The Letter by Mark Bates

William had just finished counting the stacked crates of empty beer bottles when he first noticed the unusually large pile of mail the bartender had left on the desk where he kept all the business transactions for the bar. He imagined that there would be the usual light and water bills among the various advertisements for English courses, credit card offers from Credomatic, and special promotions from local restaurants and shops offering two-for-one on Chinese takeout or a 20 percent discount on all merchandise this week only. This was the beginning of his afternoon routine. Just before lunch he would take inventory of the beer and liquor, sift through the mail, make out purchase orders for anything the bar needed and have everything ready for his partner Chad, a tall, blond, corpulent American who had never quite learned Spanish correctly despite the many years he had lived in Nicaragua. The two had opened Locos five years ago, first as a way to be together and now as a good excuse to stay together. As he sifted through the mail William smiled as he remembered the first time he had met Chad. It was a torrid night in late April almost six years to the day; a cloudless sky had intensified the heat that evening, with no sign of relief from a brief shower that could appear here in the waning days of the dry season. After working his twelve-hour shift at the salon, and loaded with the surprisingly generous tips of the day, William had decided to go out to his favorite hangout, Tabú, to meet a friend or two, have a few rum and cokes, and dance until the early hours of the morning. William
had long ago given up on the idea of meeting anyone of any interest or value. These young Nicaraguan men that lined up against the rail dividing the bar from the dance floor were certainly beautiful, their long, slender bodies wrapped tightly in pressed jeans and flawlessly white T-shirts. However, once he moved beyond their physical attributes, he found only liars, cheats, gold diggers and morons. His large cadre of friends consisted only of men that William would never date, coworkers at Tijeras, various effeminate types that often worked as waiters or cashiers, or uptight closeted professionals trapped in loveless marriages. As he eyed the crowd he considered the possibility of going home with one of these young men that nursed the one drink they could afford for the night, perched on the barstools like colorful parrots waiting for their afternoon feeding. In this case home meant a cheap hotel that charged by the hour like La Dorada, with its dingy lime-coated walls, grimy bathrooms that reeked of insecticide and the one single lightbulb dangling from the ceiling. It had been quite a while since William had engaged in a one-night stand, the chance to at least simulate what it must feel like to be in love. He usually regretted it an hour later, when he would send the young man as far away as possible in a prepaid taxi. Suddenly his gaze caught something new and unexpected. A handsome blond man stood at the opposite end of the bar, surrounded by exactly the type of men that had disappointed William so many times. William thought to himself he must be a foreigner; his large, smooth hands showed no signs of wear, and his boisterous laugh called all too much attention. William made eye contact with the stranger ever so briefly, just enough to signal interest but not enough to reveal his desperation. He decided it was just another lost cause, so his attention turned to the soft porno that was playing on the big-screen TV hanging precariously next to the neon Toña beer sign. He was quite surprised when his favorite bartender Daniel asked him if he would like another rum and coke, paid for anonymously. When William inquired about the identity of his benefactor, Daniel simply pointed to the very blond that William had just noticed. William sipped slowly on his drink in anticipation of meeting the stranger. A rush of excitement flowed over his body. What he enjoyed most about a possible sexual encounter was the thrill of the hunt, not the actual prize, which too often led to disappointment or disaster. He decided to wait for the foreigner to come to him so that he would know if there was any real interest in meeting him. Within a few moments, the blond came to his side, obviously an American due to his thick accent and designer label clothing. When the gringo tried in vain to start a conversation, William jokingly stopped him with his perfect English, acquired during summers in Miami with his father. The two had a good laugh together, and then a few more drinks as the room seemed to shrink in size to include only them. In no time William and the American named Chad Pennington from Phoenix, Arizona, left the bar and boarded a taxi headed to the Intercontinental, a plush luxury hotel in the heart of Managua. Once inside the suite, interest turned to passion and sloppy drunken kisses turned to lovemaking, which neither William nor Chad exactly remember to this day. William spent the night with Chad, a definite exception to his no-strings-attached rule. Chad left the next day for the States, vowing to return as soon as possible. Over the next few months, Chad’s visits to Managua became more frequent and the intensity of the relationship grew until Chad decided to move to Managua, open a bar with the money his father had left him and plunge headlong into a total partnership with William. Although their intensity had long ago been replaced by a sense of security and interdependence because of the business, others around them considered William and Chad to be the ideal couple, the most well-known in all of the small yet vibrant Managua gay community. William sighed as he poured through the mail, wondering if he had settled for less, thinking he had fallen short of the real happiness he had so longed for. He was absorbed in such nostalgia when his hands reached a small envelope with green embossed letters from hotel stationary stamped “airmail: urgent,” with writing in bold letters indicating an addressee and no return address save that of the hotel

William Hernández Hernández
Bar los Locos
De la estatua Montoya, 1 c. al lago
Managua, Nicaragua

He recognized the handwriting immediately. It was a letter, a letter from Marcos.
William held the envelope up to the light for a moment, glancing to his right, then his left to see if Chad was awake and patrolling the bar. Chad had the habit of sleeping until around 3 in the afternoon after greeting bar goers until dawn, having consumed nearly an entire liter of Gran Reserva rum mixed with just a hint of Coca Cola. He would awake in a most foul mood, unhappy about the progress of the cleaning, stocking, and other preparations for the bar’s opening at 10 p.m. However, he always had a smile and a little kiss for William for whom he feigned an abiding love. The couple would review the accounts of the previous night and Chad would sign the invoices William had meticulously prepared early that morning. Since William saw only the housekeeping staff frantically scrubbing the bar from top to bottom, anticipating the imminent appearance of the bar’s grouchy owner, he turned over the envelope and opened it with the small letter opener he retrieved from the desk drawer. He pulled the letter out of its casing deliberately, as if it held some precious secret. He unfolded the single page, also written on a greenish tinted stationary, and read,


I am vacationing here in Cancún and have decided to make a trip to Managua before returning to Chicago. I know it was been a long time, but I        would really like to see you. I arrive on the first of May at 1 in the afternoon. Please come to the airport to meet me.

Love, Marcos

 William sat dazed for a few moments. He never expected this letter. It had been three years since he had seen Marcos, that night when he and Chad ran into Marcos in the lobby of the Chicago Marriott during a restaurateurs’ convention. Chad greeted Marcos cordially with no hard feelings and introduced him to William, his new lover and business partner. Chad and Marcos had been lovers in what seemed another lifetime, five years of youthful passion that Chad once described as a roller-coaster ride that undoubtedly he would ride over and over again. Marcos was the son of an influential Arizona politician, half Chicano and half Brazilian, with thick black hair and boyish good looks the mixing of the two nationalities produced. The torrid affair had ended badly, neither knowing exactly why. Perhaps Marcos had grown tired of Chad’s obsessive drinking and social indiscretions; Chad for his part was bored with Marcos’ homebody ways and craved the adventure he satisfied by traveling abroad. When William reached to shake Marcos’ hand he felt an electric pulse he had never experienced before. Their eyes locked, and although Chad went on babbling about the time he and Marcos had crashed a party at the Arizona governor’s mansion, William could only hear the sound of Marcos’ frequent affirmations. He had blocked out all other distractions and focused his attention on this beautiful man, his light brown skin, his soulful, piercing green eyes, his round face and perfect nose. Marcos dispensed with the obligatory courtesies and excused himself, still gazing towards William. As he was leaving towards the elevator, he stopped to invite the couple for a few drinks around midnight. He turned the corner and was gone.

Just after midnight William slipped silently past the hotel room door, his footsteps accompanied by the disturbingly loud snoring coming from inside the room. Chad had had more than a few too many vodka and tonics with some fellow retailers, and William knew he wouldn’t be awake until early in the morning, when he would ask for a raw egg with tomato juice, lime and Tabasco sauce, a disgusting concoction he believed to be a sure-fire hangover remedy. William stood alone in the enclosed glass elevator that afforded a view of the entire hotel, and pushed the button marked L. When the door quickly opened with a loud whoosh, William spotted Marcos sitting at the bar, flanked by a pair of elderly women with matching blue dyed hair and a professional looking man drinking voraciously as if his world was about to come to an end. Marcos could smell William’s Anteus cologne from a distance and turned to say hello. He was quite surprised when he saw William standing there alone, his golden skin glistening in soft glow of the bar lights, his thick lips, slender but athletic frame so different from his former partner. Marcos invited William to join him at an empty table, with a Jack Daniel’s on the rocks he had ordered from the cocktail waitress. While they spoke of trivia, how each had met Chad, how each had endured his manias and idiosyncrasies, a noticeable electricity filled the bar. The two old maids swore they saw the lights flicker, while the drunken businessman paused for a moment from muttering to himself, trapped in a distant contemplation. As they spoke their hands touched slightly. Marcos had felt an instant attraction to William since the encounter earlier in the hotel lobby and tried to express it through his light caresses. William wrestled with the dueling emotions of lust and guilt, but acted on the former by leaning forward and pressing his soft full lips against Marcos’. The spark was instantaneous and overwhelming. It drew the attention of the bar patrons and a disapproving scowl from the bar manager, who thought to himself that two men just don’t kiss in public in Chicago, at least not in this part of town. Their eyes opened and their lips parted, each clutching the other’s hand while sitting motionless unable to speak. Marcos reached inside his coat pocket, drew out a rather elegant Cross pen and scribbled the number 617 on the napkin under his drink. He stood and headed for the elevator while William downed the last of his Bacardi and Coke and exited right behind him. The ceiling in room 617 was spinning as the two hit the soft pillow-top mattress, each tearing at the other’s clothing like hungry wild animals after a kill. Hands ran along sinewy smooth bodies and lips kissed most every body part imaginable as passion exploded and left fragments of ecstasy littered on the floor of room 617. Ardor turned to afterglow: long, smooth kisses and embraces that seemed to never end. The raw, naked light of morning crept through the drawn curtains as William scrambled to dress and return to his designated place beside his longtime companion and business partner. As he rushed to button his Levi 501s, he smiled and wondered if this was the way love truly felt, or if he had just fooled himself again with another brief encounter among so many he had experienced in his life. He smiled and kissed Marcos one more time, pausing briefly to gently bite his lower lip, filled with joy and celebration, but nervous that perhaps Chad had awakened to an empty spot in the plush king-size bed. He wondered if heaven itself could contain such pleasure as he had just experienced. He rushed back to his own room, where he found Chad already awake, his eyes glaring with a combination of hurt and anger. The two remained silent for most of the rest of that day, but William knew that sooner or later he would have to explain his whereabouts that chilly March morning. Returning from his wandering thoughts, William closed the letter, folded it neatly, and stuffed it into the back pocket of his jeans. He rose to rearrange a stack of crates that seemed precariously mounted, unaware that the letter had slipped from his pocket and landed silently on the cold gray concrete floor of the backroom of the bar.

It was nearly 4 o’clock when Chad finally made his journey from the adjacent apartment to the bar. He was in a particularly foul mood today. He had argued with a friend over how best to decorate the bar, and since his broken Spanish still didn’t allow him to convince anyone in a heated debate, he had consumed more than his normal amount of the house’s finest imported whisky. To make matters worse, the maid had forgotten to buy eggs yesterday, so he had to make do with an altered version of his afternoon medicine. He barked instructions to his workers; the bar stools weren’t properly arranged; there were dirty glasses in the sink; he didn’t like the way the whole place smelled. By now the entire bar should be in order for tonight’s opening, and he grew even more enraged when he found a folded piece of paper on what was supposed to be a spotless floor in the stockroom. He bent down to grab it, still reeling from the hangover from the night before. He was going to deposit it the trash when he noticed the paper was tinted, like the letterhead of some business he thought he recognized. Chad then retreated into his air-conditioned office to better inspect the document. Perhaps it was an invoice he hadn’t approved; William had a habit of micro-managing the bar without his consent.

Once inside his private space, Chad sat down before the piles of bills, receipts and purchase orders. He took a closer look at the piece of paper, opened it and began to read it out loud,


I am vacationing here in Cancún and have decided to make a trip to Managua before returning to Chicago. I know it was been a long time, but I would really like to see you. I arrive on the first of May at 1 in the afternoon. Please come to the airport to meet me.

Love, Marcos

A hundred questions floated in his hangover-riddled mind. Why had Marcos written this letter? What did he want? Why hadn’t William told him about it? What the hell was going on? He reached into his desk drawer and took out a small bottle of Tylenol he kept there, took two with a swig of water, and tucked the letter into the far back part of the desk drawer he closed and then locked. He turned his attention to the business of the bar in order not to think about the letter, signing this order and mailing out payments for the utilities. Soon he was daydreaming, and his mind wandered past his work to the day that he first met Marcos, the one true love of his life.

It was a hot early August night in Phoenix, Arizona, one of those nights when the temperatures remained in the 90s when the day-time readings had soared near 120. People would move from air-conditioned space to air-conditioned space, joking to each other about how the snowbirds would say it was just a dry heat. Chad had just closed the books on the night’s receipts for his father’s restaurant La Strada. Chad had taken over much of the responsibility for the business due to his father’s failing health, a slow decline in the deep abyss of chronic diabetes, the legacy of years of eating rich Italian food mixed with his obvious alcoholism he believed he successfully hid from his family. Although Chad’s father had rigidly disapproved of his son’s homosexual lifestyle, he had no one else to depend upon when his illness began to take its toll. Chad’s older brother had died in Vietnam, covering the war for the Arizona Republic when a barrage of friendly fire hit a small village near the so-called demilitarized zone. Chad’s mother, beautiful, full-busted green-eyed blond who had emigrated from Italy, had died ten years earlier from a sudden heart attack. Chad locked the office door, made sure the restaurant was secure for the night, and headed home. As he zoomed down Indian School Road, exceeding the allotted speed limit as was his custom, he braked too rapidly to stop for a red light he had noticed far too late. The late-model BMW behind him had failed to leave enough braking distance, coming to a screeching halt, lightly tapping the rear bumper of Chad’s Mercedes Benz convertible. The two men promptly exited their vehicles to inspect the damage, standing side by side. Chad first looked at the minor dent on the right side of his vehicle, his gaze then turning to this handsome man, his jet black hair, cinnamon-colored skin and thick pursed lips, who was shaking his head in disgust. The two exchanged insurance information as well as burning glances. His name was Marcos Grijaldo, a name Chad recognized from the newspapers. The young man had just come from a banquet celebrating his father’s recognition as Latino Politician of the year. He offered his deepest apologies and offered to pay for any damages on the spot. Chad smiled and said that the damages were at best minimal, but made the surprising offer of dinner tomorrow night at the restaurant, where they could discuss the people they knew in common. Since La Strada was one of Marcos’ favorite dining spots, he accepted without hesitation. The two departed before the arrival of the dreaded Phoenix police, who would be sure to administer on-the-spot sobriety tests that neither one would probably pass.

The following evening was the beginning of long, deliberate courtship distinct from Chad’s encounters of the past. He was busy running the family restaurant and Marcos was consumed with his father’s reelection effort. As a result, the two could date only sporadically, curiously avoiding the topic of sex, simply enjoying each other’s company. There was no doubt that a deep connection was forming, something beyond a simple attraction or the lust of a sexual conquest. Once Marcos’ father has secured his campaign victory in November, Marcos invited Chad for a weekend getaway to relax and leave behind the pressures in Phoenix. With his father’s consent and the help of his administrative assistant Julie, a rotund brunette with ambitions of management, Chad decided to accept the offer of the much-deserved break. The pair headed north along I-17 in a rented Jeep 4×4 for the cool wind-carved purple mountains of Sedona, a place believed to be enveloped in a mystical force, a haven for New Agers with their crystals, Native American replicated musical instruments, and Birkenstocks. They settled into a quaint little bed and breakfast on the outskirts of town, away from the droves of camera-bearing tourists on their last stop before the Grand Canyon. Once inside the spacious room of the Alma de Sedona Inn with its stunning view of the surrounding terrain, the ever-growing fervor could no longer be contained. Marcos and Chad began with slow, smooth kisses like the ones described in Elvis Crespo’s “Suavemente bésame” and ended with ardent lovemaking with such attention to detail that neither man had ever enjoyed since. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, surrounded by such perfect beauty, engaged in such perfect harmony of two bodies entwined. Chad and Marcos only left their room to eat briefly, refusing to allow the maid entrance so that she could clean the room. When they returned to Phoenix early that Monday morning, Chad’s father had just passed away in his sleep, perhaps already knowing that he was leaving the business he had built from virtually nothing in capable hands. Marcos remained with Chad to help with the funeral arrangements and interment, and then simply stayed. His father no longer required his help and so he was free to embark on a new capital venture. The combination was a perfect match. Marcos’ innate social skills built the clientele and Chad’s business acumen kept the restaurant running smoothly. So went their lives for 5 years, amid Chad’s growing problem with alcohol and occasional affairs coupled with Marcos’ growing resentment toward his partner, until one day when Chad suddenly announced he had sold the house and restaurant to a group of investors from Tucson and was leaving the next day on a six-month cruise to Latin America. Marcos was stunned; however, he quietly packed his personal belongings and arranged their transfer to the apartment he maintained in Glendale. What seemed a romance from a dime store novel was finally over, and Marcos left with no regrets about the life they had shared together. When he left, the keys remained dangling in the lock. He didn’t have a chance to say good-bye to Chad, who had already boarded a taxi for his flight to Los Angeles, bound for the cruise ship that would carry him away from the doldrums of the life he had made for himself.

Chad now wiped a tear from his eyes as he recovered from his reverie just in time to greet William, who had just entered the office to review last night’s balance sheet they did daily. William waited earnestly for the usual smile and kiss that today was not forthcoming. After plowing through the required paperwork, the two sat silently for a moment in the cool of Chad’s office. William broke the silence to ask a favor, a day off next Wednesday on the first of May, Labor Day, normally a very busy night for the bar. He wanted to visit his family in Jinotepe and to enjoy the cool breezes of the Pacific Ocean that find their way along the tree-lined hillsides. Chad knew the true reason for the request, gazing into William’s eye for some shred of guilt, pretending to be indifferent and granting the request. Chad now made his own plans for that day, which would launch a series of events that would change their lives in unexpected ways. William coyly departed the office, and sighed in relief as he closed the door gently. He reached his right hand into his back pocket to retrieve the letter but found only the envelope with his name blotted in bold letters.

William searched frantically for the letter; he returned first to his desk in the stockroom where he had put the rest of the junk mail, which by now had been swept into the trash. He thought to ask Ricky, the most detail-oriented of the workers at Locos, if he had seen a folded single sheet of paper. He decided against it since he didn’t what to raise any suspicions because Chad’s workers were fiercely loyal to him and informed him about every occurrence at the bar, even the ones that seemed most trivial and inconsequential. He asked instead if the trash had been taken out. Ricky lowered his jaw in disbelief; William knew that if any trash still remained in the bar when Chad appeared to supervise the daily proceedings, every worker would be instantly dismissed. William considered briefly rummaging through the sacks of garbage out in the hampers in the back. He knew he had precious little time remaining because he still had to arrange all the preparations for tonight’s Miss Diva Locos pageant. Sending one of the workers to sift through the trash was also out of the question. He resigned himself to retracing his steps in hopes of stumbling across the letter. He scanned the backroom where earlier he had taken inventory, then the bathrooms he had inspected for cleanliness, then the bar area where he had taken careful measurements of the liquors resting on the bar’s top shelves and checked to make sure the draft beer nozzles were functioning properly. He glanced at the Rolex watch Chad had bought him in Paris; it was already 6:30, no time left. He would have to quell his fears and continue with his tasks, assuming that one of the bar’s workers had discovered it and deposited it in its rightful place.

The Miss Diva Locos pageant was a tremendous success, due mostly to William’s meticulous planning and execution. The winner was a short, lightskinned contestant named Coco La Ron, who dazzled the crown with her rendition of Thalia’s “A quien le importa.” Dressed in white faux leather chaps that somewhat resembled the outfit of a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, she swayed her curvy hips, pressing them against two scantily adorned dark-skinned muscle boys with short wavy black hair. Chad had not stayed to see the finale, but instead retired early to catch up on some much-needed rest. The next few days were hectic and very profitable. Daily events were leading up to Labor Day, the last of the few days remaining before the showers of the rainy season would make using the large outdoor patio a day-to-day proposition. William saw Chad very little in the days leading up to the holiday; Chad was drinking especially heavily and William was working extra hours so that he could have everything ready for the day off he had requested. This should have served as a sign to him, but his mind raced with excitement about his upcoming encounter with Marcos. He really had no idea what to expect, but he was thrilled to have the chance to feel again the energy the two men generated together. Chad was busy as well. He slipped off quietly to a gun store to purchase hollow point bullets for the .32 caliber pistol he kept in the locked desk drawer in his office, sent off a series of letters to his cousins back in the United States, and obtained a bottle of Maker’s Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon, difficult to find in Nicaragua.

It was the morning of May 1st, and already the parades and speeches of the previous day were still in the minds of the workers at Locos, replete with the waves of black and red flags of the F.S.L.N. and the competing light blue and white national banners. Multitudes of workers happy to have the day off in order to march filed past various dignitaries, special guests and the president’s delegation. They were grumbling among themselves about having to work on a day when almost the entire country was free to spend time with their families. William busied himself packing a suitcase with the things he really wouldn’t need: a bathing suit for the beach, a porcelain doll he had bought for his favorite niece Gloria, his worn-out sandals he wore to move about his mother’s small one-story house, along with a set of new bright-colored striped shirts perfect for the cooler weather in Carazo. He secretly made reservations at the Hotel Mercedes Best Western, literally across the street from the airport, using a credit card Chad was unaware he had. He really wasn’t sure how things were going to proceed, but he had made preparations for every possible eventuality, an obsession that served him well in his duties at the bar. He wanted to leave long before Chad awoke in order to avoid some glance or gesture that might advise Chad of his real intentions. He left at 11 a.m. sharp, amid scurrying bartenders whose remarks of “have a good trip” and “have a good time” concealed their panic and sense of abandonment as they would have to face their boss alone that afternoon. William drove the late model Toyota Rav4 straight to the hotel Mercedes Best Western, left it with the valet service, and headed directly to the small bar next to the front desk of the hotel. He would check in right before he drove to the airpor, where he would sit nervously waiting for Marcos to appear through the sliding glass doors. Right now a few rum and Cokes would settle him down; he drank several one after the other as he sat alone on a dark, heavily varnished bar stool. At noon he sent a text message to Chad, “Arrived safely in Jinotepe. Mom says hello. Gloria loves the doll we got her.” William could see his anticipation, fears, guilt, excitement, and all the mixed emotions he felt floating along with two ice cubes and a crushed wedge of lime in his half-full glass of Flor de Caña Centenario 21. “The best drink for the best moment,” he mused to himself as he swallowed the remainder in a single gulp. At 12:45 he headed for the front desk staffed by a perky redhead who immediately noticed he was slightly tipsy. As he had previously requested, he checked into room 617, a single room with a king-size bed for two people for one night. He left his suitcase with the bellhop, the doll and new shirts still inside, and called for his car from the valet parking as he sat in the brightly decorated hotel lobby. Within minutes the Toyota RAV4 roared up, and a sharply dressed young man with brown curly hair opened the door for him and handed him the keys, his hand extended in hopes of a sizeable tip. William drew out a hundred córdoba note, which drew the approval of the valet, who nodded his head slightly. William cruised out the exit of the hotel, down the highway to the turnabout, then back the seemingly endless kilometer to the airport. He did not notice the silver Toyota Yaris that Chad had rented at the airport just an hour previously pull in behind him.

TACA flight 507 arrived from Cancún on time, and Marcos quickly passed through Immigration and Customs without incident or conversation; the nearly bald squat immigration officer pointed to Marcos to collect the required ten-dollar entrance fee to Nicaragua. Marcos rescued a single small black suitcase from the conveyer belt at baggage claim. He appeared through the sliding glass door just as in the daydream at the bar of the Hotel Mercedes. William felt his heart lodge in his throat when he first recognized his partner’s ex-lover, his also for a single unforgettable night. Marcos was dressed in dark blue polo shirt and khaki Dockers, his athletic frame even more pronounced than when they met in Chicago. He waved when he saw William sit up in the Toyota RAV4, but failed to notice Chad, crouched down in the silver Yaris just ten meters behind them. Marcos placed his bag in the trunk of the SUV, jumped into the front seat and gave William an enthusiastic hug and a light kiss on the lips, which he paused to bite sensually. The two headed off around the corner to the Hotel Mercedes Best Western and then directly to room 617, followed discretely by the silver Toyota Yaris that parked in the guest lot in front of the hotel, its driver waiting patiently with a .32 caliber pistol, a cell phone flashing “one new message” and an empty bottle of Maker’s Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon deposited carelessly on the passenger seat.

When William and Marcos arrived at room 617, all pretense of the motive for the visit was swept away. William knew from the ever so slight pain from his throbbing lips what Marcos’ true intentions were. Marcos dropped his black Samsonite luggage to the floor and kissed his rediscovered lover, connecting this long, intense deliberate kiss to the rushed and desperate one William had given him three years earlier. Marcos excused himself to shower and freshen up after the long flight. As the hot water streamed from the showerhead, flowing over his lean, muscular torso, he thought back to the day at his hotel along Cancún’s magnificent Caribbean beach front, lined with pearly white sand and tall crashing waves of deep blue ocean. He sat in his room for hours, at first deliberating about writing the letter to William at all. Marcos still loved Chad in some way; but for three years he had been consumed with the nostalgia of that night with William. Marcos recalled in minute detail his smooth, curvy, lithe body, his dark, seductive eyes, and his rich, full lips. Over the years, desire had turned to obsession, so Marcos had planned this vacation to Cancún deliberately, having already purchased the additional stop in Managua. All he had to do now was feed his obsession: Write the letter, send it, and then appear at the airport as if by chance. There were three distinct possible outcomes: If William came alone to greet him at the airport, then his plan had come to fruition. If William came accompanied by Chad, then Marcos would spend a few days with the happy couple; check out gay life in Managua, then return to Chicago to find a way to absolve himself of his fixation. And if William didn’t come to the airport at all, Marcos would spend the night at the closest hotel and take the early Mexicana flight through Mexico City back to Chicago.

Marcos sat at the desk of the room at the Flamingo Cancun Resort, took up the ballpoint pen the hotel provided and wrote the first draft of the
letter on the hotel’s stationary. The first version was rather lengthy, a maladroit yet well-intentioned explanation of what that night in Chicago had meant to him. He discarded it after an hour of painstaking word choices, deciding it would be best to show William how he felt in person. He started another in which he suggested that it would be great to see the two of them again, and how maybe they could take some time off to see Granada or maybe risk a canopy tour on the Mombacho volcano. Just as quickly as he finished composing the letter he ripped it to shreds in disgust. This version was too weak; it signaled he only wanted some sort of a strange best friends three-way. Soon a pile of crumpled paper accumulated in and around the small wicker wastepaper basket at the side of his desk. One last sheet of Flamingo Cancún Resort stationary remained on the polished wooden desktop, so Marcos either had to make this one count or he would have to ring the front desk for more stationary. Suddenly it became quite clear. The letter needed simplicity while making clear his intentions for the impromptu visit. After scribbling for a few moments on a spare envelope, Marcos took out his final piece of green-tinted stationary and wrote the following letter to William in large, clear block letters,


I am vacationing here in Cancún and have decided to make a trip to Managua before returning to Chicago. I know it was been a long time, but I would really like to see you. I arrive on the first of May at 1 in the afternoon. Please come to the airport to meet me.

Love, Marcos

Satisfied with his final draft, he neatly folded the letter as his mother had taught him and tucked it into the envelope. He penned William’s address in large letters, knowing he always processed the mail before his partner came to the bar. Marcos felt confident that William would see the letter first. He hurriedly carried the letter to the front desk and requested that it go out as quickly as possible. He tipped the handsome receptionist generously and smiled as he handed it him. He thought to himself that two weeks would be sufficient time for the letter to arrive. He called the airline to reconfirm the travel plans he had made to Managua. As the steaming-hot water cascaded over his body, Marcos awoke from his brief fantasy, remarking to himself that his plan had worked to perfection. He toweled himself off, brushed and flossed his teeth, splashed on some Anteus cologne, and took a deep breath as he opened the bathroom door that led back to the bedroom of room 617.

Marcos appeared draped in a white oversized terry cloth towel he removed in a rapid gesture. It fell to the floor and revealed his bronzed physique, perfectly toned after two weeks in the intense Caribbean sun. William had already prepared a Jack Daniel’s on the rocks for him and a vodka and tonic for himself, with freshly cut lime and a lump of sea salt that sat on the round wooden table between the bathroom and the bed. He reclined seductively on the billowy, soft mattress, having already discarded his Levi 501’s and solid blue T-shirt. Marcos slowly moved towards the bed, savoring the anticipation of every step towards his lover. William could no longer stand the tension, so he reached out and pulled Marcos towards him, their dark bodies pressing against each other, uniting in a single embrace. Time seemed to stand still as the two resumed the affair began three years ago in room 617 of the Chicago Marriott Hotel.

Chad stood impatiently at the front desk of the Hotel Mercedes Best Western, trying to dissimulate his obvious inebriation. He muttered in English to the young redhead that he wanted to surprise his friend who had just arrived, and could she please give him the room number of a Mr. William Hernandez Hernandez. She flashed him a cold look of disapproval, remarking that such information was private and revealing it was a strict violation of hotel policy. Chad stepped back to the lobby for a moment, collapsing onto an oversized sofa for a moment, which caused the .32 caliber pistol concealed under his shirt to press uncomfortably against his hip. When he roused from his deliberation, he headed to the elevator and once inside pressed the button for the sixth floor. He knew exactly where they would be.

William and Marcos sat up in the bed, still embracing from an all too rapid first session of love-making, relaxing in the confidence of many more to come. Marcos reached for his Jack Daniel’s, now watered down by melting ice. William basked in the warm feeling of the moment. Maybe Marcos was just the one he had been yearning for his entire life, and this was the emotion that endless love songs spoke of as if it were an ordinary, everyday occurrence. Outside room 617 Chad stood motionless, attempting to control his breathing, feeling his blood pressure rising and his heart racing. He reached for the .32 caliber pistol, which he used to lightly tap on the door and call out in the best Spanish he could muster, “room service,” imitating the shrill feminine voice of Lidia, his housekeeper. William quickly donned the linen house robe hanging in the closet by the door while Marcos rushed to cover himself with the cotton patchwork bedspread. William was prepared to scold the housekeeper for ignoring
the obvious “do not disturb” sign prominently hanging from the doorknob, when he opened the door and found Chad standing there with the .32 caliber pistol aiming point blank at his forehead. William’s look first revealed surprise, then shock, and finally trembling fear as Chad cocked the pistol and waved it alternately at William, then at Marcos, who had instinctively raised his arms up in self-protection. An eternity passed in a blink of an eye; William slumped to the ground pleading his remorse for his actions, “I’m sorry” repeatedly passing through his drawn lips; Marcos trembled on the bed wondering what death was like, imagining what awaited him on the other side of life. Chad became more an observer than a participant in the scene, feeling detached from his own experience, seemingly floating above the events around him near the ceiling fan. In that same brief instant Chad smiled and entered into a trance. He thought of the peace his father must have felt when he died in his sleep, his painful suffering over, knowing that his son would continue his life’s work. Chad thought of the years that he and Marcos had worked tirelessly to make their dreams flourish. He deeply regretted trading Marcos for a fleeting whim and punished himself for settling for William as a poor substitute for true love. Chad yearned for that same tranquility and freedom from remorse his father had achieved. Chad loosened his grip, the gun slipped from his fingers and crashed to the floor with a thud, a sound that both William and Marcos believed to be the first shots that would end their lives. Seeing that he was still alive, William opened his tear-filled eyes, climbed back into the bed and tightly embraced his lover. Just as suddenly Chad exited room 617 and reached into his pocket for the letter, which he clutched in his hand like a testimony to his epiphany. He passed through the lobby to the puzzled stare of the redhead at the front desk, past the ferns, past the oversized sofa, out the main doors of the Hotel Mercedes Best Western and stood in the torrential rain which had just begun minutes earlier, the first sign of the end of the long, hot dry season and the promise of the much-anticipated relief of the cool winter to come.