If I hadn’t made the decision to leave, then that last show at the flamenco school might have gone differently. Or maybe if Gloria hadn’t told me right before the show started that Carynne had called, I wouldn’t have been so on edge. It’s possible my memory has gilded my performance a little, but I really think it was good. I remember it as being the best, but maybe it’s just that one always remembers the last time for something with such fondness. I don’t know. Ramon was there that night, too. He’d been hanging around the school more and more, and I was happy to have him play with our group.
I remember Gabriela’s dress was black and white with polka dots, ruffles all around her ankles, and Orlando was in a black button-down shirt with the cuffs rolled neatly. Gabriela’s hair was up in a twist. Orlando’s was hanging down at his shoulders with that Prince Valiant cut of his.
When he danced the farruca, every time the fingers of my left hand gripped the neck of the guitar I thought about the way I gripped his hip bone to pull him into my thrusts in bed.
The memorable thing for everyone else, though, about the performance, was that when we were nearing the end of the set, Adan showed up and called out Orlando.
I heard the front door open and close and saw one of the girls who helped hand out programs get up from her seat to go see who it was.
A few moments later, Adan burst onto the floor in the middle of the chairs, standing at the edge of the flat wooden platform the dancers danced and stamped their feet on. The girl came behind him, wringing her hands. A song had just ended, and it took me a second to focus on him, and then I had a feeling like everything was rising: my heart rate, the temperature in the room, my hackles. It was like I was floating upward out of my seat even though I was still sitting down.
Some in the audience tittered nervously when Adan made his opening statement, pointing at Orlando, who was sitting on a cajon next to me at the time. I think they thought it must be part of the show. Adan was certainly dramatic enough, like something out of a Shakespeare play. He was wearing black slacks with scuffed shoes, a plain white T-shirt under an untucked button-down. To an American eye, he didn’t look dressed like a thug, but I’d seen him before, and though I couldn’t understand what he was saying, his tone was undeniably aggressive.
Orlando stood, eyes burning, and Gloria got to her feet, too, her face reddening with rage. But before Mount Gloria could blow her top, Adan charged Orlando.
He never reached him. He got the carbon-fiber back of my guitar to the face and then after he fell to his knees, my boot to the head, which laid him out flat on his back. It was over that quickly. Wham bam, thank you ma’am.
I hadn’t even gotten out of my chair.
At that point Ramon–did I mention he’d been spending more and more time at the school?–and a couple of the older guys dragged Adan by his arms through the classroom and out the front door to the street. Gloria hugged Orlando and then I stood up and patted him on the shoulder. The other men came back in pretty quickly so I wondered what they had done with Adan. Left him unconscious in the alley next door? Called the police? I had no idea.
Ramon spoke to the audience, apologizing for the interruption, and then asking them to leave.
After they had filed out, he came back and said something to Gloria that I think was what are you going to do about your son?
And I’m pretty sure she said both I have no son and This is my son. She was still hugging Orlando.
We didn’t go to the bar that night. We all went upstairs, where I had never been, and another woman I had never met but who was clearly another cousin or aunt cooked, and we drank wine and ate sitting around in the upstairs parlor. The musicians alternately acted out the story gleefully of how I had dispatched Adan with the Ovation and shook their heads gravely about what was going to happen next. The phone rang. It was someone with news. After telling the others in Spanish Gloria eventually sat down next to me and said in English, “He’s hurt. Cracked his skull on the stone when he fell. They say he’ll be all right but he is in the hospital now.”
One of the others said something about the police.
“No police. They are not our friends.” By “our” I think she meant the gypsy community. “We will take care of this ourselves.”
Orlando said something from across the room, pointing at me.
Gloria put a hand on my arm. “Thank you for all you’ve done, Dion. Did you know, Dion means ‘chosen of God?’ Maybe you’re an angel sent down to guard Orlando when he needed you most.”
“I didn’t mean to hurt him,” I said, meaning Adan.
“We know. You’re not one of us, though. Adan’s men will blame you.”
“You don’t worry for Orlando?”
“We will take care of Orlando from here.” She patted my arm again, but Ramon stood, looming over us.
“You should go,” he said. “I’m sorry, my friend.”
“It’s okay,” I told him. “You’re right. I should.”
Gloria squeezed my arm. “Back to America?”
“Yeah.” I caught Orlando looking at me from across the room then, his eyes as flat and unreadable as my own. “I probably shouldn’t have stayed this long. But Spain has been so good. Everything, the music, everything. Has been so good.”
“Angel,” Gloria said again, and then she hugged me.
My takeaway from all that was that she was grateful to me for flattening her disowned son, but that for my own good, I had better leave. Something about the way it had all unfolded had resulted in everyone accepting that she was taking Orlando in as her own–including Orlando himself. No one ever told me where Orlando’s parents were in all this and I wasn’t about to ask.
Ramon and a couple of others escorted us home. When Orlando and Gabriela and I went upstairs to the apartment I started to pack. To my surprise, Orlando did, too. He erased both of our names from the chalk board in the kitchen.
Gabriela asked something in Spanish, and I think I asked the same thing in English: “What about Carmina? Isn’t she coming back next week? I thought you were getting back together.”
He shrugged, then said, “Carmina crazy. Adan crazy. Enough.”
“Where are you going, then?”
He told us he was moving in with Gloria. Gabriela shrugged and kissed him on the cheek and went upstairs to her own room.
Once she was gone, Orlando tugged me close to him until we were fly to fly. “You leave, now I have to work.”
“You’ll have to take over playing for the dance class, and the guitar parts for the palo, yeah,” I agreed.
He kissed me then. “Dion. Angel.”
“Not an angel,” I told him. “And my name is Daron.” I pronounced it with a Spanish accent this time, making the “a” long, rolling the “r” and rounding the “o.”
He chuckled and gave me a hickey under my ear.
Knowing it was the last time made me even hungrier for him, but it was odd. We were more affectionate, more tender with each other during foreplay, and then fiercely energetic when it came to the deed itself. Like playing the guitar so hard your fingers hurt. Like yelling at someone as if you’re angry because you actually love them. I guess.
Orlando let me do whatever I wanted that night until exhaustion set in. Then I slept with my arm around him, my nose buried in the back of his neck, drinking in every last moment with him. And in the morning when we parted, I had the oddest feeling. I felt sated, finished, like that deep thrum in the gut when you get all the way to the bottom note of the guitar and there’s nowhere to go. You’ve reached the root note and you’re done, gloriously done.
(Last Spanish guitar lesson. This is Andres Segovia, the great Spanish classical guitar master, playing one of the pieces that I had to learn in school, Leyenda by Isaac Albeniz. In Seville I learned the piece was originally written for piano but once Segovia did it, it was forever after linked with the classical guitar Spanish style. -d)