It was another Summer scorcher that night in the city. It was the kind of night that made you feel just like a big human pot roast, just sitting there stewing away in your own personal oven with a view. It was the miserable kinda heat that made you imagine that Hell must not be so far below the floorboards. Judging from the quiet on the street, it was too hot for even for the thugs to be up to much. The red light coming in the window only piled on the effect, even more of the thought of what Hell might be like, assuming there's a 'quasi-Hell' set aside for good-hearted but morally-challenged lunks like me. I think the Catholics call it 'purgatory'. Me, I call it 'quasi-Hell'. Other times, I call it 'pseudo-Hell', but I'm not sure that fits.
At any rate, I knew the phone was gonna ring even before it
knew. I knew who was calling before I even picked it up.
"Yeah. Sam here."
"I love you, Sam."
Gotta admit--that, I didn't expect. Not that she wouldn't lie. Not that she hadn't already lied to me a thousand times before, but those words, I didn't expect.
"Listen, babe, I..."
"I love you very, very much, Sam. That's why it hurt so much when I hear things."
"Hear things? Like what?"
"Don't play stupid with me, Sam. I'm not one of your gullible young floozies. I know all about you and that Hindu girl down the way. And I know about you and my sister. And now you and those Central Americans? You hurt me. I cry myself to sleep every night."
Somehow, I doubted that, but whatever she wanted to believe. Now, she had some nerve
pointing fingers at me, given what she'd been up to lately with that Chavez fellow. I'd had enough of her double-standard moralizing.
"Right. And what about these things I'm hearing, babe? I'm hearing about you and some fellow named Hugo from down South. And then there's all this talk about you and some Shiekh. I'm hearing you three are planning to head off together for some perverse extended vacation and leave me in the lurch. On top of that, your brother just threatened to go nuclear
on me if I didn't watch my step. You call that love
"Hugo? We were just talking, that's all. And Zhu? He just has a temper. Don't mind him. Sam, that girl, that India
, what could she possibly give you that I don't? I heard you even threw her a dinner party
last week! You never threw me
a dinner party! I hear you're sharing secrets with her you've never shared with me. Don't you enjoy all the things I give you? Tell me, Sam, have you already forgotten that I've been bailing you out on those debts
As if I didn't see that subtle threat coming. About as subtle as an air raid siren chained to a monkey on crack. Sure, China had a blouseful of goodies and a trunk full of treats. She strutted around town showing off her bountiful resources, wrapped tightly in low-cut red labor rates and a scandalously short, black leather turnaround, every bit as proud as the Devil in a blue state on Sunday. The woman filled out a bill of lading like nobody's business, and her curves were nicer than Tucker Carlson's bow-tie. She was generous with those goodies and those treats, every bit as generous as Ted Kennedy with other people's money. And she had
bailed me out of those debt problems more than once.
Even with all her blessings, China's love came with a price. She was as easy and open to comers as the Arizona border. And then there were all those dead bodies in her back yard, those slaves in the basement. How much longer before I was one of those slaves--or one of those bodies? Now her boys are stocking up on guns. Big guns, bought with the money I'd been helping her get. I had to get out, but she had me by the short hairs. Everywhere I turned, I saw her name
, and I knew my new love couldn't really give me the life I'd foolishly allowed myself to get way
too accustomed to. I had to get out, but was it too late?