24 July 2024

11 – New dawn

— Can I use your shower ?
— Sure.

I indicate the bathroom to my guest. Once he has closed the door behind him, I go to the window to contemplate the daybreak.

Soon, the relatively bearable temperature of the night will be replaced by this infernal heat. I must admit that, despite everything, the landscapes of this country are magnificent. I admire the orange rays little by little illuminating the still asleep city. Inhabitants wake up, while I slowly realize the shit I got myself into last night.

What the fuck, John, what were you thinking ? All this for what, a watch you could have gotten anyway after beating up that prisoner ? I swallow hard, trying to believe that excuse. No. It’s not for the watch that I did it, of course not. The situation is almost impossible for me to admit.

The bathroom doors opens with a bang, causing me to jump. I sharply turn around to face Dani. He is still dripping with water, a towel tied around his waist.

— Coño, it’s been a long time since I’ve had a good shower.
— Are you kidding ? Have you seen the look of this room and bathroom ?
— What’s wrong with them ?
— Everything is gross and ready to fall apart.
— Welcome to Yara, amigo. What did you think when you came here ? That you were going to have a five-star vacation like the ones in your country ?
— I’m not here for a vacation.
— Why then ?

I look down. The situation is bad enough, I don’t want to get lost in messy explanations. My guest drops the subject.

— I am tired. It’s hard to sleep in these cells.
— You can rest if you want.
— In your bed ? Are you kidding me ?
— Don’t worry, I’ll give you the room. I’ve got stuff to do in town anyway.

The situation is worse than I thought. I hurriedly leave the room to get out as dignified as possible.

Once outside, I take a deep breath. Calm down John, it’s going to be okay. Apparently, alert hasn’t gone out yet. I’m sure that as soon as it does, Ramiréz and Castillo will come for me immediately. I’m tired, but I need to clear my head.

I walk aimlessly along the main street where the hotel is located. By now, the day is fully risen, the sun is beating on my tired features. I also need a shower.

A bakery window catches my eye. As I approach it, the irresistible smell of pastries and coffee caresses my nostrils. My stomach reminds me. I walk in and take various pieces and two coffees, managing as best I can to make myself understood. Not many people here speak English, although the American dream seems to be the goal for most of the lower class.

Every meter closer to the hotel generates a rise of anxiety in me. How will this all end ? Maybe I was wrong to release him. I have nothing to gain.

I slowly open the door to my room, my gaze directed to the bed. Dani seems deeply asleep. I stride in and put the breakfast on the desk and sit down in the chair. I don’t know what to do. My eyes rest on the drowsy young man. His features are relaxed, as if he has been without sleep for too long.

I can’t take my eyes off his face. There is something irresistibly attractive about him. It’s stupid. After the Duncans died, I went through an intense period. I broke every boundary they had set for me. I did everything I could to feel free and in control of my decisions and actions. I tried everything : alcohol, drugs, women, men.

When I became reasonable again – at least a little less irresponsible – I realized that I had come out of it changed. Saying yes to everything has opened doors for me, without question. This life of excess allows me to contain the violent impulses that come up more and more often. I drown in various substances and lose myself in others to erase who I am. A lot of people have shared my bed. But none have woken up in it in the morning. I always made sure my conquests slipped away as soon as I was done with them. I’m not someone to be liked, and I don’t like other people. Besides, I prefer women.

The young man stirs under the blanket. I freeze in place, afraid he will intercept my insistent gaze. His eyelids slowly open, he stretches his arms towards the ceiling, yawning.

— Did you sleep well ?

He looks at me with astonishment. He certainly didn’t expect to find me there, watching him stupidly. He pushes the blanket back and energetically sits on the edge of the bed, ruffling his hair.

— Yeah, feels good. Did you get your business done ?

I hand him a coffee and the pastry bag.

— Here’s something to keep you going.

He looks at me in amazement. This must be the first time a man, an American at that, has served him breakfast in bed. He bursts out laughing as he grabs what I’m giving him. I notice his forearms are decorated with tattoos. I point to one with my index finger.

— What’s this ?

He looks at what my finger is pointing at and laughs.

— A crocodile fighting with a lion.
— What does that mean ?
— It’s figurative. The lion is that asshole Castillo and his government. The crocodile is us, the rebellion. Who do you think will win ?
— I don’t know, and it’s really none of my business. Does it hurt ?
— Not too much. There are more sensitive places, but overall, it’s quite bearable. Are you interested ?

I unconsciously stroke my forearms through my shirt’s fabric. Dani’s eyes sparkle with curiosity. He has noticed this gesture, which I realize myself when he says :

— What happened to your arms ?
— Nothing.
— Okay. We don’t need to talk about that.

I inwardly sigh with relief. I’ve never told anyone about the Duncans. All I want to do is forget about them. My guest takes a sip of coffee and knowingly nods as he takes off his watch.

— A deal is a deal, amigo.

He hands it to me and adds :

— As we agreed, here’s the watch. It’s not worth much. It’s stamped Hamilton, but it’s really a counterfeit. I got it for only a few pesos. It’s yours.

I stare at him.

— You can keep it, I don’t want it.

He widens his eyes, looking surprised.

— What do you want then ? Why did you let me go ?

Sweat beads on my temples and forehead. The truth is, I don’t know what I want. I don’t know what made me do such a stupid thing. My heart is pounding in my chest and my lungs feel like they are going to burst. My eyes take turns on his naked chest and his half-open lips. Damn, this room is suffocating ! No sound comes out of my throat, blocked by an invisible ball.

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