Monday, August 2, 2010

Hiatus: Moments at the Red Umbrella


I had imagined riding through the central streets of Quito, through Old Town and the Mariscal Foch, Alex driving up the long, storied hills, me in the passenger seat and Alaena in the middle, passing by all of our Quiteno friends, waving in triumph with wide smiles like winners of a beauty pageant sitting on a parade float as we returned from a successful maiden voyage.

Oh we returned to Quito riding in the bus, but it sat on a platform on the back of a very large deisel tow truck. Matthias pretended to switch gears and turn the wheel, a fruitless effort since our inertia was created by the truck we were riding on and not our own. Jokes were not funny. Our glorious return to Quito was pathetic and anticlimactic. There was only one place we could go after we dropped the bus at the mechanic, and it had umbrellas.

We spent most of our time in Quito at the bar with the red umbrellas. On the corner of Reina Victoria and Garcia, it sat in the most perfect, drug fueled corner of the Mariscal. Our frequent visits led the employees of the red umbrella to speculate that we were residents of Quito. Hard to blame them since every night spent in Quito was a night spent, at least the beginning, at the red umbrella.

So when we finally made it back to the Mariscal, I set out alone looking for Tom, and of course, the first place I looked was the red umbrella.

"There you are, you ole bastard." I said to Tom who sat with some strangers.

"Zach, how´s the bus? This is the bus guy." Tom said to the two he sat with. "This is Michael. He´s a famous movie director. He made a commercial for the Super Bowl. He´s modest though, but he´s famous," Tom said as I waved hello. "And this is Marta. She's making some jail thing, documentary thing with her camera. I don't know. So, tell me. Tell me. Tell me. What's happening with the bus?" Tom asked as he moved his arms around drunkenly. "Me and Marta here, have been drinking for a few hours."

Matthias said it perfectly later, that Marta looked like Esmereldas from the Hunchback of Notre Dame (the Disney cartoon). She had long black, curly, mediterranean hair, dark brown eyes, dangly jewelry from her ears and neck, olive skin, baggy skirts and baggy shirts, hiding her beautiful body underneath, and she had youth and innocence in her face. The only little wrinkles she had were on either end of her mouth where the tips of her smile reached. She looked like a gypsy.

Tom and I chatted about the bus for awhile, and Michael excused Marta and him from group conversation because he said that they had something to discuss. I thought Michael and Marta were working together on some movie and were having an off-the-set affair. I later found out they met because Marta snuck on to the set of some movie he was making by pretending to be a camera grip, and once Michael saw her he had to have her.

Unfortunately for Michael, everytime Marta breathed in between his ramblings, she would ask me about the bus. Her eyes glowed when I described the inner workings of a functioning bus, or in other words, a well-lubricated, mechanical system that resembles something made as a result of nuclear science. Any woman would desire a man responsible for creating such an advanced system of cooking, cleaning, fire making, hammock hanging, and rope tying.

Every conversational stride achieved by Marta and me, was interrupted by Michael saying, "Hace Frio." He then dragged Marta inside the bar to discuss his feelings for her. They eventually returned, and amongst much frustration, Michael threw in the towel and left.

Marta decided to stick around with the gypsies for a night of Jingus.

We ended up at the Next Level, another one of our Quito haunts. The place vibrates from the chronic lyrics of 'tonight's gonna be a good night,' and the drunken gringos rubbing against each other on the 'tonight' part. The only place of solace is the porch.

Marta and I couldn't stop talking.

"I don't know why I tell you dis." She said as she grinded her teeth. "I just feel comfortable talking wit you. I am dating a Jailman."

"You are crazy." I said and continually repeated this as she continued telling me her story.

Marta was trying to do a project on teenage pregnancy in Ecuador, but after being told by the head ob/gyn at a major Quito hospital that she should go back to Spain and do a project on pregnant teenagers there, Marta ended up making contacts with a lawyer who got her into the Quito jail. She planned to make a photo documentary at the jail.

Her documentarian dreams were never realized, but she began visiting one inmate named Alexandras. He was twenty, Lithuanian, and doing hard time for smuggling heroine across the border. Attracted to his criminal mystique, or so I justify, she developed a crush on him and he on her and they began to talk on the phone, since he had one.

It was prohibited to bring cameras inside the jail. But it wasn't prohibited for the inmates to have party's with cake, to make Spanish Omellete's for an innocent young Spanish girl, to have cellular phones to repeatedly call young Spanish girls with, or to take the innocence from a young spanish girl, who was involving herself in something she may not fully understand.

I did feel apprehensive about the jail man thing, but at that point, I liked her and I didn't care. It is in my nature, at the core of me, to be attracted to crazy women. I got the feeling she liked me and that meant more to me than some stupid crush on a convict.

I tried for her, regardless of the jailman. Only regretting it once a few days later when she told me, "I hope, well, you know that they are mafia inside, and well, I hope Alexandras doesn't hire someone to kill you." She looked in my eyes and then began to laugh. "He probably won't." This put me in a state of fear since human life in Ecuador is only worth one USD.

We stayed together that night in her bed at the Otavalo Hausi, under the pretense that I wasn't allowed to try anything.

I told her the tale of the young Spanish shrimper who sailed from Spain catching Dorado and shrimp in his space-sized fishing nets, then landed in the Americas, built a space ship, and took his catch to the market on the moon. Then she told me a tale about a mermaid falling in love with a computer system.

We didn't fall asleep that night. We just waited for the morning to come.

And when it did and it was time for me to leave, she asked, "Are you gonna take advantage of me again tonight and stay the night?"

"Of course." I said. That's history.

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