Shades of Hemingway / Deja’ Voodoo -Part 6, Still Alive and… well

Author’s note:  This is a continuation of a series.  For more information see Shades of Hemingway and Shades of Hemingway / Medium Exposure

    

     “Hey Mac!”

     I lay there looking up at a high open ceiling uncertain of where I am.

     “Hey Mac, gotta smoke?”

     I turn on my side and look at a man virtually bandaged from head to toe.  Past him are several more beds with patients in different stages of hospital care.  This man has one good eye bulging out through the gauze and I realize he is talking to me.

     “No… I’m sorry, I don’t smoke.”

     “Shit fire and save matches!  Goddamn hospital ain’t got shit!”

     I look about at the men, the beds and the hospital accessories being used in their care.

     “Where am I?”

     “Milan.”

     “Milan, Cuba?”

     “Cuba?  You’re in Italy, Mac!  What happened to you, get knocked in the head?”

     “Italy? Huh? Yes… well, I guess so.  What happened to you?”

     “Flammenwerfer, dirty Huns burned me!”

     “What’s a flammen… what ever you said?”

     “A German flamethrower…”

     “A flamethrower?  Jesus, where am I?”

     “Put me next to a looney, did they?  some amnesiac!  At least the guy over there has some fags… used ’em to plug up his wounds, or so I hear.”  Then past me to the man on my opposite side he yells, “Hey Mac… Mac!  You got any smokes?”  But there is no answer.  The man pushes his head back into his pillow in disgust.  I am just about to mention that they probably would not allow him to smoke in the hospital anyway as I roll over to look at the man “smoker” had been yelling at.

     Ring Lardner, Jr. is in the hospital bed next to me.  We are in a military hospital ward of wounded solders and he lies bandaged about his mid-section and legs.  An attractive nurse has taken a tray away having just given him a shot.  Ring looks over at me.  His eyes seem vacant and lost.  He is a young man far from home who as just witnessed first hand the spectacle and barbarian tactics of war.  But his voice is strong.  Ring speaks softly to me.

     “Wake up, Chris.”

     “What?  I am awake!”

     “No, Chris… you’re not.  Wake up this instant.”

     “I’m awake!  Ring; I see you, I can hear you… my eyes are wide open!  The guy next to me needs a cigarette!”

     I look back over my shoulder at “smoker” but he is flat on his back now and completely out of it.

     “She is still alive, Chris.  She is still alive and needs your help.  Wake up, Chris… rescue her.  You’re not too late.”

     I turn away from Ring Lardner, Jr. and look up and down at the rows of hospital beds.  Now they are all empty, even “smoker’s” bed is vacant.  My mind is racing.  I can sense my body detaching, a booster rocket falling away into space… am I dying?

     “Help me, Ring, help me wake up!  Help me find her!”

     “Find who?  Who is she, Chris?  Who is the one you are searching for?”

     I drop my head back down and try to concentrate.  This one is lovely but not the cover girl type which is 13 and playing dress up like some pampered prima donna.  She has never owned a mirror.  A comely servant girl at the well, deep and cool… like the Song of Solomon.  I draw her up to my lips and quench a re-occurring, never ending thirst.  My love is shade on a day made weary by the relentless sun.  She is rain on my parched, dry skin… an angel that is a revelation unto my soul.  A portrait in a gallery; she is the frame, the artist’s name obscured but made most recognizable by the work she displays.  This woman is distance overcome, a flock of geese in flight.  She is the dawn, the dusk and the day in between.  My lady is of the night; the twilight, the moon, the stars, the very heavens above.  Aphrodite is my dream of beauty.  I roll her over in my mind, may I never awaken… there is peace.  Let it go… that is the celebration of being fearless.

     “Chris!  What is her name?”

     I find myself swelling inside; fighting to release, clawing at unseen walls, pulling my body to the surface, grabbing for a lifeline.  Who is she?  What is her name?  I know it.  I must say it.  I must scream it out loud.  I feel myself panicking and losing my form… balancing between substance and fading away into sweet nothingness where there is no conflict or pain.  I begin to slip…

     I want to… surrender.

     “Chris!”

     Am I dying?  It is not so bad…  I tell myself, I hear my voice saying, “It is not so bad…”

     “Wake up, Chris… tell me her name!”

     With everything I can conjure up from within I am kicking towards the surface, reaching for the light, gasping for air… then I erupt.

     “Rachel!”

     Quite frankly the past 24 hours or so had not been very kind to me.  I had  1) been kidnapped, drugged then abandoned on highway A1A in the middle of the Florida Keys,  2)  been interrogated by a KWPD detective that wanted to pulverize me for sleeping with his ex,  3) run like a scalded dog from an apartment that I couldn’t find my way back to if my life depended on it without my money, I.D. or shoes,  4) shuttled across the Florida Straits as a stowaway in an outdated Cuban yacht with a man that I thought wanted to kill me and then  5) been El Ka-bonged by a scrawny thug looking for loose change in the back seat of his car.  And through all of this I am trying to rescue a woman I had only known ever so briefly and yet felt a spiritual connection to (and shared earth moving sex with) that made me willing to go wherever and do just about anything for.  I lay thinking of all this in that place where you have been awakened but have not fully opened your eyes to yet.

     Apparently when Enrique drew his pistol back then brought it crashing down on my skull he had inadvertently placed his finger on the trigger which clenched at the point of impact and fired the gun, causing him to panic.  Leaving me for dead at the side of the road, Enrique had hauled ass back to Havana.

     I lay there in my semi-conscience state for a while, wondering where I was and how I had gotten there.  I was not where I had been left on the road but placed upon a bed.  I could hear activity, children in the background while something like cooking utensils clamored in a sink.  I blinked my eyes open and caught a leathery faced old man with the bristle of a beard peering down at me.  He said nothing but eased back and motioned to someone out of my range of vision.  An older woman appeared with a concerned look and a cool, damp wash cloth and began dabbing my forehead.  The old man said something to her and she shushed him then smiled down at me.

     “Rela’jese ahora, ” she tells me, “usted sera’ fino.”

     “No comprehenda Espanole.”

     “shh… shhh” she whispers, “rela’jese… rela’jese.”  as I fade off.

     My eyes open to the woman again and I try to move my head but it hurts, throbs…

     “Lie still.  Who was it that tried to kill you?”

     It is a woman’s voice, but not the one who has been taking care of me.  She is out of my sight, but nearby at the head of the bed.  I can sense her.  I try to turn my head to look at her but again the throbbing starts.

     “Lie still.  You have a mild concussion.”

     “Mild?”  I replied to the woman I could not see.  “Man, I’d hate to have had a spicy one…  and I don’t know who he was, we’d only just met… and then he tried to rob me.”

     I hear her moving, rising… standing up beside me, her voice traveling towards the ceiling.

     “Good!  You have a sense of humor.  Rest easy, you’ll be fine in a few days.”

     “I haven’t got a few days, I haven’t got a few hours.  Don’t you have some aspirin or something?”

     The voice moves in front of me.  She looks down.  An attractive but plain faced Cuban woman in her mid-30’s dressed in a t-shirt and khakis lifts my arm up checking my pulse.  The woman beside her whispers something but I can not make it out.

     “You need not worry, the Lord will wait for you.”

     “I’m hoping He’ll wait a few more decades for me.”

     She laughs openly.  Her teeth are even and white, when she smiles her entire face radiates, transforming her from plain to gorgeous.  She shakes her head.

     “Not thee Lord!  Lord Cristobal.  He knows you are coming and he will wait for you.”

     “How do you know I am looking for him?”

     “You come to pay a ransom, I presume.  Why else would they go to all the trouble of trying to rob you… an American in our country.”

     “A mistaken identity, he thought I was a guy with money.  What makes you think I am American?”

     “Only an American would be so trusting as to accept a ride with a stranger.”

     “That’s what I get for having faith in Cuban hospitality, I guess.”

     “Oh?  And what are you enjoying now?”

     I tilt my head up a little to see the other woman and the old man nearby, watching me and listening carefully.

     “Yes, you’re quite right… I’m sorry, thank you for helping me.”

     She smiles.  Her face changes dramatically when she smiles, a jack-in-the-box waiting to pop out at any moment and when it does… surprise!  beautiful…

     “Where am I?”

     “In the house of my father, Juan Revuelta, just outside the city of Pinar del Rio.”

     “How did you happen to find me?”

     “The road your driver turned off on leads to our home.  My niece and nephew were outside playing and heard a gunshot.  Papa found you alongside of the road.”

     I presumed the old man who was hovering nearby was Juan Revuelta.  I looked up at him and tried to smile.

     “Muchos gracias, senior.”

     He does not smile, only stares down at me briefly then speaks softly to the woman who has the damp cloth.  The younger woman smiles again.  I am trying to sit myself up but she presses down on me with her hands until I relax again. 

     “What did he say?”

     “You speak poor Spanish.”

     “Poor?  That’s nothing.  My understanding of it is near the poverty level.”

     She laughs again.  It is as though she has been storing up all this glowing personality for me to unlock and release out into the world.

     “And yet you come all the way here to find Lord Cristobal?  You must be a very brave man.”

     “Or very stupid, I’m not sure which.”

     “Perhaps we will know soon enough.”

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