Road Warrior: BarcelonabyJakeRivers©
This is the first is a series of stories of those fabled people that travel constantly on their jobs, the Road Warriors. Each story is unique, with different characters, locales and plots. I will consider opening this series up to other authors on request.
An explanatory note: in much of the story the dialog mostly takes place in Spanish. I have attempted to make the English of some of the speakers have the rhythm and words of a person fluent in English, but not necessarily colloquial. So in places it looks like there are grammatical errors but to my ear (fading fast though it is) it represents a lot of what I hear in an extended multicultural family. Mea culpa, please don't shoot me!
Maybe some day I'll be brave enough to try a story in Spanish.
Thanks as always to Techsan for his great editing talents and LadyCibelle for her ongoing support.
CASTLE ROCK, COLORADO
The sticky note was on the outside of one of those disposable file folders you can get for practically nothing at Wal-Mart. We both traveled so much that we might go weeks at a time without seeing each other. I was Charles Castillo – yeah, I know, I was getting tired of the Mr. Castle living in Castle Rock jokes – but everyone universally called me Charlie. My wife was Candy ... that almost kept us from getting married; she was afraid everyone was going to call her Candy Castle of Castle Rock.
We had worked out that whichever one of us came by the house when the other was gone would take care of the mail: dump the junk, pay the bills, etc. Stuff that needed personal handling we would put in one of the folders and leave it on the hallway table. Sometimes we would include little love notes but lately it seemed that I was doing that a lot more than she was.
Please look at the large manila envelope as soon as possible. There is a letter from me explaining everything and some papers that need to be signed and mailed in the enclosed prepaid envelope.
Damn! She used to always sign at least 'Love, Candy' if not something friskier, depending on her mood. Lately it had just been, 'Candy.' I looked in the large folder and saw the envelope. It was sealed so I put off looking at it for a while. It was already dark and I'd just gotten home from Mexico City. While I was at the airport waiting for my luggage I got a call from one of the senior partners at the law firm I worked at telling me of an emergency in Barcelona and I need to be there soonest.
I figured I'd grab a shower and send out for a pizza. I was mostly sent to Spanish speaking countries, so sometimes nothing in the world sounded better than a pizza and a couple of beers. I wasn't going to have time to look at the stuff Candy left me until I got on the plane. United had a flight that left Denver at seven a.m. through Philadelphia and then an overnighter to Barcelona getting there at seven the next morning. I started thinking what time I would have to get up to catch the early morning flight and felt sleepy already.
I called in the order for a small supreme and figured the thirty minutes they told me for delivery would be more like forty-five. I took a shower and finished my first beer before the delivery guy showed up. I took my time with the pizza and repacked my clothes. I did this so much that I had enough extra of everything so that I could do a quick turnaround if I had to and not worry about washing clothes. I figured I'd get five or six hours of sleep if I were lucky.
I lay there in the dark after I went to bed trying to relax. I just had a general outline of the problem so there wasn't much I could do until I got to the hotel. When I went to Barcelona they always put me up at the Grand Marina Hotel. It was right next to a trade center and convention center and on the waterfront.
The meeting I would be in would be at a conference room at the trade center. The hotel was the closest one to the cruise terminal so there was always an eclectic group of people around the hotel: passengers going to or returning from cruises, trade conventions, groups for meetings. There were people from all over the world at the hotel which made it a fascinating place.
As I drifted off I wondered what was so important in that manila envelope ... it couldn't have been more important than pizza and beer.
I slept better than expected and check-in for business class was a whiz. I really didn't feel like looking through the folder in the mail; I left it in my briefcase in the overhead rack. I usually sat by the aisle but there was no one next to me so I moved over to the window. As I looked at the ground moving steadily below I mused about how I'd gotten into this business.
My mom and dad were from Perú and dad had come to Colorado to attend school at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden. He liked the teaching environment and stayed on as a professor and did a lot of research. After he graduated, he had gone back to Lima and married his long time sweetheart. They were the most compatible couple I'd ever seen.
Both of them had always spoken Spanish to me and I had spent every summer in Perú with one or another relative, so I spoke Spanish like a native, even though I'd been born in the US. I had consistently been a good scholar athlete. The grades came easy to me. The fast times less so but still, I was all state in cross-country, and in track in the mile and half-mile.
That got me a free ride at Stanford where I did a double major in Spanish and International Relations. On the advice of my faculty advisor I went on to The Fisher Graduate School of International Business at the Monterrey Institute of International Studies. I did a double specialization in International Negotiation/Conflict Resolution and Translation and Interpretation with a minor in Portuguese.
What I was interested in – and this came from a paper I'd done at Stanford – was International Conflict Resolution. I found the topic fascinating and spent a lot of time drinking beer with students from all around the world. We would argue until no one had money left for beer and resume a couple of days later. It was fun and I learned a lot – I was motivated so I soaked it up like a sponge.
I met Candy a couple of months before I was to graduate. I wound up two courses short to graduate in the spring after two years so I had to stay for the summer. I was playing golf at the course at Pacific Grove. Their fourth hole was 259 yards from the white tees. I could hit the ball pretty good but I was inconsistent as hell. I'd never come within thirty yards of the green even with the wind. This time I was hitting into a light breeze but somehow everything went just right and I really hammered one.
It hit right at the edge of the green, took one bounce and hit the blonde leaning over sighting her putt in exactly the right place for her to get to her maximum level of being pissed off very quickly. Her shorts were stretched tight as she bent over and the ball bounced off her butt like it was coming off a trampoline! I remember thinking, "Damn, that had to sting!" I ran up to see if she was hurt. I was dazzled by her beauty and was as close to speechless as I've ever been.
She was quite short, maybe five-one, with a round, firm body. I figured she was carrying about ten pounds more than ideal for her, but she looked sexy as hell. I stood there staring at her while she ranted and raved at what an idiot I was. This went on for a couple of minutes before she finally figured out I wasn't listening ... I was admiring. Her feminine instincts took over and she gave me a smile that would have done Marilyn Monroe proud.
"I'm Candy Allard. Where are you taking me to dinner?"
I finally woke up and quickly suggested a fine Hungarian place in Carmel. She was in a twosome with a girl friend of hers and I was playing was a friend that was a good professor but a duffer at golf, so we made it a foursome and finished the best of friends. Later that night she showed me her bruise – it was nasty – and she made me rub it. I did a really good job!
She had just finished her law degree at Santa Clara and was taking a cram course in Carmel to prepare for the bar exam. Her specialty, of course, was International Law. Six months later we were married and she was working with a law firm in Denver that did a lot of legal work in petroleum exploration in all the appropriate places around the world.
I took a job with a New York firm doing Conflict Resolution. Most of my work was in Spanish speaking countries, mostly Spain and South America. In addition to actually helping resolve disputes I would sometimes do training to help companies - or once in Madrid a union and a government organization - to work together to resolve conflicts.
With all the travel I did I could live anywhere. When I hired on they actually wanted me to live in Madrid; that, of course, was a non-starter with my new wife, Candy. Not to mention the bonus of being able to see my parents anytime I wanted.
I changed planes in Philadelphia and fell asleep quickly on the overnight leg to Barcelona. When I got checked in at the hotel I was rested and wide awake so I picked up the faxes and after a light breakfast I prepared for the two days of meetings the next day. As I was putting the material back in my briefcase I saw the folder that Candy had left me.
I figured I'd better get to it so I went down by the pool. I figured I might as well enjoy myself. It was such a lovely day I ordered a glass of cava, a sparkling wine, from one of the local producers.
As I took the glass from the waiter a woman was getting out of the pool and she immediately captured my attention. She had on a bikini – not much material as was the European style, and as she pulled herself up the weight of the water made the top part of her suit sag. I could see her breasts, not large but certainly enough for most men, with the nipples erect over the dark pink areolas.
She looked up and saw where I was staring and gave me a megawatt smile as she climbed on out of the pool. She walked over to a nearby lounge under an umbrella. I was always amazed at the more relaxed view women in Europe - especially in the Mediterranean countries – have about showing their bodies. I guess this woman took my interest as a compliment.
She wasn't what I would call pretty; she had a handsome face with strong bone structure, long dark red hair and a body that was close to being all I could ask for – not that I was asking! Her breasts were slightly small and her hips were slightly wide. But somehow the overall package exuded sex appeal. She was the woman that once seen led to erotic dreams for a lifetime. I nodded to myself: the man that wins her (I'd seen no rings) was better off than if he'd won the lottery.
I shook my head as the woman lay down because she folded her swimsuit bra down to get the sun, barely showing her still erect nipple. Focus, Charlie!
I sipped the slightly sweet cava as I looked through all the stuff in the folder Candy had left me, saving the manila folder for last. I was, finally, getting curious about it. Mostly it was routine: a letter from my tax guy about IRS questions about my expenses, a bonus check for a good result in Santiago, Chile, and several letters from my investment broker. I took out the envelope and slid my finger under the edge to open it up. There was something from our lawyers and a letter from Candy.
I figured I'd better read the letter first to see what it was all about.
I'm sure this is no surprise to you, as we almost never see each other. I wasn't looking for it but over the last few visits to London I've fallen in love with one of the lawyers there.
At this point I dropped my cava with pieces of glass shards flying everywhere. The well-trained staff immediately cleaned it up and brought me a new glass. The woman with the long dark red hair and the perky nipples looked over at me with at first curiosity, then concern, as she slowly unwound her long legs from the lounge and walked over to me.
She asked me in Spanish (all of our subsequent conversations were in Spanish), "Are you okay?"
I mumbled, stuttered, "My wife, she ... oh, shit!" I took the new glass of cava and downed it like it was the cheapest rye.
She looked at me in a sad way - I think she kind of figured it out. It was only after the left, giving me one of those lingering, curious but non-intrusive looks that women seem to know how to do from birth. Maybe it was some atavistic instinct having to do with survival of the species. It wasn't until she had walked away that it dawned on me that her accent was not from Spain, but from Chile.
I waggled my empty glass and started reading again.
I don't see any problems. I'm moving to London right away; the transfer is already approved. I never liked Denver ... it was just too provincial for me. Except for me you would have been working out of Madrid anyway. I guess you will miss your parents, but – well, I don't know what to say.
I didn't exactly fall out of love with you; it's that we were apart so much that you were no longer a habit. Please sign the papers as soon as possible since Llewellyn and I want to get married at Christmas. You remember him, don't you? We met him last year when he was in town for a meeting.
Yeah, I remembered him. Damn, I thought he was gay!
Do be a dear and don't ruffle any feathers. I mean, Charlie, what good is it to be civilized if we don't act that way.
I felt very uncivilized right then.
Please do take care of the money things. Llewellyn is such a darling and his family has so much money that there is no rush for you to clean up the details, but, dear Charlie, we do need to keep things tidy, don't we?
I'm sorry to do it this way but we just never seemed to see each other. Do take care of yourself, dear.
Why, that bitch! Why, that goddamned bitch! I didn't know which I was more of, pissed off or supremely embarrassed. I grabbed my stuff and headed to my room. As I passed the woman, as I was now thinking of her, she gave me such a serious look that I could swear she had read the letter.
I got to the room and threw the folder full of shit against the wall and picked up the phone to order a bottle of fine Spanish brandy. I looked in the mirror and shook my head. No, that was the easy route - I wasn't going to go that way. Instead I took a small bottle of Lustau Amontillado from the mini-bar and poured it in a glass ... slowly sipping it, enjoying the nutty character as my frustration made me feel like hitting something – or someone.
There was no one to yell at. No one to hit up the side of the head. No one to explain what the hell had happened. I didn't even know what country Candy was in. We both had international cell phones that operated in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Pacific Rim including Australia, plus with the added GSM 1900 frequency, the United States, Canada and a growing part of South America.
I called her cell and to my amazement it rang and she immediately answered it.
"Candy, it that you?"
"Charlie! I was hoping to talk to you. You were a dear and signed the papers, didn't you?"
"Uh, well, no. I had to immediately come to Barcelona. I've just had a chance to read your letter. I haven't had a chance to look at the papers as yet."
"Oh, Charlie, you have to sign them. It is just so important. Llewellyn's family is crazy ready for the wedding. His dad is the sweetest man ... he is an Earl or Duke or one of those things. I can't keep it straight, but he seems totally important and everyone calls him sir!"
I held the phone away from me, giving it a strange look. Had this small piece of plastic and its embedded electronics somehow captured the brilliant lawyer I'd married not so long ago and made her an airhead Valley Girl? Maybe Llewellyn was gay! I couldn't see how that could really help, but the thought made me feel better.
"Unh, Candy, look, I gotta go. A meeting. Look, I'll read the papers and see what's going on."
"Oh, Charlie, you are so sweet. Thanks, ever so much. Toodle-oo."
'Toodle-oo?' Who the hell was that? Damn, maybe she was gay too?
I took a shower, shaved, and just for the hell of it, took another shower. I felt depressed ... depressed and wet and as red as a lobster.
I went down to the restaurant, the Aire de Mar, which was as highly rated as the hotel was. The maitre d' knew me well and led me back to a quiet corner. As we approached the table I usually sat at, a woman with long dark red hair, the woman, stood up.
"Señor, please sit with me."
The maitre d' looked at me and I shrugged, so he pulled out the chair for me.
The woman gave me a generous smile that turned her somewhat plain face into something enchanting.
I smiled back, "I have something to confess, Señorita - not knowing your name I have come to think of you as the woman. I am Charlie Castillo and I can't just call you that. May I have the pleasure of knowing your name?"
"Of course ... Charlie? I'm Ana Gálvez but please call me Ana."
"Ana, I have to say that you have the loveliest," here I paused and glanced helplessly at her low cut dress that showed more than enough of the cleavage of her breasts delicately hidden behind the décolletage of her dress to keep me interested, "the loveliest hair that I can ever remember seeing."
She blushed, faintly – she was after all a woman of the world – but in a manner that made her immediately endearing to me.
I continued, "That dark red color, the color of the tiles at Montserrat, aged by the sun and wind over the centuries. That color makes the light green of the new pastures in Ireland each spring captured in your eyes look even more lovely."
I was in this strange mood of despair and freedom - from what? - mixed together with the sudden appearance of this charming woman. The hell with Candy! I was going to flirt with this woman, Ana. I felt a release ... almost like a drug taking effect and making me as open and easy with this woman as I had ever been with any I'd ever met. I was playing a part and I would play it to the hilt.
"Your Spanish, Charlie, I can't place it. Where are you from, Charlie?"
I rapidly answered in Castilian Spanish, then the noticeably different Argentine accent, and quickly finishing in the Peruvian Limeño and of the barrio in Santiago. "I'm here tonight to bring a smile to an expatriate woman from Santiago."
"You ... you're not from Chile, no?"
"No," I laughed. "My parents are from Lima, I was born in Colorado, but I have an ear for language, for the nuances of place, for the talk of the people.
"I have spoken Spanish all my life but I have also trained hard at it as both a translator and as an interpreter. My friends from college were from most of the Spanish speaking countries. I have, many times, been to Santiago on business." Looking at her fingers, still no rings to see - not even white lines showing on her well tanned ring finger - I continued, "And I have to say, Señorita, that the loveliest of all women are from Chile."
She laughed, then responded, "And how much Irish do you have in you ... you seem to have more than your fair share of blarney."
I smiled at that, and then she continued, in a more serious mien.
"Charlie, I ... I couldn't help but notice this afternoon when you dropped the glass. You were fine, flirting with me like you should, then ... you changed. What happened, Charlie?"
It was like she had dumped a pitcher of ice water over me. The false gaiety one sometimes assumes in the face of perceived danger was gone as fast as the betting stub of a favored horse finishing ten lengths behind the field. I stood up too suddenly, knocking my chair over backward with a resounding crash, and with a murmured 'excuse me' made my way unsteadily to the restroom.