by Jeff Ellis
We're sitting at a top deck table on a ship sailing the Aegean Sea. Myself, the Girl, and the Bastard from Brazil.
"Every night in Brazil," the Bastard says, "I dream of America."
"That's beautiful," the Girl replies.
"That's interesting," I point out, "because every night in Texas, I usually just dream of Cindy Crawford."
The Girl chuckles. The Bastard glares. Call that one a draw. Hell, the entire night's been a draw. We're both dressed to highlight our strengths. The Bastard's wearing white slacks and a loose, button-down blue shirt that screams out open-minded South American, free of all North American hang-ups. I've got on jeans, a denim shirt, and a Humphrey Bogart tie. I can enjoy a classic film while remaining a Southerner who knows how to treat a lady.
"In America," the Bastard says, "do you have, what-you-call, shopping malls?"
"Yes," the Girl replies.
"In my country, all life, it revolve around shopping mall. Hot date -- you take girl to shopping mall. That is what families do on Sunday -- they go to shopping mall. All hours of the day, you go to shopping mall. It is one place in Brazil that is safe from crime -- no one commits any crime in shopping mall."
He's good. Nothing enthralls American girls quicker than BS concerning foreign countries. Except maybe BS about their own country.
"Well, in Texas, all crime revolves around the shopping mall," My drawl's as fake as his Brrrrraaaaaziiillleee accent.
"Really?" the Girl says, "That must be scary."
"Yeah, well, it keeps them off the streets."
The Girl's from California. Blonde hair, high cheekbones, blue eyes, straight teeth. She knows how to dress -- long blue skirt slit up her thigh and a tight, baize blouse that outlines both the floral design of her brassiere and her firm nipples, erect in the cold night. However, the best thing on her body is my black jacket. I'm letting her borrow it, protection from the chilling wind. It's our link.
"I wish it was that easy to take care of crime in L.A." the Girl says.
The Bastard asks, "Crime is a problem where you come from?"
"I can't go out anymore. It’s not safe."
"In Texas," I say, "when things aren't safe, we make them safe. When we pass a law, we make damn sure it’s followed."
The Bastard says, "Things are not so simple in my country."
Suddenly, the Girl starts talking. I'm too busy trying to discreetly to stare at her chest to hear a word she says. The Bastard's staring straight at her tits but he can get away with it -- he's from another country. Lucky bastard.
A skeletal Greek in an ill-fitting tux stops at our table and stares down at the Girl's breasts until I say, "Yeah?"
"Anything to drink?" the Greek mumbles, "Last call. It is last call. Drinks?"
"Water," the Girl says.
"White wine," the Bastard orders.
"Beer.” I am a real man.
The Greek shuffles off as the Girl tells us, "I can only drink in my cabin or I'll get lightheaded."
"Do you like wine?" the Bastard asks.
"I don't drink too much."
"I only drink beer, myself," I say, "I could never get into wine. If its alcohol, call it alcohol. Don't try to dress it up with some fancy name."
To my relief, the Girl nods. "I usually just drink beer, too. Drives my parents crazy. They only drink the best."
"You never drink wine?" the Bastard asks.
"You are much too pretty to waste time with beer."
"Some of the prettiest girls I know drink Michelob--" I start.
"Ah, but the beautiful girls -- they drink only wine. I have some fantastic white wine in my cabin from the best shopping mall in my country. Perhaps later you will come and let me show you."
The Girl's cheeks turn crimson. The Bastard smirks at me again and says, "Do you like Gloria Zedillo? She sing song, Dance all Night."
Dance All Night is a bland little ditty about dancing all night. It’s the song that’s managed to infect all of the radio stations back in the states and one of the many pleasures of being abroad is that I don’t have to hear that song.
"I love that song," the Girl says and suddenly, she’s not quite as hot as she was before. Quickly, I scan the rest of the deck but seeing only a collection of middle-aged, gawking retirees, I return my attention to the girl and try not to think about her musical tastes.
"Well, Gloria Zedillo, she is from Brazil," the Bastard says.
"Really?” The Girl looks surprised. “I thought she was Mexican."
"So did I," I chime in though I have no idea.
"No, she live up the street from me," the Bastard says, "I carry her packages home from shopping mall."
The Girl says, "That's amazing."
"Some time, maybe over wine at my cabin, I tell you about her--"
"Well," I interrupt, "do you know Frank Sinatra?"
"Yeah," the Girl replies.
"He was from Texas."
"I didn't know that."
"Hardly anyone does. But he's as much from Texas as Gloria Zedillo is from Brazil.” I look over at the Bastard.
He's still smiling. "Yes, I read his family come from Texas."
The Greek comes back with our drinks. I gulp down my beer, the Bastard sips his wine, and the Girl stares down at her water in silence. We both stare at her, trying to figure out what could be going on in her mind. Wondering if she's thinking about the Bastard or the Greek or her parents drinking only the best or me? Crime, shopping malls, sex, what?
Finally, she looks up at me. Her eyes -- I notice for the first time that they're green and not blue -- are somber and exhausted and they tear into my soul. She has been thinking about crime, shopping malls, sex, and parents who drink only the best. The Girl's been thinking this entire night.
She drinks her water as quickly as I drank my beer. My fate's sealed. No American girl goes to a foreign country to date an American boy. When the Bastard asks if she wants to try his wine in his cabin, I don't protest. I'm silent as they stand and let me know it was a pleasure. And as I watch them go down the stairs to the lower decks, I smile. She'll be back.
She's still wearing my jacket.