at hand “passwords” for networking in the old-fashion way. George smiled remembering how many times he drove crazy the new “elite” computer gigs, who opposed to him. He was so happy to bypass them challenging their bare technicality and reliability on computer algorithms only. He would often tell to this new tech elite, “Computer language is too autistic guys, poetry is much touchier, beside, the computer back doors of security could be always under the cyber-attack, my way is easy: Until someone cracks-down where the jumbo-mambo lines are coming from, I am done and eating pop-corn in my easy-chair back in the bay house.”
During the flight, George remembered the unopened envelope. He set in the bulkhead first class seat beside the window; he excused himself giving a sign to the other passenger to move her legs so he could pass. The flight attendant helped him to get the coat from the closet and take the envelope. When he set back, he finally opened the letter from the Marrakesh gypsy who supposedly read the planets and the constellation of the stars for him. Little bit shaky, but determined he ripped the envelope in an uneven way. George put his glasses on and began reading. He looked into the neat diagram of his natal chart filled with several squares. He read the ten pages filled with the minuscule writings and nothing surprised him, he thought that the gypsy was excellent in “cold readings.” The last page was different and written with much bigger letters titled “Your Destiny”:
“George, don’t forget that the soul is a traveler above all deeds enfolded in time. It always returns to its beginning, the source of the journey that repeats itself so many times, until it returns to the primordial summer and the tree of life, where one lives without the shadow. Soon you will meet the woman that symbolizes the summer garden for you, Xenia, a woman known to you for a long time. She lives and has lived always in your dreams. You will embrace Xenia’s love and burst in arms of a heated noon, you’ll begin a new life. George, Xenia is your final destiny. You will meet her soon on one of your travels, and then she will always be with you, you will breathe together and traveled many celestial lives. Xenia is a daughter of the highest degree of Sun, you have to follow her light. You cannot ever fully know Xenia, but she knows you. At this very moment while reading this letter she is here within your heart and she gives herself to you in a form of a perfect presence. Close your eyes George and propagate love, give birth to an untouched touch, and she will join you soon. Wait for Xenia with open arms. ”
Suddenly, the whole gypsy business smelled fishy to George. The writing style suddenly resembled to the poet blogger XaR, whose lines he often used as encrypt passes. “So trapped,” sighed George, knowing he was supposed to read this letter much earlier than today. Meeting “Xenia” was a set-up from the start, and probably all designed by dodgy Velez Valez banker as George remembered well his words on a way out from his lavish home, “Amigo, many can escape the tax evasion and money laundering, but no one can escape the destiny written in the stars.”
George felt cold in his heart and betrayed as never before, “Xenia” had been used for the “gypsy’s” dirty, covert job, and meeting with Xenia was no happenstance, but a well directed script for play with the mouse trap. The gypsy could do a better job with this cold reading and used Xenia’s writing at least. Setting me up with Xenia? Thanks to providence I forgot about the letter and opened it right now, in a right moment, it’s not too late to save what was lost, thought George in a jittery and chaotic state, while jotting down a plan of action on the other side of the “destiny” paper, knowing that he was bushwhacked in the bar. George knew he had to move carefully and faster than Asuncion drug cartel boss who would soon attempt to wage favors using him and Xenia, and even leverage any of his present tax offshore account auditing. He felt wounded, but not yet ready to retract his position, as the bull in bullfights when surrendered to the matador’s game and moved in a way that would eventually lead the bull to succumb his life to the tragic death in the middle of the arena.
As soon as George landed at New York, he sped as fast as he could back to his empty bay house. He requested all edit blog history changes with the name of the foreign poet he used for his field passes. Sure, the first history photo dated from 2005 tracked to the website domain name happened to be much younger Xenia, Raquel Sandose-Muella. He couldn’t move his eyes from the photo for a long, long time. George sunk into his world of loss, but he caught a breath, and at the end he gave and wept loudly, “Xenia, Xenia, what have you done to us?”
It was the first of February, less than a month since he had last visited Paraguay, and this morning he boarded the plain traveling back again to Asuncion summer. He booked the same hotel, the same room, packed the same clothing, and wore the same hat. He landed on time. He couldn’t wait to arrive to the Aldorado restaurant ready to meet the barman’s eyes one more time.
When George entered the Aldorado restaurant, patrons and waiters connected with the barmen and his business went silent knowing that they were all in the bull ring. Xenia abruptly finished a song and hummed a light improvisation giving a sign to the jazz quartet to continue playing music without her. Xenia exhaled and rested for a few seconds closing her eyes. She lost her calmness and knew what was coming.
George smiled and spoke with the barman. The barman seemed unsettled, but he thought that Xenia flew him back to Asunción, Aldorado. Quickly, the barman served The Death in the Afternoon one more time, with the Paraguayan absinthe double. George tipped him well, smiled, and said, “No hay chicas en esta ocasión que sea, entendida? No Xenia. No Raquel! Capish?”
He watched barman’s smile collapsing, face blackening, and his hands slightly shaking while leaving cold sweat prints on the classic black bill presenter. George knew very well he cornered the barman who played as best as he could as if nothing happening, like the matador who would pretend to be calm while the bull charging at the red. Three “gringos” entered the restaurant and approached to the bar. All three asked for the double Paraguayan absinthe. The barman hesitantly took the order as he knew what was coming. He gave some signs to the waiters, served the three men with drinks, and before he could even react the three men physically attacked him. One man punched the barman several times in the face; the other began pounding him into the ground. The barman quickly crumpled from the attack, the two men continued beating him on the floor. The third man pulled his Glock 17 and pointed at the bouncer. The three men raced out the door. The patrons exhaled went back to their business as if there had been no fight. The barman struggled to his feet, leaning on the bar. George walked over to him and met his eyes until the barman blinked.
The barman swooned and fell to the floor. The waiters rushed to help him, picked him from the floor, and carried him away. A man in an Armani suit approached to the kerfuffle. One guest offered “Voy a llamar a un policía,” the suit-man smiled “Dear amigos this is my bar, everything will be OK. All is over. Malentendido con gringos, mi amigo va a estar bien. Tenemos un buen médico. No te preocupes. A free drink for everyone here tonight! Vamos a olvidar todo, let’s forget it all!” The usual bar noise returned, some people spoke quietly between themselves about the beating, a few American tourists ran in fear and distress leaving behind their food and drinks. The owner shook his head, “Americanos, no tiene sentido para la película de acción!” and then he smiled.
George stayed determined to fulfill his mission. He barely touched with lips a bit of a drink and smiled to owner’s comment, “Hemingway said one should drink at least five of these, but that advice was not meant for today. Demasiado por hoy mi amigo! Need a bill!” The owner looked at him and then he said “My treat, amigo! No hay que preocuparse!” George put his hat on, and slowly walked to the bar, “Let’s stay in touch amigo, it can get much worse.” said George. The owner recognized he should give him a bill. George took his wallet and pulled the folded white paper. While he was writing something on the bottom of the paper the owner handed him a bill. George counted money and after he signed the bill, he turned the bill over and wrote: Don’t cross us again. The owner took the money, looked at the bill, and nodded.
After George took the paper that was initially in his wallet, he continued walking straight to Xenia at the stage. Shocked, defeated, shaky, exhausted, and hurt, Xenia appeared white, as if ready to faint. A few tears rolled down her face and in one moment a pale expression of fear and loss stunned George, but he needed to act and end the game firmly, “Francamente, querida, ¡me importa un bledo! Don’t you know, my dear, I don’t give a damn!” Xenia’s eyes flooded with tears rolling down like a stream. “Some gypsy from Morocco gave me this letter, and I traveled back to give it to you. This letter is the cold read of my future. I thought the gypsy read the stars for me, but it turned out that he messed it up badly.” He touched Xenia on a shoulder and placed the letter on her weak palm, “This is written for you Xenia, not for me. It’s your fortune telling.” Xenia shook under the weight of George’s words. He touched his hat and raised it slightly symbolizing his final goodbye.
The quartet sighed with a release when they saw George leaving. They continued playing soft The Blue Moon tunes, while Xenia read the paper and cried.
“Remember Xenia, you are a daughter of the sun, born in the high noon. I dreamed about you on the empty sea shore for years and months. You walked into my life following the golden sun thread, playing on the top of every high-wind wave. Remember Xenia, you walk in light, free of any shadow, dancing on the top of spreading sea foam and furious wave rifts. We had never spoken a word, but we knew our thoughts. One time we walked in light, without any qualms looking at the horizon and a rising sea. We heard every thought in silence, surrendered to the supreme melody, and we rhymed in our bodies all crossing heavenly stars.” The last sentence was handwritten, “Don’t lose the soul, but follow the stars. I’ll wait for you. When eons pass, we will meet one last time. We’ll know the same love, but we will forget our hindering pasts, we’ll wear new bodies, but carry our old souls.”
George could never forget reading the initial report where he learned so much about Xenia. Her real name was Raquel. Fifteen years ago she married the lawyer whose power escalated in the Paraguayan elite circles, and divorced him recently. Immediately after the divorce she went back to her maiden name, Sandose-Muelle. George stood stunned for a long time once when he learned the real Xenia’s [XaR] identity. At one point he began suspecting she might be the wife of the lawyer with deep connections to the Three Boarder Frontier money laundering with buttlegging, and drug smuggling. He didn’t see the lawyer’s picture, but the line of blurred images of that night suddenly became clearer and clearer finally to hit him hard. George remembered Xenia often moving her eyes towards the “suit man,” with expression of a strange fear. The gut feeling overwhelmed George’s thoughts with an idea that the former husband might be the person he spotted the first time he visited the bar. George knew that must be some heavy pressures on Xenia from this power-driven lawyer. On a way home he prayed and hoped that the initial report was not true. He entered the empty bay house, and on the table he saw the sealed envelope with “Xenia”. George set and stared at the envelope for a long time.
After cold darkness settled into the room, he finally stood, breathed onto his cold hands, rapidly rubbed them, walked to the porch and brought some kindling and logs, built a fire and enjoyed for a moment fire sparks, flairs, and warmth. He came back to the table, grabbed the envelope ready to go over every single detail about “Xenia”. The envelope felt heavy, “quite a big dossier,” thought George. Just when he opened the seal, the Berlin grandfather clock chimed the late hour. George suddenly changed his mind, stepped closer to the fire-place and threw the envelope. The paper and photos inside blasted and spread around the hearth. Chimes blasted and reminded George of the final hour. Ghastly as the hour, the last words of his close friend spoke again, “The only anchor of a warrior man is his faith and love; the first is the shield and the second is the sword, that’s all you need, nothing more”.
He couldn’t explain this action, but he knew he deeply loved Xenia, and didn’t want to turn her into an enemy. George couldn’t bring himself to despise, hate, or judge the woman whose soft voice, seductive rhymes, passionate dance, and flamed touch awoke in him new love and fiery passion. He let Xenia stay as she appeared to him–a poet, singer, dancer, a lilting, tender dream, as he once didn’t dare to challenge a moment when his beloved wife decided to move out and confessed about a secret lover and their long-lasting relationship. “Let the heart love, not hate”, shrugged George and walked to the kitchen, opened the refrigerator, grabbed a well-chilled Sauvignon Blanc bottle, opened it, poured the glass of wine, moved back to the living room, set the glass on the end-table, turned on the lamp, and collapsed into the soft chair. He was happy to see on the table the new published book of not yet known poet, Xenia Sandose-Muelle, that he heavily funded via the Kickstarter as an anonymous donor. George raised the glass and cheered to the “cold readings” and the unknown curiosity of the ethereal work of human minds. He always liked betting on high odds and riding a dark horse.
All characters and the story events are fiction. True events or happenings that inspired this piece of fiction are tagged or linked in the text.