There’s a story there, Caroline.
So it’s not Annie.
Yes, it’s Annie. There’s a life.
A life. It hung between them at the coffee shop table like a row of Mexican Christmas flags.Caroline thought about saying again that Andrew had a life here in New York, but she didn’t. Life, she and Rosendo had learned, was where you made it. They had seen themselves in any number of places, but after the last assassination attempt, with the three of them together, just inches from each other, they had tucked themselves into this corner of New York, Caroline at home, Rosendo in exile.
Which reminded her, with a glance at her watch, “I have to go. You want to be home, you know, when the chico gets in from school.”
“Mis respetos à Rosendo,” murmured Juan as they left.
“Gracias,” said Caroline, meeting his eyes. He said it, and she thanked him, every time she left the coffee shop. Throughout the neighborhood, the borough, the city, men and women, waiters, nannies, gardeners, their faces with the almond eyes, flat planes and straight noses from a thousand jungle stelae, whispered their respects. Respetos, nos respetos, mis respetos, and always they were thanked. A sus ordenes, Rosendo might add, an old-fashioned phrase that meant, in essence, I serve you.
Andrew walked Caroline the two blocks home, on her left, relaxed but alert, noting who was around them, though Caroline was the one with the small pistol in a shoulder holster under her jacket. He was aware also of what it felt like to walk with a beautiful woman on a fine early summer day in New York, one beautiful woman he had never, would never hit on—
(“Why not?” Warren had asked.
“Rosendo would kill me. That’s not hyperbole.”
“That’s not stopped you with others,” said Warren.
“ . . . the time I snuck her through LaGuardia, around a bunch of news piranhas . . . it was so satisfying, I couldn’t wreck it . . . they trusted me . . .”
“Lots of people betray trust.”
“Backing me into a corner, Warren? OK . . . I love them . . . and their story is mine.”)
—someone that he wanted, not herself but the experience of herself that he had been looking for with the dancers and models and call girls, seeking the beauty with at least a modicum of brains, the shrewd assessments of Caroline—
“Are you OK?” asked Caroline.
“Yes.” Andrew looked around, reorienting himself. “Can I sit on your stoop for a minute and think?”
“—Sure. You can come inside, too, and stare at the wall. That happens in our house.”
“No, thanks, I’ll just sit by myself.”
Patterns, Warren said. Not always bad . . . recognize them and you can work your way out of them, or, let them lead you . . .
“Hey, Andy! What’re you doing?” It was Luis, scootering home from school, accompanied by Maria-Tzeja. They slapped hands.
“Having an epiphany.”
Luis thought for a moment. “After Christmas. But it’s June.”
“Gifts can come at any time.”
Luis thought again, brightened. “Did someone give you an apartment!?”
“No. I didn’t get an apartment. And you, how was your day at the office?”
They were all sitting now, on the broad brownstone stoop, on a quiet, leafy street a block from Seventh Avenue, Luis next to Andrew, on his right, and Maria-Tzeja on his left, one step below them, facing the one-way traffic, and Andrew thought that if he could not have this, he would die a slow death, but no, he did have it, he was here, right now, as Luis opened his backpack, saying that the poet had made his last visit for the school year and he, Luis, had written two poems, here they were.
Andrew read the poems. “You have a good eye, Luis, and you say things . . . con mucho claridad.”
“Thank you. But I think I’d rather be a reporter than a poet.”
And he was a reporter again, Andrew reminded himself, not just a pundit. He had a pretty girlfriend he could talk to, they went dancing on Saturday nights, and there were stories all over the place.
Copyright © 2014 Debby Mayer