This novella took me 8 years to write. This is an Argentine Tango Story a 50 years saga. There are many places where tango is danced but rather than describing the moves I felt it was better to leave it to the reader to imagine the dances taking place.
This Novella would not have been possible would it not been for my wife Lynn who spent endless hours and a huge amount of time and effort reading the story and correcting many, many times my mistakes. Thank you Lynn!
We’ll meet in Marseille ©
A novella by: Carlos Sampelayo
A Tango Story
Gabriel, the owner of one of the most important wine companies of Buenos Aires was sitting in his office answering a phone call for a large sale of wine to The Palace Hotel in Buenos Aires –
“For 20 cases of French Bordeaux wine I can give you a very good price. Our wines are the best on the market and your clients will not be disappointed.” – “I’ll do better than that, if you buy 25 cases I will include a case of Menem from Mendoza. One of the best Argentinian wines we have. What do you think? Is it a deal?” – “Yes? Good! We’ll ship this afternoon.”
Gabriel hangs up the phone and started to write out the order. He asked Carmelita, his secretary, to call the warehouse and asked Diego, the warehouse manager, to come to the office.
Gabriel continued to put together a few papers related to the order. Gabriel called his secretary Carmelita a woman in her early fifties. She knew the business well. She had been working for the family after the previous secretary Graciela who had worked with Gabriel’s father Mr. Alejandro Roth and retired when she was 75 years old.
– “Carmelita, please find the inventory for the French Bordeaux and find when the next shipment is coming in. When is the ship arriving? Do you have the shipping documents? Has the bank approved the funds to pay for the Letter of Credit? Make sure nothing goes wrong.”
Diego come into the office.
– “Yes, Señor Gabriel, what can I do for you?”
Gabriel handed him the order and said
– “This is an important order and could become a very good customer. Make sure everything is perfect. How are the preparations coming along? The wedding is coming soon, isn’t it Diego?”
– “Yes Mr. Gabriel, next month.”
– “You and your future wife must be very excited. Nervous? It’s normal.”
– “Diego, please make sure this order goes out this afternoon. As you know it is an important client.”
– “Si señor, it is in my hands. There will be no problems. I’ll do it right away.”
Gabriel went back to do more work at his desk. Carmelita, the secretary, walked in and left some invoices from the company in Paris describing the new shipment of wines coming this week. Gabriel looked at the Bill of Lading as well as the Custom Declaration. Lifting his eyes, he looked at an old photograph on the wall where he appeared, standing next to an older man, in front of the building of a French Wine company.
“Excuse me Mr. Gabriel, the Capitan Manuel Gonzalez is here to see you”
Carmelita’s voice sounded grave and apprehensive.
As Gabriel looked towards the door of his office, a group four uniformed men walked in, passing Carmelita, who was standing at the door of Gabriel’s office.
“Hola Manuel, or should I say Capitan Gonzalez?”
“No Gabriel, for you I will always be Manuel, we have been friends our entire life. These gentlemen are officers who work with me.”
“What brings you here Manuel?”
“There is a delicate situation developing in our country. There is discontent for the way the country is being governed. President Isabel Peron is doing everything possible to be an effective President but there are many forces working against her. It will not be easy unless we stop the insurgency. After Perón’s death, the people have not been able to fully accept Isabel as the new President. I don’t understand why, she had been the Acting President several times already.
“I understand Manuel but what can I do for you? How can I be of help? “
“Gabriel, let’s talk like friends. There are a lot of people in every level of our society that will like to see President Isabel ousted. These people exist in places you would not suspect. There is a group, the ERP commanded by Roberto Santucho. This group has people everywhere. Keep your eyes open and please call me if you see anything abnormal. Gabriel, as a friend, I beg you, call me. We suspect that members of the People’s Revolutionaries Army work in normal jobs such as secretaries or warehouse managers. Do you see what I mean?”
“Manuel, I have not seen anything among my workers which would suggest any involvement in such matters. I will give you all my cooperation.”
The end of the working day has come and Gabriel drove home and as he drove down Corrientes and made a left into Av 9 de Julio. On his left he read the marquee of the Teatro Colón “Tango Performance”. He continued on Av 9 de Julio and headed home. It was rush hour and there was some traffic but he thought he would get home on time for dinner. He kept thinking and wondering how good it would be seeing the Tango performance at the theater.
Gabriel arrived home and his life looked good and he felt good about it. He had his own home and a lifelong partner.
“Hi, there is a Tango Show tonight and think it will be good.” Gabriel said.
“Would you like to go? Let’s go, I think we will enjoy it. Come say yes, let’s do something different this evening.”
They sat down for dinner. The meal began with a nice looking soup which Gabriel tried and smiled at her showing his approval. She smiled back feeling good for his approval. Her beautiful dark hair getting into her face enhancing her beauty. “Wait until you try the second plate.” She said
She was, a pleasant woman in her mid-50, but, in many ways, her age made her look more attractive. She continued the conversation by asking Gabriel more details of the Tango Show.
– “Gabriel, do you know any of the dancers? Who is dancing? Any people we know from the old days?”
– “No, the people we knew are too old to be dancing on stage. These are perhaps the children of some of our friends. This show will be nice but, it is part of a project to revive tango. They are working on a larger project. I don’t know when they will finish but they plan to open a show in Paris and then tour the world with it. They even plan to go to New York and show the Americans how tango is really danced.”
– “No, they are not too old. We are still capable of dancing and I bet you we can dance and make everyone wish they could do what we do.”
– “Pass me the potatoes, please.”- Gabriel said.
– “Si, of course.”
– “Would you like a matecito? I can prepare now.”
– “Si, I believe it will make me feel good.”
That evening they both drove to the theater for the show. The theater was a half full and you could see more people coming in search for a place to sit. You could hear the musical group tuning the violin and the base to the piano. The two bandoneonists were busy positioning the microphones and the score support in the right place. Everyone was dressed in an elegant and simple way. Women were dressed in attractive dresses while the men enjoyed looking at them.
They were both walking between the seats towards their assigned places.
– Excuse us, please, we are sorry. My apologies.
They arrived at what appeared to be their seats, Gabriel checked the number of the ticket and with his approval they took their seats. Gabriel looked at her and they both smiled to each other. He sat back and looked at the painting on the curtain, It reminded him of when he went to Europe, the picture showed the view of the Mediterranean from the Southern coast of France, and he began to think of how much time has gone by. He remembered the first time he met Ana and the club where they met…..
ARGENTINA – EARLY DAYS CIRCA February 1935
(before Gardel’s death)
Cars were honking and there were a lot of people on the street, it was early evening and there were many people busily walking on the street, carrying packages, having a good time. There was a lot of activity and you could see the work and wealth they all enjoyed at the time. Argentina was slowly recovering from the effects of the Great Depression. You could almost think you were on 5th Av. in New York. The sidewalks were beautifully finished as good as if they were new. A group of young men came out of the school where they had spent the day. The group avidly talked of what they were planning to do for the evening. One of them, Carlos, suggested they all go to the very famous milonga in Buenos Aires, its name was: “Sin Rumbo”. Carlos had fallen in love with tango and couldn’t wait to dance it well. They all agreed to meet at the milonga that evening.
They all met a block away from the milonga and walked towards the place, they turn the corner and continued walking on the street approaching the milonga. You could hear the tango music from the street and groups of people of every age entering the milonga. Once inside the smoke mixed with the beautiful faces of the women. The waiters walked weaving between the tables carrying trays with enticing drinks which were received eagerly by the dancers. Couples danced in a tight embrace enjoying each other intimacy and closeness.
Carlos did not wait any time and was soon dancing with a beautiful young woman he knew from school. Carlos struggled with his dance and stepped on his partner’s foot prompting her to show pain. He looked at the table were his friends were and shrugged his shoulders while his friends all together laughed at the incident. The tanda ended and they both approached their group of friends.
– “Hola muchachos, I want you to meet my friend Ana. We are in the same class, I am helping her with math and she is helping me with the dancing, isn’t she great”
Ana was very beautiful and had a shapely figure, with a light and tall feminine build, long dark hair and brown eyes.
– “Juan could not wait and said: “Carlos, you will never learn to dance tango! – I think not even Gardel can teach you tango.”
They all laugh
– “But what are you saying, you don’t know anything, Gardel does not teach tango, Gardel sings tango and travels the world doing it. Nueva York, Paris, Venezuela. Soon he will go to Colombia or I believe he’s already there – Vos no sabes nada – You don’t know anything”
– “I love tango more than anything else. Enrique Discépolo said it: tango is a sad thought that you can dance” I will learn to dance tango even if it takes me the rest of my life to do it, and now” – looking at Ana – “I have “Professional” help.”
Carlos continued to tell Ana the name of his friends.
– “This is Juan, we are friends since we were children” He wants to learn English, I help him and now he’s been teaching me tango too but I prefer when Ana teaches me.”
– “It’s a pleasure to meet you Ana. Please have a seat” Juan said.
– “Let me introduce to you another of my closest friends, Alberto”
– “Alberto works in a Bank and someday he will own it. At least he thinks so”
They all laughed
– “Es un placer conocerla señorita” “ Don’t pay attention” says Alberto “They are joking and I like my job, I may not own my own bank…. Yet,” – Ana smiles – “but someday I will be in finances in a big way.”
– “Yeah, yeah, we all heard the story before” Carlos said, and they all laughed.
“This guy here is Manuel, he studies Political Science and he already hates Socialism and Communism.
“A guy, a guy, I am just a guy for you. I am Manuel your friend and yes I don’t like Marx, or Lenin dead already and I sure don’t like Stalin. I don’t want to talk politics anymore, we came here to dance. It is my unbelievable pleasure to meet you Ana. It is tsunami of pleasure to make your acquaintance .”
They all laughed at Manuel’s words.
– “And this is my great friend Gabriel, a merchant in his heart, he likes Business Administration. His family imports wines from Europe.”
– “Nice to meet you.” Said Gabriel.
Gabriel and Ana glanced at each other and kept staring at each other for a couple of seconds.
– “Please Ana” – Gabriel said – “Have seat” pointing at an empty chair next to him.
Ana did not wait any time and took the seat next to Gabriel. They both smiled sensing the attraction. Very quickly Gabriel began the conversation with Ana by asking her what she did.
– “Que hacés? What are you studying?”
– “Si, I am en el Ciclo Básico and want to study economics. I want to go to the Facultad de Ciencias Económicas. Argentina is now in a new development phase to recover from the Great Depression, we were one of the richest countries in the world and we will be again. Did you know we Argentina was the 5th economy in the world? We are an agricultural and industrial power. We feed Europe and many good things are yet to come. I want to be part of it. How about you, what do you study?”
Gabriel thought for a moment, while looking at her….
– “Yes, I study business, Business Administration in the same school you go, to be precise. I don’t understand how it is that we have not met before. You and I agree that Argentina needs to increase its commerce and establish good relationships with the rest of the world. I also want to see other countries, other places. I know Europe has problems but there are places where one can do a lot for humanity, see other cultures and know different people and new places. I wish we could help the poor and those who cannot help themselves.”
– “My father imports goods from Europe, mostly wines and many other items. He is very successful and when I am not in class, I work at his business. I like it and my father says I will someday own the business but now I need to study and prepare myself for it.”
Gabriel kept staring at Ana and she returned the look with smile as if telling him she liked him too.
– “Do you mind if I call you Gaby?”
– “I don’t mind. How should I call you?”
– “You can call me Ana or whatever you’d like.”
– “I will not call you by your name. I will simply look at you and you will know when I am calling you because your will see your name in my eyes.”
– “You say pretty things. Where did you learn this?”
– “If just made it up. What would you like to drink?”
– “I’d like something sweet.”
They all sat down, ordered some drinks, Gabriel ordered a glass of wine and Ana ordered a soft drink.
The milonga was almost full. There were no tables available and the music filled the room. Most dancers were embracing each other with some of the women dancing with their eyes closed
– “Would you like to dance? I like D’Arienzo. Do you like his music?”
– “Of course. I like him too. He is perhaps the best. I also like Di Sarli and with Canaro my horizon opens, his clear beat has always been very popular. With D’Arienzo, I feel in a different world.”
They both got up and they stood in front of each other hesitating for a moment. Finally Gabriel extended his hand and Ana softly gave him her hand. They walked to the border of the dancing floor. They both looked at each other and Gabriel slowly entered into a close embrace.
Her hand was a little cold. He could feel her breathing. A slight tremor of her hand told him she liked him too. The smell of her hair made him shiver beginning at the base of his neck and rapidly traveling to the back of his cheeks and ending at his temples. He knew that from now on she would always be in his mind.
– “Hey, are you guys going to dance or are you just going to stand there?” Said Carlos.
Their friends at the table smiled and Gabriel and Ana, did not look at Carlos and began to dance.
– “Look Gabriel dances very well.” – said Juan.
– “What about Ana, she looks great.” – said Alberto. “That kind of investment will pay well! You can take it to the bank. As Alberto Castillo, in his famous tango would say: “That’s the way to dance tango!”
Getting to know her
They all could see how Gabriel and Ana glided on the floor. Close embrace but adding beautiful simple figures.
– “Manuel, what do you think of the socialists?” Asked Alberto.
– “I don’t know. It sounds nice but you will never know what you will get in the end. I think we are fine the way we are and we should continue doing what we are doing. In my classes we learned that wherever the socialist have power, the economy slows down and many of what was promised never materializes. Look at what is happening in Spain. People think there will be a civil war and only God knows how many will die. Look what is happening in Russia, Let’s not talk of politics, lets enjoy the milonga. It is what it is and there is nothing you can do to change it.”
The tanda finished and all dancers walked off the floor, the bright lights came on and completely illuminated the floor.
The announcer of the milonga started to announce a surprise presentation and the presence of a famous couple:
– “Ladies and gentleman we have among us the presence of our close friend Benito Bianquet we all know him as “El Cachafaz” El Rey del Canyengue. Let’s us welcome him and his partner, Carmencita, to the floor. Put your hands together and invite this wonderful couple to come to the floor. The announcer invites the couple to dance a tango for the audience to enjoy.
– Benito and Carmencita will dance for us the tango “Zorro Gris” with the Orchestra of Francisco Lomuto.
You could hear some of the dancers welcoming the dancers and calling “Vamos Benito – Cachafaz.!!!!”
The band began to play “Zorro Gris”. Benito said “Me permite bailar con usted?” (Will you allow me to dance with you?) using the respectful “usted” form of addressing instead of the familiar “tu”. “Por Supesto, será un placer” (of course, it will be a pleasure) she answered. Benito gently holds her right hand, clutching her hand with his fingers. Her fingers barely touch his hand as if resting on the palm of his hand. He kept their hands at his shoulder level. He slightly bent his knees and in doing so, she also bent her knees. They began moving sideways, he with his left foot and she with her right, after he took two steps he reversed his walk by bringing his left foot back behind while she turn with a forward ocho with her right. Benito began a series of turns which pleased admiring onlookers. The entire place burst with the applause of everyone present in the room. That night El Cachafaz showed all the figures he knew were the favorites of everyone who knew him. The arrastre, the quebradas y los cortes were the main attraction but we all noticed how he would dance with the music alternating between fast move and a slow recovery. At the end, the announcer congratulated the couple and invited the dancers to come to the floor to continue dancing.
Gabriel, asked Ana, jokingly using the cabeceo, to dance she smiled and accepted by offering him her hand. Gabriel felt her hand and this time it was warm, he thought she was not nervous anymore and that she was comfortable with him. She wanted to be close to him and with an elegant walk let him take her to the floor. The music of “El Garron” began to play and he brought her close to him in a gentle close embrace. They began to dance with a short walk and he felt she clearly responded to his lead. The smell of her hair permeated his nostrils. He welcomed the sensation because in breading her smell, she was part of him. They danced in a world of their own. Gabriel did a “parada” and looked at her intensely. She also looked back at him and at that moment he knew he would someday marry her. They both showed a unique style and a footwork which made the onlookers smile with pleasantly surprise. “You two dance beautifully. You must have been dancing together for a long time”. Other dancers also came to praise them and they both gratefully accepted the compliments.
Gabriel and Ana ended the tanda and looking at him she said: “You are a very passionate man”. He kept looking at her not knowing what to say, finally all he could say was “Thank you” and with those words they both walked to their table to sit with their friends.
Carlos saw an attractive young woman sitting at the table next to their table and without hesitating asked her to dance. “I am a beginner and if you don’t mind, I would love dancing with you”
Gabriel and Ana sat down and he began the conversation:
“Do you have a boyfriend?”,
“No, how about you?” asked Ana.
“No, I don’t have a boyfriend either”
They both laughed at his comment and he continued
“No, seriously, I don’t have a girlfriend but I am looking for one. Would you know of a possible candidate? If you do, can you give her an application?”
Ana laughed, which made Gabriel smile, and she then said to him:
“I am sure you tell all the girls the same thing”
“I’m telling you the truth”.
She continued to smile
“You are fun to be with”.
The music continued and they all noticed Carlos holding his partner in a close embrace. All at the table acknowledge it by smiling.
“Perhaps he will get serious this time”, said Gabriel
Time passed without Gabriel and Ana realizing that it was past midnight and finally they decided they should go home. Gabriel offered to walk with her and so they left the milonga. The evening was fresh and a gently breeze made the evening pleasant. As they walked, Gabriel told Ana, he wanted to see her next day. He and his friends were planning to go to the amusement park. She agreed to go with him and meet at the Parque Japonés, the amusement park. They agreed to meet at 4 in the afternoon.
– “I’ll wait for you at the station of Retiro” said Gabriel,
– “Let me see if I have time in my schedule.” answered Ana with a smile on her face.
– “You’d better be there.” Gabriel said, knowing she was flirting.
They arrived at her house. For a moment he hesitated not knowing what to do. He knew he wanted to kiss her but was not sure how she would react. Finally he kissed her in the cheek and walked away backwards while staring at her.
Gabriel began to go home and could not stop thinking that he was sure she was the girl he wanted and could form a serious relationship. He arrived at his parents place. His mother was still up and listening to the radio. “How was your evening, where were you?”. “I went to the milonga with my friends”. “What friends?” “I’ll tell you tomorrow”. He kissed her and went to his room.
The day of the first date at the Parque Japones… finally arrived.
The afternoon was clear with the sun shining with a low light giving the trees a surreal appearance. Gabriel wanted to be early and was promptly at the bus stop, anxiously waiting for Ana. He could clearly remember the previous evening and how much he had enjoyed her company. He could not wait a minute more to see her again.
He looked at the families entering the park. Couples with their children and wondered how it would be to have children of his own. He thought of his future and how bright it was. He had so many plans and wanted to make them happen soon.
The bus stopped and Gabriel looked at the passengers coming out of the bus. She finally appeared and he took a deep breath. She glanced in the direction he was and when she saw him, a smile crossed her face recognizing him. She walked towards him and he greeted her with a big smile.
– “Hi, how are you? Did you have a nice trip?” – Gabriel asked.
– “Yes, I did – Have you been waiting for a long time?” – Ana asked.
– “Not really but what is important is that you are here. Come let’s go in.” – Gabriel told her.
They walked through the gate along with many other people. Although the sun was still out, the park was full of lights. It was a cool afternoon with a pleasant breeze. Gabriel saw that there were young couples holding hands and with a little hesitation he softly took her hand. She did not resist and encircled his hand with her fingers.
“Look there, the Montaña Rusa! It looks scary but I love the roller coaster, let’s go, next to you I feel safe.” – Ana said.
“You have nothing to worry about. Next to me you will always be safe”. – Gabriel assured her.
“Is that a promise Gabriel?”
“Yes, it is.” – He answered
They got behind the long line of people anxious to get on the ride and after about 10 minutes they were sitting in the front car. As soon as the safety bar closed, she grabbed his arm. He turned to look at her and said again “I already told you, stay close to me and you will be safe.”
The car began to roll down a very small incline. The only sound was coming from the wheels rolling on the tracks. The riders were full of anticipation knowing that the beginning of the climb would soon come. You could see a sign on the left saying “Cuidado con los sombreros”. They noticed it at the same time and she exclaimed, “Be careful with your hat”! He quickly answered, “That’s for old people. I am not there yet.” They both laughed as the car went into a make believe mountain. It quickly took a turn to the right, a turn to the left. The track had a smell of a mixture of old oil and grease mixed with dust and humidity. A clanking noise came from underneath the car as the car caught the heavy chain which pulled the car and then began to climb to the highest point of the ride. You could see a make believe Mountain Fuji-Yama on the right and two lakes next to the mountain.
She was squeezing his arm in anticipation of the drop.
“Don’t worry Ana, nothing is going to happen, you are next to me.
Look at the lakes, Gabriel, they are so big and beautiful, I love the view and look! The Taj Mahal! It was built by the emperor in India in memory of his wife, isn’t it romantic? “Gabriel, don’t you think it is romantic?”
Gabriel looked at her and, seeing her loveliness again, thought of how wonderful it might be spending his life with her.
“Yes, it is very romantic” Gabriel told her.
The car reached the top and slowly began to increase speed. Suddenly they were speeding downhill. A lot of people were screaming while others, brave or crazier, were waving their arms in the air defiantly. At times Ana would close her eyes and open them again every time she felt a loud sound coming from the tracks. Between sudden turns, drops that felt as if the car was coming off the tracks and climbing again many times, the car came to a stop and the attendant opened the safety bar so that they could come out.
“Did you like it” Ana?
And with a little hesitation she answered.
“I don’t know, I think I did like it but I am not going to ride it again.”
They both laughed and ran up the the exit ramp.
They continued walking through the park, passing the Shooting Gallery and the game where people were throwing rings hoping to win a prize by landing on the neck of a bottle.
They continue walking and further ahead saw the “Tunel del Amor”, The Love Tunnel.
“Look Ana that is not dangerous, let’s go in it, the line is small and it is only a ride on a boat. There is nothing to be afraid of and it will be fun. You’d like it, trust me.”
She looked at him knowing exactly what his intentions were, but she liked him and she also wanted to ride the boat.
“OK let’s go but make sure we don’t fall in the water” “Stay close to me, it’s just a ride on a boat”.
The got to the end of the line and there were about 5 couples ahead of them. Most of the couples were holding hands and one of the men was putting his arm around the woman’s shoulder keeping the woman close to him. Five minutes later they were in the front of the line ready to board the boat. The boat came in front of the boarding ramp and the attendant signaled them to get on the boat. He went in first and held his hand to help her to get in. They sat on the narrow plank which served as a seat and he put his left arm around her with his hand touching her left shoulder. The boat began to move and began to hit the sides of the channel that guided the boat down the ride.
As soon as the boat entered the dark tunnel, Ana felt something rubbing her hair. It was a string. She made a gesture with her hand to push the string away and suddenly a whoosh of air hit her face on the left cheek which made her scream, turning her head to her right and almost burying her face into Gabriel’s neck. “Haaaay, what is that?” He held her closer to him while he assured her that nothing would happen to her. He turned to his left to see her.
“Don’t worry, this is only intended to scare you but it is fun.”
Their faces were very close, almost touching. Slowly he embraced her until their lips touched. He liked the feeling of her lips touching his and she thought his mouth was as soft as velvet. They kissed for a few seconds until a figure standing about five feet from their seat began to move and suddenly a frightening scream emerged from the figure and they quickly separated in confusion.. She pressed her head against his chest and closed her eyes, while he held her close to him. Finally in what appeared to be an eternity the boat went through a curtain and stopped.
They quickly ran up the ramp to get back to the main strip. They paused to throw rings at the pack of bottles but the rings bounced and would not fall on the neck of the bottles.
“Come let’s continue, this is not possible, let me try once more said Gabriel, I think I can do it.”
Gabriel threw the ring and again missed the bottle.
“I think you are right, it’s not possible. – He said -let’s find something easy.”
“Look!” Said Ana, “can you throw a ball and hit a doll?”
“I sure can,” said Gabriel, “I’ll show you”.
They walked to the ball throwing counter and Gabriel paid to get 5 balls.
“Are you sure you will hit the doll”? Ana said and Gabriel, not waiting a second, quickly answered.
“But of course I will hit them. Not only I will hit them, I will knock them out of the booth, trust me, I will get the prize.”
Gabriel got ready and extended his arm as far back as he could, took aim at the pyramid of three dolls hitting only the one at the top.
“Don’t worry, watch how I do it”. Gabriel said.
Gabriel took aim again and hit the pyramid and the dolls looked as if they would fall but they did not. Gabriel threw all the rest of the balls and every time he hit the dolls they would not fall.
“Something is not right, it’s not possible! This is rigged” said Gabriel but Ana, not wasting any time grabbed him by his arm and told him –
“Let’s go, don’t let this spoil the day.”
Gabriel and Ana continued walking the park enjoying each other’s company. The park was packed with all kinds of people. Children were everywhere while the parents were keeping an eye on them and calling them back whenever they got too far. –
“Come to my house, Ana, I want you to meet my parents, they are going to love you, come next Saturday for dinner. I will tell my parents to have a nice dinner with all my family.”
“Do you think they will like me?”- She asked.
“Ana, they will adore you!” – He assured her.
Meeting his parents
Monday morning Gabriel was taking the first class of the day – Accounting. It was far from his favorite course, marketing, but he knew he needed it. Today the class was about how to read an End of the Year Balance.
After school he went straight home.
“Gabriel, how are you doing in school? What did you learn last week? You told me inventory was the subject.” His father Alejandro asked.
Gabriel’s father, Alejandro Roth, was a man in his mid-50s. Tall and handsome with the assurance of a man who knew what he was doing.
“Yes you are right. Last week we learned how to take inventory and the accounting significance of it. Did you know Dad, that the inventory is considered an asset for the company?”
Alejandro looked at him smiling and told him:
“Yes I know that, it is important, but the question is how much inventory we should have. Did you learn that?” His father asked.
“I have learned a few things about inventory, Dad, but on Friday we have a class discussion and I am planning to ask many questions.”
“Doesn’t it make sense to buy as much as possible and keep it in a warehouse?” Gabriel asked his father.
“Perhaps, Gabriel, it all depends on many factors. For instance: How many orders you have, or how long it takes to get a new shipment to replace your inventory. How much capital do you want keep in inventory. Remember we need money to operate, to pay day to day expenses. Do you remember the wineries we visited in Chile and how large the inventory was?”
“Yes Dad, I remember but the product has to be aged which means they have to have several years in inventory. Also what, if for any reason, you can’t import anymore. What could you do?”
“You’re right, that is a very important element to consider.” Alejandro said.
Changing the conversation, Alexander asked Gabriel:
“Gabriel, did you take care of the delivery we had scheduled for today?”
“Yes, Dad, I did. There were no problems”.
The week went very fast and without incident. Friday, Gabriel was very interested in attending and participating in the class. The professor was talking and explaining:
“As you remember, last week we said………”
The teacher looked at the class to see, not only if they were paying attention but if the students showed signs they remembered what had been said the week before. Finally the teacher continued.
“We said that inventory was one the most important assets any company has. It is the beginning of the process which in the end generates profits. It is true that is good to have inventory but the quantity of inventory depends of the type of business. Business can be manufacturing, retail, import or service. Too much inventory is as bad as having too little inventory. There are many factors which will determine the size of your inventory: turnover, spoilage, how fast the fashion changes, and cost of storage.
“Excuse me professor: what about the time it takes to replenish the inventory?” Gabriel asked.
“Very good question, Gabriel – It is very important to know where the product comes from. If it is imported, we need to know how long it takes to transport the material from the factory to your warehouse.”
“What if it comes from another country?” Gabriel asked again.
“In that case, it is important to know the time from port to port and also if there are any other factors that can interrupt the shipment. In that case we need to break the rule and have more inventory than we would have under normal conditions. It all depends on the circumstances, the time of the year, and the political situation at the country of origin.”
The bell rang and the students began to put their books and papers together getting ready to leave. Gabriel approached the professor to thank him for the class.
“Professor, thank you very much for the class. My father and I discuss the subject very often” – “I am a believer that having a lot of inventory guarantees a good time of delivery of the product”, “My father imports wine from Europe and it can take 15 days up to one month to get a shipment”
“Yes, it is true, but do you have the space to store your inventory and do you have enough capital to keep it idle in a large inventory?” “If you do, it is not a bad idea. Prices can go up due to many circumstances and you never know what can happen at any moment”
Saturday could not come soon enough but finally today was Saturday. Gabriel got up that morning and could not think of anything else but of the dinner planned for the evening. His room was a mess, his socks were on the floor and his pants lay on a chair.
While getting dressed he could hear his mother Rebeca, talking to his father.
Rebeca was a handsome woman, with a few extra pounds which did nothing to detract from her beauty. She was approaching her 50th birthday, was 5’-3” tall and had luxurious, long black hair which enhanced her loveliness. “Alejandro, do you remember that Gaby’s friend is coming today for dinner?” Rebeca said.
“Yes, I know. It is about time he finds a girl, as a friend and I hope she is just a friend he has. I don’t like some of the friends he has at the milongas. It is good to dance but I’d like him to get more serious about the business.” Alejandro said. “If something happens to me, he needs to know how to run the business and he still has a lot to learn.”
“What are you saying? You are only 56 years old! You have many years ahead of you.” Rebeca said.
“I don’t know. Sometimes I get tired very easily. I think I am getting too old to run the business.”
Alejandro continued, “Yesterday, I got an unpleasant visit from a group of military men who weren’t too friendly. The Captain, Roberto Gómez, asked me if Gabriel was involved in a socialist movement which works in opposition to President Agustín Justo.”
“Alejandro, what are you talking about? Gabriel does not get involved in politics! You know that!”, said Rebeca.
They implied that he was a member of the Youth Wing of the Unión Cívica Radical. They thought that he was involved with the group that had tried to assassinate Herbert Hoover in 1928. They are still trying to find all the people involved. I don’t believe Gaby is involved with the group but you know that many young people are very interested in socialism and communism as systems to solve the problems of society. I am concerned since the government does not think twice before arresting a young man. Once they have him it is very difficult to get him released. There is always the possibility of the worst”.
Rebeca looked at her husband with her eyes wide open in disbelief.
“What are you talking about Alejandro? You are getting me scared.”
“I am now more inclined to send him to France. The Government of President Agustín Justo is not going to allow anyone to take over by means other than by popular elections.”
“Today I will call France and speak to Moise, he’s a good man and knows the business well. He always makes the shipments on time and runs the entire business very well. I am concerned about Gaby and we need to move fast.”
“Here’s your coffee, Alejandro”.
Alejandro took the coffee cup and began to sip the very sweet black coffee.
“Good coffee! I don’t know what I like the most, the coffee in the morning or the mate in the afternoon. But talking about the business, I have to go, it’s late, there are some orders we have to have ready to deliver on Monday. Francisco is probably wondering where I am. Francisco is a good worker, I am glad I made him the Warehouse Manager.”
“See you later” Alejandro said.
Gabriel came into the kitchen.
“Hi Mom. I’m hungry but I don’t want to eat too much. I want to save my stomach for dinner.”
“Are you excited because Ana is coming?” Rebeca asked.
“Of course I am, I like her very much.”
“Son, you should take easy. You are young and believe me there will many girls. You have your entire life ahead of you”.
“No mom, you don’t understand – She’s the one,” Gabriel said.
“Here’s your Media luna and your Café con Leche”.
“Gracias Mom, – What are you planning for dinner?”
“I am not sure. First I wanted to make a Vitel Thoné and some empanadas but it is perhaps too heavy for a light dinner. I then thought of making a Pascualina and some piononos. My third choice is to have a Calabaza soup and empanadas. What do you think?” Rebeca asked.
“I think I like that choice. Soup and empanadas” Gabriel said with satisfaction.
The doorbell rang and Gabriel quickly went to open the door.
“Hi, how are you? Please come in” Gabriel said.
Ana came into the house, her eyes looking avidly to see where Gabriel parents were.
“Are you OK? Don’t be nervous. Your parents know you are here, don’t they?” Gabriel asked.
“Well, the truth is I told them I was going to my friend Victoria’s house. They know her and like her too.” Ana answered.
“It’s OK, come let me take you to my parents. They know you are coming and they are expecting you”. Gabriel said.
Gabriel and Ana started walking towards the living room of the at the same time that Alejandro walked towards the door.
“Hi, how are you? You are Ana, I am Gabriel’s father, Alejandro. Come in, let me call Gabriel’s mother. Her name is Rebeca and she really wants to meet you.”
Ana and Gabriel sat in the living room while Alejandro wents to the kitchen to get his wife.
“Are you OK?” Gabriel asked Ana.
“I am nervous Gabriel. Do you think your father likes me?”
“Of course he does. There is no reason why he should not like you.” Gabriel assured her.
“How about your mother?” Ana asked.
“Hola chicos.” Rebeca said as she walked into the room. “Ana it’s my pleasure to meet you. You are so pretty, no wonder Gabriel talks so much of you. – come have a seat let’s eat something.”
“Mom, what are you saying? Please. You are embarrassing me.” Gabriel said.
“The truth should not embarrass anyone. Ana is a real beauty,” Rebeca said.
They all sat around the table and Gabriel’s mother asked Ana for her soup plate.
Gabriel quickly said:
“You are going to taste the most famous Calabaza soup in Buenos Aires, no, no, not of Buenos Aires but of all Argentina!”
After a few minutes they prepared to eat the famous soup.
Ana took a couple of spoonful of the soup and after a few seconds she exclaimed,”
“Delicious. You are right Gabriel this is really good”!
“Very good? You mean it is the best!” Gabriel answered.
Alejandro was amused by the conversation and addressed the young woman,
“Ana, Gabriel tells me you both are going to the same school. You are studying Economics, is that right?”
“Yes, I am. I find it very interesting to study the forces that make an economy successful. Our economy is developing very fast. We produce just about everything we need and there are plans to continue developing our agriculture and our industry to unimaginable levels. I want to be part of it.”
“My father is in the clothing business and last year he took me on a trip to Italy to visit the clothing companies he wants to do business with. I loved the trip!”
Rebeca walks in from the kitchen carrying a tray “Here are the alfajores, I made them myself”
“I can’t believe it, I adore alfajores – What a surprise!” Ana said.
Ana took two and without waiting any time took a bite of one of them.
“Delicious, oh my God it could not be better”!
“Did you eat the one with dulce de leche?” – Rebeca asked.
“I guess not – Let me try one”
“Here have this one” Rebeca offered her one.
Ana took a bite and said “Oh my God it is so good!”
They all laugh. Gabriel and Alejandro knew very well how good Rebeca’s alfajores tasted and this time it was no different.
The evening continued very lively until it was time for Ana to go back to her home, Her parents were probably waiting and she could not get home too late.
“Señora Roth, I want to thank you and your husband for a lovely time. You are all wonderful people and I am very lucky to know you. I am sorry but I have to go, my parents are expecting me soon and I don’t want to worry them”
“Thank you again for this wonderful lunch and a wonderful afternoon.” – “Gabriel would you walk me to my home? It is dark and I will feel more secure if you accompany me”, Ana said.
“It will be my pleasure. I would not have it any other way”
Gabriel and Ana got up and he helped her to put on her shawl.
Alejandro got up and thanked Ana for accepting their dinner invitation.
Gabriel and Ana walked to the main door and before they left he turned to his parents and said: “I’ll be back soon”.
They went out and closed the door behind them.
Rebeca began to clear the table at the same time that Alejandro came back into the dining room.
“What do you think?” Alejandro asked Rebeca.
“What do you mean? She seems to be a lovely girl – What’s to think, anyone can see they like each other” Rebeca answered.
“That’s exactly what I mean. Gabriel is too young to take it seriously. He’s going to school and I still needs to learn the business. He can’t waste too much of his time with girls”
“Alejandro, what are you worrying about? They go to the same school and she came to dinner, that’s all. Don’t think there is anything else” Rebeca quickly said.
“I don’t know, I don’t like it – Tell Gabriel to come to the company after school, I’d like to talk to him to see what he learned on Friday – I need to talk to him”
The Power of Love
Early in the afternoon, Gabriel walked into his father office. Alejandro lifted his head and smiled at Gabriel. He had the smile that only parents have for their children.
“Hola Gabriel, I am happy you have come. There are a few things we need to discuss – How were the classes?”
“The classes went well, Dad. Every day I learn new things and my interest in these matters increases”
“How about politics, anything going on? Are there any groups active in politics? Alejandro asked looking at Gabriel straight in the eye, trying to see if the answer was honest.
“Well Dad, there is always some politics going on. Some of my friends are involved in it but I stay out of it.
“Are you aware that the police are looking for agitators and people who are against the Government”?
“Yes Dad I know that.
“About the classes, you said you are very interested in some matters and that’s good – Tell me, what is the area that attracts you the most?”
“Well, remember Dad we spoke of inventory? “
“Yes, I do, but why are you so concerned about it?”
“I think that there are many situations that could interrupt the flow of supplies and one would have to be prepared.”
“Well, I concur with you. I also think the same way – Let’s you and I take inventory this afternoon and see what we have”.
“I am sorry Dad, today I can’t I made plans with Ana to go to her house to study for a test we have next week”.
“Are her parents are OK with that?” Alejandro asked.
“Yes Dad, they will be home – We’ll talk tonight, I have to go now – See you later”
With that, Gabriel left the company and headed to Ana’s home. It did not take him too long to walk the few blocks to get there and as he walked he realized how happy his life had suddenly become.
Gabriel arrived at Ana’s house at the arranged time.
“Hi Ana, how are you? Are you ready to start studying?”
“Hi Gabriel, please come in. I was waiting for you. I already have my books in the kitchen table where we can study”
Gabriel entered the house and noticed that Ana’s mother, Estela Sorin, was sitting in the living room reading a magazine. The living room was rather large and there was even a Baby Grand Piano. Estela Sorin was a tall woman, slender, friendly and well spoken. She could play the piano very well even though she had never taken classes. Her smile showed Gabriel that she liked him. Gabriel felt good. He was worried her parents would not approve his friendship with Ana. Seeing how Ana’s mother treated him. He felt welcome by Ana’s mother.
“Hi Gabriel, how are you today? – Ana told me how good the school was today, come in”
“Hi Señora Sorin, I am fine and yes it was a very nice day.
Looking at the piano Gabriel said: I see someone plays the piano here. Is that you Señora Sorin?”
“Yes it’s me. I like to play for the fun of it. Have a nice time studying. I hope it reflects in your grades and you pass with honors.”
“Thank you Señora for your good wishes,” Gabriel said.
Ana and Gabriel continued walking to the back of the house where the kitchen was and Ana had set her books on a small table. She also had a pitcher of water and some cookies. It was small kitchen with a small window at the end which gave to a yard where there was a well-kept garden.
“Come Gabriel you sit in this chair.” Ana told Gabriel.
Ana sat on the other chair facing the hall leading to the living room and began talking of the complications she found in her Economics class.
“Exports! That is the conclusion to make an economy a success.” Ana said.
She continued: “Every economy needs revenues to come into the country. If you have an enclosed economy you will eventually consume every resource the country has. The Phoenicians knew that and they did commerce with other countries of the Mediterranean so that they would generate revenues. When countries could not generate revenue through commerce, they resorted to conquer other countries, to steal their resources and to collect taxes as a way to create revenue. Such was the case of the Babylonians, The Persians, the Romans but today we can’t do that so we need to exploit the resources of our country or manufacture tangible goods that we can export to generate revenue. Closed economies are bound to fail. This is not theory, it is a valid fact in macroeconomics or microeconomics. Imagine your home: If you lose your job, you will do nothing working in your home, like painting or cleaning the floors, at the end of the day all these activities are just expenses. What you need to do is to go get a job so that you can bring money into your home. If not, your household would collapse.
“I am very impressed. I had no idea you knew so much, you can even teach the subject and be a professor. I have to add that your analogy is excellent.” Gabriel said.
Ana thought he was kidding: “Gabriel! Be serious! It is important to know this.”
“I am serious Ana.” Gabriel answered.
“Would you like some coffee?” Ana asked anxious to change the subject.
“That would be nice. Yes I would like some.” Gabriel answered.
Ana got up and approached the stove to heat some water for the coffee and at the same time, Gabriel got and walked behind her. He put his hand on top of her shoulder turning her around and, without hesitating, slowly began to bring her close to him. She knew his intentions were to kiss her and she did not fight it she welcome it and waited. Before Ana could finish her thought, he was kissing her as she had never been kissed before. They both enjoyed it but heard some noise coming from the living room and Ana heard her mother saying something.
“I think I need to drink some water. Can you bring me some, Ana?” said her mother.
Her request coming from the living room made them quickly separate and Gabriel sat down picking up his book, while Ana was pouring water in a glass for her mother.
When she left the kitchen to bring the water to her mother, Gabriel began to chuckle.
“What are you laughing about? Tell me what is funny.” Ana asked.
“It’s nothing.” Gabriel said. “I just remembered something that happened in school today”
Next morning, at home, Gabriel walked into the kitchen. He was smiling showing, without any doubt that he was happy.
“Good morning. Mom.”
”Good morning son,” Rebeca answered.
Gabriel sat at the kitchen table and, looking at his father happily, said:
“Good morning Dad”
“Today, I don’t know why but I am very hungry. – What are having for breakfast, Mom?”
Rebeca looked at Gabriel, wondering what was so different about him today: “I am making some eggs with bacon and toast. I also have some medialunas.”
“Do you think we can take some inventory after school?” Alejandro asked Gabriel.
“I will go to the company Dad but later I have to get together with Ana to continue studying for the test. Oh my God as a matter of fact I am late and I have to leave for school right now. Sorry Mom, I’ll eat something later and promise to eat breakfast tomorrow.”
Gabriel got up taking the last sips of his milk and left the room running.
Alejandro and Rebeca looked at each other as Gabriel ran out and closed the door.
“Eat breakfast tomorrow Rebeca?.” Alejandro questioned.
“What do you think Rebeca?” “Do you think I am right?” Alejandro asked.
“No Alejandro, I think it is nothing. He’s just a young man who seems to like Ana a lot. Perhaps he is falling in love. He just does not know it yet. He has been seeing her for almost six months already. Time goes fast.” Rebeca replied.
“Six months!” Alejandro said in disbelief. “I had no idea this has been going on for such a long time. – I still think that the trip to France to meet with our wine suppliers will solve two problems. I want him to meet them and see the wine making process and what it takes to make wine and I want him focused on his studies, to get back to what really matters: To get an education!”
Alejandro continued, “Where is he studying Rebeca? Does he go to Ana’s house every day?”
“No, Alejandro he also meets her at one of her friends where the three study together”
“Is there an adult with them?” Alejandro questioned.
“I don’t know. I think the friend’s mother works from home. She makes dresses.”
“Good, at least somebody is supervising them. I don’t like the whole thing.” Alejandro, said.
You could see Alejandro was not pleased and did not like what he was hearing.
“You worry too much Alejandro,” Rebeca said.
“Perhaps, perhaps.” Alejandro said.
The following day, Gabriel went to his father’s business hoping to satisfy Alejandro’s wishes of taking inventory. He did not want to be there but wanted to keep peace.
“Thank you for giving me some of your precious time.” Alejandro said with a sarcastic smile on his face.
“I am sorry Dad, but between the school and the time I spend studying for the test I hardly have any time for myself.”
“Well, I hope everything turns out OK” – “I would like you to make a business plan: take an item from our warehouse and start the plan by beginning with where we import it from, how long it takes to get here, what are our monthly sales of that product and figure out how much we should have in inventory.”
“After you do this, you will have a better understanding of what we do here.” Alejandro said.
Gabriel looked at his father with a puzzled face, thinking that the task was difficult but since he was eager and willing to learn he agreed to make the plan.
“Dad I am going to start the plan and can work today for about one hour and then I have to go to Ana’s house to study.”
“By the way Gabriel, I am seriously thinking that it would be a good idea for you to go to France to stay with one of our suppliers to learn the way the wines are made from grapes to bottle.”
“What! Dad I don’t have time to go. How long will I be there?”
Alejandro saw Gabriel’s concern and reassured him that the stay would not be long.
“You should be there for about a couple of months. There are a few Chateaus that I would like you to visit in the South of France, a beautiful area where you can learn a lot while being there. ”Let me start planning the trip.”
Gabriel walked out of the office on his way to the warehouse feeling that this was going to change his life in ways he did not like. “I’m not going anywhere” he thought to himself. Hell no!
Gabriel knew he was late and was supposed to be at Ana’s house one hour earlier. He did not like to be late.
“Hi, come in.” Ana answered the door.
“I am sorry I am late but my father started a plan that is taking a lot of my time”
Ana opened the door and Gabriel walked in past her. When he turned around, she wrapped her arms around him, and kissed him.
“What are you doing? Your mother can see us,” Gabriel said.
“Don’t worry, she’s not home – She went to the store to buy things she needs for a dress she’s making.” Ana said.
“But what if she suddenly comes in?”
“It will be at least two hours – Why? Don’t you want to kiss me?”
“Of course I do but….” Gabriel hesitated.
“But what?… Stop talking and kiss me then.” Ana told him.
Gabriel hesitated for a moment but slowly began to get closer to her and very gently placed his lips on her mouth and began to kiss her. She responded by repeatedly moving away and coming back to kiss him. She continued teasing him with small kisses, softly and gently biting his lips. He would caress her tongue while she thrusted hers into him. He liked that and would not let her move away keeping the length of the kiss much longer every time.
“I love kissing you. You are a great kisser” Ana told him.
Gabriel heard that and without hesitating began to kiss her more intensely. His hand began to touch her breast and she did not push his hand away. He moved his hand and slipped it under her dress, caressing her thighs. It exited him more than he thought it would. The natural smell of her hair and of her skin was as exciting as touching her thighs. He felt he was in a different world where only Ana existed.
“Wait, Gabriel! Come to my room.” Ana said.
They entered her room. The bed was decorated with a white cover with blue and pink flowers. They stood next to the bed and an uncontrollable desire invaded him forcing him to get close to her, he passionately kissed her. He took his shirt off as she began to undo her dress. Her blouse had a knot in the front which he tried to undo but it did not loosen. On the contrary, the more he tried the tighter the knot got. He was frustrated but she took the blouse over her head. They gazed at one another knowing the step they were about to take. Gabriel stood in front of her, her presence made him feel as if nothing else around them existed, having sex with her was all it matters. When Ana saw the look on his face, her lips trembled of anticipation. She was a little bit nervous but wished with all her heart to be close to him, to feel the warmth of his body, she wished nothing less than to be with him.
“I love you Gabriel. You’re not going to hurt me, are you?”
Gabriel could not breath, a mixture of love, anxiety, and made him assured her that their actions would be the expression of the intense love they felt for each other. Her hand had a slight tremble.
“Have no fear. Always remember I love you very much and will never hurt you” Gabriel told her.
He helped her take her brassiere off, embraced her and felt her soft, warm and firm breast pressing against his chest. He felt his manhood reacting to the intense moment and closeness they were having. They fell on the bed in a close embrace, excited and anxious while at the same time they continued kissing and not knowing when or how he was on top of her and began to slowly penetrate her while tenderly kissing her face and lips.
“Wait! It hurts a little… I love you Gabriel, I love you more than anything in the world. Wait, go slowly please and before they could realize it, he was fully inside her. “Oh God it feels good. He began to rhythmically thrust her and with every thrust she would make a little noise and that would arouse him even more. They kept looking at each other, in a moment, where words were not needed. Oh my God, oh my God, yes, yes. You’re killing me. I feel you inside me……, it feels huge. Where were you before, why didn’t I meet you before? I want our love to last forever.”
Next morning Gabriel entered his father’s company and Alejandro greeted him.
“Gabriel how are you doing? You slept late, I left before you got up. How is the inventory plan working? Did you do anything since we spoke about it? I am very interested in seeing what you are doing”
“It’s almost finished Dad, I will bring it next time I come. Today I want to take a quick inventory to make sure that the books agree with the physical inventory.”
“That’s good. Remember I told you I wanted you to visit the Chateaus we work with for you to learn the business at the very source of the product?”
“Yes, I remember Dad.” Gabriel said with a voice showing he was not happy at the thought of a trip.
“Well I received a letter from the main Chateau we work with and they are willing to teach you details of the operation.” Alejandro continued.
“Dad, are you sure about this trip? Why can’t you teach me here whatever I need to know? – I am not sure I want to take this trip. What about my friends? Am I going to abandon them?” Gabriel said.
“Gabriel, don’t be dramatic, the trip is only for two months. The summer is a great time to be in France and after a nice stay you will be back to spend the New Year at home”
“I don’t know Dad – I don’t like it. – I’ve got to go to school. We’ll talk later.”
Love is a serious matter.
The afternoon at the business went well. Alejandro was very happy with the many sales the company had made. He was also waiting for the next shipment from France, arriving in a couple of days and the representative of the Chateau was also arriving with the shipment.
“Graciela, can you bring me the all the sales we have made today? I can’t wait to see how much they total.”
“I’m on the phone, Mr. Alejandro and it seems important; I’ll be there in a second”
Alejandro sat in his chair and began to look at some of the import documents for the next shipment coming from France arriving the following week.
Graciela walked into the office with her face pale, unable to speak a word.
“Mr. Alejandro, Capitan Roberto Gómez is on the phone and wants to speak to you”
“Roberto Gómez is an old friend of mine, we went to high school together.”
Alejandro picked up the phone on his desk, to speak to his friend Roberto.
“Roberto, this is Alejandro, what can I do for you? What seems to be the problem?”
A few seconds went by and Alejandro’s face began to change as if in disbelief of what he was hearing.
“What!! Arrested? Why? How did it happen? No, Roberto, he is not involved in any subversion.
This is a mistake” Alejandro said.
Alejandro attentively listened for a few moments and finally said:
“I thank you very much for what you are doing. Roberto, I’ll be there right away”
Alejandro hung up the phone and quickly put on his jacket as he walked out of the office.
— ooo —
Three long hours went by until, Alejandro and Gabriel came home. Alejandro quickly closed the door behind him. As soon as they were in the living room Rebeca met them.
“What happened?” She asked.
“They arrested him and took him to the “chupadero”, that is the detention center where once you get in you never come out. He told them he was helping his friends with school work they did not believe it and insisted that he was involved in subversive activities. The police said that they had been watching the group for a long time.”
“But Gabriel has never been involved in politics.” Rebeca said.
“That’s what Gabriel told them but they didn’t believe him: ”Replied Alejandro.
“How is it that they released him?” Rebeca asked with curiosity.
“Roberto, the main investigator, is a friend of mine. He’s putting his job on the line and released him to me but the will not be able to do it again.”
“What is going to happen now?” Rebeca anxiously asked.
“My friend Roberto told me Gabriel will be OK this week but next week we will not know. His superiors want to eliminate every subversive element of the group and you know what that means.”
Gabriel, who had been quiet all this time said:
“Can I go out now?”
Alejandro, still upset by the arrest, questioned him.
“Where do you want to go?”
“There is something I need to do. I have to see Ana. I won’t be long.”
“Be careful. Don’t worry, we will find a solution.” Alejandro assured him.
Gabriel began to walk in the direction of Ana’s house, he needed to see her. She had called him the day before and wanted to talk to him. She insisted it was important. It was an emergency. Gabriel wondered what could be so important. It was one problem after another.
— 000 —
Gabriel arrived at Ana’s home, she opened the door and he could see there was something wrong, she looked worried. She had a somber face as if she had a big problem. They both went into the living room and before they sat down, Gabriel asked;
“You wanted to see me? What is the emergency?”
“Well, I am not sure but I think I am late.”
“Late? – Late for what?” Gabriel asked.
“No, I don’t know. What are you talking about?” Gabriel insisted.
“My period Gabriel, my period! I have not had my period and I am a week late. I think I’m pregnant.”
“Pregnant?” – Gabriel said and without saying a word, looked at her with a combination of surprise and worry combined with disbelief. It was almost as if time had stopped. Neither said a word.
“Really?..” Gabriel said. “I don’t know what to say…. Or what to do – what do you think?”
“I don’t know either… abortion is out of the question, it’s too risky and I am afraid. I won’t do that.” Ana answered.
They both were silent thinking of what to do and the enormity of the problem, they had at hand, began to sink in.
A few minutes went by with neither of them saying a word and after what seemed like an eternity Gabriel said: “Perhaps we should get married.”
She looked at him full of questions.
“Where would we live? How would we support ourselves? What will people say? How will I tell my parents? I don’t know what to do!” Ana said with tears in her eyes.
“Ana, I really think we have no choice, the solution is to get married.” Gabriel insisted.
“I will take full responsibility for my actions. I have to go” Gabriel said – “I’m going home; I have to think how to do this. I’ll talk to you tomorrow. I will find a solution. Don’t worry I will never abandon you.” Gabriel assured her
“See you.” Gabriel said while hugging Ana.
“Please Gabriel, don’t go! What are we going to do?”
“Trust me, don’t worry. We will get married.” Gabriel told her.
Next day Ana was sitting in the dining room of her home.
“Ana! – Her mother Estela said. “Why are eating so much. Every time I come to the kitchen, I see you eating.”
“I don’t know mom, I seem to be hungry most of the time and I am sure I don’t want to gain weight.” Ana said.
“If you don’t want to gain weight, you have to stop eating.” Estela said while turning her head to look at Ana and asked,
“What is wrong Ana? Are you OK? Did you and Gabriel have a fight?”
“No mom, we did not have a fight.” Ana answered while her voice began to break and she began to cry.
“What happened Ana? Why are you crying?” Estela asked.
“I am sorry mom. We do have a problem and I don’t know what to do.” Ana finally said.
“What is it? I am your mother, you can tell me anything. Tell me Ana. Whatever the fight was about, you two will find a solution and I am sure you will get back together. ”
“Mom, It is more than that. I am late. I have not had my period in three weeks.”
“Oh my God!” exclaimed Estela.
“How did it happen? Does Gabriel know? I have to tell your father,he’s going to be furious but I have to tell him.”
“I am sorry mom.” Said Ana covering her face with her hands.
Estela reached towards Ana and embraced her.
“Come, come Ana. We love you, never forget that, no matter what, we love you very much. We will find a solution.”
Estela kissed her daughter and continued holding her close to her.
“What does Gabriel say?” Estela asked.
“He wants to get married but I don’t know how we can do it. He’s still going to school and he says he can work in his father business and now his father wants him to go to France and live in one of the Chateaus to learn the wine business.”
Ana continued crying.
“What if he does leave for France, what will I do?” Ana said.
Estela gave her daughter a hug.
“Don’t worry, don’t think of the worst. We will find a solution. I have to talk to your father first.”
“Mom, he’s going to be very angry with me!” Ana said.
“Ana remember he’s your father and he loves you very much.”
That evening, Ariel had been working late at the business but finally he was home to relax. He opened the main door and walked into his home. Estela was waiting for him.
“Ariel, come sit down. I have to talk to you.” Estela told her husband.
Ariel realized that his wife was about to relate something serious and asked her:
“What’s going on? You seem worried.” Ariel asked.
“I don’t know where to begin.”
“The beginning would be ok.” Ariel said.
Estela did not know how to start; she did not know how to begin to speak and could not start the sentence. She knew her husband’s reaction would not be good.
“Estela! Please!, when are you going to tell me? Are we going to spend the evening looking at each other?”
Estela realized she could not wait anymore and with a low voice she began:
“There is a possibility that Ana could be pregnant.” Estela finally said.
Silence engulfed the room as Ariel’s face began to turn red.
“What! What are you saying Estela, could? Is she or isn’t she pregnant, what is it? How? Who? Tell me Estela, I will kill him. Who is he?” Was that boy Gabriel? I knew it! I knew it!” Ariel angrily continued screaming.
“Please, Ariel, take it easy, calm down you’re going to get a stroke.” Estela did not want Ariel to get upset.
“Easy? Are you crazy? It is our daughter that has been abused. Can you see that?”
He continued screaming. Estela had never seen him so angry.
“Tell me where he lives. He’s going to have to answer to me. Face to face, man to man.”
Estela hesitated for a moment but she realized he knew Gabriel was the boy responsible for the problem.
“Gabriel is a very nice boy and comes from a good family….. He is the son of Alejandro and Rebeca Roth. The family owns the wine importing company ‘Roth and Sons’ in the Calle Corrientes, corner with Ecuador.”
“Nice boy? Son of a bitch is what he is. I don’t care who they are. I am sick thinking that our baby is pregnant. That is the problem. You don’t seem to understand!”
Ariel put his head in his hands and, after a few minutes, looked at Estela.
“I have to talk to this family. Something has to be done. We have to find a solution.” Ariel angrily said.
“Why did this happen? When did you find out?” Ariel asked Estela.
“Ariel, we have given the best education, the best upbringing, and the best family relations a girl can have. She loves you and she expects you to care for her, not to mistreat her. She needs your support and your love. Remember that.” Estela said.
“That is not the issue. The question was: When did you find out?” Ariel said.
— 000 —
The next day Ariel, early in the morning, went to Alejandro’s business. He walked in and stood in front of Graciela’s desk. Graciela looked up and before she could say anything Ariel said:
“Excuse me, I would like to see Mr. Alejandro Roth? My name is Ariel Sorin. It is a Personal matter.” Ariel said.
“Could you please take a seat while I let him know you are here.” Graciela said.
“Thank you. I will wait here.” Ariel said.
Ariel did not take a seat but continued standing and began to look at the pictures on the wall.
He saw a group of men standing in a farm with vineyards behind them. In another picture the same group of men were standing inside a distillery where hundreds of barrels were in the background. He knew wine is distilled to make Brandy.
“Sir, could you please follow me. Mr. Roth will see you now.” Graciela said, interrupting Ariel’s thoughts.
The secretary lead the way to Alejandro’s office as Ariel followed.
“Good morning, señor Sorin. What can I do for you?” said Alejandro as soon as Ariel entered the office.
The office was nicely decorated in a businesslike manner. The walls were covered with mahogany panels and the leather chairs gave the office a feeling of luxury.
Ariel sat down in the chair closest to him.
Alejandro could see the uneasiness and anger in Ariel’s demeanor.
“What brings you here? I believe we have not met before.”
Ariel looked at Alejandro and after a short pause began to speak. His words were sharp and one could see his tension and how much he was holding in his anger.
“You’re right, we have never met before but what I came to discuss is a serious matter.” Ariel said. “I have a young daughter who is only 19 years old. She goes to the same school as your son Gabriel and they are friends. They have been seeing each other for few months. That’s fine. It is what young people do except for the fact that now…. my daughter is pregnant.”
There was silence in the room. Ariel kept looking at Alejandro with the icy eyes of someone who could hardly contain his anger.
A few moments passed as Alejandro tried to think of the consequences of his son Gabriel impregnating a young girl. Finally Alejandro was able to speak.
“I don’t know what to say. I am very sorry of this unfortunate situation Mr. Sorin.”
Ariel interrupted, with his face red with anger.
“I am not looking for your apology. I don’t want you to be sorry….I am looking for a solution to the problem. It is a matter of honor and my family needs a solution.”
At that moment Alejandro interjected..
“These are young people who are driven by feelings they find difficult to control. They don’t have the maturity we adults have but I can assure you, no offense was ever intended. My son is young, but he is a man of honor. My family will assume the responsibility of his actions.”
“Fine.” Said Ariel. “What does that mean? The question is how are we going to solve the problem.”?
Alejandro, with a somber face continued saying.
“I need to speak to my son Gabriel. Let’s meet in a couple of days. I would like to talk to my son so that he is part of any decision we make. Let me assure you that I also am a man of honor and my family has always has conducted itself impeccably.”
Ariel got up and expressed his concern.
“I want to make it clear that time is of the essence.”he said.
“I understand Mr. Sorin.”
They shook hand and Alejandro walked out of the office. On the way out, passing by the secretary’s desk, he wished her a good day.
That evening Alejandro was in the dining room finishing his dinner.
“Rebeca when is Gabriel coming home?” Alejandro asked.
“He should be here soon. His last class ended about half hour ago.” Rebeca answered.
Alejandro did not answered and she continued
“Is there any problem Alejandro?” Rebeca asked.
“Perhaps, I still need to talk to him first and get his side of the story.” Alejandro said.
“What story Alejandro? You sound as if there is a problem.” Rebeca continued asking.
“Well, perhaps we have a problem, I don’t know yet.” Alejandro said.
“Today I received a visit that I did not expect. Mr. Ariel Sorin, Ana’s father the girl Gabriel is friends with. Do you remember I was not happy with that friendship? ”
“Yes, Alejandro, I know, but what is the problem?” Rebeca wanted to know.
“The problem is that this girl is pregnant. I knew it, I knew it!” Alejandro said.
“Oh my God” – Rebeca said – “are you sure?”
“Yes, I am. According to her father that seems to be true but I want Gabriel to tell me if he knows.” Alejandro angrily said.
“What are we going to do?” Asked Rebeca.
“I had planned for Gabriel to take a trip to France to live in the wine Chateau. Perhaps Gabriel should leave sooner than I had planned..” Alejandro said.
“And leave this girl here, alone and pregnant?” Rebeca asked in disbelief.
“What else should we do? To have him get married so young? To tie him down? Change all the plans we have for him?” Alejandro questioned.
“I don’t know Alejandro but we should do what is right and decent to do. I don’t want our son to do something for which he will forever be ashamed.” Rebeca said.
They heard the main door close and Gabriel’s steps approaching the kitchen.
“Hi, what are you doing home so early Dad? What’s going on?”
“Have a seat Gabriel. There is something we need to talk about.” Alejandro said.
Gabriel approached the table and slowly began to sit down as he kept looking at his father who had a somber face.”
“What happened? What is the problem?” Gabriel finally asked.
“Today I received a visit from Ariel Sorin,.” Alejandro said.
“Ana’s father went to your office?” Gabriel asked.
“Gabriel, let me finish please. Yes. Ana’s father came to see me. It appears that Ana is pregnant. Would you care to explain to me how you allowed that to happen and, if she is actually pregnant, are you sure that child is yours?” Alejandro asked.
Gabriel thought for a moment, not sure of how to respond and answered,
“Dad, I am sorry but yes, that child is mine.” Gabriel said.
“God! What were you thinking? Listen Gabriel, this is what I want you to do. You are very young and there is no reason for you to tie yourself down with a problem of this magnitude which will, without any doubt, hinder your possibilities of success in life. I have spoken to you about going to France this summer and I would like you to go as soon as possible. I will handle the situation with Ana’s father at whatever cost.” Alejandro said.
“You mean you want me to leave Ana pregnant and run to France? Away from my responsibilities?” Gabriel questioned his father Alejandro.
“No, not to run but this kind of situations happens all the time and people don’t dramatically change their lives.” Alejandro tried to tell Gabriel.
Gabriel stared at the wall, looking for the right way to phrase his answer.
“Dad, I will not run away from my responsibilities. I will do what is right. I will quit school and get a job. You taught me to be a man of honor and that is what I will be. I am sorry if my decision disappoints you but that is what I will do. I know you are thinking of what is best for me but please, I need to do what is right.” Gabriel said.
Alejandro did not say anything and looking at his wife asked her:
“Do you have anything to say?”
“I do, but I will like to speak to you privately.” Rebeca answered.
“Gabriel, can you please leave us alone?”
“If you need me, I’ll be in my room.” Gabriel said.
Gabriel got up and walked out of the room.
Alejandro and Rebeca waited until they were sure Gabriel had left.
“What is it that you want to tell me Rebeca?
“You should be as proud of your son as I am. – He has made the decision I would have expected him to.” Rebeca said.
“I am going to my study. I’ll speak to you later.” Alejandro said and he left the room.
Next morning Alejandro was at his office waiting to meet with Ariel. As soon as Mr. Sorin entered the office, Alejandro began:
“Good morning Mr. Sorin. I am glad you were able to come. I want us to talk and find a solution to the problem we and our children have. Let me assure you that I am as concerned for my son as you are for your daughter. I feel strongly that together we can find a satisfactory solution to the problem.”
“Mr. Roth,” – Ariel said – “I am very upset. My daughter is only 19 years old. She’s a child with her whole life ahead of her. Being pregnant is unthinkable for my family.”
“We can’t control what they do once they go out into the world. We give them the best education and teach them the best rules of life. We guide them in the best way we know but there is only so much we can do or control and after that, we hope they make the right decisions.”
Alejandro, looked at Ariel, not hoping for an answer but to make sure he understood. After a pause Alejandro continued:
“This is what I suggest we do: I have wanted my son to go to France to continue to learn the wine business. He has a lot to learn: Production, importation, marketing and distribution. – My son wants to act as a responsible man and has expressed, in very clear terms that he wants to assume responsibility. He feels that the best solution is to marry your daughter. My son told me that he always had the best intentions with your daughter and that it never crossed his mind to bring dishonor to Ana or your family. My suggestion is that they marry and after the wedding, they travel to France and live there for a couple of years or more and then return. I will incorporate him into the business so that he can give your daughter a decent life without sacrifices and most importantly without any shame.”
Ariel thought for a moment and finally, appearing to have no choice, fixed his eyes on Alejandro.
“I am not happy with this turn of events. My daughter’s life will change in ways I never expected but I guess in view of the circumstances, this is the best we can do.”
“I will start planning the wedding to take place as soon as possible. – How about the trip? Will you be planning the trip and is it safe?” Ariel asked.
“Yes, it is safe; they will live at a Chateau in the most peaceful setting you can imagine.” Alejandro answered.
Two weeks later the wedding was taking place. The day of began as planned. The members and friends of the families were walking in to the ample reception room where the newlywed enjoyed the celebration of their marriage.
All of Gabriel’s friends were in the room smiling and making jokes making them all laugh almost uncontrollably. The parents of the groom and the bride were sitting at a large table accompanied by other friends and relatives. Alejandro was excitingly talking of the plans and activities Gabriel would be having in France.
“They are going to have a great time. Gabriel will be learning all the aspects of the production of wine: from harvest to bottle.”
“What will Ana be doing?” said one of Alejandro’s friends.
“She will also learn to about the business. She’s studying economics and in this business there are many areas where you have to apply economics. This will be a great experience for both of them.” Alejandro proudly explained.
“Wait, there they are! ”Said Alejandro. “Let’s talk to them. Gabriel! Ana! Come here! I want you to meet some friends.”
Gabriel and Ana smiled. They began to walk towards Alejandro and his friends.
One of the men in the group said, “Young man, I understand this is your honeymoon as well as a trip to the wineries to really learn the business. I wish you and your wife both for life to bring you the best life can offer. Your future looks promising and when you return, you both will be working with your Gabriel’s father and there is no better job than that. Congratulations!”
Ana looked at Gabriel while all of Alejandro’s friends waited for a comment from him. There was a silence in the room. They were all waiting to hear what Gabriel and Ana would say but they were a little embarrassed by the sudden position of being the center of attention.
Ana turned to Gabriel -“You say something Gabriel, I don’t know what to say.”
Finally Gabriel said: “We are very excited about this trip and for the opportunity to travel and learn the wine business and all it takes to produce a great product you could say from ‘the grape to the bottle’. I am sure the experience will be memorable for both of us. Tomorrow, we are leaving for Mendoza to visit some of the wineries my father does business with, and when we come back we will sail to France. We will come back to Buenos Aires in a couple of years.”
All in the room toasted the new couple, raised their glasses and Alejandro said: “We all wish you both many years of happiness.”
Early Monday morning, Graciela, Alejandro’s secretary, knocked at Alejandro’s office and walked into the room.
“Mr. Alejandro, remember that the new shipment from France is arriving this week. We have some orders waiting for the merchandise. The ship should arrive this coming Thursday”
“Thank you Graciela. Tell Francisco to get ready to fulfill the orders send them to the customers. Tell him to make the labels and the shipping list so that we can send them as soon as the wine gets here.”
“Yes Mr. Alejandro. He’s already working on it.”
Alejandro picked up the phone and made a phone call. He began to talk to one of his clients.
“Good news, the ship is arriving on Thursday and you should have the Wine by Monday morning. Let me know when you get it. Thank you.”
He hung up the phone and almost immediately Graciela walked into his office.
“There is a call from Captain Roberto Gómez on line 1. He says it’s urgent.”
“What now? Gabriel has not been at school. He’s in Mendoza. What is the problem now.”?
Alejandro picked up the phone and with a questioning look in his face said,
“Hi Roberto, what’s the good news?… What? An order of arrest? Impossible, I spoke to him and he has absolutely no interest in politics and even less in any subversive activities.”
“But Roberto” Alejandro continued, “he has no control of what his friends do. He got married yesterday and is now beginning his honeymoon.”
The voice on the phone was loud enough that one could hear Roberto from across the room,
“Alejandro, I believe you but listen carefully to what I am about to tell you. The secret police are looking for Gabriel. You need to keep him safe. I’ll call you if I get more information.”
Alejandro hung up the phone, sat in his chair and staring at the ceiling began to think of what to do, of a solution to the problem. He knew Gabriel and Ana would be back the following Monday.
On Thursday morning Alejandro called the main offices of the shipping company.
“Captain Pierre Bouchard, a pleasure talking to you. I have been waiting for your arrival for a few weeks and am thrilled that you have arrived. I have already sold many cases of the wine you have brought. When can we have dinner? There is something I need to speak to you about. Are you free on Saturday? Perfect! I will pick you up at 8:00pm. See you then.”
“Graciela, please call our broker and tell him that it is very important for us to get the shipment through customs as soon as possible.”
A week later, early in the morning, a foghorn could be heard blocks away as a quite large cargo ship began to pull away from the dock. Some dock workers were waving to the few sailors they could see on the deck of the cargo ship. At a distance you could see Alejandro and Rebeca tanding on the balcony of one of their friend’s houses, watching wistfully as the ship sailed away.
“Alejandro, how did you do it?” Rebeca asked.
“Captain Bouchard is a good friend of mine. He’ll make sure they arrive in France safe and sound.” Alejandro answered.
Rebeca pulled a small handkerchief from the pocket of her coat, and dried the tears from her eyes.
“When will we see them again Alejandro?” Rebeca asked.
“Soon, Rebeca, soon. Two years go by very fast and in no time they will be back.”
“I already miss Gabriel. May God keep him safe!” Rebeca said.
“They will be living with friends. Don’t worry they will be safe.” Alejandro assured her.
They both continued watching the ship as it slowly began to disappear over the horizon. Alejandro embraced Rebeca while she continued to cry. They felt as if a piece of their hearts had been taken away and a sense of emptiness engulfed them.
Two days later, Gabriel and Ana were standing on the port side of the ship. They could see the South American coast getting smaller as the ship sailed away.
“Can we see the African coast, Gabriel?”
“We will have to go to the other side of the ship, the starboard, but no Ana, the horizon is only 8 miles away and the African coast is 4 thousand miles away. When we get closer to Gibraltar we will be able to see the Northern Coast of Africa. ”
“How long is the trip? Ana asked.
“I think it’s only a couple of weeks. Perhaps a little bit more.” Gabriel answered.
The ship was moderately fitted for extra passengers. After all it was a cargo ship. There were only a few rooms for passengers which were not first class by any stretch of the imagination. Meals were taken at a table with the Captain and his main officers. You could hear the humming of the engines all the time and while the weather was good, the ship still had a constant bobbing that made Gabriel sick.
One of the officers saw Gabriel looking out on the horizon.
“You seem to enjoy the view.” The officer said.
“Not really. I get sick and looking far away on the horizon makes me feel better.” Gabriel answered.
“Would you like to see the engine room?” The officer asked Gabriel.
“I don’t mean any disrespect but I would be very sick if I go down there. I don’t understand: My pregnant wife goes everywhere without any problem, while I am here outside looking at the horizon to feel better but I am still sick.”
“Perhaps you would like to visit the bridge.” The officer offered.
“That I would like and most likely I will not get sick.” “I have spent most of the trip in bed.” Gabriel answered.
“Why are you coming to France?” the officer asked
“I want to learn the wine business from beginning to end. My father imports and sells wine in Buenos Aires. I hope to learn as much as possible and come back to Argentina soon”. Gabriel answered.
After a few days, which seemed an eternity to Gabriel, the end of the trip was approaching. Arriving at Marseilles could not have come soon enough for him. He was anxious to finally stand on solid ground.
Early in the morning, at dawn, a gleam of light slowly came in through the porthole. Ana looked out expecting to see the horizon but to her surprise she was able to see a little bit of the coastline.
“Gabriel! Gabriel! Look! I think we have arrived! I can see land. Tierra, tierra” – Imitating Rodrigo De Triana, the sailor who first saw land in 1492 in Columbus’ first trip to the Americas.
Gabriel looked out the porthole and saw a glimmer of coastline.
“Not yet Ana, that is the part of North Africa, perhaps Morocco, and Casablanca. We are on the west side of Africa. We should soon see Spain on the Port side. On a clear day we could see Africa on one side and Europe on the other side. The Rock of Gibraltar on one side and Ceuta on the other side.”
“How long before we get to France?” Ana asked.
“It’s going to take the rest of the day. Let’s take it easy today and we will disembark tomorrow morning.” Gabriel assured her.
“Good idea Gabriel. I have some cramps and think this trip has not done me any good. I will take a shower and see if I feel better.” Ana said.
The bobbing of the ship was making Gabriel dizzy and he decided to lie down to see if that would make him feel better. He did not feel any improvement and could not understand how Ana, being pregnant, wasn’t dizzy while he felt sick all the time. If the waves were small he would be dizzy and if the waves were bad he would be so sick that, on a few occasions he had vomited
“Gabriel, Gabriel come! Something is wrong! I am bleeding” Ana said from the shower stall.
Gabriel got up fast and went into their small bathroom.
“What happened?” Gabriel asked.
“I don’t know, look! I am bleeding. I don’t think this is normal. Get the doctor.” Ana told him.
Gabriel ran out of the room to get the doctor.
When Gabriel came back with the doctor, Ana had her nightgown on and was sitting on the bed quietly sobbing.
“Tell me, what is the problem?” The Doctor asked.
“I was bleeding heavily but now it stopped. I think I have lost my pregnancy. My mother told me that things like this could happen to anyone.” Ana told the Doctor.
“Do you have any pain or are you bleeding without any pain?”
“No, I don’t have any pain and the bleeding stopped.”
“This is what we are going to do. I agree with you, you could have lost the pregnancy. We will disembark tomorrow morning. I will give you the name of a doctor friend of mine in Marseille. I am sorry this happened to you but as you said things like this can happen to anyone.” The Doctor said.
The following morning, Gabriel and Ana disembarked and a well-dressed man approached them:
“Mr. Hirsh?” asked Gabriel.
“Yes it’s me, Moises Hirsh. I hope you had a good trip. Welcome to Marseille our beautiful city full of history.”
Moises Hirsh was a short man, slightly overweight, with a short moustache. He had the kind of face which encouraged friendship with a nice smile. He was the Manager and Co-owner of the Château.
“Are these your suitcases?” Moises asked.
“Yes they are. We have 4 suitcases.” Gabriel answered him.
“Good – Let me get someone to help us.” Moises said.
Moises flagged a man on the dock “excusez-moi monsieur” and the porter quickly came with a cart to carry their suitcases.
“Come let’s take a taxi and go to the hotel. Tomorrow morning we will take the train to Paris.” Moises said.
“But wait, Mr. Hirsh…” Gabriel said.
“Yes, what is it?” Moises inquired.
“We need to see a doctor for my wife. I have his address here.” Gabriel told Moises.
“It’s a small problem and the doctor on the ship gave me this address.” Gabriel said.
“Let me see my dear.” Moises took the address in his hand and read it.
“OK, let’s go to the hotel, drop the suitcases and then go to the doctor.”.
Later that morning, Gabriel and Ana came out of the doctor’s office. Gabriel was holding her hand.
“Well, is everything OK?” Moise wanted to know.
“Yes, Mr. Hirsh, we…..” Gabriel began to say but Moise interrupted.
“Please, call me Moise.”
“OK, Moise, we would like to go back to the Hotel and rest a little bit before we go out to dinner.” Gabriel told him.
At the hotel they both took a short nap. Gabriel was very happy he was on solid ground. Strangely enough he could still feel as if the floor was moving. His brain believed he was still on the ship. Later they got dressed and walked down to the lobby to meet Moise, who was sitting in one of the chairs of lobby, reading the newspaper “Le Figaro”.
“Hi, how are you both. Did you rest? It always feels better to have both feet on solid ground and no more weaving of the ship. Tonight I have a surprise for you. I have made reservations at a very nice restaurant, Le Petit Pavilion. We can eat on the terrace overlooking the water of the Mediterranean.
“Thank you very much. We’d like that. In Buenos Aires we also have restaurants overlooking the water which we love whenever we go there, and tonight we will enjoy it very much.” Gabriel said.
During dinner, Gabriel and Ana enjoyed the food. For the first time in two weeks they were having a dinner better than the food on the ship. Gabriel spoke extensively of the opportunity living in the Chateau would give them, the opportunity to learn the business. Ana wanted to talk and felt talking would help her forget the loss of her pregnancy. Gabriel could see the sadness in her face but he knew there was little he could do besides comfort her. He wanted to distract Ana and began to tell her, “Ana, look how beautiful the water looks. It is so serene and peaceful. – That is the Mediterranean. During the Roman Empire it was called Mare Nostrum, Our Sea. Don’t worry, we will try again and happiness will come back to our lives. Did you know that in 1680 they built The Canal du Midi to connect the Mediterranean with the Atlantic Ocean? They did it to avoid piracy and reach the northern coast of France. It was a huge project at the time.
Moise heard this and said:
“Gabriel, I am pleasantly surprised at how much you know about our history”.
Ana was feeling better and said: “Gabriel, this is so nice that I wish we could stay here forever. I don’t want to leave this place. Do you?”
“No Ana I also love the place. To stay here forever is a nice wish but listen: Promise me that if we ever get lost or separated we will come here to find each other again. This will be our Mare Nostrum, “Our Sea”, isn’t this a good idea?” Gabriel told Ana.
Ana raised her hand and faking a solemn and deep voice, said:
“Gabriel, I promise, in the presence of Mr. Moise, as a witness, that if I get lost, I will come here to wait for you and have dinner at this very same table.”
They all laughed and Moise, also,imitating Ana, lifted his wine glass to make a welcoming toast.
“I Monsieur Moise, by the powers given to me by The Mare Nostrum and this glass of wine and by the French Central Government, welcome you!”
This time the laughing lasted for long time. Moise called the waiter and asked to see the list of desserts the restaurant carried. Each one ordered dessert and Ana could not resist to order a Peach and Berries Flambé dessert that caused the admiration of Moise and Gabriel.
Moise began to tell them the travel plans for the next day. “Tomorrow we will take the train at the terminal Gare St Charles and about 6 hours later we will arrive at the Château Margaux. The Margaux wines are considered to be some of the best in the world and you are going to have the opportunity to see how we do it. It’s going to be a great experience for both of you.”
Marseille Saint-Charles is the main railway station of Marseille. It is the southern terminal of the Paris–Marseille railway. It opened on 8 January 1848, built for the PLM (Paris, Lyons and Mediterranean) Railway on the land of the Saint Charles Cemetery. The station is perched on top of a small hill and is linked to the city center by a monumental set of stairs. Punctually at 11 am they were all on board on the train heading to Bordeaux. The trip gave Gabriel and Ana an opportunity to see beautiful well-kept fields of orchards and vegetables farms. The monotony of the train served as a powerful sleep inducing element and Gabriel and Ana took a long nap during the trip.
It was early afternoon when the train arrived at the Gare Bordeaux Saint-Jean, a much smaller train station, but above all very clean and efficient. At the front door of the station they were met by the driver of the Château van which would drive them home. The trip took almost 3 hours and gave Gabriel a view of the area he never thought could be so beautiful. The Champagne region was so serene and peaceful that it appeared idyllic. There were farmers working in the fields and every so often, as the car drove by, some would wave their handkerchiefs greeting the car.
Arriving at the Château was impressive. The entrance had a wrought iron gate that gave to a path ending at the front of the three story mansion with Greek columns. It was the beginning of a wonderful time for Gabriel and Ana, away from the political problems of the government of Agustín Pedro Justo, a period of high corruption which usually resulted in business deals made in favor of British and other foreign companies. The discontent of sectors of the population resulted in the repression of the Government and persecution of the poorest sectors of the society. Subversive activities went hand in hand with political repression but here at the Château life went peacefully.
The months went by keeping Gabriel and Ana busy learning the business very well. They both worked at learning every aspect of wine production. They were so occupied with their everyday lives that they didn’t pay much attention to what was going on in the rest of the country.
The French people felt that the problems in Europe would not touch France. Germany and France had signed the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 as a pact of non-aggression which among many other agreements guaranteed no hostilities between France and Germany. On September 1st, 1939 Germany invaded Poland and in spite of the Treaty of Versailles, on September 3, 1939, England and France declared war on Germany.
The population in Southern France believed the war conflict would not reach them but on June 14, 1940 the Germans entered Paris and for a while, life at the Château Margaux was as peaceful as it had ever been. It seemed the area would enjoy a peaceful existence and the war would not reach the area.
Southern France was under the control of Vichy Government, which collaborated with Germany, and the population did not feel the effects of the war as northern France did. In spite of that sense of peace, the French population was really controlled by the Germans.
“Monsieur Moise!, monsieur Moise!”
A members of the staff of the château began frantically calling.
“There are two cars coming down the road. They will be here in a couple of minutes” The worker said.
“I wonder what they want. Perhaps to visit the château.” Moise said.
When they arrived they were two official German cars. An impeccably dressed German officer of the SS got off the first car followed by three machine gun armed soldiers from the second car. Moise opened the door to wait for the officer to reach him.
“Monsieur Moise perhaps?” The German officer asked, in a very soft and educated manner.
“Yes, I am Monsieur Moise. What can I do for you?”
“My name is Captain Theodor Dannecker. Can I please come in? There are a couple of important matters I need to discuss with you.”
“Please come in and let’s go into the study where we can speak privately.” Moise indicated.
Two soldiers stood in front of the door while the third soldier followed the Captain and entered the residence. The Captain signaled the soldier to stay outside the door of the study while Moise and the Captain walked into the study. They sat down across from each other with a highly polished mahogany desk in between them.
“This is a beautiful desk monsieur Moise, it is a piece of work worth appreciating.” The Captain said.
“This desk was brought from England, in 1925, before the depression started. We like tradition.” Moise explained.
“So do I Monsieur Moise, but there is another matter that brings me here.” The Captain said.
Moise interrupted and asked: “Can I offer something to drink? Perhaps you would like a glass of our best wines. We are very proud of our wines.”
“And you should be proud. Your wines are the best of the region.” The Captain said.
Moise took a bottle from the bar, uncorked it and poured a glass.
“This is one our best wines. It is full bodied well balanced, with a great texture and the flavor of ripe fruit.”
Captain Danneker took a sip of the wine and rolled it in his mouth.”
“Indeed, it is absolutely delightful. Thank you very much for this unexpected pleasure. Let me tell you the reason for my visit. I am here because it is my understanding that you have a Jewish couple living in the Château. Am I right or…. perhaps I am mistaken?”
Captain Danneker, changing his facial expression to an icy penetrating look, waited for a response from Moise. Moise realizing he could not lie, felt that Danneker knew exactly what he was talking about. Upsetting Danneker would mean problems for him, for the Château and bigger problems for Ana and Gabriel.
“I have a young couple of Argentinians living temporarily at the Château. The father of the husband is a good friend of mine. They are learning the business. The father is an Argentinian and is also a good customer of the Château. He imports our wines to Argentina.
“I understand. I need to take them with me and I will present their documents to the Argentinian Consulate to be authenticated. There is an agreement with Argentina to give preferential treatment to the citizens of Argentina. I assure you there is no reason to be afraid. Please bring them to me and I guarantee you that in a couple of weeks they will be back at the Château.”
“Do I have your word for the safe return of my guests?” Moise asked.
Dannecker turned back to Moise and with stern look said, “But of course. Trust me; they will be back in two weeks’ time at the most.”
Moise called one of his assistants, who was standing outside his office and told him to go and get Gabriel and Ana.
As soon as Gabriel and Ana entered the office, Dannecker stood up and told them to follow his soldier to the car.
“What is this about?” Gabriel asked.
“It is only the checking of your documents, that’s all. Nothing to worry about.” Moise answered.
“Why don’t they check it here?” Gabriel asked.
“It has to be in their office.” Moise continued “I assure you everything will be ok and there is no reason to be afraid.”
“They will be in Vichy, and please don’t worry” – Dannecker told Moise
The two cars soon left the Château and Moise kept looking at the cars until only the dust was visible.
Moise knew that Argentina had an agreement with Germany of collaboration and at the same time Argentinian citizens would be kept out of harms way.
According to the agreement with Argentina Dannecker brought Ana and Gabriel to their headquarters and the process of checking their documents began in accordance to the prevailing rules.
Joachim von Ribbentrop, The Foreign Minister of Germany, respecting the agreement with Argentina, made several calls to the Argentinian Ambassador Ricardo Olivera. Days went by without any answer. The calls were ignored by the Argentinian Embassy. Finally Ribbentrop himself called the Argentinian Embassy and eventually the Secretary of the Argentinian Embassy, Luis H. Irigoyen answered the call ***and told Ribbentrop that in his opinion the passports were a fake.
Ribbentrop believing the passports were a fake decided to send Gabriel and Ana to the Drancy Internment Camp located outside the city of Paris, along with more than 70,000 Jews. In 1944 all Jews were transported to several concentration camps. After a few weeks, Gabriel and Ana were sent to Bergen-Belsen known at the time as a displaced persons camp.
THE CONCENTRATION CAMP
The Commandant of the Bergen-Belsen camp, Josef Kastner and his assistant Gertrude, were on their way to see a new show in a small theater in the city of Bergen. Soldiers were all around carrying machine guns and making sure there was peace and tranquility. The couple arrived at the theater where there was an ambience drastically contrasting with what was happening outside. While the outside the ambience was somber, inside the theater everyone was waiting for the show with anticipation. Right in front of the theater there was a sign depicting a couple in an ending pose. The caption of the picture said Argentine Tango. The vast majority had never seen the dance but most people were intrigued and wanted to see this new and exotic dance. Kastner and Gertrude sat in the box usually reserved for members of the Nazi Party.
The Commandant Joseph Kastner was a tall man of 5’11” in his late 30’s. Roughed face and with a short haircut. Gertrude was a 5’4” young woman who had been part of the Hitler Youth Program. She was young, close to her 20th birthday with a beautiful figure. She however had a strong ideology in her heart and in love with Kastner the Commandant.
The lights inside the theater dimmed and the Tango program started with a couple elegantly dressed, they appeared from opposite sides of the stage. The man was wearing a striped black suit and on his head a black fedora while the woman wore a red skirt with a slit on the side showing a glimpse of her leg. The music began and they approached one another sensuously but with energy. They embraced each other and began walking smoothly, where every step of the man was in sync with the woman. After a few turns the dance began to be more intricate.
The complex combinations, as they intertwined their legs, were very impressive. Between ganchos, sacadas, boleos and arrastres the dancers conveyed the inherent sensuality of the dance. This sensuality impregnated the audience which could not take their eyes from the couple. No one had ever seen anything like this. The audience was totally mesmerized by the dance and intensity of the dancers.
The show continued with a musical execution by the orchestra, where the bandoneon and the violins injected the kind of melody no one in the audience had heard before. The audience was impressed by the use of the Bandoneón. In Germany, the instrument was known as a concertina and was intended to be used as sort of a portable organ for religious events in Churches which could not afford a larger instrument.
Everyone in the audience applauded and the program continued.
The next number in the program was a singer’s interpretation of a newer tangos “La Cumparsita”. A tango created in 1916 by Gerardo Matos Rodriguez, a Uruguayan composer. As soon as the music began people, who had heard of its popularity, began to applaud. It seemed as if the audience had heard the song before. The interpretation was superb and it was something no one had experienced before. After the song, the program continued and this time there were three couples on the stage dancing together and in perfect harmony of movements.
War time life in Germany was not easy. The contrast of the rounding up of Jews and the atrocities committed against them, was taking place all over Germany. Simultaneously, Commandant Josef Kastner and Gertrude enjoyed the romantic and passionate performance taking place on the stage of the luxuriously decorated theater. It is unbelievable these two worlds coexisted at the same time.
The tango performance ended and Kastner and Gertrude left the theater. As they walked out of the theater, they commented on how good the program was. “Let’s go to the club”, Kastner said. “I understand the performers are going to the same club to do some impromptu dancing and singing.”
They arrived at the club and were delighted to see some friends whom they joined. All at the club were drinking and enjoying the singer’s tango tunes. Watching the performers, Kastner whispered to Gertrude that it would be nice to learn how to dance tango.
Later that evening Kastner and Gertrude left the place and, half-drunk, got into their chauffeur driven Mercedes-Benz 770. When the car stopped at a railroad crossing, a train moved slowly as Kastner and Gertrude sang German songs. Meanwhile, the chauffer could see the hands and arms of Jews riding in the cars on their way to the camp. After a few minutes they arrived at the Berger-Belsen Camp. The guard opened the gate and the car drove through on its way to the residence of the Commandant in the compound. The sign above the door read: “ARBEIT MACHT FREI” – “Work will set you free”. They continue driving past the offices on the right and soon stopped in front of the Commandant Residence which was inside the compound but far from the barracks.
Carl, an aid and confidant of the Commandant told the Commandant the train would be arriving shortly. Carl was an impressive man: 6’6” tall, muscular, with long white hair, and with a chiseled face. It was obvious that he was capable of anything and everyone in the camp was afraid of him.
The commandant thought for a moment and instructed Carl tell the guards to leave the people in the train to disembark the next day in the morning.
“Carl, have you heard anything new on how the war is going? We are fighting the British and the Americans and that must not be easy.”
“Commandant Kastner I don’t think there is anything to worry about. The mighty war machine of the third Reich will easily defeat any attempt of the Americans and or the British to win the war. In any case I have made contact with Odessa – The “Organization Der Ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen” ( “The Organization of former SS members). When the time comes and if anything goes wrong I will give you everything you need to get in touch with them.
Kastner thought for a moment and looking at Carl, he said, “If the situation gets really bad for us, I want you to take Gertrude with you to make sure she is safe.”
“My Commandant I will do as you wish. Here I found this ring with one of the new detainees”.
That night the Commandant gives Gertrude a beautiful gold ring which she admired and asked where he had gotten it.
“I got it from a friend in town. He sold it to me.”
Gertrude admired the ring but deep inside she knew exactly where the ring had come from. She knew the interns were not allowed to keep any jewelry with them and the guards had orders to take everything away from them.
She kissed him and began to disrobe in a sensuous way as he looked pleased. They began kissing and caressing each other passionately. He climbed on top and slowly began to penetrate. She made short muffled sounds of pleasure which increased as he rhythmically began to thrust in and out of her. After a few minutes his breathing began to speed up and she knew Joseph was not taking his time. Suddenly he briefly stopped breathing, holding his breath and suddenly with a big exhale climaxed. He continued thrusting not realizing she had not reached her climax. The unhappy Gertrude got up and stood in front of the window looking outside while smoking a cigarette. She looked back at the bed where Joseph was already sleeping.
Early in the morning activities in the concentration camp began. Three musicians played music for all detainees to hear. Commandant Josef Kastner had ordered them to play a Yiddish tango to make the detainees feel at ease. He signaled to an aide and the people began to disembark from the train. Kastner and Gertrude watched from a small terrace outside his office.
Gabriel and Ana got off the train and stopped when they heard the music.
“Look, I can’t believe it, they are playing tango! We could dance this. Come, let’s dance! Don’t worry, everything will be OK.”
“I am afraid, I don’t like this, it does not look right.” Ana said.
Commandant Kastner, Gertrude, and Carl looked at them.
“Who are these people Carl?” Kastner asked.
“These are Argentinean Jews, Commandant Kastner.”
“Carl, make sure they are settled in the Neutrals Barrack, the closest to the office and make sure nothing happens to them.”
The conditions in the camp were horrific. The camp was divided into three different sections. In each section there were crowded barracks holding more than four times more residents than they were designed for. There was no provision for properly feeding the population of the camp. Some were not given any food. Sometimes you could not clearly see who was alive and who was dead. It was definitely a dreaded place. It was hard to explain how civilized people could have justified the existence of the camp.
WE WANT TO LEARN TANGO
Two days later, Gabriel and Ana were brought to the Commandant’s private quarters by Carl. Gabriel and Ana had no idea why they were there. Gabriel asked Carl what was going on but Carl ignored the question and did not answer him. The three of them soon walked into a large room which served as a meeting place as well as a place for Kramer to have staff meetings when there was a need to do so. As soon as they walked in, Gertrude approached them and, in what appeared as a friendly demeanor, assured them that there was nothing to be afraid of.
“Hi how are you. Don’t be afraid, this is a detention camp for prisoners of war and for displaced persons until we find their relatives or where they belong. I noticed you two were doing some dancing which looked like you were doing the tango. The Commandant and I are very interested in knowing how this tango dance is done and please is it possible for you to teach us The Commandant and I how to do it?
Gabriel realized Kramer, The Commandant and Gertrude were people he could no trust but interested to know when they could go back to the Château, he wanted to know what was going to happen to them. Gabriel then asked Gertrude:
“Miss Gertrude would you know when we can go back to the Château? We have not eaten and I think there is a mistake, we don’t know why we have been taken here.”
Gertrude tried to appease them and said they would soon be going back to the Château. She continued telling them:
“Please these accommodations are temporary because of the big influx of so many people who came with you at the same time but as soon as possible, you will be transferred out to the farms where you will have a better place to stay until the situation clears so they could go back to the Château.”
Gertrude turned to Carl and asked him to bring some food for Gabriel and Ana. Gabriel calmed down a bit and, looking at Ana, asked her if she was ok. Ana was not sure and told Gabriel she was afraid and concerned for their safety. Ana was uneasy and did not like the place.
While Gabriel and Ana ate the food Carl had brought them, Gertrude began to tell them they were interested in learning how to dance the Tango. Gabriel looked at Gertrude and Kramer and agreed. Gabriel told them, he and Ana would be happy to teach them to dance. Gabriel got up and started to show them how to begin to do the six count basic step or Baldosa step and how the man needed to lead the woman and how the woman had to follow. Kramer paid very close attention while the Gertrude looked intensely at Gabriel. She liked his youth and felt an attraction for the young man. She liked that he was Argentinian and in her mind, thought that having sex with him would be a pleasant experience. After all, Josef, The Commandant, was in his late 30’s and Gabriel was younger. Gabriel noticed how Gertrude was looking at him but did not do anything to reject what he perceived as Gertrude’s advances. Ana noticed Gertrude’s actions and looked at her with displeasure which Gertrude quickly noticed.
The tango lesson continued with Gabriel and Ana teaching some of the basic moves and the ocho figures. Josef did not quite understand this new concept where he needed to learn to lead the woman. He wanted to know what was the woman supposed to do. In his opinion the woman needed to learn what to do. He felt the man and the woman needed to know the “step”. The hours went by and the evening went as well as it could under the circumstances. Kramer felt tired and finally said he had had enough and wanted to continue next day. He told Carl to take the couple back to the barracks.
Gabriel and Ana left, and when they were out of earshot Kramer asked Gertrude to go and get Irma and invite her to have a couple of drinks with them. Gertrude knew exactly what Kramer had in mind. She knew that Kramer liked to have sex with both of them at the same time and tonight was one of those nights.
Irma Grese was in her early 20’s, pretty, with blond hair, blue eyes and beautiful legs. She was intense and highly sexualized. She was known to have strange sexual tendencies and enjoyed having multiple sex partners at the same time. Known in the camp as “The Beautiful Beast” and as “The Blond Angel.” She was also known as the “Hyena of Auschwitz”. She was cruel and sadistic and enjoyed a threesome with Kramer and Gertrude.
Next day, mid-morning, Gabriel and Ana were talking through the fence separating men from women:
“Ana you have to be careful not to anger Gertrude. I don’t want to jeopardize our situation.”
“Gertrude has no right to make advances to you. I don’t like it.”
One of the prisoners overheard them speaking.
“Be careful, these people are heartless criminals. Make sure you don’t anger them. They have total power over you. Power over your life or your death”
“What do you mean? This is a temporary situation, isn’t it?”
“Unfortunately it is not always. It all depends on your situation. Once you come into this camp, you might be exchanged for German prisoners or, if you are a resident of a neutral country, they might let you go although in some cases you might be here for good. Our only hope,” the man said,” is for the war to end and be liberated. Your goal, my goal and everyone’s goal is to survive.”
“But we are Argentinians, they have to let us go. They are checking with the Embassy.”
“Perhaps, but for the time being you are here, and above all, don’t anger them. I do hope it all works out for you two.”
The rest of the day was uneventful. In the evening, Carl went to the women’s barrack and took Ana to Kramer and Gertrude’s living quarters.
“Why did you bring me here?” Ana asked.
“Just following orders,” Carl answered, “the Commandant wants it so and so I obey.”
Carl knocked at the door and Gertrude opened it.
“Good, you’re here.” Gertrude said. “I want you to help me and continue teaching me to dance Tango.”
Joseph, sitting in a chair, was waiting for them in the living room of the residence.
“Hi Ana, how are you?” Kramer said.
“I am fine, where is my husband, where is he, why isn’t he here?” Ana asked.
“Oh, don’t worry, tonight we want you to teach us some of the woman’s part and style. The Commandant will watch what we do,” Gertrude told her.
“I still would feel better if my husband were here.” Ana insisted.
“Well, let’s see how it works tonight and perhaps tomorrow we can bring him too.” Gertrude told Ana.
Gertrude walked to the gramophone and the music began to fill the room. She looked at Joseph and nodded to him to take Ana and begin dancing. As he began to dance he wasn’t sure of where to put his feet and with every mistake he stepped on Ana’s toes.
As the dancing continued, Joseph pulled Ana close to him in a close embrace. Ana tried to push him away but Joseph began to get angry at the resistance Ana displayed and looked at Gertrude with an expression Gertrude had seen many times before. She looked at Carl, who understood what he needed to do. Carl was a close confidant of Joseph and Gertrude and he knew he had to take Ana by surprise and carry her to the bedroom where Joseph, with Gertrude’s help, would rape her, as they had done so many times before with other Jewish girls in the camp.
As soon as Carl grabbed Ana, she began to scream. Carl carried her into the bedroom followed by Joseph and Gertrude. They all ripped her clothes while she screamed as loud as she was capable until Carl, with his fist closed hit her in the face rendering her unconscious. A sinister silence engulfed the room but Joseph continued to take his clothes off. Carl and Gertrude held Ana while Joseph, cowardly raped an unconscious Ana.
Gertrude sat on the bed next to Ana and noticed a ring Ana had on her hand. The ring had a deep blue Sapphire and it was an engagement gift from Gabriel. Gertrude took the ring from Ana’s finger, tried it and liked the way it looked. Gertrude then walked out of the room and spoke to Carl.
“Carl, take her to Irma ahe will know what to do and which barrack to put her.”
Carl knew Irma very well and what she was capable of doing. She had worked in Auschwitz where she was called “The Hyena of Auschwitz”, she took care the detainees doing her work to perfection. Ana did not understand what they were talking but put her clothes on and lowering her head walked out of the room with Carl.
“Where are you taking me?” Ana asked Carl.
“Tonight you will be in a different barracks but don’t worry everything will be taking care of. You will be fine” Carl told her.
The next morning, April 15, 1945, the activity at the camp was almost normal. Gabriel had not seen Ana in two days and nobody could give him an answer as to where she was. Everything in the camp continued as usual, but the guards were uneasy and nervous. They spoke rapidly and looked very agitated. They would get together in groups to talk among themselves. They could see that Commandant Kramer was having more meetings than usual in his office with high officers of the German forces.
The rumor was that the British second army was fighting about 20 miles away and coming north to the town of Bergen, and they would be passing by the camp, which was located just outside the town.
Gertrude looked out of the window of the main residence. Kramer had been in meetings all morning with members of the SS. Several times she had seen officers of the SS going in and out of Kramer’s office. While she wondered what was so important, the phone rang. It was Kramer and he wanted her and Carl to come to the office at once.
“Geraldine, Carl, ” – Kramer began to say -“I want you two to pay attention and listen carefully. It is confirmed that the British are fighting in Hanover. They are coming north and there is no doubt they will be here in a couple of days. The SS will make contact with them to try to convince them to bypass the camp. Perhaps the outbreak of Typhus is what we need to make them declare the camp a neutral zone. In case it does not work, I have been ordered to burn all the documents we have. No one should ever know what has happened here.”
“The war is ending and it all seems we are losing it.” Kramer said.
“But Joseph…” Gertrude said.
“Do not interrupt me and listen carefully. As Carl told me and I confirmed, there is an organization called Odessa which will save the SS officers for future establishment of the Fourth Reich. This organization has set escape routes to safety. Tonight, you both will be picked up by a member of the organization. In a couple of days I will follow you. You both will be taken to the Argentinian Consulate in Barcelona, Spain where I will meet you. Leave everything here since you must travel light. Members of Odessa will give you details. Now go and get ready.” Kramer told them.
Gertrude walked out of the office and glanced at the prisoners. She glanced at the ring which she had taken from Ana and decided that it was all she was going to take. Joseph had told her to travel light and she would do so. She would not leave the ring behind. She liked it and she would take it.
That evening, just as Joseph had said, a man came to the camp and, after meeting with Joseph, Carl and Gertrude left the camp with the man. Gertrude looked out the back window of the car as Joseph stood in front of the main office of the camp and waved to them.
Next morning two German officers in a car with a white flag approached the 11th Armored Division of the British Army and suggested that because of the outbreak of Typhus at the Belsen camp, they should bypass it and declare it a neutral zone. The British arrested the German officers and did not bypass the camp. Lieutenant Colonel Bob Daniell continued the march to secure the camp. The day was April 29 1945.
Lt Col Daniell entered the camp and drove the tank right into the office where Kramer was burning many of the documents he had in the office. Lt Col Daniell pulled his Webley Mk VI Revolver and shouted “Stop” at the same time he fired a shot at the ceiling. Kramer froze and Daniell immediately ordered him to raise his hands. “Commandant, you are now a prisoner of the Royal British Forces”.
The British soldiers could not believe what they were seeing. The camp was an inferno of emaciated people roaming about. Many were standing aroud watching what was finally the day of liberation. It was sometimes difficult to distinguish who was alive and who was already dead. Gabriel was running towards the barracks which the women occupied. One British officer saw him running and stopped him to ask who he was and what he was doing.
“I am going to get my wife. She is in the women’s barracks.” Gabriel shouted.
They both ran to the barracks and opened the door. It was impossible to find anyone there. The barracks contained more than a thousand people but Gabriel went inside and began to look at the faces of the prisoners searching for Ana. He called her name but got no answer. When he finished looking in one barrack he would continue searching in the other barracks.
The British army began the slow task of saving the survivors, giving medical attention to the sick and burying the dead. Lt Col Daniell ordered his men to round up as many people as they could from the town of Bergen and bring them, by force if necessary, to the camp. When the people arrived, Lt Col Daniell forced them to walk through the camp to see the horror that the Nazis had inflicted on so many people. He forced them to see the piles of corpses and help to carry the bodies to be buried. “We did not know” they claimed but Lt Col Daniell screamed at them– “Liars, you knew but looked the other way. You are as guilty as these Nazi animals!”
One cool afternoon, a few years later, Le Petit Pavillon was busy many people were having lunch, some were drinking and some were just enjoying the weather while having something to drink. That day the weather was surprisingly better than most days, a light breeze made the air cool and pleasant. Gabriel, looking at the Mediterranean, made a comment: “It is so nice that we can have lunch here at the very same restaurant we visited years ago. “The view has not changed, has it Moise?”
“No it has not changed.” Moise agreed.
Gabriel kept staring at the view of the Mare Nostrum. After a few moments Gabriel heard his name being called, “Gabriel, wake up, wake up!”
“What are you doing? What is going on? Gabriel wake up!”
Gabriel waking up, kept looking at the painting of the Mediterranean on the curtain of the Teatro Colon.
At the same time the curtain of the theater began to open and Gabriel, slightly disoriented, straightened up in his seat. He realized he had for a moment dozed into a dream. Memories he thought had been forgotten, momentarily appeared in his brief dream. He looked around the theater and with a smile began to see the show. A well-dressed man, with a microphone in his hand came out and stood in the center of the stage. The audience knew him well, his name was Hector. The orchestra began to play the melody of one of the most popular tangos Gardel used to sing: “Volver”, (to come back). Hector the singer began to sing with a sad and melodic voice.
“Yo adivino el parpadeo de las luces que a lo lejos van marcando mi retorno……..”
“I imagine the flickering of the lights that in the distance are anouncing my return….”
At the end of the song, Gabriel looked around and in a low voice said – “I just dozed for a moment and had the some beautiful memories cross my mind. I also had many unpleasant memories. Everything was so real. Now I realize it was a dream.”
“You sure were dreaming. You have not said a word in the last fifteen minutes.” She said
The Master of Ceremonies came out on the stage.
“Tonight we have the pleasure of presenting two of the most acclaimed dancers of the day. They belong to the cast of “Tango Argentino” the show that will soon begin an international tour all over the world, including a presentation in the city of New York. Give a hand to welcome Nelson Avila and Nélida Rodriguez.”
Every person in the theater was applauding the dancing couple as the music of “Jealousy” began. Nelson and Nélida, an elegant couple, tall and young, walked from opposite ends of the stage with Nélida arriving first raising an arm straight up while Nelson approached. With a few turns he ended up in front of her. She tried to pull away but holding her hand he brought her to him. She caressed his face and he in turn caressed her face. Nelson held her by the waist and lifted her while turning and the dance began. The music continued with the violin filling the room with its sweet melody. Nelson and Nelida, after several turns, performed a series of intricate steps which the audience loved and appreciated.
The show continued, alternating between the singer, solo dance numbers, and dances where a group of performed in unison. The last couple ended their number with a step where the woman ends up-side down and the entire theater burst into to applause. People stood with enthusiasm and amid the applause “Bravo, Bravo” could be heard while Gabriel did not get up, he seemed to have fallen sleep again.
Moise said. “Remember the tango Volver: “Siempre se vuelve al primer amor” – You always come back to the first love. Buenos Aires.”
“Love? Perhaps. Returning is always hard.” Gabriel said.
Again Gabriel heard his name being called: “Gabriel! Gabriel! Wake up. You must be very tired, you fell sleept again for the entire show!”
“I am not sleeping, I just had my eyes closed and was traveling in the past. Remember “It is the world the eyes open when they close.” Gabriel said.
“Let’s go home so you can rest.” She finally said.
Next day Gabriel was busy at his office.
“I can’t believe it I am already 58 years old, where did the time go?” Carmelita, please come to my office and call Diego. We need to go over the accounting and the inventory for the month.” Gabriel said.
A few minutes later Diego and Carmelita came into the office.
“Señor Gabriel I have the books here with the payables and receivables for the end of the month. The numbers look good.” Carmelita said.
“Did you bring the inventory too?” Gabriel asked Diego.
“Yes I did. The present inventory covers us very well until the next shipments come.” Diego assured Gabriel.
Gabriel looked at the numbers intensely to reassure himself about the financial health of the company.
Gabriel continued: “The sales for the month look better than what I expected and you are right: we have enough inventories to cover us for quite a long time.” Gabriel looked at Carmelita and asked, “How is the cash in the bank and how much do we have in receivables?”
Carmelita opened her folder, looking for the bank statement which had the total amount of cash in the company’s account.
“We have more than enough to cover the business expenses for at least 4 months. Close to 80,000 pesos”.
“Good, my father would be proud of the way his company is running. Let’s all go back to work. Diego, I want you to stay to discuss a special matter.”
Carmelita walked out of the office and Gabriel waited until they were all alone.
“How is everything? I hear that there is some discontent in military circles. How are your friends?”
“You are right, señor Gabriel. Some of my friends work with the Government and there is concern that we could have some attempt of a coup but I don’t believe they will try. Peron’s Government is doing a lot for the people. There are subsidies for the industries and we just inaugurated the Atucha nuclear power plant to generate electricity. ““I know I have some friends who are very involved in politics. I talk to them and try to convince them to follow the legal and democratic path of achieving success and then change the policies they think are better for the country. I do have a very close friend, Mario, we grew up together in the old barrio. He worries me, he’s very passionate and loves Argentina to the point that he is willing to risk it all and die in the process. Thank God the Government is doing better but a lot more has to be done.”
Diego continued -”On June 16, President Peron is traveling to Paraguay to sign an agreement to break ground for the Yacyretá Hydroelectric Dam in the Paraná River. Yacyretá Apipé, which in Guaraní means Land of the Moon. If things keep going this way we will all end on the moon.”
Gabriel who had paid close attention to Diego, finally said: “These are tough times. The Government is moving too much to the left and their populistic measures are upsetting a lot of people. Be careful and stay out of trouble. We need you here.”
“Thank you Mr. Gabriel and do not worry. I know, and as a matter of fact, just between us, please do not repeat it: I have friends and two cousins in Tucumán whom I probably met when I was a child. I also have friends in Buenos Aires who believe in defending justice for the poor. I’ll be OK. I know our Government is working hard to give some assistance to people who need help but still the economy is not good and there are a lot of our people out of work. They don’t have any money, their children have nothing to eat, and the Government is doing everything possible to help. The time has come when we need to create new social programs to help the people.”
Gabriel interjected: “I hear that there is a group in the armed forces who are not happy with the Government. I also hear the Montoneros are fighting in Tucumán and that the Guevaristas are also fighting. The General Secretary of the CGT, The General Confederation of Labor, José Ignacio Rucci, was assassinated three months ago. I want you to be careful. We never know what can happen.”
“I can’t believe it Carmelita, what day is it today?”
Carmelita looked at her watch. “Today is Tuesday March 23, 1976.”
“Very funny, I know the year and I also know today is Tuesday. Perón died almost two years ago and his wife, Isabel, has been taking care of the Government the best she can, a little shaky but still going well.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, is the middle of the week. We should start the deliveries for the weekend.”
The following day was Wednesday March 24, 1976. Carmelita walked into the office. “Buenos Dias Sr. Gabriel”. I am sorry I am late but there is something going on. The milicos with their military vehicles are everywhere. There are tanks and all kinds of military vehicles everywhere. I don’t know what is happening. There is even a tank in front of the Metallurgic Workers Union.
At the same time Diego walked into the office: “Did you hear? The Government has been overthrown by a coup. Listen, listen to the radio” – they all got closer to the radio and listened to a communique of the new Military Junta of the armed Forces: “It is recommended to all inhabitants, in strict compliance with the provisions and authority directives emanating from military, security or police, as well as extreme care to avoid actions and individual and group attitudes that may require drastic intervention by the operations staff.”
The Military Junta was formed by General Augusto Rafael Videla, Admiral Emilio Eduardo Massera and General Orlando Agosti. The junta had full power over the country and the violent acts of the left. Videla felt that drastic action had to be taken to bring security to the country. Some people were of the opinion that in Argentina there was a Civil War.
After the death of Perón, many Marxist groups had gone underground and at the same time, right wing groups had created death squads. It was believed that The Military Junta had approved the Death Squads. Even before taking on Power in 1975 General Videla had declared: “As many people as necessary must die in Argentina so that the country will again be secure”.
Gabriel, realizing the gravity of the situation told Carmelita and Diego to send everyone home and to tell them to stay home to be safe. “We will reopen the office on Monday. This looks bad. May God help us!”
Days and weeks went by and life in the city passed as peacefully as it could under the rule of a dictatorship. For the most part, if one did not participate in a demonstration or acts of rebellion, they could live a life not being bothered by the authorities. There was clear intent of the dictatorship in silencing and eliminating every focus of dissent. This was known as the Dirty War. Many young people had disappeared and the mothers were demonstrating in the Plaza de Mayo right in front of the Casa Rosada, the Presidential Palace. The mothers had created an Association called The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. This was a sad moment in the modern history of Argentina. Thousands of young people had simply disappeared and it was believed they had been murdered and their bodies buried in secret places or thrown from airplanes into the Rio de la Plata.
Back at the office Gabriel was planning the arrival of the new wine shipment. – Gabriel picked up the phone to make a phone call to the bank.
“Alberto, it is Gabriel – How are you doing?”
“Hi Gabriel, what a coincidence, I was just going to call you. This morning we got the shipping documents for that order from France.”
“That’s great Alberto. The ship should arrive next week and I can have the merchandise in my warehouse sooner than I thought.” Gabriel, I have an idea. I want to know what you think of it. What is it Alberto?”
Alberto continued, “This is a good opportunity to celebrate our friendship. We have been friends for many years and that is something worth celebrating. Tonight there is a milonga where we used to go and all our friends from the old days will probably be there. It would be great for us to drop by and for all of us to get together like the old times.”
“I don’t know Alberto, it has been such a long time since I danced, I don’t know if I will remember what to do.”
“Gabriel, please, not true. Once the tango bug bites you it is in your blood, it is there to stay and there is no antidote. Don’t worry, people don’t forget how to dance tango. However, if you prefer, you don’t have to dance, we can just get together and you can see our friends. I am sure they would all like to see you again. You need to get out and reconnect. It is at the same place “Sin Rumbo”. I’ll meet you there! 8 pm, si?”
“OK, I’ll see you there” Gabriel said.
As soon as one entered the milonga, the music could be heard. D’Arienzo’s “El Flete” was playing and the floor was packed. Couples tried to move and glide through the floor but were forced to limit their movements and figures to the space they had.
“Señoras y señores, tonight we have our very good friend Carlitos. You can always find Carlitos here every night, doing what he enjoys the most, which is dancing. He has agreed to dance for us. Please welcome Carlitos and Geraldine”.
Everybody applauded and some of his closest friends got up to shake his hand in a display of friendship. Carlos and Geraldine walked to the center of the floor and he nodded to the DJ to start the music. The melody of “Jamás Retornarás”, (You will never come back) by Miguel Calo and Raul Beron, filled the room. When Gabriel heard the tango, he remembered he liked this version, and couldn’t help but remember old times. Gabriel kept his eyes on Carlos, his old friend, as he danced with his partner. Looking at Carlitos partner, Gabriel asked his friend Alberto, “Alberto, who is the woman dancing with Carlitos, she dances well, do you know her?”
“Yes, I do, I have met her a couple of times, her name is Geraldine. A good looking woman, isn’t she?
Gabriel did not answer but continued asking. ”She does not look Argentinean. Where is she from? Do you know?”
Alberto thought for a moment and said: “She told me she was Russian. She came to Buenos Aires after the war, I think she was a school teacher in Moscow.”
“What does she do now? Is she still a teacher?” Gabriel asked.
“No, she does not teach, she owns a Gentleman’s club but I think it is also a place to meet women, if you know what I mean. It is the best place in Buenos Aires. It is a big place. She comes here to dance a little bit because she says she always loved tango and after a few dances she then goes back to her business.” “Do you want to meet her? You seem to like her a lot.” Asked Alberto.
“Perhaps, maybe later and yes, she’s very attractive.” Answered Gabriel.
The tango ended and everybody in the room applauded. Carlos and Geraldine bowed to both sides of the room ending not too far from where Alberto and Gabriel were sitting.
The announcer announced the famous singer Hector to the floor which pleased a lot of people since he had a good voice and a special way of making people feel like friends.
“Carlos, look who I found.” Alberto said indicating Gabriel.
“Hola hermano, what a pleasure to see you again, after such a long time, where have you been?” Carlos said.
“I’ve been working, laburando (the Argentinian way to say Working) what else is new, always working.” Gabriel said.
Carlos quickly answered “No, no, you have to have some fun, live and enjoy your life. Listen, look at this beauty! I want you to meet Geraldine a wonderful dancer and a great woman who really knows how to enjoy life.”
Gabriel extended his hand and looking straight into Geraldine’s eyes said “It is my pleasure”– “Don’t listen to Carlos, he means well. He’s a good friend. Please have a seat.”
Hector the singer began to sing “La abandoné y no sabía” – (I abandoned her and did not know) “Kneaded between the silver and gold of serenades and wild dance parties, cradled by the sounds of bandoneons, this tango was born.” All the milongueros and milongueras were enjoying Hector and his wonderful interpretation of the famous tango of the composer José Canet.
Geraldine sat down in a chair close to Gabriel. – “Somehow you look familiar, haven’t I seen you before?” Geraldine asked. “I don’t think so.” Gabriel answered. “Just like I told Carlos before, I spend most of my time working and at night I just go home.”
Geraldine did not waste any time and with a flirtatious voice said, “Please, no one should be deprived of having a little bit of fun, of living the life God has given us. I’ll tell you what. I own a gentleman’s club, Let me go to my table and get you a business card with the address. The main club is in Mexico Street. Let me bring the card. I want you to go there. I guarantee you will love it.”
“Si claro” – said Carlos while this conversation was taking place – “I’ll go with you Gabriel. I have been there many times so you won’t get lost and I guarantee you will enjoy the place.”
The singer finished his tango and all the tangueros applauded enthusiastically. The announcer called on everyone to continue dancing. “I want everybody to dance and please, don’t forget any of the beautiful ladies who have come tonight”. And please, don’t leave yet, we have another wonderful couple performing.”
Geraldine, interested in making friends with Gabriel said, “How about a dance with me, yes?” Gabriel was hesitant but Geraldine insisted. “OK”, Gabriel said, “but I have not danced in many years and even back then I was not too good.”
“It’s OK, don’t worry, we’ll make it work, I am a good follower! I can follow any man!” Geraldine said. “I’m sure you are.”
Gabriel said as he got up and walked to the floor holding her hand.
The tanda started with “Al Compas del corazón” by Miguel Caló. “Oh God, I love Caló, he really makes me feel good”, Said Geraldine. “Do you like Caló, Gabriel?” Gabriel said: “I have not listened to tangos in many years. I work hard, go home and hardly have any time to do anything else. Tonight I am here because Alberto insisted. Let’s dance, we are in the way.”
They began to dance and Geraldine said, “Everyone should have a little fun in their life.”
Gabriel embraced Geraldine and could not help how much he liked the closeness, the smell of her hair, and the proximity of her femininity. He was glad to have come to the milonga.
The tanda ended and they walked toward the table. Carlos and Alberto were sitting at another table taking to a couple of beautiful ladies.
Gabriel was intrigued, “Forgive me but you said you own a Gentleman’s Club. How does that work and are you there every day Geraldine?”
Geraldine said: “That’s ok to ask. I do own a Gentleman’s Club but tango is a passion and I take one day a week to go dancing. It is almost like a drug! But the rest of the week you can find me at the Club. I have people who take care of the club so I really have nothing to worry about. These are people who I have known for many years but it’s good for them to know that I can make an appearance at any time.”
“And you Gabriel, what do you do?” Geraldine asked.
“My job does not sound as much fun as yours but I make a living. I import wine from Europe and also sell Argentinian wines.” Gabriel said.
“Great, perhaps we can do business, Gabriel”. Geraldine said. “I consume a lot of wine in my Club.”
Gabriel was interested, “Well, it is certainly a possibility. Would you like me to send a salesman?”
“A salesman? No, Gabriel, I want you be the salesman. I like you; I want us to be friends. Please come to my Club and see the business and the possibilities for yourself. I know you; I don’t know your salesman. I already gave you my card with the address. How about next week? Wednesday perhaps?”
“Wednesday, I could see your place in the morning, sometimes around 10 am.” Gabriel said.
To which Geraldine quickly said, “No, Gabriel, 10 in the morning I am sleeping. Just come to see the place when it’s open and working, see what quantities you think are good for the place and then we can talk over the phone to place the order. How about at 21 hours?”
Gabriel smiled: “At 21 hours in the evening? I am usually in bed at that time!”
“Come… you won’t regret it.” Geraldine answered.
Gabriel thought for a moment and said: “OK, Wednesday at the 21 hrs. it is. I’ll be there.”
“Wonderful. It is set then. Look! There is another couple performing. I like them. Do you know them Gabriel?” Geraldine asked.
“I don’t think so.” – Gabriel said. “They seem to be very young. They do make a beautiful couple, and if they dance with passion and most importantly with musicality that will make them look unique. Tango without musicality is not tango.”
The tango “El Cielo y tu” by Di Sarli was the vehicle the couple was using to convey the romance between them in a way that only tango can do. They mesmerized the milongueros with their subtle and smooth movements which became even more romantic when Alberto Podestá began to sing: “Tibio está el pañuelo, todavía, que tu adios me repetía desde el muelle de las sombras.” (Tepid is still the handkerchief, that repeated your goodbyes from the dock of shadows.)
The next day, Gabriel is having breakfast at his house. For Gabriel the family was important. He sat at the table deep in his thoughts and looked as if he was not there. Gabriel was trying to make sense of what had happened during the day. He kept staring at the food remembering the good time he had at the milonga.
He was startled out of his thoughts “You are not hungry, are you?”
Gabriel raised his eyes and saw the woman who cared for him and had given him the support and encouragement for so many years.
“Yes dear, I am hungry, I always like what you prepare for me.” Gabriel answered.
“Then, what is bothering you?”
“Nothing, nothing is bothering me. I just have a new possible big customer who I have to meet tonight and see what she needs.”
“She needs? A woman?”
“Yes, a woman,”- Gabriel said – “and she has a big night club. She says she consumes lots of wine and I think that doing business with her will be good for the company.”
“Is she pretty? Attractive?”
“Not much, she’s somewhat a good looking woman but….” Gabriel said.
“But what? What is: a somewhat good looking woman?”
“I was saying that you have nothing to worry about. I am only interested in the business opportunity for our company. Don’t worry. I’ll be home for dinner and then I will go the meeting. I assure you, you have nothing to worry about.”
“Nothing to worry about? I’m not sure. At what time is that meeting?”
“It’s in the evening, at 21 hours. I’ll make the meeting short, no more than half hour. We just have to talk of quantities and prices. This meeting is important, a large club will make her a good client.”
“I will. See you tonight. I have to go to the company now.”
That evening, Gabriel drove to the address Geraldine had given him. When he arrived he was lucky to find a parking spot about half a block from where the Club would be, he could see the neon sign with the name “Geraldine’s” he looked to see if had parked close to the curb, he then got off and, after locking the door, began to walk towards the club. He was carrying a book with the prices and marketing material he needed to make a deal. He wanted to talk to Geraldine again and to get to know her better. He had great hopes that this meeting would turn quite profitable, after all, a large club can consume a lot of wine. He did feel an attraction for the woman. She was trim and firm, muscular not an ounce of fat in that woman, it was hard to tell her age and she probably exercised every day.
As Gabriel entered the club he could hear people talking, he felt there was a good activity in the club. He was met by a well-dressed man, standing in front of a red velvet covered door. He had a small nameplate on the lapel of his suit, with the name “Port”. He was a large man with a long white hair and looked as if he was the bouncer. The man addressed Gabriel and very politely asked,
– “What can I do for you, Sir?”
– “I have an appointment with Ms. Geraldine.” Gabriel said.
– “And your name is?”
– “Gabriel Roth.” Gabriel answered.
The man pressed a button on the wall and said, “Mr. Gabriel Roth is here to see you.”
– “Thank you for waiting Sir.” With that, the man, opened the door and let Gabriel in.
Gabriel entered a small room with a coat check booth on the right side attended by a young and pretty girl. The place had velvet curtains on the walls and it looked seductive. There was a door on the left side which suddenly opened and Geraldine came out to greet Gabriel.
– “Hi Gabriel, thank you for coming. I see you met Port. He is in charge of security. Very loyal man.” Geraldine said.
Behind Geraldine, two men came out of the room. Gabriel noticed they did not look like customers and for a moment he thought he recognized one of them as a friend of his warehouse manager Diego. The men were not dressed in suits but were wearing khaki pants and casual shirts. Gabriel thought it was strange to see these men there. Even stranger was that they were meeting with Geraldine. However, he shrugged it off and didn’t pay any more attention to the situation.
– “Good seeing you Geraldine. This is a nice place you have here. This looks very nice, very elegant.”
– “Thank you, but come, let’s go into the main room, that’s where you can see the amount of people we have.”
Gabriel followed her and she pushed a curtain aside then walked into another room. It was well decorated with a bar on the right side of the room and a small stage where you could see a young woman singing accompanied by a bandoneon and a guitar. On the left side there were many tables where Gabriel could see close to 45 people and just about every one of them had a drink in front of them. Most were having quiet conversations with some women. The main room had what appeared to be smaller rooms on the side which looked as if they more private. Each one of these private rooms had a curtain covering the entrance. There was some light inside the private rooms indicating they were occupied. Gabriel realized there was something different about this club. The women were dressed very sensuously which did not quite match the way the men were dressed. He remembered what Carlos had told him. This business was not only a night club but also a place where a man could meet women. It was a club where a man of means could find a very attractive young woman for the night.
Geraldine and Gabriel sat at a reserved table and a very attractive young woman came over. The girl looked different, humble in some way, she was not dressed as provocatively as the other women he saw in the place, she did not have too much make-up but still she was very attractive, she looked as if she did not belong there. Gabriel looked at the young woman and felt a strong attraction. He had not felt like that in a long time.
– “Yes, what can I do for you Madam?” The waitress asked Geraldine.
– “What would you like to drink Gabriel?” Geraldine asked Gabriel.
Gabriel looked at the young woman and asked her to bring him a glass of Malbec. Gertrude told her to bring her one glass too.
– “She’s a new employee. She’s attractive but I am not sure if she’s going to stay in this job. I may have to place her in another position,” Geraldine told Gabriel.
– “Give her enough time and see how she does.” Gabriel said.
Geraldine looked at him realizing he was interested in the girl.
– “I think you like her! Am I right?” – Geraldine said.
– “Well she’s an attractive woman, you said it yourself.” Gabriel answered.
– “Well let’s get down to business,” Geraldine said. “As you can see I have a thriving business with many customers. Everyone sitting at a table, every man or woman you see is consuming something, mainly wine and that is where you come in. I feel confident that we can begin with a small quantity, say 10 cases a day and see how we do. If the customers like your wines then we can increase the amount. Let me know what prices you can give me. What do you say? “
– “I think that it makes good business sense, Gabriel said. Neither you nor your customers will be disappointed. We will deliver the first ten cases tomorrow. As for the price, I will send it with the shipment and I am sure you will be very pleased with it. I will give a price I don’t give to anybody.”
– “Excellent! I look forward to your delivery.”
– “Very good, then it is set. Let me go home and I’ll call you tomorrow before the shipment leaves the warehouse,” Gabriel said as he began to get up.
– “Home? No, wait!” Geraldine exclaimed, “You don’t have to go, stay, have a drink, enjoy the music and the ambience. As part of the entertainment, we have a couple who will dance soon and they are fabulous.”
– “Thank you, I will stay for a short time,” Gabriel said as he looked in the direction of the young waitress. Geraldine smiled when she noticed Gabriel looking at the waitress.
Geraldine got up and walked away to speak to the young waitress at the bar who promptly left what she was doing and went to the table where Gabriel was sitting.
– “Hi, how are you, it’s me again,” the waitress said.
– “Hi, I think one drink is enough. I had enough wine. It’s funny, I import wine but drink very little” Gabriel told her.
– “No problem but I hope you don’t mind the company,” she responded.
– “Of course not. You are a beautiful young woman. There is no man who wouldn’t like to be in your company.” Gabriel told her not believing that he had been so flirtatious.
– “Thank you, you are very kind. It has been a long time since a man has said beautiful things like that to me. Men come here in search of a companion and having a good time.” She told Gabriel.
– “I know but thank you, I think I will go home.” Gabriel said.
– “I am new in the business. Please don’t leave.” She begged him.
– “Why?” Gabriel asked her not understanding her request.
– “If you leave, she will get angry at me.” She told Gabriel.
– “Angry? Why would she get angry?” Gabriel asked her, still not understanding.
– “Two years ago, my partner died in a shootout with the army. We had kept our relationship a secret and no one knew he was my partner, he wanted to protect me and kept me away from his activities. He was a member of the ERP, The People’s Revolutionary Army, I was always afraid something could happen. We were going to get married the next day. He knew Geraldine and when he died, Geraldine took me into her care until I gave birth to my son. The army does not know that but Geraldine says that I have to work here or she will not let me stay. I would be arrested and they would probably take my son, or I could also disappear. They have taken children from other women and I don’t want that to happen to me. My mother is taking care of my son. We don’t have much money and that is why I need to work.”
– “You are crying.” – Gabriel said.
– “Yes, I am and I am sorry. I have never done anything like this. I need to survive and be the mother my son needs.” She told Gabriel as tears rolled down her face.
– “Geraldine wants me to make sure men will have a good time men every night, five or more is the quota. She told me you liked me and here I am. You will be the first and I have no choice, I have to do it. I will be the first since I began working here.” The young waitress told Gabriel.
Gabriel looked at the young woman and thought of her story. They sat silently, they were both looking at each other. A few minutes went by which seemed like an eternity. You could hear the music while a couple danced tango on the stage – “Fueron tres años” – Hablame, rompé el silencio! No ves que me estoy muriendo? Y quítame este tormento, porque tu silencio ya me dice adios (Speak to me, break the silence don’t you see I am dying? Take this torment away, because your silence is telling me goodbye.)
Gabriel finally took a deep breath, and after a pause he said, “OK, what is the next step?”
– “Now we have to go to a private room in the back.” She said.
– “OK let’s go to the room.” Gabriel said.
She quietly got up and, with her head straight, not looking at Gabriel, led the way to where the rooms were. They walked behind a curtain which led to a door she opened. They walked through a long hall with doors on both sides. It was not difficult to imagine those were the doors to the private rooms.
The couple passed Geraldine, who looked at her assistant, Port and smiling, told Gabriel, “I told you: You liked her.”
They continue walking through a hall, until she opened one door on her right and both walked in. She was wearing a very short skirt which allowed Gabriel to see her legs. She sat on the bed and began to unbutton her blouse. Her brassiere began to show and the skin of her breast showed how white and smooth it was. There was not a blemish in her skin.
Gabriel looked at her, he could see more of her legs and thought how beautiful her they were. He could not stop looking at her. He took a deep breath and could feel his heart beat increasing. He felt there was nothing he could do to stop admiring her beauty. He took another deep breath and moved towards her. She looked at him knowing what was about to happen, her hands were trembling a little and she thought she would have to do what she had to do to survive. She mentally cursed at Geraldine for forcing her to work like this. He extended his arms and gently held her by her shoulders and pulled her closer to him. She kept looking at him and thought he was an attractive man who was about to kiss her. He was very close to her and suddenly said:
– “Please, don’t worry, please don’t worry.” Gabriel said.
– She looked at him not understanding what was happening. – “Why, you don’t find me attractive?” She asked Gabriel.
– “It is not that, on the contrary, I find you very attractive, please don’t get me wrong.” Gabriel answered.
Gabriel sat next to her, took her hand and began to tell her what he had in mind.
– “I can’t be with a woman who feels she is being forced to do it. I can see you are different. I have an idea I think will help you. This is what I want to do. We are going to wait 20 minutes, mess up your hair a little and I will do the same. I am going to ask Geraldine to put you back at the bar, serving drinks. I am going to tell her that I don’t want any other man touching you and that I want you only for myself and that you are to only work at the bar. That will keep you safe. I will come every week or as often as I can, to see how you are doing.” Gabriel explained.
– “I don’t want to lose my son!” She exclaimed.
– “You will not lose your son. Trust me, this is going to work.” Gabriel assured her.
– “Why are you doing this? What do I have to do? You don’t know me.”
– “I don’t know why I am doing this. All I know is that what she is asking you to do, is not right. How old are you?” Gabriel answered, not knowing what else to say.
– “I am 26.” She said
Half an hour went by and they both came out of the room. Geraldine was sitting at a table with three men in one of the private rooms. She very casually pulled an envelope from a pocket in her dress and handed it to one of the men. She saw Gabriel and the girl as they walked to meet her. Geraldine quickly got up and met them before they reached the table. One of the men also got up and pulled the curtain, closing the private room.
– “That was something.” She said to Gabriel. She glanced at the girl and told her to go to the bar and help the bartender.
– “I am glad you stayed. You know Gabriel, I like you and I want us to be friends. Did you like the girl?” Geraldine asked. “Her name is Jasmine. All my girls have names of flowers, isn’t that nice? Her name means love, sensuality, purity. Don’t you think it fits her well, Gabriel?”
– “Yes it does and I did like her, very much. She’s a very attractive girl. I have a request which I hope we can work it out. I want you to do something for me. Indeed I like this girl a lot and I want you to give her a job where she will not be servicing other men. I want you to keep her at the bar and for the time being have sex only with me. At least for a while.” Gabriel said.
– “Well, you must have liked her a lot.” Geraldine said realizing she now had some control over Gabriel.
– “Yes, I do like her a lot. I am willing to pay for you to keep her at the bar.” Gabriel offered.
– “Ok, we will do that. Let me think what it will cost and I will let you know on Monday.” Geraldine told him.
– “Monday I will be in Mendoza but I’ll be back on Tuesday. I’ll wait for your call then. Thank you for this wonderful evening.” Gabriel said. He began to walk towards the exit and, on his way, he looked toward the bar to see Jasmine and then look towards the private room, he was able to see the 3 men, who had been sitting at the table with Geraldine. The curtain was partially open and he could see inside. The three men were alone. They sure did not look like customers and were talking among themselves. One of the men noticed that Gabriel was looking at them and quickly got up, and quickly closed the curtain. Gabriel did not know what to make of it.
I HAVE TO SEE HER AGAIN
Early on Tuesday morning, after a day visit to the wineries in Mendoza, Gabriel returned to Buenos Aires and, without stopping at his home, went directly to his office.
“Good morning, how is everybody? Did you all have a good weekend? Carmelita? Diego? “Good morning Mr. Gabriel – Diego hurriedly walked into the office with a pale face. Gabriel noticed and asked him,” What’s the problem Diego? You seem bothered.”
– “Did you hear Mr. Gabriel? Have you seen the news of what happened yesterday?” Diego asked.
– “No, I have not heard but don’t stop, tell me. Are you ok? Is your wife ok?”.
– “Yes we are ok. It is not me or my family. There was a shoot-out in an apartment in the city and several people got killed!” Diego told Gabriel.
– “Oh my God, that is very serious. How did it happen?” Gabriel asked.
– “Well, the army was investigating and the group, went into an apartment they knew there was a meeting of the ERP. In the apartment there were also some women also members of the ERP. As soon as the group walked in the apartment, there was a shootout where a few people from both sides got killed. Nobody knows where the women are. They were arrested after the shootout but have disappeared.”
– “I hope this does not continue. “ Gabriel said. “When the city is in turmoil everything tends to stop. No one wants to go out. There could be more repression. This dirty war is not good for anybody.”
– At this moment Carmelita walks into the office – “Excuse me Mr. Gabriel, the Capitán Manuel Gonzalez is here and wants to speak to you. He said it is very important.”
– As Carmelita turned to go to the waiting room. Capitan Gonzalez walked in – “Good morning Gabriel, I need to speak to you alone.”
– “Of course Manuel” – Gabriel said, turning to the others in the room he asked to be left alone with the Capitán.
– “I will be clear Gabriel, my agents have had under surveillance a Club where they have seen you meeting with the owner a woman whose name is Geraldine.” Manuel said.
– “That is correct, I am selling wine to the owner to supply her club, her name is..” – “We know her name.” interrupted Manuel – “Her name is Geraldine, we have investigated her for a while and her activities are under suspicion.”
– “What do you mean? She runs a large club. How is it that she is under suspicion, suspicion of what?” Gabriel asked his friend.
– “Gabriel” Manuel said. “We have been friends since we were almost children. I trust you and because of this trust and I am telling you things that are considered state secrets of the highest level.”
– “Thank you Manuel, I appreciate your trust.” Gabriel said.
– “Gabriel.” Manuel continued.” “This woman, Geraldine, is not what she appears to be. Her real intention is subversion and helping the Germans who escaped after the war and are being sought after by Wiesenthal and the Mossad, the Israeli Intelligence service. We have investigated her and we have found that she is German and during the war she was a member of the SS. She is now a member of an organization called ODESSA.” Manuel said.
– “Odessa? What is that?” Gabriel asked.
– “Gabriel, Odessa is an organization whose main purpose is to help Nazi criminals escape Justice. The organization is very careful with what they do. They made a mistake in protecting one of the main and most important members of the now extinct Third Reich. You may have heard his name, Adolf Eichmann. After the War he lived in Austria until 1950 and then came to Argentina with false papers. It wasn’t until 1960 when The Mossad captured him and smuggled him out in a suitcase. He was taken to Israel where he stood trial, was convicted and executed in May of 1962. Geraldine and her friends learned a lesson from that and realized they needed to hide their people better. The Mossad is now looking for Josef Mengele. It is believed that Dr. Mengele came to Argentina in 1949 at about the same time Geraldine arrived. They lived together in a boarding house in Vicente Lopez and later moved to a house in Florida. We know for certain that Dr. Mengele was here in Buenos Aires. We don’t know where he is now but we don’t care what he does or where he lives. He has not committed any crime in Argentina. The orders from above are to leave him alone. We are more interested in how Geraldine financially helps the insurgency and the anti-government groups.” Manuel said.
– “What do you need me to do? How can I help?” Gabriel asked.
– “At the club, have you ever noticed something that you think is suspicious?” Manuel asked.
“Well, I truly don’t know too much, I have just met the woman and our conversations are about my selling her wine for her business but now that you have mentioned it, perhaps I have seen something. At the time it did not look suspicious, but now, perhaps there is something of interest there. I was at her club a few days ago and saw Geraldine sitting at a table with a group of about three or four men who did not seem to be customers. She gave one of them an envelope, and one of the men realized I had seen her giving them the envelope and appeared upset by that. She looked at me and said something to the men. After that one of them closed the curtain and that was the end of it.” Gabriel told Manuel.
– “Gabriel, did you see her giving the men money?” Manuel asked.
– “No Manuel, I did not see that. All I remember is that it was a large envelope.” Gabriel said.
– “When are you supposed to meet her again?” Manuel wanted to know.
– “We made plans for me to go back tonight with prices of the wines I can sell her.” Gabriel said.
– “Please continue doing business with her. Don’t mention we spoke to you.” Manuel told Gabriel.
– “Of course not.” Gabriel said.
– Captain Manuel thanked Gabriel and said: “We will go back to the office and think about what we need to do next. Thank you for your help, it is very valuable. Please keep safe and out of trouble.” They embraced and kissed each other in the cheek. Have a good day Gabriel.”
The Captain and his men got up and walked towards the exit. Soon after they were gone. Gabriel was relieved but deep in his mind he did not know what to think of the whole situation. He decided to start working on the prices and wanted to be ready to meet Geraldine that evening.
The afternoon came faster than Gabriel expected but he was ready and had calculated the prices he was willing to offer Geraldine. He told Carmelita he would be back in the morning and went on his way to the Club.
The time passed quickly and by the time he entered the Club it was nearly the 21 hour. Upon entering the Club there was the singer, Hector, on stage who was the same one singing the last time he had been at the Club. He was singing one of the saddest and at the same time one of the prettiest tangos ever written. “Quiero verte una vez mas” (I want to see you once more time) “Tarde que me invita a conversar con los recuerdos…Noche de… esperar y de llorar en este encierro. Tanto en mi amargura te busqué sin encontrarte ¿Cuando…cuando, vida? ¡moriré para olvidarte! – Afternoon that invites me to talk to my memories… Evening of… waiting and crying in this prison. Deep in my grief I searched for you, without finding you. When… when, life will I die to forget you? – Quiero verte una vez más ¡estoy tan triste! y no puedo recordar por que te fuiste… – I want to see you one more time, I am so sad! And I can’t remember why you left…
Gabriel was happy, his eyes searched for her, not for Geraldine but for the Jasmine, the girl he had met before. She saw him, their eyes met, and she gave him a nod and a smile. His heart began pounding and he took a deep breath.
– “You do like her!” Geraldine said behind him.
– “Yes I do, you know that.” Was Gabriel’s answer.
– “Did you find out what prices you will give me?” Geraldine wanted to know.
– “The prices? Oh yes the prices.” Gabriel seemed to come out of his thoughts.
– “You do know why you’re here, don’t you? You seem distant.” Geraldine said.
– “Yes of course. I have calculated and the best I can do is to give you a 40% discount on the retail price of the wine. I think that is very good deal. To other customers I only give them a 30% discount.” Gabriel told Geraldine.
– “Why are you so generous?” Geraldine said with a smile on her face.
– “Well, regarding our discussion, I do expect a large weekly purchase from you and I had asked you to do something special for me. Remember? Keeping the Jasmine at the bar.” Gabriel told Geraldine.
– “Oh yes, I remember. Why don’t you go to the bar and have a drink while I look at this offer. Talk to Jasmine. I told her to spend some time with you. I also have some business associates I need to talk to in the private room.” Geraldine said.
Gabriel looked towards the private room and could see the same men he had seen before. He again thought that these men looked somewhat suspicious. He suspected these men where the insurgents his friend Manuel had mentioned. He did not stare and turned his head to look at the bar where he expected to see Jasmine working. Their eyes met and she smiled at him. He liked that, she seemed happy.
Gabriel went to the bar, sat down in one of the stools and she went to meet him.
– “Hi, how are you tonight”, Jasmine asked.
– “I am doing well, how about you. How is the work?” Gabriel asked her.
– “I like what I am doing. I don’t know how you were able to do it but I will forever be grateful to you. Geraldine told me that I was exclusive to you. You acted differently than I expected and I don’t understand. She told me you would be coming every week. I need to take you to the room whenever you are ready.” She told Gabriel.
– “OK let’s go”, Gabriel said.
She nodded to the barman, took off her apron, and looked at Gabriel as she began to walk to the end of the bar. Gabriel followed her.
She opened the door of the room and, as they tried to enter simultaneously, their bodies got very close. He moved to let her go first and, as they walked into the room, Gabriel felt his heart beating harder. He took a deep breath which allowed him to smell her feminine perfume and the aroma coming from her hair.
She looked back at him, making eye contact and they momentarily stared at each other. She then turned around and kept walking into the room while Gabriel closed the door and closely followed her. She felt his presence behind her and slowly turned around. He took her by the shoulders and, without hesitation, kissed her. She did not resist but, on the contrary, welcomed the kiss. The smoothness of her skin excited him.
They fell on the bed and continued passionately kissing. Gabriel was trying to undo the lace of her blouse but was having problem because it somehow had a knot. He paused and tried to undo the knot but could not do it. ”Wait!” she said and began to remove her blouse over her head. Gabriel, at the same time, was also continuing to undress. They both lay in bed and continued kissing in ways only a deep mutual desired can create.
“Oh God, I want you inside me “she said. He could not think of anything else but to possess her. He did not waste any time and soon began to slowly enter her, she moaned with the intensity of the pleasure she felt as he slowly penetrated her. “God! I wanted you so much, you have no idea,” Gabriel said.
He increased the rhythmic movements of lovemaking and with every thrust he did, she moaned with pleasure. The moaning excited him even more. “Where have you been”, she said “You are killing me, where were you ten years ago?” She said.
He did not answer but continued thrusting while she continued moaning. With every thrust she would move a little bit up the bed and soon her head was hitting the headboard until he had to move back and bring her with him before resuming the rhythm of his thrust.
“You are huge”, she said, and these words excited him more and made him thrust her deeper. Every few minutes she would take a hard grip of his arms and give a little scream as he continue making love to her. She momentarily stopped moving and grabbed both of his arms and at the same time she arched her hip upwardly and a “Yes, yes” came out of her lips. Gabriel got closer to her and began kissing her lips and all over her face. Gabriel continued rhythmically thrusting her and after a few minutes he momentarily stopped moving trying to hold his orgasm but there was nothing he could do, he had reached the moment no one can reverse, he stopped holding it and with strong thrust he finally climaxed, he continued thrusting her a few more times before collapsing next to her.
Their arms were stretched out and their breathing slowly came back to a normal pace. Gabriel took a deep breath of air and exhale until he recovered from the wonderful experience. After a while Jasmine, who had been lying down next to him and lovingly embracing him, said, “God, I haven’t had this in a long time. I thought I would never feel like this again. I had so many orgasms I lost count. It is so, but so good, I can get used to this every two weeks.” “Two weeks” Gabriel said with a surprise in his tone. “You mean at least every week at least.” She smiled while, at the same time turning to him and kissing him on his chest, his arms, and his face.
“Can we do this again?” She asked.
He thought for a moment and said “You have to give me at least a few minutes to recover”. They did not talk for a while. Each thinking of how wonderful the experience had been. He fell sleep and woke up some twenty minutes later. He turned to her and was as excited as before. Lifting her right leg, he began to penetrate her again. She moaned as soon as he began to enter her. He changed into a better position on top of her and the rhythmic thrusting began again. Her gasping and heavy breathing quickly showed him how much she enjoyed the moment.
“God, you can last so long and it feels so good. You make me so happy I don’t know what I will do until I see you again.” She said.
Gabriel looked at her and said: “I really like you and I am sure I am going to like you a lot more.”
They lay in bed sweet talking to each other: “You are the woman I have searched for all my life, I feel I have known you even before I met you” Gabriel said.
– Hearing that Jasmin said: “How can you say that! You couldn’t have known me before you met me. That makes no sense. What do you mean?”
Gabriel thought for a moment and said: “All men have in their minds an ideal woman which represents everything they want in a woman: Beauty, sexuality, conversational, agreeing in ideas, in politics, in religion, seeing the world in just about the same way. Do you see what I mean?
Jasmine waited a few seconds and said “Yes, that makes sense. You speak in such a beautiful terms.”
“Do you see what I mean? Gabriel said. “You agree and like what I said. That’s what I love in you. I am fighting falling in love with you but I feel something is slowly pulling me towards you. I don’t want to fall in love but the felling is beginning to be stronger than me.”
After half hour or so they walked into the main waiting room. On the side of the waiting room, there were two men also practicing tango figures with each other. They were alternating being the leader and the follower. They did that to kill the time until their chosen woman was free from sleeping with other men.
They heard and saw Hector singing on stage the popular tango “Caminito”, while a professional couple danced on the stage.
Caminito que el tiempo ha borrado, que juntos un dia nos vistes pasar, he venido por última vez he venido a contarte mi mal.
Caminito that time has erased, that together one day saw us pass, I have come for the last time I have come to tell you my pain.
The dancing couple was very good. The woman was tall and the male partner slightly taller. She looked like an amazon: long legs and a strikingly sensual look. She was perfectly proportioned. Her facial features were chiseled and danced as passionate as she looked with all the tools a sexual symbol needed to express passion and sensuality. She was a woman to admire who attracted any man with a magnetic force no man could resist.
Geraldine approached him and asked, “Do you like her too?”
– Of course I do! Gabriel answered, “What is not to like?”
“You can’t touch her.” Geraldine answered. “Perhaps in your next life. She is Angélica, La Española, the Spaniard. We call her La Maja but you can’t have her. She makes her own decisions. That’s her man now and there is nothing you can do about it.”
Gabriel hearing Geraldine said, “Angélica, an angel that she is but I don’t believe in the next life. Whatever you want to do, do it in this life, there is no next life. Making love to that woman must be something very special. Does she work for you?”
“I wish.” Geraldine said. “I wouldn’t need any other girl to work for me. She would make me a millionaire! I pay her to dance and entertain the men. Many come here to see her. She’s good for the business. It’s a pity she does not want to go into my “other” business. If you know what I mean.” – Geraldine looked at Gabriel and winked.
Gabriel noticed Geraldine holding an envelope in her hand. “Is that envelope orders for me?” Gabriel asked. “No they are not. I’ll have the orders hand delivered to your business tomorrow morning.”
While Gabriel and Geraldine conversed, Hector continued singing with the typical mannerism that characterized him. He portrayed the emotions of the tango as if he had written it himself. He was now singing one of the tangos Gabriel loved; “Pasional.” Hector sang it with passion: Estas clavada en mi… te siento en el latir abrasador de mis sienes. Te adoro cuando estás… y te amo mucho mas cuando estás lejos de mi. You’re nailed in me… I feel you in the searing throbbing of my temples. I adore you when you are with me… and I love you even more when you are away.
Those were the feeling he was beginning to feel for Jasmine. Gabriel thought. He hated the name Jasmine, some day she would have to tell him her real name.
“Well”. Geraldine said: “I need to take care of some business. This is my Tuesday meeting,”
Geraldine finished the sentence and walked into the private room. Gabriel could see that she was meeting the very same men he had seen the previous week. He realized that the envelope probably contained money she was giving them. It was small and thick. Apparently she did this every week on Tuesdays. He wondered why. Gabriel thought for a moment and felt he needed to talk to Manuel.
ARE YOU MARRIED?
Gabriel arrived at his office early in the morning and the first thing he did was to pick up his phone to make a call: “Hi Manuel, how are you? Everything OK? Good. I really need to talk to you, there are a few things I would like to run by you and see what you think. No, nothing serious, it is just that there are a few things going on that perhaps you would interest you. Remember the milonga we used to go to when we were young? I’ll meet you there tonight. Is the 22 hour ok? We’ll do that, I’ll reserve a table. See you then.” With that Gabriel hung up the phone.
The time passed quickly and not realizing it the day at the office had come to an end. Gabriel went home, had some dinner, took a quick shower, put on some of his best clothes and went straight to the milonga. As planned there was a table reserved for him. He sat down and in no time he was sipping a glass of Malbec, the vine he always preferred. There was a couple performing on the floor. They were both tall and attractive. All the attendees were enjoying the elegance with which the couple danced. The woman was wearing a blue skirt with a slit along the side showing her leg every time she made a movement. The man had an elegant suit. Their shoes looked as if they had been made specially to match their outfit. Manuel arrived before the couple finished their performance and walked to the table where Gabriel was sitting. He sat in a chair next to Gabriel.
- “You like them?” Manuel said.
- “Yes they look good and have nice, clean footwork.” “Who are they?” Gabriel asked.
- “They are Nelson and Nélida, They just came from New York where they in were on tour. He successfully performed at the famous Latin Quarter. They are dancing Jealousy, their main number. Everybody likes them, especially the women, so people say.” Manuel said.
- “OK I am here, what did you want to tell me?”
- “Do you mind if we finish watching them? I like them.” Gabriel said
- Manuel continued: “The rumor is that they are finalizing the last touches for a big show in New York. A show on Broadway. That would be great. You know, something to make people aware of what Argentine Tango is, sort of a revival of the art.”
- “Yes” Gabriel said. “That would be good. If they do that show, I think I would go to New York to support them. I have never been in New York”
- Manuel continued, “Nelson today is the best Tango Dancer there is. He and his partner Nélida have traveled all over, projecting tango and the heart of our culture. They are going to create a revolution. Tango will be known everywhere. Everybody here loves them, look at the faces!”
Nelson and Nélida danced and at the end there was a standing ovation.
- “What did you want to tell me Gabriel?”, Manuel asked.
- Gabriel looked at him and moved closer to him, “You know I am doing business with Geraldine.”
- “Yes I know you are. I also know you have gone there for the past few Tuesdays. I also know you are interested in one of the girls.” Manuel said.
- “Well, you seem to know a lot.” Gabriel said. “In any case, every Tuesday I have seen some people getting together with her in one of the private booths. They don’t look like customers since I have never seen them with any of the girls. Usually, at some point in the evening, she gives them an envelope which, I think, has money, and, as soon as they get the envelope, they leave. An interesting point is that they leave through a door in the back of the building. When they leave, they always try to leave quietly and try not to be seen.”
- “How many people have you seen?” Manuel asked.
- “Usually three men. Only once I saw four but lately I only see three.” Gabriel said.
- “Do you know what they are talking about?” Manuel asked.
- “No, they don’t talk loudly enough for me to hear.” Gabriel said.
- “At what time do they get there, Gabriel?” Manuel asked.
- “They get there by the 22 hour and they are gone by 23.” Gabriel told Manuel.
- “I thank you very much Gabriel. Skip next Tuesday. We will pay them a visit and I don’t want you to be here since you never know how the situation will develop. It could possibly get out of hand.” Manuel said.
- Gabriel was concerned and told Manuel, “In that case, not only I will not be here but I will take the girl with me.”
A couple of days later on Monday morning, Gabriel was in his office and picked up his phone. “Hola, Geraldine? – How are you? How is business, good? Great, I am happy for you! This is a special call. I have a favor to ask and please, if you incur in any extra cost, just let me know. I am getting together with some friends and would like to take the girl with me to add to the celebration. I would really like her company. What do you say? Great! I’ll call her and tell her that she has your permission and that I will pick her up tomorrow evening at her place. Thank you Geraldine. Remember what I said: let me know if it cost you anything. I am more than willing to pay you for the trouble.”
Gabriel, hung up the phone and reclined back in his chair. He stared at the ceiling and slowly lowered his eyes toward the pictures on the wall. As he continued looking at the pictures, his vision lost focus and the pictures were replaced with Ana’s face. He stared at the pictures and could not stop looking at his vision. He thought of his life for the last 30 years.
He had lied to Geraldine, he did not have a reunion with friends but he really wanted to take Jasmine to a private dinner. Quiet and romantic. Oh yes romantic indeed.
Tuesday afternoon, he was tense and ready with anticipation, he was ready for his dinner date, and many thoughts began to come to his head while he was getting dressed. Nice suit and white shirt. He made sure the tie was a good match to the suit. He was not good at it because he was color blind. He could not tell hues and shades of green or red but he worked it out the best he could, remembering which tie he had worn last with that suit. He was always asking people the color of his socks. Years ago, in France, Ana had laughed because of his green socks but he had believed they were brown. She had gone to the store to change the socks and instead of telling the salesman that I had made a mistake because I was color blind, daltonien, she told the salesman, in her broken French, It was because I was constipated, constipé. The salesman did not know how to react to that.
Over the years Gabriel finally solved his color problems. All his socks were black and all his shoes were black! Most of his pants were black. His shirts were colors of which he was certain: red, blue, black, white, yellow, no greens or browns. Problem solved.
That evening he drove his car and a short time later he was at the door where Jasmine lived. She came out looking radiant, and, for a moment did not know what to think. He realized that he really felt strongly about her and liked her a lot. He realized his life was getting complicated.
- “Everything OK?” Gabriel asked.
- “Yes, absolutely. I am so happy. You have no idea how much I appreciate this invitation.”
- “I want to take you a very special place. It is quiet and the food is delicious. You are going to love it.”
- “I expect to love it.” – She said emphasizing the pronunciation of the “expect giving him a flirtatious look. They drove north in the direction of Recoleta and after a short time arrived at the restaurant. The Maître received them and they were taken to a table on the right side of the dining room. Gabriel glanced at his watch. It was exactly 9:30.
- “Are you waiting for someone? Do you have a date?”, she asked.
- “No” – Gabriel said. “I just want to make this evening perfect for you.”
- “It will certainly be perfect, no reason not to be.”
- “Are you hungry? You can ask for anything you’d like.”
- “I think I would like to eat a good piece of meat. It’s been a long time since I had one.”
The waiter came to the table and asked: “Are you ready to order or do you need more time?”
“Yes, we are ready”. Gabriel answered.
At the same time at Geraldine’s place, Manuel and other agents walked into the Club acting as customers.
- “Good evening gentlemen”, Port received them realizing they were new in the club. “I have never seen you before. What can I do for you?”
- “We would like a table, if possible. We understand this is the best club in Buenos Aires and also we understand the show is very good.” Manuel said.
- “Certainly”, Port answered. He opened the curtain and signaled to a girl to show the men to a table on the left side of the room.
- “Are you coming to have some drinks or do you have something else in mind?”
- “Something else in mind? That’s an interesting question. We will keep that idea for later. For the time being we want to have some drinks.” Manuel answered.
Meanwhile at the restaurant where Gabriel and Jasmine were dining:
- “Excuse me please.” The waiter said while placing their food in front of them.
- “Oh, thank you very much.” Gabriel said.
- Gabriel looked at his plate and with pleasure said. “I wanted this tonight. Lobster is something I don’t usually have and tonight I plan to enjoy myself.” He winked at Jasmine.
- “Really? What do you have in mind besides eating lobster? You seem distant.” Jasmine said.
- “I’ll tell you later” Gabriel said. “In the meantime eat with pleasure and enjoy your meal.”
- “Is this the way you wanted it? Gabriel asked looking at her plate. “It is not well done but it looks medium rare. It looks very good. Don’t you think so?”
- “Yes, I love it. It has been a long time since I have seen meat looking this good.”
Gabriel smiled and kept looking at Jasmine. He obviously liked her very much. He did not know what to do with his life. He realized he had a problem.
Meanwhile, at Geraldine’s club, Manuel and his agents were sitting at their table acting like any other group of customers having some drinks. They were watching the entertainment. A couple was dancing tango and the singer was on the stage. A group of four men walked into the main room and Geraldine greeted them. She acted as if she knew them. She signaled them to walk into one of the reserved private tables where a curtain gave privacy from the rest of the room. Geraldine walked in with them and turned around to make sure the curtain was closed.
One of the men sitting with Manuel tried to get up but Manuel stopped him.” Wait”, he said. “Nothing is happening yet” At that moment Geraldine left the private room and walked into a room which appeared to be her office. Inside there was a two-way mirror which Alberto thought Geraldine used to see what was happening in the main room. In a quiet voice Manuel told the other agents at the table, “Remember, we have to give the impression that we came here to have fun. Watch the dancers, ask for drinks, watch the show and look as if you are interested in the women. Do not look at the mirror.” A few minutes passed and Geraldine came out of her office. She was carrying an envelope and she looked around the room. Manuel and his men were looking at the dancers and the singer was giving his interpretation of the tango “A media luz” (In dim light): …. Y todo a media luz…..” – The room did have a dim light atmosphere.
While at the restaurant, Gabriel and Jasmine enjoyed their meal…..
- “How is your steak?” Gabriel asked
- “It is so good! I will dream about it for years to come.” Jasmine answered.
- “No, you don’t have to dream about it. Any time you want to have one, you just have to ask me.” Gabriel assured her.
- “How is your lobster?” She asked.
- “It is everything I wanted, delicious! Do you want to try it?” Gabriel asked.
Back at the Club, Manuel and his men got up, and with their hands in their pockets, walked toward the private room.
They stopped right in front of the curtain where they knew Geraldine and the men were sitting. They drew their weapons and suddenly opened the curtain at the precise moment when one of the men was counting the money from the envelope. This was the same envelope they had seen Geraldine bring to the room. No sooner had they opened the curtain when one of the men pulled a gun from inside his jacket and, as he began to raise the gun in the direction of Manuel and his men, Manuel shot twice hitting the man squarely in the chest. The man was ejected backwards from his chair. The other men also drew their weapons and a battle ensued where at least more than two dozen shots were fired. There was pandemonium in the main room as people ran towards the door in total panic. Two of the men lay dead on the floor while the two other were severely wounded. Manuel told one of his men to call an ambulance. In the meantime, they cuffed Geraldine who was in total disbelief, asking what had happened and wasting no time telling Manuel and his men that she was not doing anything wrong.
A police car parked outside the club and Geraldine was placed in the back seat. Several policemen interviewed the rest of the people in the club and let them leave as soon as they found they were just customers of the club and had nothing to do with what had just occurred..
Manuel sat in the front passenger seat and told the driver to start driving. After 20 minutes, which seemed like a very long time for Geraldine, they drove on Avenida Libertador and finally arrived at the main offices of the ESMA – Escuela de Suboficiales de Mecánica de la Armada – Also known as the Navy Mechanics School. This building had previously worked as a detention center as well as a place where the police tortured detainees and covered up their disappearance. Manuel took Geraldine out of the car and walked her into the building. A guard standing at the entrance closed the door after them.
In the meantime, at the restaurant, Gabriel and his partner finished their dinner and the waiter brought the check, which Gabriel promptly paid.
“Are you in a rush? You seem to want to get out of here fast. Is it my company?” She asked.
“No, on the contrary, I like the company very much but I have to meet a…… client and he only has time late at night. You know restaurants work late.” Gabriel told her.
“I’ll drive you home and I will meet you later at the milonga, yes?” Gabriel said.
“It will be my pleasure”.
They left the restaurant and walked toward Gabriel’s parked car. Gabriel drove silently, thinking deeply of the several events which had occurred this evening. Finally, she broke the silence with a question.
“Gabriel, you’re not married, are you? I see you don’t wear a ring.”
- Gabriel thought for a moment, thinking how he was going to answer the question and finally said, “Rings give me a rash on my finger.”
- “Is there a woman waiting for you at home? Is that why you are in a rush?” “I know people go into relationships in search of what they can’t find at home.”.
- He looked at her, not knowing how to answer, and after a few moments finally said, “No, there is no woman waiting for me at home. My relationship with you is honest.”
- “That’s good, I’m glad.” Jasmine answered but she was not sure he had told her the truth.
Do you remember me?
Gabriel arrived at the building of the ESMA and walked towards the main door where there were two men. One of the men spoke first.
- “Stop! What is your business?”
- “I have an appointment with Captain Manuel Gonzalez.”
- “What is your name, sir?”
- “My name is Gabriel Roth.”
The second man looked at a list he had and, nodding his head, opened the door.
- “Please proceed, and follow this man” he ordered, pointing to another officer who was standing in the entrance.
Gabriel followed the man and, after passing a few doors, the officer knocked at one of them. However, there was no answer. The officer then asked Gabriel to sit in a nearby chair.
- “Wait here please.” The officer said.
The officer walked toward the end of the hall and disappeared going down the stairs to what seemed to be the basement of the building.
After a few minutes, the officer and Manuel came up and approached Gabriel.
- “Gabriel, how are you?”- Manuel said.
- “I am fine, thank you. Everything OK?”
- “Yes everything is OK. Come into my office, please.”
Gabriel followed Manuel. They walked into the office and at the end there was a desk and in front of the desk there was a sort of a coffee table with four comfortable chairs around it. They sat at the table and Manuel began the conversation.
- “You were right Gabriel. There was what appeared to be a subversive activity going on, there were four men in the private room with the owner, Geraldine. We waited, outside the private room, for the right moment to act. As soon as Geraldine walked into the private room with an envelope, which we thought it was money, we walked in with our guns drawn, the men with Geraldine pulled their guns out of their waist and began firing at us. Two of the men got killed and one of my men was wounded in the arm. We arrested the other two men as well as Geraldine, we also arrested a tall and big man, whose name is Port, and had come into the room to help Geraldine, he is also German and was working as the bouncer and the enforcer but we think he worked with Geraldine way back in Germany during the war. We closed the Club too. We have them downstairs and are being processed now. They already confessed to their activities. We have found that Geraldine is really Gertrude who during the war, she worked in Berger-Belsen the concentration camp. She a confidant of the Commandant Kastner, also known as “The Beast of Belsen” they were responsible for almost half a million deaths. Kastner was tried and executed in 1945 in Nuremberg. Now is her turn topay for what she did. We know what to do with her. Come with me.” Manuel said.
They got up and headed to the door and continued to go to down to the basement. They soon arrived downstairs and enter the room where the prisoners were being processed.
The room was dimly lit and the prisoners were in chains and against the wall. The lights were shining in their faces and the area were Manuel and Gabriel were standing was dark. The prisoners could not see their faces. Geraldine looked afraid and as if she had been crying.
Gabriel began to walk toward the wall, Geraldine was looking in his direction but was not able to see him. Gabriel continued and the head light began to illuminate his face. Geraldine looked at him with amazement with her eyes wide open.
- “Gabriel! What are you doing here? What is going on? Please help me. Tell them you know me.” – Geraldine said as she extended her hand.
Gabriel looked at her without saying a word. Deep within his thoughts. Finally he seemed to come out of his thoughts. He stared at her and as approached her, he looked at her hand and noticed she was wearing a ring in her finger.
- “Yes, I know you and I also told them I have known you for almost 30 years. I met you many years ago. Do you remember me?”
Geraldine looked surprised and asked Gabriel.
- “What do you mean you met me many years ago? What are you talking about?
Geraldine did not know what Gabriel was talking about. She looked surprised and did not understand what he was saying. In spite of her confusion, she was smiling, she felt a sense of relief believing Gabriel would help her to get out and clear her situation. She extended her hand trying to reach him but the chain she was attached to did not allowed her to approached him any further. At that moment she said.
- “Please Gabriel, help me” Geraldine said.
He got closer to Geraldine’s extended hand while he kept making eye contact. He took her hand and Geraldine felt safe, she continued smiling and thought that he would soon take her out of this dreaded place. She knew the ESMA was also known as the Chupadero, a military detention center where once you went in you would not come out, you would simple disappear.
Gabriel held her hand and slowly began to remove the ring from Geraldine’s hand.
- “Let me take this ring. It does not belong to you. It is Ana’s ring.” Gabriel said.
- “Ana?”- Geraldine said – “Who’s Ana?”
- “You don’t remember, do you? We were in Germany in Bergen-Belsen, the Concentration Camp, a young Argentinian couple recently married. Remember? You and Kastner ran the Camp?”
Geraldine opened her mouth and her eyes slowly began to widen.
- “You? You were that kid Gaby? The kid who was teaching us tango?” Geraldine said in disbelief.
While a few moments went by Geraldine kept looking at Gabriel. She finally said in disbelief:
- “It is you!” Geraldine said.
- “Yes, it’s me. Did you think I was dead? Look at me! I survived! Many people survived! ”
- “Is that why I am here? Do you have something to do with all this? ”Geraldine asked.
- Remember Joseph Kastner? Both of you are responsible for the death of half a million of innocent men, women and children. You were criminals.” Gabriel said.Geraldine changed her face and began to act innocently and playing dumb.
- “I am sorry, I did not know of any deaths. That was a detention center for displaced people. The people were workers. The hardships they endure, was the result of being in a war, we did not mean them. It was war time and we all suffered. We just followed orders. It is a period in my life I have tried to forget and besides too many years have gone by. People talk of holocaust but I think that is not true. It did not happen where I was.
- “Stop lying!” Gabriel screamed interrupting her. “You knew exactly what you were doing. I was there, remember? You can lie to everybody else but you can’t lie to me. I was there. I lived it!”
- Please help me. Don’t leave me here.” Geraldine said as she began to cry.
Gabriel turned around and, with tears in his eyes, opened his arms and hugged Manuel.
- “Thank you Manuel. You don’t know what this moment means to me, you have helped me to close an open wound I have had for many years in my life. Thank you. I have to leave now.” With that Gabriel walked away as Geraldine kept calling him: “Please Gabriel don’t leave, come back, please!” Gabriel continued walking towards the door, to get out of the room.
As Gabriel got in his car, he felt the nightmares which had been on his mind all these years had come to an end. He began to drive slowly and 20 minutes later arrived at the milonga.
The sad music of the bandoneon was in the air. The melody and the lyrics of “Verde Mar” were playing while Hector, the singer with his characteristic interpretation, sadly sang the tango. Gabriel was deep in thought. Verdemar… Verdemar… Your eyes filled with silence… I lost you, Verdemar. Your yellow hands… your lips without color and the cold of the night in your heart. We miss you… you are not here… Your eyes have been extinguished, Verdemar.
He looked around and saw the table with the familiar faces he knew would welcome him and would help him forget what had happened earlier. He sat down and took a deep breath. Several friends were at the table and greeted him by asking him how his day had been.
- “How was your day?” Gabriel did not know who had asked him but still answered.
- “Normal, somewhat uneventful but very satisfying.” He answered.
- Daniela, his sister who was also sitting at the table, said to him. “I need to speak to you. Isn’t it time you did something with your life? What are you waiting for? I know what you have been in pain all these years and I also loved Ana and I am sure she would want you to go on with your life.”
- Gabriel looked at her “I know you mean well. For many years I kept the hope that someday I would receive a call from her but it has already been a long time. 30 years have passed and I realize I will never receive that call. You are my sister and I appreciate your love and your help. You have been taking care of me but to answer your question, Yes, I am doing something with my life. I am seeing someone. I have known her for a short time and I don’t know if anything serious will develop but I like her and she likes me. Who knows? Time will tell. In any case it is what it is. Isn’t it that way always?” Gabriel said.
- “You are seeing someone?” His sister said in disbelief – “You never told me. I am happy for you, at least you are seeing someone. Is she pretty? How did you meet her?”
- “It’s complicated”. Gabriel said: “You are asking too many questions but I love you, and thank you for caring for me. I don’t know how I could have lived all these years without your help. Keeping the house in order, preparing meals, taking care of me. I can always count on you. I have asked my friend to come tonight. You soon will meet her.”
They looked at the couples dancing, admiring the good dancers and appreciating the new dancers who were very tentatively taking steps. Some had no musicality and were not even on beat but they were trying. There many tourists dancing. You could see right away they were tourists. Some of them were stepping on the feet of their partners and other dancers.
- “There she is.” – Gabriel said to Daniela his sister.
- “She is pretty.” Daniela said. – “She looks very young, is she?”
- “Yes, she is young but I don’t know, it just happened” – Gabriel raised his hand and waved.
- “Come sit here with us. Do you have your shoes on?” Gabriel asked Jasmine.
- “Yes I do.” Jasmine answered.
- “Good, let’s dance. You have to tell me your name. It is not Jasmine, is it? Gabriel asked her.
- Did we come here to talk or to dance? – Jasmine said avoiding the question.
- Gabriel smiled at Jasmine and said. – By the way, this is my sister Daniela. She’s the other woman in my life.” At the same time, the music began to play “Pasional” and Gabriel took Jasmine by her hand and began to walk with her away from the table. “So?” Gabriel questioned “When are you going to tell me your real name?” and smiling without skipping a beat Jasmine said: “Why? What is in a name? Words are never needed, names are not important, are they?” Jasmine had a smile which reminded Gabriel of the Mona Lisa of Leonardo da Vinci. At the same time as they are walking away from the table, Daniela asked.
- “Wait!” – Daniela said. – “What’s your name?”
Gabriel and Jasmine turned around looked at Daniela and she told her the name but the music was loud and Daniela could not hear the name well.
- “What did she say? – Daniela asked Carlos.
- “I don’t know, I didn’t quite hear it”, Carlos said. We’ll ask her when they come back. They look nice together, don’t they?”
- “Yes they do.” Daniela said. “I never thought he would find someone again but we don’t know her name though, it reminds me of Beethoven’s Immortal Beloved, no one ever knew her name.”
- “It looks like he did find someone to care for. I also need someone to take care of me.” Carlos said. Daniela looked at Carlos and with a smile in her face she said: “Perhaps, perhaps”
Gabriel embraced Jasmine and soon the couple mixed with the rest of the dancers. The voice of Alberto Morán was in the air singing “Pasional.” No sabrás… nunca sabras lo que es morir mil veces de ansiedad. No podrás… nunca entender lo que es amar y enloquecer. – You won’t know, you’ll never know what it is to die a thousand times of anxiety. You will never be able… to understand what it is to love and lose your mind for someone.