Antipodes: The Amethyst Twins

Annegreth and Lieslotte weren’t twins. An instant or two dedicated to closer inspection revealed this.

Yet thanks to same shaggy blonde manes, blue eyes, clear, sun-blessed complexions, and manners of smiling that made each tall though not lanky woman appear uncannily similar, clearer observations rescinded the quick judgment. Neither Uruguayan was truly indistinguishable from another. Yet that’s how most undiscerning strangers like MacDiarmid saw them.

Cousins, the lean, barely 20-year-old women told us plenty of people mistook them for sisters. It reminded me of the premise behind The Patty Duke Show. All three of my listeners were considerably younger than me. Despite the show’s basis being so sitcom simple, they failed grasping my explanation of mid-60s American televised pop culture.

On The Patty Duke Show, two identical cousins owned radically different behaviors. One was shy, the other bold. Weekly contrivances found one or the other in predicaments better suited for the other’s demeanor. Naturally hijinks ensued.

Though they themselves outwardly embodied what I tried describing, the obvious failed implanting itself among the women and MacDiarmid, evidently a man who during his childhood had never been babysat by now ancient reruns on daytime TV. Nonetheless this mental cotton candy that numbed viewers for three years helped further ingratiate a pair of Uruguayan women to an American duo.

Before continuing, let me sketch MacDiarmid. Business drew him to Buenos Aires. He represented a Midwest agricultural firm sniffing around the possibilities of entering contracts with a like-minded Argentine enterprise. Something about barging into the global economy using offshore tax breaks through hungry partners lured the Midwesterners.

MacDiarmid, a fluent Spanish speaker, came across as one of those corn-fed, hulking, stolid men those states between Pennsylvania and Wyoming effortlessly produce. To this Northeasterner, he was earnest, polite, and without the cynicism inherent in sophisticates calling the Boston-Washington corridor home, a k a civilization.

Open-faced and watchful, MacDiarmid was unpretentious. Intemperate, he’d speak his mind. This habit never let him gauge his words’ aftereffects.

His hair shone the color of wheat. Large and looming, I correctly gathered that he’d once been a road grading offensive lineman for a Big-10 school.

Business in Argentina had quickly steepened his learning curve. Accustomed to the North American manner of conducting commerce in minuet fashion, the antipodal way of sealing a deal compelled him to hurriedly learn new rhythms and steps. The South Americans did not adhere to our norteamericano SOP. His hosts kept quite fluid business hours.

When the work day was nearly concluding in Chicago or Kansas City or Detroit, the starter’s pistol was about to go off in Buenos Aires. And should discussions continue over dinner, well, the premise for going out negotiations, but in actuality entertainment better suited the occasion, those meals might’ve started between 10 and 11 at night – at the earliest – and easily stretched into 2 or 3 in the morning.

So much for any getting into the office early nonsense.

Annegreth, Lieslotte, and I caught MacDiarmid beyond the tail end of business. In fact he’d sealed deals and shaken hands a day or two before we converged on him.

Here’s what I most esteemed about MacDiarmid – rather than jump on a plane and rush back to the States, he’d had several more days allotted in Argentina. He decided to expend them there. A grind would’ve somehow believed himself dutibound to return to his home office instead of explore and soak up what he could of life and impressions below the Tropic of Capricorn.

MacDiarmid found his way into the Shamrock after the most basic of inquiries. Where could he celebrate Dia del San Patricio? How St. Patrick’s Day became such an extravaganza in Argentina remains a mystery. One might’ve thought Carnival offered the bigger blast. In Brazil, certainly. Surprisingly even Uruguay provided more pageantry towards that observation. But Argentina? Meh.

While the Shamrock hosted a grand time, real drunken revelry, or as some might see it, balls-out bedlam, occurred in el centro. In a copse of bars resembling a South American version of Wrigleyville, Argentine party people having no concept of snakes or Ireland honored the saint with fanatical bingeing.

In the Shamrock, bingeing was less fanatical though just as welcome. El centro’s hordes steered MacDiarmid into the Shamrock. The gen he’d received from his hotel’s staff informed him better less chaotic hours waited in the Barrio Norte bar. Furthermore, he had the likelihood of meeting a sociable mixture of visitors and locals at the lower decibel, relatively less congested Shamrock.

When we discussed his being inside the Shamrock, MacDiarmid confessed that if he’d been 10 years younger to have been on Spring Break, his ass would’ve been outside square in the middle of el centro’s joyous rioting. Nodding in complete agreement, I admitted having sampled the happy unrest during a previous trip. It was one of the few times I wished it possible to relive several nights of my undergraduate years.

Nevertheless, scanning the packed loud Shamrock and eyeballing scads of tenuously inhibited young women becoming much less so as the evening progressed, we decided this the preferable place for adult professionals seeking that sweet special “sum’thin.”

The cousins descended upon us. Beaming brightly, the women asked if they could join us at our table. Say this for MacDiarmid, for a tractor he moved fast. Our small table lacked an empty seat. He reached out, snatched a somehow vacant one from another table, and filled the empty side. Maybe it was unnecessary but we invited the cousins to sit.

While each woman made herself comfortable, I high-signed a waitress. Jammed as the room was and as insistent as other thirsty patrons were, this Yanqui’s knowing Tipping was not a city in China diverted a server who attended to our needs pronto.

Annegreth and Lieslotte were direct. After learning the women’s backgrounds, one determined this their natural manner.

MacDiarmid and I interested them. By obviously skewing older and being among the establishment’s more imposing specimens, we stood out in the Shamrock. Intriguing them they fearlessly perused us. After ascertaining we weren’t Brazilians – right or wrong, there existed the possibility MacDiarmid was some kind of white money from north of Rio Jaguarão and that I served as his black body man – both swooped.

Yeah. A lot of those outdated notions persisted throughout South America. Skimming El Clarin classifieds corroborated this. Complexion and appearances defined the responses and attitudes extended. Plenty of times Argentine merchants initially high-hatted this potential customer until he spoke. Once they discovered this negro a norteamericano, not a fellow Latin American or God help that poor bastard, an African, service and attentiveness passed obsequious into slavish.

Where doesn’t the American greenback have the ability to make water run uphill?

Annegreth and Lieslotte were members of ranching families in Uruguay. The pair had come to Buenos Aires to indulge in heightened levels of relaxation and amusement missing in Montevideo. Firm handshakes confirmed both were active ranchers, not dilettantes who owned cattle. Moisturize their hands as both doubtlessly did, the amounts applied softened palms, yes, but did nothing to lessen any callus.

Each branch of their families had immigrated from Germany during the late 19th century. Both had thrived in the Western Hemisphere ever since.

Unlike ethnic North American Anglos who readily become mawkish regarding “the old country,” their diluted heritage, both women expressed minor at best interest in either despite speaking German, as well as Spanish, Portuguese, and English.

How about that? Those rancher chicks spoke three more languages, and doubtlessly better English, than most Americans.

Not many Annegreths or Lieslottes anywhere, much less in South America. Blasé as each woman professed being about her heritage, the names bestowed by both sets of parents not only acknowledged a forbearer but also honored her.

Strangers as MacDiarmid and I truly were, our getting along so cordially educated them. In their eyes we’d been behaving with the familiar ease of long-time buds. Abroad, it’s a trait I notice common to Americans beyond our shores. Outside of the States don’t we make almost immediate connections with our fellow traveling countrymen? Generalizing here, aren’t most foreign nationals aloof and nearly estranged from their own compatriots under similar circumstances?

What is it in the American character that allows us to bond among ourselves so quickly?

Back then my job consisted of many tasks. Few of them linear. It defied concise explanation. “Weird” probably served as the best catch-all, but then naturally questioners asked me to explain “weird.” And when venturing into details, eyes glazed over.

Ultimately, and depending on the party with whom I spoke, he or she either heard the sketchy basic clarification, or if I felt real good, a whopper. The latter issue listeners instinctively knew to judge suspiciously. Good for them! Yet didn’t it bear enough plausibility that, what the hell, it could’ve been true!?

That night at the Shamrock with MacDiarmid, Annegreth and Lieslotte, I was feeling real good. The deluxe tall tale they heard ought’ve had bullshit bells clanging throughout Buenos Aires.

See, a “special agency” engaged our firm to lastly determine whether any remnants existed that end-stage Nazis and their cargo escaped to Argentina in U-boats. Naturally by our era the reported stolen loot had been long dispersed, spent, and the rumored “superweapons” whose production the U.S. Eighth Air Force and RAF had disrupted were obsolete; the two-legged rats who’d absconded senile or good ‘n’ dead.

While others had already solidly disproven a fantasy with more legs than Captain Kidd’s buried treasure, Nazi evil inspired revived speculation. Often in the past a misunderstood snatch of an eavesdropped conversation sufficed to rev up the combined investigative efforts of Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, and of course Geraldo Rivera. This time, though, rather than alert what bad actors remained with such a show of detective force, and after so much loud fanfare led to previous empty public discovery, the concerns engaged us. Because we’re discreet.

I skipped the usual harbors. After all, those nests have been so picked over haven’t the locals started nice little industries persuading suckers they looked upon spots where U-boats docked after the war?

Instead, knowing mine a brown M&M’s task, I poked around some of the more obscure inlets. I saw plenty of whales breaching the ocean’s surface, but no rusting submarines. Not even a corroding keel.

If the Nazi rat line to Argentina ever included such seaborne methods, as soon as those vessels disgorged everything of value, they were towed out into the South Atlantic and scuttled. In that murky deep, each now has collected as many barnacles as the Graf Spee.

Abetted by alcohol, left slack-jawed and incredulous through “alternative history” glibly told in an authoritative manner, the dubious trio caromed between skepticism and belief. I left them there, then left it to MacDiarmid to explain brown M&M’s to Annegreth and Lieslotte, and either of the women to clear up Graf Spee to him.

Our evening ended early. Night still blackened the sky outside the Shamrock. We walked the chatty women to a nearby taxi rank. Among us we raised the possibility of getting together later in the day … for something. The Uruguayans were amenable, but to what? I mentioned a spectacular playing in an el centro theatre, Tanguera. Through dance, no, through tango, it presented the Argentine immigrant experience.

Wouldn’t watching it be a great way for MacDiarmid and me to soak up culture while the women were entertained? Sure. The Uruguayans judged the suggestion marvelous. My fellow norteamericano fell into line without prompting. I collected phone numbers and promised informing all about the next night’s particulars sometime during the day.

The women exchanged chaste awkward kisses with us.

Watching the small black and yellow cab drive off, MacDiarmid wondered aloud about Annegreth and Lieslotte possibly coming across. My only answer possible: “If you must ask …”

Better than pleasing her, it delighted the box office clerk to sell Tanguera seats to a norteamericano for that evening’s performance.

I arranged transportation. No way MacDiarmid and I alone would’ve squeezed into the clown cars Porteños called taxis. Forget about getting two other adults in them.

My hotel contracted with a liveryman. Arrizetta, a genial retiree who supplemented his pension by driving commercially. Until explained to me, Arrizetta always seemed around like one of those more opportune movie cabbies. An Argentine Frank McHugh.

I should’ve realized sooner his propensity for driving me to and from the airport, as well as remote destinations beyond the subway’s proximity and reach, sat beyond mere fortune. He had flight schedules between Buenos Aires and North America/Europe memorized. Naturally. A good portion of the hotel’s guests departed from both continents.

Off we went to retrieve MacDiarmid.

He didn’t disappoint. Skipping his glad rags, MacDiarmid had busted out his bag, a somber tailored suit. Then while traveling, and never knowing if and when my own might be necessary, I also packed deliberate adult wear. Together we must’ve resembled a pair of sedate Beau Brummels.

Annegreth and Lieslotte lodged in a hotel coughing fusty. A five story restored fin de siècle exterior loomed out of the modern cityscape. Before entering, we saw a bootblack idling near the entrance. He shined our wingtips into gleaming onyx.

MacDiarmid called to Arrizetta, asking him whether he wanted his own shoes buffed. The old man jumped at the novelty. Our footwear spiffy, MacDiarmid paid happily and generously. Funny thing happened afterwards. Men wearing leather shoes passing by seeing the revival the bootblack had applied to ours stopped, lined up, and submitted their own uppers to his efforts.

Arrizetta returned to his vehicle. MacDiarmid and I strode into an interior so hushed, so understated, the lobby and those plush spaces we spied from there might’ve defined an earlier version of grave opulence. It also reminded me the French had a good deal of influence in early Argentina.

Rather than boiling upstairs to fetch our dates, MacDiarmid announced us. Several minutes later an elevator banged to a halt on the lobby floor. The door wheezed open and out stepped the Uruguayans. What had been untamed manes last night were now twirled into updos. Sparingly applied makeup freshened rather than sensualized both.

Floral patterned sheaths broadly bared their necks and shoulders while hems stopped just above the knees. Sensible pumps lifted both by about two inches.

Reading their expressions, we’d ramped up our games significantly. Fresh grooming was a given they’d expected. Our sartorial upgrade clearly rocketed esteem.

In a giddy aside, MacDiarmid said, “Oh, man! We are so far in we’re on the other side!”

Again awkward and chaste kisses from the women but these tinged with nerves. We escorted them outside.

Arrizetta hadn’t jumped back into his vehicle. Instead he’d waited for his fares on the passenger side. When he saw the two dishes between us, he straightened up and smiled until he almost leered. If his greeting to them had been any more gracious it would’ve been oleaginous.

On the ride to the theatre, grinning Arrizetta chatted up the Uruguayans more than he ever had me in all our rides combined. The old dog!

Inside the venue with time to waste before the curtain rose, the women visited the powder room. There they probably planned world domination. We men bellied up to the bar for a cocktail or two. MacDiarmid again asked me the show’s theme.

From what I understood it unfurled Argentina’s immigrant past through dance, specifically tango. Showing indifference, he shrugged. After a few sips, he grilled me from left field. MacDiarmid wondered if I’d noticed the perfume both women had daubed on themselves.

Not really. Their applied scent was subtle.

Undeterred, MacDiarmid decided it must derive from amethyst. Ordinarily indifferent to perfume unless it really reeked so bad one needed to drive over a skunk several times to kill the stench, the main ingredient he suggested sounded senseless. So absurd it turned itself over in my mind. New York Times and New York Magazine puzzle clues and answers solved the dilemma. I corrected him.

“You mean ambergris. Ambergris is whale shit used to make perfume. Amethyst is a mineral. You know, a rock.”

MacDiarmid replied, “So they’re ambergris twins? Not amethyst? You think they know they’re spraying themselves with whale shit?”

I left that out there unremarked upon. It vanished by itself. I should’ve been glad he didn’t compare what they trailed to barbecue sauce.

Once the final curtain fell, initial comments about the show were subsumed by our discussing where to dine. Each of us shared this sentiment – none of us wanted anything heavy. I dredged up an Italian place, a trattoria serving modern not red sauce cuisine. It occupied a busy portion of fashionable curbside near El Ateneo Grand Splendid. A fabulous bookstore. No. An emporium of print.

I mentioned the latter fully knowing the fact would draw blanks from MacDiarmid and crickets from Annegreth and Lieslotte. But sometimes in this old world one must simply do for one’s self.

Book emporium proprietors had bought a disused theater. They converted it into a bibliophile’s temple. Inside, beneath a soaring ceiling and among stacks that had been fitted everywhere – even into one-time loge boxes, faithful readers could worship the printed word at leisure in luxury.

Every stay in Buenos Aires included a visit to El Ateneo Grand Splendid. After each departure I’d ankle down the block to the trattoria where we sat, always requesting an outside table. If I wasn’t further inspecting, appraising my purchases, or finishing reading that day’s edition of El Clarin, I’d people watch. A pair of shades, Ray-Bans naturally, made spying easy.

Ray-Bans and the subjects selectively gazed upon transformed everyman into a gossip journalist, a la La Dolce Vita. (“Gossip journalist.” There’s an oxymoron.) When nearby bureaus released their cubicle slaves and those Porteños seeking pleasure, amusement, and diversion replaced them, the pavement gradually began to get livelier as evening deepened and artificial lighting brightened.

Immersion in a city while its pulse changed should never be a missed experience. We four did our utmost to add to the liveliness … and licentiousness.

I’ve forgotten where MacDiarmid said he lodged. Wherever it had been, by his swiveling head and google eyes he’d found that neighborhood’s ambient female talent lacking. Poor fellow. He desperately needed Ray-Bans.

Rather than find him boorish, Annegreth and Lieslotte laughed at his antics. Of course. They were Latin American women. Their culture often forgave and largely gave wide allowance to presumed manly appetites. They generally accepted men cannot control themselves.

Eventually MacDiarmid remembered steak sat at our table. He ceased scoping the hamburger that relayed around us to focus on the quality cuts at hand.

Annegreth and Lieslotte disassembled Tanguera. Neither could decide whether its basis, tango, simplified the immigrant experience or gave it short-shrift in order to emphasize the dancing. About the last we were all in agreement. It was terrific. Particularly how the first numbers reflected the hesitancy of newcomers in a strange land. Hey. They needed time to get their footing. And once the new Argentines became more assured, that confidence found expression in the intricate routines presented.

The kind neophytes won’t find in any tango manual.

MacDiarmid got a skosh stuck on the instances when men paired with men. The possible same-sex component didn’t completely bother him. He only questioned men partnering with other men. Women in similar circumstances probably might’ve had him yelling “Encore!” had it been permissible.

Annegreth or Lieslotte straightened him out. In every European New World colonization, men overwhelmingly crowded the first ranks of arrivals. Women came later. They weren’t adventurers, exploiters, or exploiters. Until the civilizers amounted in sufficient numbers, men compensated.

Why, yes, a percentage were homosexuals. That was expected. The vast majority, though, merely sought pastimes that relieved the backbreaking nature of conquest. The loneliness, the rote, the drudgery, the ennui. By finding such diversions with other men, they didn’t forfeit what MacDiarmid considered “manliness.”

By the way, though it wasn’t inferred, Tanguera implied that aspect of immigration.

One of the women asked whether MacDiarmid or I tangoed. Had his mouth been full of liquid, I bet MacDiarmid would’ve performed a spit-take worthy of being featured on a Make Room for Daddy episode.

I confessed to knowing the basic steps … if they were chalked on the floor. The Uruguayans mistook my truth for modesty. Both promised to take us through our paces at a milonga.

At that possibility, MacDiarmid looked ready for a cigarette and blindfold.

Over our simple pasta repast – Who didn’t go with chicken? Baked garlic or cacciatore? – both Uruguayans quizzed me about my heritage. Clearly unlike theirs or even MacDiarmid’s, convolution formed mine.

“Convolution.” A swell word for the phrase “all over the place.”

A member of the 1790 Club, I stopped believing in any hyphens for this American. The first census for the newly created United States took place in 1790. Some modern family members played genealogy detectives and discovered our branches, masters and chattel, all listed.

For me, the “old country” was South Carolina. From hereon I had MacDiarmid translate.

Despite their apparent fluency, I didn’t assume their grasp of American history all that deep. I didn’t want Annegreth or Lieslotte confused. MacDiarmid’s translation pleased me. His voice assumed a smooth timbre. The same mine might’ve had my tongue been as supple in Spanish.

I inquired of my audience whether any had watched The Gangs of New York. Each had. If the movie had a rooting interest, it was The Dead Rabbits, the Irish immigrant Five Points gang. What ethnic American didn’t root for them over the English Protestant descended New Yorkers? Why? Since mass immigration, American national mythology had shifted from the original stalwarts to those unwashed masses huddling in steerage who debarked to push-push-struggle towards improving present lives and futures.

The immigrant saga remains as pure Americana as there will ever be. Yet as I told my dinner companions, like Elvis to most blacks, it meant little to me. The Statue of Liberty is a wonderful gift from France, our nation’s oldest ally. Other than that …

I understood the film’s conflicts, the chafing new residents imposed against old orders. I thought that given the continuous successive waves of immigration since then, the United States did yeomen’s service in tamping down resentments from the previous arrivals. It’s to our character that when any yahoo screamed “the boat is full!” we know the screamer meant no more foreigners. In reply, he or she still suffered automatic rightful ridicule.

After all, other than the native populations slaughtered through Manifest Destiny, what American hadn’t started out as a foreigner?

Ours was a big boat.

The women rapt, the moment needed release. I asked when they planned on visiting the States. Their eyes enlarged into saucers and both laughed.

Each admitted the farthest north she’d ever ventured was Florianopolis, Brazil. Both opined the resort city the safest Brazilian locale for cone visitors. Some justification of this. Few days of reading El Clarin passed without a crime reported somewhere in Brazil against an Argentine or Uruguayan. Usually brutal, vicious, or fatal.

Again dragooning MacDiarmid into translating, I wondered why both women, possessors of higher amounts of wherewithal than their fellow citizens, didn’t travel beyond South America. One of them made a funny in English, insisting the word I intended was “escape.”

Her cousin lumped that, stating, “We don’t live in solitude.”

If meant intentionally, I got her gist. No need to ponder whether MacDiarmid caught the literary allusion.

Annegreth and Lieslotte displayed older, more mature women’s drollery. I liked that. Theirs a trait fed and nurtured by ranching, living on the land.

While at Arizona, I for a while went around with a coed whose family had a sideline raising bantams. Gamecocks.

At that time, in our latest teens, she carried herself with the sort of gravity usually alien in freshmen. Or as an affectation. Hers certainly wasn’t an act.

Perhaps witnessing, being fully involved in the birds’ yearly breeding, training, and combat cycle formed that iron in her early. Annegreth and Lieslotte each pursued lives similar to the Arizona woman’s pattern. Living as the Arizonan did conferred upon her a share of the enterprise’s upkeep. She had responsibilities. She had chores. Others depended on her to fulfill them. Otherwise she unnecessarily added to someone else’s burden.

What fomented resentment faster than picking up another’s slack?

Being dependable, accountable, and trustworthy are invaluable attributes acquirable by no amount of wealth. Demonstration is its currency. And lack of demonstrativeness a byproduct.

Buenos Aires, and to a lesser extent, Montevideo, exhibited a lot of characteristics the women found all kinds of amusing, exciting, diverting, and even edifying. Yet none of them were desirable beyond occasional toe dips. Okay. Deep long toe dips.

Engaging MacDiarmid and me at the Shamrock then proceeding onto this evening, those, however, were dares. More so after both first glimpsed us as they stepped from the hotel elevator. Because at that moment we weren’t just a pair of guys looking to get over – yeah, both fairly easily intuited we Americanos sought to charm them out of their propriety and clothes – but embodied that strange animal more exotic than unicorns.

Gentlemen.

In an aside, I do enjoy hearing native Spanish and Latin American women label me a caballero. It doesn’t happen often enough.

This time the Uruguayans dragooned MacDiarmid into translating while each took turns explicating tonight … and maybe afterward.

Bottom line: we couldn’t accompany them to their hotel then be seen trailing both into their room. Members of each family called that French pile in Buenos Aires a home away from home. Management and staff were nearly as close as family. Discretion kept mouths shut. Okay. Conversation muted. Flaunting would’ve sped word back to their respective estancias before the ferry crossed River Plate. As women in Latin America, neither possessed any latitude of men.

Thing was both sets of parents outwardly adhered to the conventional standards. In reality, and apart, mothers and fathers confided to Annegreth and Lieslotte they knew their daughters were, as one might say delicately, “adventurous.” While it’s not an adjective either would’ve placed before her own mother, each surmised that at the same age or around it that era’s young women hadn’t been strangers to the sort of subterfuge circling this portion of our evening.

Again, one may suspect; but it remains unconfirmed. And that lack of solid certainty acceptably maintained order and appearances.

In English, I informed my fellow co-conspirators that I had a plan.

“Of course you do,” one of the Uruguayans replied.

Tough for Arrizetta the drive back to my hotel was short. Not a PDA animal like MacDiarmid, well, at least nowhere near as all-devouring, he and Annegreth (or was she Lieslotte?) macked like it was going out of style. Our chauffer paid way too much attention to his rearview mirror for my feel-copping liking.

Although it unnecessary, and Arrizetta himself told me so, I still palmed him several pesos. I’ve repeated this gesture since after our first ride from the airport. He once asked why. I told him because he played music while driving instead of talk radio. If Arrizetta ever listened to talk radio, he never did while I sat behind him as a passenger.

Inside the hotel, past the night shift doorman, the one who most frequently saw me, I directed the trio towards the establishment’s courtesy bar. With the Oasis next door, a tavern where everybody soon learned everybody else’s preferences and bar tabs, no necessity to operate a full saloon. The hotel booze alcove offered several popular cervezas and wines. The kind that either steadied nerves or simply wet whistles.

One didn’t drink them for the taste.

While they selected and bought refreshment then settled themselves across two nearby stubby sofas, I buttonholed the reservation clerk. To a man, I stated my case plainly. He understood so implicitly it probably disturbed him I’d spoken as much as I had.

A second room on my floor. One which didn’t share a wall with mine.

While women’s intuition was legendary, mine told me MacDiarmid was the sort of one-night stand who intended throwing a memorable fuck into whatever piece of strange he dominated. No way I wanted listening to that fucker grunting, or worse hear him try and split Annegreth or Lieslotte even if it killed her while continually crashing the headboard into the wall.

Therefore one room down, please.

Done, I creased the clerk’s palm. Again while it unnecessary, after all little effort was involved because the hotel sat at a roomy occupancy, I considered the future. Mightn’t there come a night or day when my lodging situation needed, say, “massaging and finessing”?

Better to have people already on one’s side than seek them in a pinch.

As the clerk turned chess into checkers, I joined the trio crushing seat cushions. Miracle of miracles! MacDiarmid bought a bottle of Malbec. Filling my wine glass left dregs in the bottle. I hadn’t swallowed a glass of the national tipple since my first venture into Argentina. I’d possibly had more glasses of the stuff in New York than Buenos Aires.

Our small talk was miniscule. I asked if “swig” and “swill” were similar in Spanish. He relayed that to the Uruguayans. After a brief flurry, nope.

Annegreth and Lieslotte blatted a bit about some local celebrity caught up in some common famous personage shenanigans. Had we heard? Nope.

I questioned MacDiarmid whether he enjoyed watching soccer. Not really. I wondered because this hotel offered prestige packages to either Millionario’s or Boca Junior’s matches, the two sides fierce city rivals. He queried what the packages contained.

“Rides to and from, and assigned cushy La-Z-Boys instead of cheap seats, benches or standing in the terraces.”
“No libation?”

“Man,” I told him, “fans down here get good and likkered up before the games. So much so for safety’s sake management doesn’t sell hooch on the premises. That curtails a lot of rioting … inside the stadiums.”

Nope.

The clerk finally appeared. He transferred our second set of card keys to MacDiarmid. As plotted a room separated our parties.

The elevator would not support our foursome’s combined weight. Not that this mattered because we four couldn’t have fit anyway. That thing was not an Otis. This I discovered during my first visit first time going up to my room. Me, the doorman, and my luggage barely fit inside. Whether our weight stressed the machine or it always ascended at snail’s pace, who then knew? Now it’s known. Too much weight stressed the narrow box and it always creaked on ascents.

Lieslotte and I rode the lift first. A few minutes later the complaining conveyance returned depositing MacDiarmid and Annegreth. Before we diverged, the Uruguayans anxiously ascertained we each carried preservativos.

For me, an essential while traveling. MacDiarmid’s response bordered on florid.

“I never travel anywhere without galochas!” MacDiarmid exclaimed. “You never know who you might get in to!”

Grinning, how MacDiarmid didn’t wink broadly I’ll never know. He threw an all-enveloping arm around Annegreth’s shoulders and hupped them both into their room. Instead of slamming shut, the door clicked closed.

As a joke, I asked Lieslotte whether Annegreth was a screamer. She didn’t get the joke.

,” she sighed.

Before crossing our threshold, I gave her a kiss of assurance followed by one of reassurance. Receptive, she received both as I intended.

So much so, Lieslotte told me, “I think the right Patty Duke chose you.”

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