Cosmopolitan New York helped Paul Ormaza engage all kinds of women in encounters compressed mostly to the early afternoon. For this purpose he kept a room at a small hotel on 17th street, not far from the Review.
Masha had a bout with nostalgia. Ormaza could have been a great father to the children she was dangerously close to never having. Yet, insurmountable differences stood in the way. His age, he doubled her in age, and his constant marriages, and the language barrier. Masha couldn’t love, fully love, a man unable to read Pushkin in the original Russian.
Rosa de los Vientos had no formal schooling. She was illiterate. The poet taught her to read and write. In less than a month she was able to read a poem he wrote for her. He made her read it out loud. Enjoy each syllable, he said, as if words were candy. She loved it. Not that the syllables tasted like candy, they tasted like nothing, but she felt powerful, like she could do anything.
There was the husband, enigmatically contained, like a puma, Quechua for mountain lion, and appearing taller than five feet, at least through the glass wall and sitting. Ormaza knew it was an optical illusion his long barrel torso created. Another characteristic typical to mountain folk was his strength. Chiluisa amazed coworkers at the meatpacking plant where he once worked, carrying on his back 250-pound carcasses and not break a sweat. “Fucking Indian was a Samson,” the Ukrainian foreman told Ormaza.
A sophisticated animal, Cocoo had a sinister smile as well. It freaked people out. Masha lost boyfriends over it. The last incident filled Ormaza with pride. They were about to get intimate, Masha recalled, when Cocoo entered the room with the sinister smile quite pronounced. The boyfriend panicked. Men panic sensing a threat to their masculinity.
A Bilingual Edition in Bookstores October 15, 2013.