A. REMUNCIO DE FERREIRA wore the black, buttoned shirt his older brother handed down to him because his brother had been lucky and found a girl from a good Portuguese family to marry, and if it had given his sibling Paulo António de Ferreira such good luck, perhaps the same would work for Remuncio. The younger man thought himself to be nothing like Paulo, though. He would not swear off all before he tried at least one more.
Paulo had only been with one girl when he asked her to marry him; Remuncio was certain of this because Paulo told him so and his brother had no reason to lie about such a thing. While at the cathedral of St. José, Paulo had gone into confession and come out crying. When Remuncio asked his older brother why he cried, Paulo said God had given him a sign: Although he was only 19, he was to wed his current girlfriend because she was pregnant. “The priest told me that getting pregnant your first time is the second most powerful sign of the Divine’s will — second only to Immaculate Conception,” Paulo had said. That’s when Remuncio decided he would not swear off all women before he tried at least one more.
SITTING IN A MILK BAR in downtown Durban, South Africa, Remuncio swore off dying having only had one girl as a sexual partner. The first time he had sex with his girlfriend, it didn’t smell. Paulo was wrong. Not all women smell after sex. His brother, on the other hand, was dating a stinky girl, and now they were to be married. Maybe only she smelled after sex, and Paulo assumed that all other women did, too.
Remuncio decided over his second helping of a bee-pollen and pineapple juice concoction, that he would keep separate diaries of the women he slept with, maybe only one or two women, and only if they were older than him. He would learn to be a world-class lover from the older women, like his beloved, dead uncle Arturo once was, and he and Hanna would live happily ever after because he would be more knowledgeable and experienced than her, but she would never know why. Remuncio only knew that he needed older women; young girls would tell everyone or want to call him their boyfriend. No, no. He thought soccer moms would be the best. Yes, yes. They would never tell. They would only teach — he would secretly take extensive notes. He would call the notes he took his ‘Soccer Mom Diary,’ and if ever he didn’t understand Hanna when she became a soccer mom, he would refer to the diary and it would help them to live happily ever after.
The women behind the counter in the milk bar wore white wedding veils, and one of the two wore a tattered veil, like it had been pulled out of the closet after a couple years for some reason on tonight. The younger of the two women wore a newer looking veil, and her body looked newer, too; firmer and she younger and prettier, Remuncio noticed.
“What’s the veil for?” Remuncio shouted over the din of music. He thought the music was African influenced, although it could have easily been pure Portuguese. The women looked Portuguese; it was a Portuguese neighborhood in downtown Durban. Remuncio went there when he felt like being around Portuguese people. It was not far from Lake St. Lucia, which was part of the largest estuarine system in Africa; the lakeshore was home to a Portuguese neighborhood Remuncio would sometimes visit to swim and to watch the long-legged South African girls of Portuguese descent. The milk bar was where they went to dance.
The older one of the two women flashed Remuncio a smile and narrowed her eyes. “It’s my co-worker’s bridal shower, and since we couldn’t get the night off, we brought the party to work,” said the older of the two women, who looked to be in her late 20s. She reached down beneath the bar’s counter and produced a large bottle of dark liquid. “Eh— you want to party with us with some rum?”
Remuncio was so happy he leapt up from his chair, shaking his head up and down, thinking to himself: They’re offering me real alcohol!?
A milk bar was just that, a place to drink healthy shakes and such, all around people too young to drink alcohol. And at 17, Remuncio had only imbibed at family functions, under the drunken gaze of relatives who didn’t care. In public? In a milk bar? Was she serious?
“Sure, sure” Remuncio said, smiling broadly and pushing forth his glass of what suddenly had the appeal of bee spit and pineapple piss to him.
“Let’s lose what you have in here…” said the woman, dumping his drink beneath the counter.
Remuncio only now noticed the older woman had amazingly beautiful lush green eyes as they sparkled in the sparse light of the bar and glinted at him, reminding Remuncio of an overgrown area of jungle on his family’s farm.
“…And let’s give you some of this,” the older woman continued. Her jet-black hair reminded Remuncio of his mother’s hair. His girlfriend had hair the color of sun-kissed straw.
“You’re kind of cute,” the woman said, admiring Remuncio’s strong chin and articulately chiseled Roman nose.
She couldn’t compare to Hanna, though; not in a million years, Remuncio noted, could the woman behind the bar beat Hanna in a beauty pageant.
What made the older woman so alluring at the time was her sashay; her rear was so high and firm it made her a “stunner,” Remuncio recalled in his mind the expression he had heard his dead uncle use, observing now for himself how the woman’s long, shapely legs extended down, malleable yet toned, as if she was an avid runner.
Remuncio wore his smile as well as he did his black shirt, which made him look a lot older than 17, which fact his girlfriend had once said: ‘Boys wear T-shirts, but men wear buttons.’ He held his head high while waiting for the woman to finish pouring his drink — dancing and pouring a little in between gyrating her hips — skillfully not spilling a drop.
The woman turned around and teased him with his drink, slowly and to the rhythm of the now staccato music — she danced in segments of movement with the drink in her hand to a disco version of a fado, or a “destiny-” or “fate-themed” song in the style of music, frivolous at first with its jerky, brash chord progressions; all the while, Remuncio snapped his fingers with the beat, smiling with his head held aloft.
The traditional and some of the contemporary takes on traditional Portuguese music were all that was played in Remuncio’s house — by his father. They were traditionalists, and as a family of fans of a good fado, they understood their roots in the music. It originated in Lisbon as the music listened to by the urban poor. ‘Fado, fado, is all everybody should want to hear, because it’s political without appearing political,’ his father would say. For example, many songs incorporated struggle as a central theme. Remuncio recalled how his father sometimes joked that if a person were too political, they were No, esperto!
His old man had confessed to him many times, looking him square in the eyes when he gestured with his hands saying, Life is not supposed to be fair, that would make death unbearable!
In Remuncio’s mind, his life was for Hanna and he would gladly give it up for her, too; it was not for a woman dancing behind a bar — she could only serve him rum that night and maybe teach him a few important lessons, which he would reserve for Hanna alone.
Remuncio extended his hand to accept the drink, snapping his finger one last time to the beat. “Thanks — I mean, thanks beautiful — for the drink,” he gushed as he sipped, smiled, and then jerked forward abruptly, “Wow — it’s straight rum…”
The drink singed his lips when he insisted, “Isn’t it?”
She looked only slightly amused. “Yeah, like you: Straight, right?”
“Of course,” Remuncio said, nursing his chest, feeling like his whole esophagus was on fire.
“Well then, drink your rum straight!” the woman laughed wildly. “But be warned: this isn’t just any kind of rum—this is South African bush rum and known to make you go blind, eh.”
The woman, still laughing, began dancing seductively behind the bar again with the employee she pointed out as to be married. She pulled the betrothed close to her so that the woman’s rear-end was jammed against her pelvis as they danced.
The whininess of the fado music made it almost impossible for sound to carry in any way but a shout over the downtrodden entreaties of the singers.
“When are you to wed?” Remuncio asked, making sure to project his question at the betrothed.
The dancing bartender who had given him rum laughed and butted in: “I’m already married; I’m a soccer mom…”
Remuncio had not intended the question for her to begin with, but he assumed she knew that. However, she had just flopped to the top of his list because surely she knew something that she could teach him, something that would help him become a more experienced and worldly man than his father or his older brother — combined, like his uncle Arturo — and she wouldn’t care if he disappeared after the summer. He would not take the bait, though; he told himself it would be too easy to flatter her with his attention right away, and besides, then he would just be another kid flattering her in the bar. Remuncio smiled nicely enough, but he pointed to the other woman: “No, no, her?”
The dancing bartender threw her head back in a half-wide-mouthed laugh and placing one hand to her belly and the other thrust outward, she danced to the music with an unseen partner.
The older woman looked only mildly jealous as she watched Remuncio intentionally eyeing the younger woman, but truthfully he did admire the younger-looking bartender’s dark red hair, which made him curious about something he recalled his dead uncle saying to someone regarding redheads: ‘They have invisible nipples.’
The older-looking woman shuffled a few steps before she returned her full attention to Remuncio, taking his bait. “Oh— her, she’s pregnant; so, she better hope her boyfriend still marries her tomorrow before she gets big and fat,” the woman laughed loudly, and danced, slapping the bride-to-be on her steely-tight bottom. Remuncio noticed the married woman’s perfect ass, too. He admired the way her black tights were generous enough to form a camel toe at the woman’s crotch, and how her breasts were round and perky when she turned back toward him after executing a spin — catching his eyes exploring her body.
“You see something you like, eh.?!” the woman presumed.
Remuncio felt the pressure of her stare, and then the music seemed to fade, as he reached to relieve the tightness coiling around his collar, causing his throat to feel itchy, hot and dry, from the fierce burn of the rum and the woman’s eyes.
“…Because I see something I like — eh,” the woman hissed, followed by a shriek of laughter and her spinning completely around again; her voice traveled over the noise and music in the milk bar penetrating Remuncio’s nervous fantasy and shredding it like confetti into a rum- and hormone-filled stiffness in his pants.
Remuncio thought about what his uncle Arturo would do? He was relieved that the bar concealed the lower half of his body, as he leaned closer to the counter, propping himself up on his elbows and now more boldly watching the older woman.
The married soccer mom started dancing even more seductively and definitely exuded the crucial element in and of all Portuguese music: the saudade, or what can only be described in near-exact translation as yearning — although it is so much more — to fuck. She overtly reminded him of fornicating, and he wanted her for all her familiar ways.
In Remuncio’s eyes she seemed native, she caused a frenzied reaction in his crotch, like pressing ice to his testicles did when he had tried it. That day the feeling complimented the sex his second time with Hanna; his second time ever in life, when he had spilled the ice water over on the bed at the precise moment that the room seemed stiflingly hot to him, and he had spotted the ice cube by the pale light coming in through the window. That’s when he got the idea to press it to his privates.
Later that night in the milk bar, the heat from the woman’s hand would thaw Remuncio’s frozen-stiff part, though.
AFTER THE REVOLUTION OF 1974, social clubs began springing up in Portuguese communities everywhere, and Durban was no different than Praia or Lisbon. Perhaps it was because of the renewed sense of national pride that swept across all quadrants of Portuguese life — homes, schools, industry, and naturally, the social clubs where everyone went after working and learning all day, but by the time Remuncio had entered the social scene as an older teenager, Durban had long been established as one of the largest cities in South Africa. The city’s steep population and history of whites who first came to trade in ivory and skins centuries earlier, but who stayed and transformed the city into one of the busiest ports in Africa, necessitated that where businesses boomed, so too would the social clubs. The ones that catered to young crowds closed earlier than adult social clubs, but Remuncio knew he wouldn’t stay until closing that night because he was already not feeling like socializing anymore. The rum and the guilt had tainted the coolness of the night — his head was hot and fuzzy and his lower half was frozen stiff — and that in the heat of the moment he had given consideration to waiting for the woman to finish at work, he assured himself, went too far. What was he thinking!? A ‘Soccer Mom Diary’ was a stupid idea; he would marry Hanna, and they would be happy—but what if they weren’t, and what if the only reason was because he was too dumb to notice?! The same way his da often appeared to neglect his mother and the coldness he’d watched form between the two of them. No esperto! He did not want to think about his parents’ relationship — ever. That was their choice — loving Hanna, forever, was his.
Memories of Hanna were juxtaposed over the intimate pit he’d fallen into with the married woman; beautifully projected images of blue skies behind a smiling Hanna staring with eyes a similar hue as the azure; the wall of the hole was as dark as the married woman’s hair, and him falling into it and farther away from the golden sunlight of Hanna’s hair — and it getting hotter.
REMUNCIO HAD LEARNED FROM PAULO, who had learned from their father, that the family supported the left-wing revolutionary regime during the Carnation Revolution, which would have been a bloodless coup d’état had troops not killed four civilians. Remuncio had always known social change to be otherwise slow, except in social clubs where good or bad intentions take like wildfire. His father believed a man should marry a woman and raise a family. His father was 18 when Paulo was born. He moved to South Africa for a better life. Before then, the family had lived briefly in Angola.
Paulo, Arthur and Remuncio had many talks about things Remuncio truly still had not fully grasped. For instance: he did not care what some white Africans thought, or what some black Africans thought; Remuncio was only concerned about what he thought, like Arturo, whom he was named after. His ole uncle had told him about romantic relations with black women, white women, brown women, and that there was no difference, just the deference his uncle had showed him for women in general. It made sense to Remuncio—genetically.
“I love you…” Arturo had told him one day when Remuncio was so young he could scarcely remember his own age, but the memories came back crystal each time he thought of them. “More than you will ever know, more than you and your little brother Stefano will ever know, but I will not tolerate a bigot in the family, or someone who views himself as higher than another man or woman just because some crazy people tell you this…”
Remuncio didn’t suppose his uncle had intentionally left out his older brother Paulo, but he remembered his uncle’s words, word-for-word. There had been much talk of resettlement and Remuncio had thought it meant his family would have to give up their new farm at the time, but he watched as a neighboring village of blacks disappeared over night and more Portuguese people and people with lighter skin moved onto the land. He would have been 9 or 10, and it was either 1969 or 1971, he couldn’t remember the exact year just like he couldn’t pinpoint his exact age at the time. In fact, the only significant marker for the time was how Misikala and her son Arthur came to live on his family’s land under a private work permit supported by a court Remuncio’s da said was the highest in “colonial South Africa.” Remuncio was just happy at the time that Arthur would be nearby and not just around during the occasional weekly visits.
Paulo had promised Arthur that one day all South African soldiers would be given carnations for their guns and things would change; he said it could happen because their da had said it happened in his family’s homeland. Remuncio had only hoped at the time that that wouldn’t mean Arthur and Misikala would have to move away again. She had worked there on the family’s land all of Remuncio’s life, and although Arthur was closer to Paulo’s age, the tall, slender boy had always been like Remuncio’s nicer, older, black brother.
By the time Remuncio was 10, he knew his father was a fascist but he did not know what that meant. For Remuncio, his reading lessons were only interesting when they had to do with stories in comic books, some novels, but definitely not textbooks. He hadn’t a political bone in his body, his father had once said, and that made him Muito esperto!
The portrait of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, which hung above his family’s living room fireplace, was taken down around the same time Remuncio’s uncle passed away; it was years after Salazar’s political life had ended. And for many of those years, it had gathered dust.
In its place, a large portrait of Arturo was hung in a shiny mahogany frame; Remuncio had straightened the picture just the other day. He had also studied Arturo’s strong, chiseled features on that day; Remuncio had his uncle’s brown eyes, Roman nose and his sandy hair was lighter than his da’s, like Arturo’s, too. In fact, he only went by his middle name because his father insisted on it.
Reaching up, Remuncio straightened the painting again when he arrived home that night after the milk bar. He wanted to ask his uncle, What should I do?
Remuncio did not know whether he should go back the next day like the married woman had suggested, or more like urged, but he had a strong feeling about what Arturo would have told him to do. And besides, she was a prime candidate, as far as Remuncio was concerned, to teach him about being a worldly man, and because of that he was an eager pupil. He told himself, I should go!
That night, Remuncio began his Soccer Mom Diary, and as if he was charged with the super power of total recollection, he recounted the things he had said that he thought Arturo would have said, and how the married woman had responded, what she said, in deft detail. In the diary, he referred to himself as Arturo, his first and real name, but since he also referred to his uncle as Arturo, he called his uncle “Arturo the First,” and himself “Arturo the Second.”
REMUNCIO DECIDED TO MEET THE MARRIED SOCCER MOM the next day. Arturo would have wanted me to, he thought.
Remembering the woman’s dancing brought back images of her tights: black against her olive skin, and the rouge coloring around her waist from the tight elastic was sinful penitence for her pronounced camel toe. To him, it was a toe because that sounded sexier than foot.
Remuncio took inventory, told himself he didn’t have a fetish for feet; shaking his pants, he checked for his car keys. He was ready to leave his house, but straddling whether or not to go. It was already early afternoon.
Dulled by long exposure to the sun, the car wouldn’t impress her. Remuncio thought while looking through the two big bay windows of the foyer that surely the woman at the bar had seen better rods than his. But at least he had a car and wore a nice button-down shirt. Many boys his age did not have cars, Remuncio thought. He wore a white buttoned-down shirt this time because it was during the day, in the middle of the week, and the white would deflect the sun; whereas, everyone in South Africa knew dark colours drew heat.
He was a senior in high school and summer break was nearly over, his girlfriend would be back from her holiday with family in Cape Town and all would return to normal. Except, Remuncio would be a man; he would have had another woman besides his girlfriend unlike his older brother Paulo; he would graduate from high school and get his girlfriend pregnant; he would be a man, and that took being a father, mostly.
Paulo entered the family room dressed in chaps with an exhausted expression on his face, like he had been trying to toss large rocks aside all morning.
“What are you wearing those ridiculous things for?” Remuncio asked.
“Ah, shut up you,” Paulo said. “Fernanda’s father is making me work with his horses.”
“Da let you get a job?”
“Of course, I’m not a kid in high school anymore; I’m a man: I’m going to be a da, like da, you know!”
Paulo said it every time, of course Remuncio knew; it burrowed a green seed deep into his spleen every time and each time deeper still when Remuncio’s da cooed over Paulo, his ‘oldest son.’ They were the happy da and grandda to be.
Remuncio wore a mocking grimace when Paulo spoke, and then again when the older boy started leaving back out the door with a handful of Ovaltine crackers and a large jug of ice water he saves in the freezer. But he diverted his face to hide the expression when Paulo turned back around.
“You’ll get there one day cabrito,” Paulo said for the eleventh-millionth time, pausing and clutching the white molding on the door when he said it. “Won’t be home for dinner, so tell mum and da for me!”
Paulo was bigger; he was a stronger version of Remuncio, but his older brother had only been with one woman in his entire life. Like the old stories their father told them about growing up in Portugal, Remuncio thought they were outmoded, outdated, Draconian conditions that he couldn’t subscribe to in his lifetime. His father had only known their mother, Lydia; Paulo had only known his girlfriend, Fernanda; Remuncio would at least know another, besides Hanna. Perhaps, he thought, the woman from the milk bar if she meant what she had said. He had been drunk enough the other night when he heard her ask him to come back. Or at least he was heavily tipsy from the rum, but he wasn’t hearing things at the time. She said she wanted to ‘screw his brains out.’ He wasn’t off his knocker to be tempted.
His uncle had known many women, and the entire night before Remuncio just imagined what his uncle would say in a situation and then he would just say it. Before long, the married woman was laughing, and her friend was laughing, and he was laughing. They seemed to like him the more he imagined what his uncle would have done and said.
Personifying a man who was no longer able to be with women, everything Remuncio knew about what a man is like, and what women are expectant of when encountering a man, was exhumed in Remuncio. He had managed a somewhat worldly take on the very subject; even though he was young he had conventional wisdom. The world to him was unrolled blue prints each of some section of an expansive house with many large rooms, and from an early age and with his favorite uncle’s mild influences, the conventional ideas began to settle themselves in the foundation of what type of man he wanted to be, like his father or his brother or like his uncle and the rest of the men of the world. And each room would have a copy of one of the men sealed inside it. Almost every room had his uncle Arturo in it.
Remuncio regretted that his father made him go by his middle name, because he said it honored the dead to not speak the name every day among the living. Instead, Remuncio went by his middle name, after his father’s father: his grandfather, a one-woman goat herder. Remuncio wanted to be like his uncle, instead, ever since he could remember. He too wanted to be an ageless man of the world. He was ageless because he died so young in Remuncio’s memory.
For Remuncio it started out with the backs of comic books from America. The Flash: how fast Remuncio recalled reading about saving blond women and dashing off, rescuing them all from evil men and being rewarded with hugs and kisses. Then there was the music, everything that sounded like rock ‘n’ roll was all that he wanted to listen to. Even the Portuguese music his father would sometimes play, like fado; secretly, if it had a fast enough beat, it was tolerable when it reminded him of the music he heard piping through Radio South Africa FM, or R.S.A. FM. And then the lure of nightlife set in, like the darkness of night, which is where his true hero roamed best in Remuncio.
But it was broad daylight and Remuncio rattled the keys to the raggedy Peugeot his father had passed down to him, walked outside in the hot sun, hopped in the beat up, faded thing and headed down the dusty road leading off his family’s property. He passed the sturdy cottage at the mouth of the main road and honked the old horn. It sounded like an old goat’s cough.
The ocean air was so pungent in late summer; he could even smell it from a mile away traveling due west on the stagnant breeze. He would race into downtown Durban: Picking up the pace and replacing dust with the rush of air moving fast through his window cooling the intense heat of the sun in the car, Remuncio set his gaze east and up to the startling blue sky along with its occasional cloud over the outcropping of tall earth where on the other side the city lied. He had promised to return to the milk bar to meet the married woman for a post-wedding party there for her co-worker. And he was told to arrive in the afternoon; her shift wouldn’t start until the early evening, anyway, and she said she wanted to see him in the penumbra. Although, she had put it “to screw your brains…”
Remuncio really hoped he had not jilted her the night before when he left so abruptly, but he had to. It was when her hand touched him and added fire to the ice, after all.
The truth was, he liked it when she reached down and placed her hands on his crotch and gently squeezed. He would have returned the favor in the dark space at the end of the bar, where her hand sought obscurity in the darkness beneath the counter that flipped up every time someone went behind the bar or had to come out from behind it. It was just that Remuncio recognized two friends of his girlfriend, Hanna, and he was sure he had made it away in time before they saw him with the bartender.
EARLIER THAT EVENING, the married woman told him she had three kids all by the age of 27, with the same older, 38-year-old man, and that they had “sapped me of my youth and beauty,” she’d said. “All I do is chase after my boys and run them to their soccer practices and games.”
Remuncio’s brother and his uncles before him had taught him how to compliment a woman. Never egregiously. They know you want something. It’s better to sidle up to a woman as a friend, befriend her, “show the person you care,” Paulo had told him, “even when you could give two shits.”
Remuncio warmed to the woman like a moth to bark. “Sapped your youth and great looks? You’re stunning.”
That outwardly pleased her.
“Come down here, let me give you some ice,” the married and seductively dancing bartender had replied.
Judging by the look in the to-be-married girl’s eyes a few feet away, giving ice was a common game the women in the milk bar played.
“Ice?” Remuncio asked, shivering as he coyly took a step forward, but looking back at the betrothed, who made a suspecting “O” of her mouth.
“Yes, ice,” the dancing bartender repeated, leading him further into the bar, but still divided by the counter. She stopped and found a fresh glass near the flappable part of the bar; she filled it with frozen cubes of water and lifting one cube from the glass beneath the bar; placing it in Remuncio’s mouth using her thumb and her thin pointer finger, which she left on his lip for a moment before placing it into her own mouth, slowly licking at his diluted juices as he watched she didn’t let a single drop get wasted on the bar.
“Did you like that?” She asked the question forcefully in a whisper, lowering her hand until it disappeared not materializing until his leg both felt frozen and burning.
“Yes.” But fear gripped Remuncio’s heart when he saw them. Although he did not let on, he noticed his girlfriend’s friends enter the milk bar, one of only three milk bars in that section of Durban, and it was the only one frequented by Portuguese teenagers. Remuncio associated with the young adults that night, sliding down further into the bar, away from the pinball machines and dart board games going on near the bright entrance; he was farther back, way down the long bar, near the lounge area where people went mostly to make out.
“I get off in a half hour?” the married woman had said. “Eh— by the way, I’m Maria.”
There was no name prettier than Hanna’s, though. It was so simple, sweet and pure. He figured he couldn’t just have her. He needed something to gage how he felt about this first woman he ever slept with, ever professed to love, truly. How could he now otherwise, really? They swore to be loyal, and he was, mostly. They were in a rational relationship nearly like a married couple; she corrected him; theirs was the longest and most solid relationship of all their peers at Durban Kingsley Preparatory. They had given more advice than taken; always talking out their problems. Her parents let him spend the night, never once checking into the guest room; he was a trusted son before any talk of marriage. It had all but been four years.
Maria offered Remuncio at the end of the bar more rum, more camel toe, more gyrating of her perfect ass and more ice. “Can you wait for me to get off work?”
He hesitated a second.
“Well, you go and answer me?”
“I can’t stay,” Remuncio said, eyeing the front of the milk bar.
“Will you come back tomorrow? You must come back tomorrow! It’s Diane’s wedding day party!”
“Who?” Remuncio squinted and leaned in with his ear.
“The girl to be married,” Maria had said.
“Promise me!” she demanded.
“OK,” he had said. “OK.”
A traditional Portuguese song blared over the speakers, but it was fast paced and sounded similar to the American rock ‘n’ roll ruling the night’s backdrop. Maria’s hand had slid, although it more slithered with the shrewdness of a one-eyed serpent until it met the effigy of his and gave it a squeeze, “hello;” it had nearly sent him scurrying for the door instead of just jogging.
THE DAY WAS EXTREMELY BRIGHT as he headed back to the milk bar feeling the sun burn its mark on the exposed skin of his elbow as he leaned it out his car window. His rolled up sleeves gave the dress shirt a relaxed look that was further accentuated by the newer jeans and black shoes he wore, the latter of which were supposed to only be worn to church.
Remuncio had turned off a dusty road and onto the paved highway that was younger than he was, heading into the section of city blossoming with shops and tourist trade. The seaport was alive and there would be business transactions and people everywhere. Durban was maybe 12 minutes away from his house, but only to the normal driver; he zipped down the paved road as if it were the Audubon, arriving in Durban inside of 8 minutes, with his one elbow nearly cooked to a crisp.
“Durban Dairy” read the sign above the milk bar, where inside a cluster of young men in uniformed orange and green T-shirts slapped each other on the backs, flinging darts at a riddled board beside a riddled wall.
Remuncio walked to the bar, but no one was behind the long counter. At the end, a flap pointed straight up. In the back, where the couches created a cozy castle, or fort, the walled mirrors reminded Remuncio of a French porno he had watched in which at least a dozen men and women cavorted their tanned, bare-naked asses around in a circle while in the center a male ring leader made love to a woman who had made her very first trip to the event, dubbed like the movie, “Sexy Party.”
On one of the couches, Remuncio spied something he could scarcely believe. Like in the porno, only less cavorting, and fully clothed, Maria, another woman and a man wrestled on the cushions one on top of the other. Remuncio could hardly make out the faces of the other two before Maria noticed him watching. And rather than stop in embarrassment, she slowed her movements, gyrating her ass, which appeared to be clad in the same type of black tights as the night before.
“Come Remuncio!” Maria shouted.
In the dark, mirrored lounge area, Maria looked older than 27, more like a mother of three. “Meet the newlyweds,” she said, smiling, drawing him in with outstretched arm, and her radiant jade eyes. Her hair was disheveled, and if she wore make-up Remuncio imagined that it would have been smeared to high heaven. “Don’t mind us. This is my wedding gift to the lovely couple. They apparently have thought I was hot for some time,” she said giggling, placing her finger in the husband’s mouth and allowing him to suck on it, stretching out with her other hand. “No hug, Remuncio?”
He leaned forward and was met by the hand of the man, “Not so close to my wife!”
Remuncio recoiled and was set to lunge until he noticed a smile that looked wholly unnatural, for a man to be smiling at another man in that way, at least. “OK, buddy,” Remuncio said, brushing the man’s hand off his chest.
“How’d he know my name?” the newly married man said, now smiling and batting his eyes at Remuncio.
Maria laughed as if she had been drinking, burping and grasping her chest apologizing. “Remuncio, that’s funny, his name is Buddy! And you’ve met his wife, Diane, the chick who’s about to explode.”
Diane seemed slightly embarrassed, adjusting her blouse and reaching out for Remuncio’s hand. She held on when she puckered and kissed Remuncio through the air like a method peck.
“Pleased to meet you, again,” Remuncio said, shaking the woman’s hand, which went limp in his own until he realized that she desired an old-fashioned peck, which he obliged.
“See, there, a gentleman is born every day,” Diane said to her husband, who also stuck out his hand. Equally limp; Remuncio shook it and allowed it to fall back down to where it came from.
“Maybe not a com-plete gentleman,” the husband added. The man spoke like he had a ball in his mouth.
“Thirsty–huh want something to drink?” Maria blurted, bouncing up from a deep sag in the couch, which sighed in her absence. “Looks like the dumb jocks are still happy with their pitcher of cheap bee pollen and carrot juice.”
At this, Buddy and Dianne laughed, and Buddy said “It’s more like toilet wa-ter,” under his breath, which was only mildly discernible to Remuncio’s ears from where he now stood by the bar. A safe distance to glance over his shoulder one last time at the peculiar man and his new wife — the married couple were back to making out on the couch and Remuncio gladly left them there. The woman had a nice ass, sure; it wasn’t worth dealing with the husband just to knock at the opportunity, though.
Instead, Remuncio followed Maria behind the bar, feeling the effects of his arousal and the free-spirit vibe Maria was throwing his way. On the extremely short jaunt to the bar, Maria grabbed and cupped underneath her breasts and lifted them while sticking her tongue out in his direction and slowly licking her voluptuous top lip. She let out a grunt, as if Remuncio did something that made her viciously sexual. He felt at home amid her fast ways — the opposite of his girlfriend’s demure sexual tendencies and matronly mannerisms. The only time Hanna ever licked her lips was when he fed her jam in bed, the second, and out of only two times they had slept together in the three and half years they had been with each other. The first time was on their year anniversary, and it had been both their first times.
Remuncio thought back to that day as he leaned into Maria from behind, the imaginary woman before him had the ass of the newly married girl, the face of Hanna and the mind of the married dancing bartender as her ass gyrated and her hand snaked around the back of his head. Hanna had shivered at first, and was tight as a clenched fist in every sense, but he loved her, so of course he was worried that one of his girlfriend’s friends would suddenly walk up to them in the milk bar, even if it was at an off-peak hour when most people headed to the beaches or seaport, but Remuncio assured himself that he could slip down beneath the counter if that happened. Maria clawed at his crotch, which worried him even at the rear of the establishment, and behind the bar.
“What are you doing?”
“Fuck me here … Remuncio … Please!”
“What if your husband were to walk in, or one of my girlfriend’s friends?”
“You have a friggin’ girlfriend?” Maria pushed him away asking, causing Remuncio to fall backwards into a large jar of olives. The jar was the size of a toaster oven standing straight up on its side and it had no lid on it. “You didn’t tell me you had a friggin’ girlfriend,” she skipped like a record.
“You didn’t ask, besides, you have a husband, and you are a mother,” Remuncio said as his chest swelled, but it was only puffed full of air; he wouldn’t hit a woman, his mother would kill him. Only, he could feel the stain of something wet on his one, white dress shirt. In fact, the entire bar area behind the counter was a sloppy, messy, disgusting place to stand to begin with.
“I’m out of here,” he said, patting at the wet spot with a wad of napkins he snatched from the counter.
“No, don’t go, wait!” Maria insisted.
“For this,” she said, lowering her black tights and exposing a perfectly bare vagina.
Remuncio thought no wonder she had a perfect camel toe, better than any he had ever seen, and he and the boys in his school would sometimes pay attention more to the subtle indiscretions of loose girls in the hallway than to getting to classes on time. But school was in if Maria was offering free intercourse. It seemed like she was willing to do it anywhere, crowded or empty bar. He was intrigued by her.
“But what of your co-worker and her hubby?”
Just then the natural grunts arising from the fort area alleviated him of that consideration. The muffled bang of Diane’s head against the soft cushion of the couch back acted as a rhythm section to Maria, who sauntered up to Remuncio and stuffed his whole hand down into her pants; she basically played with herself while Remuncio fidgeted trying to find her opening.
The collegial hoots and howls of the boys in the front of the bar, which was at least 20 feet away and lost in the blinding brightness of the day streaming in through the open door and windows, was in sharp contrast to the quiet darkness in the rear of the bar. Even the hum of the rear air-conditioning unit helped veil their intentions, as Remuncio’s mild inhibitions bit at the woman’s clawing nails, until she broke skin.
LOOKING INTO THE MARRIED SOCCER MOM’S EYES, Remuncio saw something in them for the first time: Arturo came like a Cherub to firmly discipline her.