Eddie, Part I
I found four people who did not think the idea of a sub-zero carnival was insane, which says as much about my friends as anything. I knew each of them well, but they were all meeting each other for the first time that late January weekend during a long trip up the New York State Thruway in my baby-blue 1973 Volkswagen Microbus to Quebec for Carnaval d’Hiver.
Trips like that can’t happen twice. Each of us was in a transitional phase—moving to take a new job, or going off to school, or leaving because we’d just graduated. It was similar to when I was traveling in Latin America or Europe and staying in hostels. You met people, spent two or three days traveling together, then went your separate ways. No time for arguments, no time to get serious about anything. Just a few people out to have fun for a few days, and it was always lighthearted with a lot of laughter and drinking and trading stories. Every day was different depending on who you were with and where your travels took you.
We stopped in Montreal for lunch and I took everyone to a good café I knew on Rue St. Paul called Crème de la Crème. The conversations from the van were resumed over food.
“Eddie, tell me why you came to New York,” said Maggie. “Puerto Rico sounds so beautiful! Why would you move?”
Eddie laughed into his cuba libre.
“Eddie is a wanted man down there,” I said.
“Haven’t you heard of the dangerous criminal El Amante?” I said.
“Hasn’t the statute of limitations expired on that yet?” Eddie asked.
“What did you do?” asked Griff.
“He got married,” I said.
“It didn’t count,” said Eddie. “I was drunk.”
“You what?” said Maggie.
“You know…I was seeing this girl,” said Eduardo. “Sleeping with her, I mean. She was a nice girl. Real innocent. So she’s going around telling everyone we’re gonna get married soon. I never told her that—she just assumed. I didn’t promise anything. I never promise anything, not even drunk off my ass.
“So one day I’m in this restaurant with my crew and she comes in with her mother. Her mother who is shaped like a pear. I was really drunk. Her mom says, ‘Oh, I think you’d be just right for my daughter!’ You know, I owned a car stereo business and had a little money. So I said, ‘Yeah, sure.’ ‘Let’s have the wedding soon,’ she says. ‘Let’s have it two Sundays from now.’ ‘Oh, sure,’ I said. ‘Two Sundays from now. What church? Oh yeah, see ya there’.
“After they leave we fall all over the place laughing. I figured I’d just stay outta town for a while. That was okay ‘cause I wanted to take a vacation up in San Juan for a month anyway. But then I kinda forgot about the whole thing.
“So two Sundays later I wake up in my clothes on my cousin’s couch with a hangover. All of a sudden, out front of the place a line of cars pulls up like it’s the President. Her cousins pour outta the cars like cockroaches.
“My cousin yells, ‘Quick, out the back door!’ And I run across the house and pull open the back door. Her father is standing there with his sons. Ya know, back in the hills of Puerto Rico…if people have a problem, they don’t call lawyers or cops. They just take care of it.”
“So you got married?” asked Brianna.
“Well…they were pretty smart. They brought my parents with them. Told ‘em what was going on. My parents had been gettin’ on me for a while to make ‘em grandparents already. So they went along with it. They played a pretty good game of good cop—bad cop. My dad said if I didn’t do like I said, I’d disgrace the family and I’d never see any inheritance. He’d see to it my business never went anywhere. No one in town would deal with me except the cops. And my mom says that if I go through with it, they’d give me money for a big honeymoon and a down payment on a house. Or to expand my business, whichever I wanted. Hey, can’t I see I can’t do any better than this girl? I better just take the offer. So I did. They had a spare suit for me in the car.”
“How’d you end up in New York?” asked Maggie.
“So we had a great honeymoon down in Curaçao. She was a good kid. Not real sharp, but she was alright. And my parents gave me a ton of money, just like they said. When we got back, I sold my business and emptied the bank account. Drove up to San Juan, sold the car, caught a flight to JFK.”
“You left her there?” said Maggie.
“Had to. They backed me into a corner. They wanna try an’ strongarm me? No problem. That’s what they get.”
“But you can’t go back,” said Griff.
“No. I’d be shot on sight.”
“And all this time, I was wondering if I’d be better off married,” said Griff.
“The answer is no.”
“Don’t you get lonely?” asked Brianna.
“Sure. Everybody’s got something,” said Eddie.
“You’d make a good husband, David,” said Brianna.
“Would I, now?” I said.
“Sure. You’re a sweet guy. You’re responsible.”
From the corner of my eye I saw Eddie smile as he raised his drink to his lips.
Brianna had short, straight, fine brown hair and a thin braided tail hanging down behind her right ear to just above her right breast. Her eyes were light brown and she had a sprinkling of freckles across her cheeks and nose. She was very petite, and when we hugged I’d rest my chin on the top of her head and hold her like that for a long time.
Your cherubic smile and bright eyes will fuck up my whole life, Brianna, I thought. No they won’t either, because I’ll be in Seattle and you’ll be at Bard, and you’ll find someone to marry there and you’ll forget about me. But this weekend I’ll have you and I’ll have Carnaval too, and all of us drinking caribou in the bars and laughing, and then I’ll have a future in Seattle that I don’t know yet, but I’ll make it a good one, a happy one with more laughter and friends. And Griff is going to China, and Maggie to Philly, and Eddie, most likely, back to New York. Old Eduardo, he’ll always do just fine. He was too smart for trouble to catch him, I thought. He was always one step ahead of it, like a chess player who stays sober just long enough to win.
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David Bassano is a History professor at Brookdale Community College in New Jersey. He is a human rights activist, an author of academic and literary works, and an avid hiker and cyclist. Trevelyan’s Wager, published by Harvard Square Editions, is his first novel. You may learn more about him and his work at www.davidbassano.com.