I'd agreed to do a reading in Miami in order to meet Eduard. I was in a Starbucks in South Beach arguing with Paul on the phone. Paul was having suspicions.
"I can't just come home," I said. "You know I hate Miami. You know how much I hate readings."
"You say you hate readings but then why are you there? Fine. Come home right after. Get a late flight out tonight."
"I'm going out to dinner with my agent tomorrow. It's a big deal, Paul. It's my career. I'm a writer. I don't manage hotels."
Paul hung up the phone. I tried to call him back three times, but he had taken it off the hook. I called our housekeeper Bella on her cell and asked her if she could get Paul, but she wasn't at the house. A handsome Swedish man who had been watching me from the corner said, "Are you alright?"
"Are you married?"
"No," he said, and smiled.
"Don't," I said. "I've tried it twice now."
Sadie insisted on flying to Miami to meet me. She had a condo in Coral Gables. I didn't want her to come. I should never have mentioned it to her.
During an affair you need your closest friends, because you are falling apart, but then they try to fix things, which is what you don't want them to do. I was asking her to help me stop seeing Eduard but I couldn't stop seeing Eduard.
"Someone's got to keep an eye on you," she said.
"You're one to talk."
"I sleep with guys, I don't fall in love with them."
"Sadie, I'm not joking. I have to meet my agent, and when I'm not with her I'll be with Eduard. You know I'd love to see you. But I don't see how we'll even spend any time together."
"You stood me up when we were in Cancun. You're not going to do it this time. You asked me to come."
"Sadie I didn't invite you to Miami."
"Yes you did."
"What?" I didn't know whether or not I'd invited her. But now I was uninviting her.
"I'm looking up flights right now—if I get on—okay, see you in five hours."
I met Sadie at her husband's club. I told the doorman I was meeting Mrs. Brauer. He showed me to a deskman who showed me to the maître de who gave me to a waiter who took me to her table. She was sitting on a richly upholstered sofa with Swarovski lamps on both sides and a marble-topped Louis Quinze table in front of it.
I kept checking my phone for texts from Eduard. I was trying not to text him.
When I saw Sadie at her table in a cream Van Laack dress, with Celine heels and the open smile of a friend who loves you, I wanted to move to Miami and forget about Eduard, Paul and his children, and my whole life in Mexico City. But I was in love with Eduard, and I loved my husband and his boys, and Sadie ordered coke lights for us both.
"Why aren't you drinking wine?" I said.
"I'm not in the mood."
She ordered us a charcuterie and two coke lights. I ordered her a glass of white wine. She said, "Brett. You don't look good."
"Are you drinking with him?"
I lifted a shoulder.
I was about to cry.
She said, "Oof. Are you writing? What's going on with Paul?"
"I'm writing," I lied. Then I said, "I wrote a page. Shit I don't know."
There was a black businessman at the table behind ours. He kept catching my eye. I wondered why. Then I thought, it's because he thinks I'm staring at him.
"I'm not drinking," I said. "It's not like that at all. It has nothing to do with drinking or writing."
Sadie was my friend, but she didn't need to be lecturing me. I said, "Imagine if you had a problem. Some kind of problem. Let's say it was your weight. And sometimes you had a handle on it and sometimes you didn't, and everywhere you went, everyone you met, man, woman and child, counseled you on it. Counseled, advised, or questioned you on it. I always want to tell people: I quit drinking and writing at the same time. Funny coincidence. But I never have to. Before I bring it up they always deny the connection, because everybody knows: I drink, I hurt myself and the people around me, and then I write."
I was shaking. I stood up.
"Honey. Sit down. Does Paul know?" Sadie said.
"About my drinking? Of course not. Sadie. No. God forbid," I sat down. "He'd have already checked me into the hospital."
"No, dummy. About Eduard."
I started to laugh.
After the reading, at the reception, Eduard told me he had brought Lurisia to Miami.
"She insisted at the last minute."
"What? Is she here?" I looked around. It was a charity reading hosted by the Tiffany Circle, and hundreds of people were there.
"No of course not, I would never do that. She's at the hotel."
"Ok, fine. You're still staying with me. I don't care what you have to do."
I would make him pay for this later.
"I want to meet her," I said.
"Well, it'd be a little awkward if not."
It was so outrageous that I became very calm. I thought, ok Eduard. I'll stay this calm. I can handle it.
I said, "When?"
"We're all going for drinks with a couple of clients after."
"With clients of yours?"
"So you want it to be just the three of us?" He smiled with one side of his mouth and said, "I'll make it fun. I'll sit by you. I had to put up with Paul for a whole week, Brett."
"You invited yourself!"
I looked around and lowered my voice.
"You're staying with me tonight."
"Fine. I mean, yes. Of course. I don't know how exactly. But yes, it's a deal."
I signed copies of a book I'd written three years before, and Eduard and Sadie chatted. Afterwards we asked her to come with us to meet Lurisia and Eduard's clients. She looked at Eduard and said, with no expression in her voice, "Oh no, I'm exhausted."
The truth is, although I needed her there, I didn't want her to come. In the taxi Eduard said he wanted to stop at my hotel before meeting everyone at the bar.
"We don't have time."
"I don't care," he said, and looked at his watch. "Okay, Brett, you're right, we're keeping everyone waiting."
Eduard tried to stop me, but I gave him a blowjob while the driver, a Sikh in a blue turban, kept his eyes on the road.
Eduard's clients were married. One was a prominent architect, and the other was an English indie actress I'd seen in a couple of movies from five or six years ago. They were between my age and his. The woman, who was the more attractive and successful of the two, flirted with Eduard. Lurisia just sat there and took it. I put my foot on Eduard's leg under the table, and the actresses's husband started to flirt with me. No one was flirting with Lurisia and she didn't seem to notice. She was one of those naturally happy people. I don't know whether or not Eduard had told Lurisia we were involved. She looked at me like she knew. I wasn't hiding anything from anyone.
The waiter brought our drinks. He poured my near-beer from high above the glass. I knew how difficult it was to pour a beer like that without foaming it over. I also understood that the waiter was trying to console me for being the only one not drinking. Pouring it like that made it seem like a nice drink.
"That was an elegant pour," I said, and the waiter smiled.
We took two cabs to the party. I made a point of riding with Lurisia. She was an impeccable dresser, with intelligent and sensitive eyes, and we complained about the shopping in Miami. Eduard rode with the actress and the architect.
At the party Eduard took me by the arm and said, "'An elegant pour?' What was that?"
"He did a nice job of pouring the beer."
"An elegant job. On his pour. My clients thought you were coming on to him."
"I'd say it again. He was pouring it that way deliberately. It's not as easy as it looks."
"People don't talk that way, Brett. It was tacky."
"You don't know what you're talking about, Eduard." Then I said, "I'm surrounded by savages."
"I heard what you said, Brett."
"When I called you a savage?"
"Yeah, I'm the savage. That's priceless."
"A Mexican savage."
After I said it I was afraid he'd walk away. I saw from his expression that he was afraid I would walk away, and then he didn't look handsome and fearsome. He looked confused, and like he didn't know what to do. He looked like a little kid, and I wished I could hold him. He took a sip of his drink, still facing the bookshelves of the apartment we were in, and I fell in love with him again. We made up.
After the fight, Eduard sent Lurisia to a club with his clients, and spent the night at my hotel. The next morning when I was trying to leave for a meeting with my agent and my editor, he wouldn't stop fucking me. "Stop. I really have to go!" I said, and I couldn't tell how much I meant it. There were often those moments when I meant it but I didn't. That was part of the reason he wouldn't let me out of the room. He wanted me to understand that he mattered more than my meeting did. That I needed him more than I would admit to myself.
I never felt that our sex had anything to do with control, though. It was about need, or about proving ourselves to each other.
Then he started to spank me with the palms of his hands and the backs of his hands. He had a boxer's break on the middle finger of his right hand and I could feel the knuckle every time he slapped me. The more I hurt the harder we fucked. He beat me. I'd had enough and tried to get up. He swore at me and threw me back down on the bed every time I rose. He pinned both my arms behind my back and slapped me with his right hand. Then he slapped my face whichever way I turned it. I cried. "No!" I screamed, and bit him. I drew blood on his shoulder. After the sex was over my ass was bleeding.
He said, "You wouldn't believe what your ass looks like."
"I think I have some idea."
He took a picture with his phone. It was red and purple and there were lines of blood showing through my skin. I said, "That's my ass."
The next night, I was with Eduard and Lurisia at another party. It was the after party for a wedding. Lines of coke were cut on the tables, and people were drinking guava mojitos. Eduard was embarrassed. He asked me: "Do you mind if I do a line?"
There was a girl who wouldn't leave me alone. She was a writer for Newsweek. She kept telling me how much she'd loved my novel, and she wanted to write a story together on Mexican prisons. She said, "I'm in with the warden in Guadalajara. We could spend the night."
Paul called. He said. "I feel like I'm going crazy." He sounded like he had been crying.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean I'm losing my mind. I never talk to you anymore. You're never home. I don't think you care about me or the boys. When you're not writing you're off at one of the hotels, or talking on the phone. I never see you. I have to go to Costa Rica soon, and I can't count on you to take care of your own family. I feel like you're drinking again."
"Our lives haven't changed," I said. "You know your trip to Guatemala next weekend? Why don't the two of us go? You can leave the boys with dad. We'll leave on Friday and come back Sunday or Monday. Just us."
Paul said, "You promise?"
I remembered that he was my husband, then, and that I loved him, and that I wanted to go back to him, to go home, to forget all this. You're a wife, Brett, I told myself. You can be a good wife. Paul deserves that. You need it.
I got off the phone and waved to Eduard. He was talking to another woman. A poet. A young girl with a mole on her left cheek, who had written a whole book of sonatas about mud.
Eduard put his hand on her wrist and I gave up, came over, and put my arm around him. I didn't know where Lurisia was. He smiled at me.
"Are you ready?" I said. "I think we better go."
"Just a minute." The girl with the mole introduced herself to me. I told her my name and she said, "I know who you are! Of course."
I hate those women who hurt you, and want to be your friend. But often I wish I could do that. Paul's mother was the master. She could say something nice to you that destroyed you for a week.
The bride appeared, back in her wedding dress, but with the bodice pulled down almost to her waist. She'd put her veil back on and she was dancing. Her tits were bouncing all over the place. Her husband said, "Don't come out here like that." She stood up on a coffee table, wobbling.
"I'm married! I'm married! Hey everybody, I am married!" She was waving her ring finger at the crowd. Someone shouted, "You are dancing on the coke!"
The poet said to me: "Pretty."
Eduard said, "Okay, you two."
I gave him a ferocious look. I said to the poet: "You should write about it. You could do a whole cycle on tits."
The poet said, "You know, that's actually a really good idea. It's funny you say that. I just published a poem called 'Tits' in a magazine."
At that point I gave up. I said to Eduard, "Come and find me when you're ready to leave."