"South America on $320" story # 30

Caracas, Venezuela           August 18, 2002

No, no! Why canīt I stay and dance at Venezuelan weddings!? I donīt wanna go home!
     I rode a bus to the final stop of my trip: Venezuelaīs big capital, Caracas. In two days only, I would be back in the United States. Just enough time to meet "la nueva dueņa de mi corazon" (the new owner of my heart) and some final friends.
     My best friend of the trip, good olī David, had dropped me an hour earlier at the bus terminal of Valencia. My second best friend of the trip, the sarcastic, brown-skinned Fedora, lives in Valencia and had enjoyed our visit. Happy to know each other, weīd said good-bye. From David, Iīd learned to call girls pet names (like "Mi princessita," or "My spiky little cactus") and to always be a funny, friendly, music-playing guy to be around. From Fedora, Iīd learned to smile big and love your friends.
     In Caracas, I didnīt exactly have any friends yet. But - woowee! - was I excited. Iīd been set up to meet Angy. Angy, who was the twin sister of a blond beauty named Yennifer that Iīd met in Trinidad. "Somos igualitas!" Angy had said over the phone. (Weīre two of the same!) This had struck me as a modest, 100 % loving thing to say, and her voice hit a chord on the angelīs harp reached only by the peaceful doves.
     Angyīs cityīs reputation was not nearly as peaceful, however. And as I took a city bus to meet Angy, my bus passed a group of young men swinging an aluminum baseball bat and aiming to hit an enemy. I watched as the young target broke away and dashed through some bystanders and into a restaurant. The baseball posse gave chase.
     Geez, perhaps two days in dangerous Caracas was gonna be too much ...
     I arrived at my rendezvous point and saw Angy.
     ... or, perhaps a lifetime would be better.
     Angy was beautiful. She was so beautiful it was like getting hit by a baseball bat. Beween the two options, though, I think I would choose Angy.
     Moments after meeting, she and I walked outside to a waiting car to get ourselves acquainted with some of her friends.
     The situation I now found myself in I wouldnīt have traded to be king of the world. Of the universe, maybe - thatīd be cool - but not the world. In the backseat of a Caracas car, I sat, surrounded by three anticipating sets of beautiful eyes.
     A pearl-skinned brunette, Monica, sat in the driverīs seat. She sold real estate with Angy.
     Angy sat passenger - quiet, but smiling. Just as in Yenniferīs smile, pink gums poked out above white teeth. Above them, tiny, dark eyeballs hid among an inky-dark forest of eyelids and long lashes, gripping you into them like a black hole. Meanwhile, her blond/brown hair shined light, toking the mid-top of her frail back. In office-wear still, she was thin like she wasnīt even there. The smile and eyes were so prevalent on her pettite body that she resembled the floating face of an aten ghost in Pac-Man, or, more so, of DigDug.
     The only reason I could bear to look away from Angy was because, at my side, Angyīs friend, Iremar, sat.
     Iremar was small and, too, beautiful. She had toasted-blond, wavy hair, tanned skin, and a face like a kid. She was a proton. She was a fuzzy ball of wonderful energy. She fired question after question at me: about my family, travelling, Yennifer in Trinidad. She wore the happiest smile Iīd seen in a long time; like a tiny puppy thinking only of pouncing on you. And her unshifting, dark gaze gleamed like marble.
     Fuzzy Iremar was certainly going to be a wild-card competition for Angy in the press attention of this story. Bear with me.
     All right, Iīve got something personal to confess about this situation. I LOVE beautiful girls! OK, we all knew that. But - another thing - in these situations, I thrive.
     The impression I made here was one of my ever-best. Even in spanish, my wit burst through the curtains, shuffle-toed a little two-step, and then juggled three eggs and a chicken.
     For instance, I responded to Monicaīs comment that not all Americans are like the ones found travelling, by saying, (I confess: I stole this straight from good olī Davidīs "modest smile, exaggerated boasting" book of entertainment) "Si, por ejemplo, mucha gente me conozca y crea que todos los americanos son tan comicos, excelentes, magnificos, espectaculares ..." (Yes, for example, many people meet me and think all Americans are this funny, excellent, magnificent, and spectacular.) Thanks for the joke, David, my pal!
     My new, better-looking-than-David pals helped me find a hotel. Unfortunately, it was a little expensive. But, the good energy couldnīt be allowed to slip! "No hay no problema!" I assured. "Es solo diņero! Que es importante es que nosotros vamos RUMBIAR!" (Thereīs no problem! Itīs only money! Whatīs important is weīre gonna PARTY TONIGHT!) Woohoo ...
     The four of us went out that Friday night. Iremarīs husky boyfriend came, but Angy was still very single. We ended up at a discotech.
     In this loud arena, my wit was of no use. My dancing skills were signalled to warm up backstage. Every member of the act grew hushed, nervous. The dancing skills were my arsenalīs untried youngster - one never knew what to expect from them.
     But, like a confident Venezuelan veteran, they strolled into the spotlight, pulled a rabbit out of a hat, and calmly tamed the roaring lions.
     Monica and I danced a few salsaīs. My turns were spontaneous; my steps as creative as a young Don Knots. "Tu bailas muy chevere." (You dance very, very fun.) -- Out of the mouth of a "caraceņa" woman! the worldīs salsa Big Leagues.
     Along my course to Angy, I got side-tracked by the lovely Iremar. My little toasted pineapple didnīt come up to my shoulders, which made turning each other almost impossible. Instead, she just held me close, I enjoyed her soft curves, and we moved together to the merengue.
     Oh, Caracas nights. Angy and a slow salsa awaited me.
     My beautiful angel sparkled in a puny, black shirt. On one side, she had a long, black sleeve, and the fabric came down to her pants. On the other, she had a bare arm, and the shirt covered only her chest. I always find the one-armed shirts so classy. She looked "arrechissima" (on-fire), and I told her so.
     She pulled me close. Her delicate cheek rested soft against mine. I was whisked away unconscious.
     Tragically, our song came to an end. That was my best dance ever.
     Just when I thought things couldnīt get better, I found out from Iremarīs boyfriend that he was a communist! Woohoo! Other than college-bud Cory "Johnny" Anderson, he was the only fellow comrade I knew. Maybe heīd share his girlfriend with me! (just kidding.) He worked with President Hugo Chavez; we gave a big hug.
     What a great night.
     Great, great, great, great, great, great, great. Angy met me for the last great day of my trip.
     At a three-story mall, we met following Angyīs morning of work. We wandered around, talking. Once again, she watched me close as we talked. In fact, she watched me so close that she paid no attention to where she was going. She ran into one person. She hit a second. A third. It was kind of sad, kind of funny, how she just didnīt see the people. She ran into one tank of a man, and I told her the guy had really been knocked senseless by her force.
     We got on an escalator going up.
     Oh my. Angy was sifting through some photos Iīd brought. She couldnīt have been more oblivious to her setting. Oh my. We were reaching the end. Oh dear. I touched Angyīs back, but she didnīt respond. I cringed. Oh no, it was gonna be a horrible, clutzy mess.
     As the escalator ended, she stepped away to safety. (whew!) She proudly explained, "Estoy bromiando." (I was only joking.) Sheīd scared the crap out of me. But, man! with those dark eyes stealing light from her smooth, pink face ... her smile was a cosmic event. I forgave her.
     By the time weīd sat down to lunch and were done, I knew a lot about this angel. She was a precious soul.
     She loved and missed her twin sister like crazy. She was used to the two of them being together at all times. Yet, Angy was the one who selflessly paid for Yennifer to travel and study english.
     In addition to her sisterīs trip, Angy paid for her own schooling, and a maid to cook for her. Although she lived with her mom, she said sadly that her mom rarely talked to her and didnīt much like her. This I had a hard time believing. I felt bad for her. And here Angy was, going out of her way to show me - a guy she hardly knew - a great time. And, she often insisted on paying for me. My, she was a sweetheart.
     After playing for a good two hours in the mall arcade, she had to leave me to study.
     Sweetly, she made sure I had something to do. She called Iremar. Iremar would meet me for beers. And, once again, the focused fluidity of this story got all thrown akimbo by the second Caracas cutie.
     But, weīll all forgive Iremar, because sheīs adorable. She defines the word, "chevere." Sheīs always smiling. Sheīs always giggling.
     In a green part of Caracas, she and I sat at an outside bar. In a new, bright-sky-blue skaterīs t-shirt and matching eye shadow, she was bright. She told of her dream to act. She wore one of those bands that stretch tight around your neck like a cage, color black.
     Not in the Venezuelan soap operas; she wanted to act in the Colombian ones of more substance. Better yet, in theatre. Sheīd done many shows, and she thought she would never stop being scared beforehand.
     When Iremar talked to you, she commanded a gaze of the most delicious intenseness. Iīve never felt so alive talking to someone. Her watery, baby black eyes couldnīt be persuaded with a cro-bar from their position, seeing right atop your pupils. She just stares and delights, beautifully, with glossy lips, tasty skin, and windswept hair. She just keeps staring. Every tingly moment, you magically become closer to her, until youīre held captive in her determined gaze, a world you never want to leave.
     Iremar or Angy I couldīve fallen in love with in about five minutes.
     Angy came, with friends, and we eventually moved to another bar in a distant alley.
     We drank more beer and sat around the car ītil late in this alley. The others joked, Iremar was cutely overwhelmed and cracked up a singing birdīs laughter, and I tried to understand.
     Angy sat at my side. She wore a brown, woven, bare-arm shirt with a yellow and green stripe across. Her beautiful face was by now terribly tired. Small wooden shapes dropped to her belly from a necklace.
     Now, my salsa-dancing had been pulled off-stage. And, my out-of-shape wit was still gasping for air, exhausted. It wsa time for the third member of my famous lady-wooing routine to take the stage. Time for - duh duh-duh dah! - "Johnnyīs Magical Hair!"
     Angy told me she felt very sad, but she didnīt say why. I felt terrible upon hearing this. I put my arm around her little body. I wished there was something I couldīve done to make her feel better, to look out for her like she looked out for people.
     At one point, she pushed a clump of hair out of my eyes with an annoyed look to her about it. I read from that move that if there had been a possibility of a kiss between us, then it was my growing hair she couldnīt get past.
     And so, my stubbornly long hair had taken the stage and fallen as flat as Angy on an escalator. It had performed nothing like a steel-gazed, starring Iremar.
     But, my biggest failure came in not making Angy feel better. After all she did for others.
     We ate arepas in a late-night restaurant, and I said good-bye to my new Caracas friends at six in the morning. From them, too, Iīd learned a lot.
     No, no! I donīt wanna go home!
     Six hours later, I flew home to the olī U.S. of A. A great trip ended.
     "S.America on $320." Everyone should do one.

Until next trip.
Modern Oddyseus.

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