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Los Engaños pt. 1

Finally! I finished writing and proofing my story around 4:45 a.m. I had a lot more to write than I thought I did. The story ended up being 16 pages and change, which was over the limit for the assignment, so instead of double spacing I used 1.5 spacing. I don't think my teacher will mind though, she probably wouldn't have minded if I went over anyway. If you don't know, I based my story on the song "Extravaganza" by Jamie Foxx. (Loosely based, as you read, you'll notice the main character is nothing like Jamie Foxx.) I highly recommend listening to it first if you haven't already heard it. It won't give away anything important, and it will give you an idea of where I'm coming from. Please comment, telling me what you like and don't like about the story, I'd appreciate it. So without further ado, here is my story.

Los Engaños

The move was easier than I had anticipated. I don’t know whether it was the air of excitement or the sunny California skies or the vibrant hue of the grass, but I didn’tmuch care. My boss had called me into his office about a month prior, asking me if I wouldn’t mind being the Senior Art Director of a new firm they were starting up in Los Engaños. Of course, I didn’t mind at all. As my boss could attest, I was shocked when he offered me the position. Normally you have to wait another ten years or so before you can even think about becoming a director, but I was told my ambition “was unchartable” and my acumen “unmatched.” My boss liked superlatives.

I resented having lived in Seattle all my life and was relieved to finally be getting out. It is a depressing city, suffocating under a blanket of clouds and phony conversations from people who enjoy pretending it isn’t as bleak as it seems. The departure would have been sooner, but Stanford rejected me and I was forced to attend UW with everyone I couldn’t wait to escape from. Forced to live at home for a few more years, strictly a monetary decision I hadn’t agreed to. I was an answering machine more than a son. My mother would speak into me and my father would play the messages only when supper was nowhere to be found. As I had done in high school, I found solace from the outside world in my textbooks, abandoning them only when I felt that if I didn’t go out with my classmates I’d lose their friendship. I moved out after graduation and with no one to relay my parents’ messages, their marriage collapsed faster than I thought it would. At first I felt like it was my fault, maybe I hadn’t realized what an important role I played in their relationship. But I didn’t blame myself for long, not after talking to each of them separately after the divorce. They were trapped in a bitter, loveless marriage, and I had freed them. On the rare occasion that we do speak, it’s clear that both are better off.

I didn’t sleep the first 24 hours I was in Los Engaños, afraid I’d lose the feeling of rebirth. I was up at 8 a.m. whistling as I arranged what furniture I could handle in the living room. I couldn’t remember the last time I whistled. I had originally wanted to put the couch on the east side of the living room, opposite the TV, but I wouldn’t have been able to look outside, so I moved it to the north wall, but then I couldn’t even see the screen. Next, I moved the couch to the south wall and put the TV facing it, but the glare was distracting so that wasn’t going to work. After that, I tried to put the couch on the west side, which would’ve worked nicely, but the sunshine coming in from the screen door was far too bright. I could have pushed the couch all the way to the corner, but then I wouldn’t have any room for my floor lamp. I finally decided to push the couch back to the north wall, only this time I moved my TV set to the south wall, even though that meant having to move my bookshelf to the east side. With the bookshelf in its final place, I started unpacking my nonfiction first when I suddenly felt tired. I figured it was time for a break anyway, so I closed the curtains and fell asleep on the couch.

That evening, around 6 o’clock I think, I was alphabetizing my books when I heard the chime of the doorbell.

“Hey neighbor! The name’s Marcus,” the man said. “I just came over to see if you needed any help.”

“Uh, sure. Come on in. I’m Brian Hayden.”

Although he was a step down, Marcus was just as tall as me, probably even taller, and his hand absorbed mine as we greeted each other. I expected his shoulders to get stuck in the door as he entered, but he came in smoothly. I couldn’t help being nervous at first, not because he was black, I’d known plenty of black people in Seattle, but because his build reminded me of so many jocks I had been victim to in the past.

“This is a nice setup you got here,” he said stepping into my living room.

“Thanks. It’s nothing really, took me about 5 minutes,” I said.

I showed him the rest of the house and together we organized my office and bedroom furniture, all the while talking about our jobs, family, and hobbies.

Marcus was a self-described nerd, something I laughed aloud at even though I hadn’t meant to. He played sports in high school, but never developed a passion for competition. He preferred to write poetry and play the piano, something he taught himself to do. Marcus had a very mature face despite being only 22, not much younger than me. Even though he had just graduated college with a degree in Criminal Justice, Marcus kept his job as Floor Manager at a local Banks Department Store because he loved the job.

Marcus was impressed when I told him why I had moved to Los Engaños and insisted I would love it.

“The weather is amazing out here,” he said. “It hasn’t rained a single day I haven’t wanted it to.”

I started to laugh because I assumed it was a joke, but his expression was so earnest. It wasn’t a joke, he really believed it. Not knowing what to do next, I changed the subject.

The first six months in my new city passed by more quickly than I remember. I did so much work so fast that it all seemed like one big project. As soon as one account was done, I was working on the other, sometimes overlapping two. The Fostam account sticks out only because of Julie. For her, I worked as if she was in the room personally. I was more comfortable this way. When she wasn’t really there, I would tell her witty stories, all while subtly making my move. I would run my hand through my wavy black hair and stroke what stubble I had on my chin. I would tell her how when I first met her I bruised my jaw because it hit the floor so hard and how her long blond hair reminded me of a waterfall, cascading down the nape of her neck. We wouldn’t talk about work, but about how our lives had been meaningless without one another. And then we’d look into each other’s brown eyes and we would kiss, deeply and passionately. However, when she was there I jittered so much it looked as though I was having an epileptic fit. I dropped our coffees so many times the janitor used to follow me around. I smiled at her like I would smile for a school picture and she would just smile right back; she didn’t cringe, not even one time. She was so sweet and kind and beautiful, but I know she understood how much of a loser I was. How could she not? Every day I worked with her I woke up telling myself, “This is the day.” I don’t even really know what that meant, something like I wasn’t going to act like Gilligan today, I guess. That day never came. When my company had finished with her account we said our goodbyes and in an effort to avoid self-reflection I started to work even harder. I sat in front of my computer so long I began growing moss. The only nights I left the confines of my office were when Marcus would come over and drag me to dinner, which he literally did one night.

I’m not sure why Marcus liked me so much. I never had a friend who wondered so often what I was doing or if I wanted to catch a flick. He either really liked me or felt pity for me. Every one else found it curious, too. Sometimes as we waited for a table, people stared, wondering what this Adonis and his accountant were doing out at dinner. On more than one occasion he was asked for his autograph by middle-aged women anxious to get a signature of a real-life basketball player for their husband. He’d oblige the overly excited ones and make them promise to watch his next game. I tried to keep a straight face. I asked him once why he smiled and chatted with them instead of getting upset at the blatant stereotype. He told me they didn’t mean any harm, they just didn’t know any better. Plus, he found it hilarious to introduce me as his lawyer.

I always wanted to ask him about Julie, or what I should have said to her. I felt guilty sometimes not confiding in him, when we’d talk about women he’d tell me of his sexual exploits along with the women who truly changed him and the women who scared the hell out of him, but all I had was lies. I knew everything about him, but he knew so little about me. By the time Julie came into my life, I thought that if I asked him what I should do he would see how big of I liar I was and get angry with me. The truth was I had never been involved with a woman. Not romantically, not sexually, not emotionally, not any –ally. I was always afraid to take that risk. I thought that if I wished hard enough, whatever girl I had feelings for would make the first move. I admired Marcus’s ability to speak directly and openly to every single person he met and aspired to be like him, but I had no idea where to begin and even if I did, deep down I knew that I could never make that personality transition.

I started to hang out with Marcus less and less. It’s not that I grew a distaste for him, in fact it was the opposite. I didn’t want to be around Marcus because I began to dislike myself. I used work as an excuse and since Marcus didn’t know anything about the industry it was relatively easy to make my life sound busy. When I didn’t have work to do, I’d turn off on the lights in my house to give Marcus the impression that I wasn’t home. I became socially invisible. I would run into people at work, people who had offices on my floor, and they always gasped in astonishment. “Brian?! Have you been sick? Where’ve you been?” One day my own secretary hadn’t even known I showed up for work. As depressing as that was, I fully deserved it. I had wanted to make myself that way; I just didn’t realize how good I’d be at it.

One Thursday night, around 10 or so, my lights out trick didn’t work and as I walked to answer the door I wondered how angry Marcus would be.

“Brian?” Marcus said. He seemed confused. “Oh man! It is you! I didn’t even think you still lived here, man.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I said as I smiled and nodded my head. “What’s up?”

“Look Brian, for the life of me I can’t remember the last time we hung out. So this is what we’re going to do. Me and you are gonna go into town and hit up a club or two. I know it’s not your thing, but I don’t care. We’re doing this, so get dressed.”

I could tell he meant every word, that he wasn’t going to take no for an answer, but I tried to worm out of it just the same.

“I’d love to Marcus, but I got a few things I need to catch up on. I have positioning statements and concept proposals I have to get done by tomorrow,” I said. I was sure that’d work.

“Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day, Brian. You don’t have anything to get done by tomorrow.”

He was right. Not only was he right, I realized that I didn’t even know what day it was. I didn’t know what yesterday was. I don’t think I knew what month it was. As I struggled with that in my mind, my subconscious spoke for me.

“Oh, yeah. Well then, let’s go.” Wait, did I really just say that? Clubs weren’t my thing. Dancing wasn’t my thing. I leapt back on the offensive.

“But you know, I really should get this done before the weekend. Then maybe we can do something, dinner or whatever. My treat.”

“I’m not falling for that again,” Marcus said. “I’ll be honest, Brian. I’m not close with a lot of people and I’ve missed hanging out with my best friend. I know we’re different people, but I get you. And you get me. I’m begging you, Brian. Please, let’s go out.”

I was staring directly into his eyes the entire time and if I didn’t catch myself when I did, I would have started crying. Marcus never pitied me, not for a second. He was genuinely my best friend and I was his. I never had a best friend before. What should I do now? I know, I’ll apologize!

“Look Marcus,” I said. I was speaking softly and doing my best to sound wholehearted, but it was tough as I was screaming with joy on the inside. “Work has been kicking my ass lately and I know we haven’t seen much of each other and I’ve missed you too, so I’d love to go out with you tonight.”

I showered and dressed as fast as I could, putting on the attire the saleswoman had told me “looked really good” when I bought it. As we drove through the streets, I couldn’t remember the last time I was in the city this late. It was so dark. I didn’t remember it being that dark. The strangers looked ominous in the dim, reflected orange glow from the street lights as I watched them through the beads of rain on the window. Beads of rain? I thought. I turned to Marcus with the intention of asking him if this was his doing, but he was attempting to find the right wiper setting while trying to stay focused on the road. I just smiled and turned back to the window. We stopped at a red light and I noticed two hookers standing against the wall of a building. While I tried to eye them anonymously, Marcus said something.

“Brian! We’re here,” he said.

“Here where?”

“That’s the place,” he said pointing out my window to the two hookers.

“It’s a brothel?!” I asked with such volume that I was sure the hookers across the street had heard me even through the shut car door and rain.

Marcus exploded into laughter upon hearing my question. When he stopped laughing nearly five minutes later, he explained to me the girls weren’t whores, but in fact just regular women and their attire is what women generally wore to dance clubs. He capped off his lecture by saying “You need to get out more.” My face turned red, but Marcus didn’t notice as he had begun laughing once again. I had a feeling this was going to be a long night. As we walked toward the entrance, Marcus gave me a preview of what I could expect inside.

“We won’t be able to hear our phones, so when we get separated, and I do mean when, just enjoy yourself. If it starts getting late and we still haven’t met up, we’ll look for each other by the bar, that can be our rendezvous point.”

It sounded simple enough; all but the “enjoy yourself” part. I don’t enjoy myself, I thought that’s why I came out with you. I imagined saying to him.

Marcus continued, “Tonight we’re celebrating life and we’re celebrating friendship, Brian. So loosen up, talk to some women, have some drinks, and let the fun find you.”

Little did he know that fun could amass the largest search party on Earth and not come close to discovering my hiding spot.

The grizzly bear-esque man holding the clipboard shook hands with Marcus and opened the door for us. I took one step inside and instantaneously covered my ears and ducked my head as I tried to avoid the noise. The thunderous vibrations of the music rattled my knees and knocked me off balance. Marcus turned and moved his mouth, he was definitely trying to say something to me, but I hadn’t the foggiest idea of what words he had just spoken. He took a hard left, disappearing into a crowd of flailing arms and hair and I froze in panic. I started to sweat as I spun in circles trying to figure out what I should do next. Past the rows of people, at the center of the club, I noticed a magnificent, blue-lit bar with stools all around and I decided to head that way. I shuffled through the mob and sat down, turning back to look at the horde of dancers I somehow had just made my way through. An orgy is the only way to describe what I saw. Women wearing dresses the size of napkins gyrated on men whose facial expressions were contorted into lustful scowls while their mouths were agape, begetting drool.

“What’ll you have?”

The shout of the degenerate behind the bar frightened me and instead of answering him I could only gawk. I would have counted all of his piercings, but I wasn’t sure I’d finish before sunup. He had blue hair and wore only tattoos on his upper body. Thank God he had pants on.

He repeated, “What’ll you have?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I’ve never been here before.” I was practically screaming, but I could barely hear myself.

A mischievous smile came across his face and he turned his back to me. I looked behind the bar, wondering if they had wine as it was the only alcohol I’ve ever consumed, but I didn’t see any and I didn’t want to risk sounding foolish by asking.

“Here you go, buddy. This one’s on the house,” he said.

I thanked him and stared at the colorful concoction; it certainly looked delicious. I sipped it slowly and began to smack my lips. It was great. I quickly slurped up the rest.

“This is amazing,” I said, getting the man’s attention. “What is it?”

“You just had an Orgasm, my friend. Want another one?” he asked. He was smiling from ear to ear.

I was much too uncomfortable to come up with anything clever to say back him, so I only replied with a yes, praying that he was still talking about beverages.

He made me pay for the second one, but I didn’t mind one bit. I turned around to see if I could spot Marcus anywhere as I consumed my second Orgasm. I remember he had on a dark blue shirt, which would probably make spotting him quite difficult. After a few minutes I gave up hope and turned back to the bar only to notice a woman staring at me from a few seats down. I glanced the other way, assuming she was looking at someone else, but I turned back moments later only to find her eyes directed squarely at mine. She stood up and strutted her way over.

“Is anyone sitting here?” she asked. Her scent tingled my nose. It was sweeter than any candle my mother had ever lit.

“No. Go ahead,” I said.

To this day I’ll never understand how those words escaped my mouth. I think it was more of a reflex than anything. I know my brain didn’t put those words together because my brain had stopped functioning upon the very sight of her walking over.

I could tell she was a little thin by looking at her arms and the definition of her collarbone, but underneath a suggestive violet dress, her curves told a different story. Her dark hair settled on the perfect caramel skin of her shoulders and her eyes were green and hypnotizing. She had the legs of a woman I’d expect to see on a runway, but instead she was using them to come toward me.