NOTE: You are reading an excerpt from the far-from-final draft of the book
Excerpt by: - Aug 12, 2015
AudioBook reading of this chapter
It was a warm, dry, beautiful evening in Buenos Aires. Nadia and I were at a little tango bar, a milonga, I secretly ran in the house of Che Guevara's grandmother in the old San Telmo section of the city. Tucked away on the second floor behind a nameless door, the room had not changed much since Che's grandmother used it as a hostel, except for wear, which was considerable.
Nadia loved the secrecy of my milonga. She loved all secrets, and she was the keeper of my secrets. There was nothing I did not share with her: my running from the law; my desires for capricios with this or that woman; the details about my obsession with my lover from Amsterdam. Nadia knew me better than I knew myself, and there were no expectations between us. We danced tango together, slept together, and used each other when we needed to, knowing that each time we parted could be the last. It was with her, and only her, that I shared the futility and loneliness of my life. We shared a truth that was cold, merciless, and deep. I could not lie to her, even when I lied to myself.
This night I was dancing a tango with an ex-lover with whom I still had a fiery love–hate relationship. I loved her body, scent, and wit, and hated her jealousy, vengefulness, and general hysterical insanity. This combination of personality disorders mixed with irresistible beauty is common among the women of Buenos Aires. When we danced tango we made love and war at the same time, bodies wrapped around each other in expressions of lust, desire, and anger. The more drunk we were, the more dramatic our tango.
When I returned to our table, there was another man sitting with Nadia.
"Te acuerdas de Gium?"
The few seconds it took me to translate the Spanish in my head was apparently too long.
"Do you remember Gium?"
It took a minute, but I did. He was the lover of the friend of the woman I had recently lived with, which was also how I’d met Nadia, as she was that same woman's lover as well. I said, "Hola!" Then, remembering he was French, "Bonjour." Then, remembering I didn’t speak French and my Spanish sucked, "Hello." I was in luck: he spoke all three languages.
"Gium and you have something in common," Nadia said.
"Oh, what’s that?"
I expected her to say something like "You're both into computers," or the usual inane bullshit.
"You are both fugitives hiding from the law." OK, that was new.
"Wee! I am like you, but without ze women."
Hmmm...that does not sound in the least bit compelling. Being like me "without ze women" is pretty damn boring. The quirky look on my face must have given me away.
"I am running from ze law in France, but not because ze women like you. Because I was sent to prison as a terrorist and zey are after me again."
I sat back into my chair, a cheap, but Cuban, cigar in one hand and a glass of Malbec in the other.
"OK, tell me more," I said.
My ears were focused on Gium and what he was about to say, but my eyes were fixed on Nadia, as they often were when she was within sight. Her beautiful, exotic Ecuadorian smile, with her curls of thick, dark hair lying softly over her shoulders of delicious brown skin. Even from across the table she smelled like a warm day on the beach. The vision was as perfect a dessert for my eyes as I could imagine.
"Getting from France to Morocco is easy,” Gium explained, in his thick French accent. “A few buses and a ferry. In Morocco I go to ze Canary Islands. At La Palma harbor I can find a boat to almost anywhere in ze world—no questions asked. I crossed ze Atlantic to ze Caribbean, which took a long time because for two weeks zere was no wind, so we sat in the middle of ze ocean on a twelve-meter sailboat, waiting for wind. Eventually we made it. From the Caribbean I took a boat to Colombia, and from there I took a twenty-day bus ride to Mendoza."
"Why Mendoza?" I asked. Mendoza is the area of Argentina at the foothills of the Andes, famous for its wine, which I paused to sip. It’s a beautiful place, but if I were a French terrorist running from the law to start a new life as a fugitive, which Gium was, I would not go to Mendoza.
"Because," he said with a look that only a Frenchman can give a Yankee philistine, "ze wine!" Ahh, yes, ze French and their wine, I thought to myself.
"From there I took a bus to Buenos Aires" He pulled a Gauloises out of his silver cigarette case and tapped it on the table then sadly added "Now I must return to France as my father is ill”
"How?" I asked. I had a keen interest in hearing his plan, as I also was looking for a way to travel off the grid internationally, being a fugitive myself.
"Ah, zis is easy. I fly to Johannesburg, take the train to Morocco, and then a boat or a bus to France. It is very easy to sneak into France."
Unfortunately, his solution required a valid passport, which I had not had for years, nor could ever get since I was on the US embassy’s do not renew blacklist. Other than being riveting yarn, his idea was of little use to me.
Two fugitives and a beautiful woman drinking wine in an obscure milonga in Buenos Aires . Surely the ghost of Che was smiling on us.
What was obvious at that moment was how Gium and I were nothing alike. Gium’s crime was terrorism; mine was unemployment. What was even more obvious was the insanity of a system that would put us both in the same boat. After hearing his story—which boiled down to, he threw a smoke bomb into a government building during a demonstration—what was obvious was that the system was insane and out of control.
As he spoke, I drifted off to that faraway place in my head where I often sat thoroughly entertained in amazement and confusion as to how I got here—to this moment, this point in my life, this predicament in Buenos Aires.
Only recently had I been building million-dollar infrastructures for the likes of British Airways and the Financial Times from my office in the Chrysler Building in New York City, receiving awards from the CEO of IBM personally for creating the largest Internet the world had yet to see as well as other patented inventions, like the technology that puts holograms on your credit cards, spearheading bleeding edge startups, traveling the world with an unlimited expense account, and battling face to face with Robert DeNiro over the twelfth-largest video network in the world which I built, and winning.
My family, my farm in the hills of Upstate New York, my apartment in Manhattan...gone. My freedom, friends, career…all gone. That alone was enough to ponder, but grasping the story of an autistic child rising to the heights of being in the top 5 percent of the highest-paid people in the United States from his uneducated past of homelessness and poverty made my current situation all the more incomprehensible.
Shadowing over all of this was the fact that I had been given one year to live. Ironically, this death sentence made the fact that I was again a poor, homeless vagrant in Buenos Aires feel more like a vacation—a vacation I knew would end soon, and with it, all my problems and questions.
Funny thing. I didn’t die. Now what?