Catherine: Leaving Nathan

I decided to leave Nathan in Berlin, after meeting Antonio.  I don’t think Nathan knew, but I believe it’s because he chose not to notice.  Antonio was Nathan’s colleague, before he was my lover.  He was born in Madrid, but lived primarily in Argentina.  His academic specialty examined how the communist economies in Latin America had suffered following the fall of the iron curtain.  That’s how he ended up there with us in Berlin, but not how I fell so easily from Nathan to Antonio.  I think initially it was the feel of him.  What I mean is that Antonio brought the heat with him, the pulsating rhythm of the south.  At that point, feeling the chill of the eastern front, Antonio reminded me of home.  And now, I remembered, I was homesick.  

I loved the sounds of Spanish, particularly the way the words rolled from Antonio’s tongue.  Sometimes I imagined his words were like kisses, chocolates, or grapes that he fed me, one after another.  I also loved his long hair, a pony tail that went half way down his back.  I used to call him Guido the Killer Pimp, which he found hysterical.  When we made love, I held onto his hair like a mane, pulled free from the piece of leather he normally used to tie it secure.

When I slept with him, Antonio remained in bed with me until the sun was high enough to justify our waking.  He would tangle his limbs in mine, and my fingers would knot his hair, and after enough of this, we’d slowly make our way to the shower.  I don’t know that I blame Nathan for my departure, but he is the one who would send Antonio to meet me first.  Nathan would be stuck at the office, and I’d be out at the bar, or restaurant, or at our apartment waiting alone for him to return.  Instead of coming himself, he sent Antonio in his place.

Antonio and Nathan shared an office, and because they were both International Fellows at the Max Planck Institute, his apartment sat right above ours.  After nights of talking and dining together, waiting on Nathan to return, Antonio said, “I don’t know how Nathan can find such pleasure working so many hours on the former East, when what he should desire waits here with me.  If you were mine, Catherine, I would never leave you alone like this.  And I certainly wouldn’t offer your presence to someone who desires you as much as me.”

After Antonio said this, I blinked, and he kissed me.  I could have stopped him, but I realized he was right.  The cold I’d been feeling had nothing to do with the snow outside, but with Nathan’s lack of interest.  I’d become nothing to him, a trial wife, a barely legal fling he could ignore in bed, avoid during the day.  Yet a comfort of sorts, I’m sure.  Still feeling Antonio’s pull, the way he bit my lower lip, I knew I was already gone. 

It wasn’t that I didn’t love Nathan anymore.  It was just that I understood then that he didn’t love me, at least not the way I wanted to be loved.  Perhaps he loved me as much as he was capable of loving anyone, but because he’d been alone for too long, Nathan’s ability stopped short of reaching the depth I needed.

I think Nathan and I were too similar.  Too cautious, both of us avoided reaching out further than the other.  Neither of us wanted to love or care any more than the other.  The result is that we both stood paralyzed after a point, waiting on the edge, neither of us willing to take the plunge into love, or even lust.  It was sad really, the possibility of what we might have had if we, or at least one of us, had been brave enough to take the lead.  After the first six months something happened, and I took his fear, and combined it with my own, and interpreted it then as indifference. It made me cold, and bitter, and I began the process of cutting Nathan off.

I was always a girl who went from one guy to the next.  Filling the void of the first with the desire of the second.  My best friend Dorothy and I used to joke that we kept a line-up, much like they use in baseball.  I don’t know much about sports, but baseball was the analogy we always used.  That being, you have your heavy hitter first.  If he hits a home run, then great, game over.  But, just in case, you keep your second, and third, and fourth in line, ready to go in.  This keeping strings of men, it’s was what we’d noticed the most successful southern women did.  They kept around a series of male “friends.” 

“Friends” are the guys you’d consider being with if you were to get rid of whomever you were seeing or married to at the time.  Usually when the current one starts to strike out, you’d begin cultivating the next on deck, which is what I guess I did with Antonio.  I’m sure he thinks our affair was his idea.  But, I knew that instead of Nathan coming home, it would probably be Antonio.  Once I wore my little nightgown, with the lace bust, and see through skirt, and opened the door, pretending, to assume it must be Nathan.  When of course I noticed Antonio there instead, I feigned both embarrassment and seeming disappointment, pausing to apologize, before sauntering back to the bedroom.  Of course I went back to put on a robe, but made sure to allow the slit to show off my legs, and an occasional peek of what existed beneath, during our conversation on the couch.  I think that was the night Antonio began to look at me as something that should be his.

During the world cup, Antonio came over every night, supposedly to watch the game with Nathan.  Not that Nathan seemed to notice, but much of the game Antonio spent with me in the kitchen, complimenting my culinary skills.  Having grown up in Texas, the cuisine was similar to stuff he loved.  I had shipped over tortillas, packages of taco seasoning, and ranch, so that I could make enchiladas the way I’d always had them.  Nathan thought I was making them for him, because they were his favorites, but really they were for Antonio.

The night I was in the kitchen sautéing the meat, it was Germany playing against Brazil.  Antonio came in the kitchen and ran his finger down the small of my back.  He told me I reminded him of his mother, but in an attractive, Freudian sort of way.  That’s when he whispered to me, “Come, Bonita.  Come with me to Spain.  You will be mine, and I will take care of you.  Come with me.  We’ll leave together.”  I said nothing, but allowed my eyes to answer, “yes.”