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February 19, 2009 by · 4 comments

Michael Todd Burns

Photo: jacob botter

Have you ever noticed how people’s philosophies tend to mimic their vices? I didn’t want to think about what I was doing. I didn’t think anymore about God and I certainly wasn’t thinking about the starving children back in Valle Aristo. I wanted to think about Gitana and the way she kept looking at me. I thought, finally someone understands me without some ulterior motive lurking in the background.

For a few weeks I thought I was in heaven. That she was in love with me was a fact that remained untouched until one night when we were walking alone through the park were the little girls had played their violins so brilliantly.

My Spanish had not improved much, but Gitana had picked up a lot more English and most of the time she could make herself understood. She had a way of looking at me like she was in awe of everything I did. She seemed to hang on every word and always with that attentive determination in her eyes like she couldn’t wait to see what would come next.

It was warm that night and we were walking under the trees. I could not take my eyes off of her as we walked along. She was wearing cut off blue jeans and an old Black Sabbath tee shirt of mine that was way too big for her. She had her hair down and it shined like anthracite coal in the starlight. Her smile was easy and bright white as it played about her lips. She pulled her hair behind her ears and asked me if I wanted to go back to the apartment with an evil little grin.

“I love you,” I said.

She stopped, and looked at me like I had called her a whore.

“Estás loco?” she said in a small wounded voice and she turned and looked so intently at me that I felt compelled to look away. I tried to say something, my face suddenly felt like it was on fire, and when I looked up at her- opening my mouth to speak nothing came out.

The moon had come up and it was so bright in our latitude that I could see something new in her face. It was fear and it made her look old. She was suddenly wary of me.

Why I had come to Mexico in the first place came to mind and hit me head on. It was the absurdity of the situation that made me laugh. When I get nervous I often have inappropriate reactions. 

I remembered the first time I saw her dancing in the plaza. I had been thinking how the forces of fate had brought me to that place. I remembered her audacious stare. My first impression of that angry glower was one of instant attraction. I felt like a thief who she knew had come to take something from her and she knew she could not stop me. It was like she knew who I was and why I was inevitable. I felt like a god.

Now her face was inches away from mine and frozen like the moment right before I kissed her the first time. I looked at her golden brown skin, the small arch of her nose, and her beautiful onyx eyes. She didn’t resemble the woman I saw on my first night in Aguascalientes at all. There was no sign of the fierceness left. I stared at the pleading arch of her eyebrows. I watched the uncertainty of her voluptuous mouth. I watched the darkening of her disappointment, and I just stood there and said nothing.  

The lie had seemed justified when I said it. Nothing had changed as far as I could tell. There was no reason to back away or try to play off what I had said as a joke. I just stood there and tried to meet her gaze, and the longer I looked the more blemished she became.

I knew what was coming. I knew she was another dead end. I didn’t care; I needed her too much to take a chance on letting her get away before she found out how big the hole in me really was. I was staring into the eyes of a substitute Goose Bibelot, but in that moment I was convinced she was my path away from certain destruction.

Survival will make one do despicable things and a despicable person will use whatever is available to keep from being alone.

I forced my shame into a little ball and shoved it down into the darkest corner of my soul. I tried to smile, but could only summon the ghost of one. The doubt in her expression did not waver.

I looked at the ground without meaning to. She started to turn away. I seized her by the arms and tried to kiss her. She turned her head and started to flail wildly trying to push me away. I held her with one hand and forced her head around with the other until she faced me.

I made her kiss me. I made her kiss me until I felt her resolve start to fade away. I kissed her until I felt her capitulate. She started to kiss me back. I didn’t realize my eyes had been open at first. Then I closed them and I was suddenly kissing the savage little Creole that I hated so much. I poured all the cruelty into that kiss I could muster. I made Gitana pay for every second of every deception I ever suffered at the hands of Goose Bibelot.

I did to her what I would do to Goose someday when she came groveling back. And she answered me with equal ferocity, biting me on the shoulder hard enough to draw blood.

I dissolved into deep soundless sobs.

I stood there in that park, before God and everybody, and lied through my teeth to Gitana. I tried to feel something lost to me for so long. I never quite made it, but my worst sin was I made myself believe that I did. She suddenly pulled away from me, and with tears in her eyes she said, “Liar!”

I stared at her in disbelief for about thirty seconds, and then she silently dropped her eyes and led me by the hand back to our apartment.      

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