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“So how was the Northeast?” Paula asked.
“It was just like you said—poor, but with great beaches. I went to Fortaleza, Natal, Pipa, Recife, Salvador, and Vitória. I liked Vitória the most because I swear I was the only gringo there.”
“Vitória? Only businessmen travel there.”
“Exactly. I’d go to a club and guys would come up to me and say, ‘Hey, you’re the gringo, right? I heard you talking outside in English.’ I’d ask questions about how to get girls, just to make them feel like they were teaching the gringo something. The girls didn’t really care, though, and would brush me off. After my last trip, I kind of thought I’d be more welcome by the women if there were no other gringos around, but I guess that’s not always the case. Overall I had a fun time and believe it or not, nothing bad happened!”
“Don’t say that,” she said. “Now something bad will happen. Do you want to get another beer?”
She looked just like I remembered her from when she and her friends had showed me around Rio while I was dealing with my health and mental problems. I initially had planned to stay in a hostel in Ipanema, but she insisted that I crash at her place for a few nights.
In Vitória I ended up staying with a guy who worked at my hotel. He didn’t have a guest bed or sofa, so I had to buy a $40 foam mattress. I hoped it would last the week, but after the first night the foam flattened until it felt like I was sleeping directly on the floor. When Paula told me she didn’t have a mattress, I reluctantly rolled and tied the piece of shit up with rope and hauled it to Rio by bus. I’m certain other Brazilians thought I was homeless because I hadn’t shaved for a few weeks.
Paula and I caught up on things in the bar by Copacabana’s beach. I arrived two hours prior and for the last half of the bus ride my stomach was grumbling loudly, but I wrote it off as a bad case of gas. Not once in the past seven months, the first six spent in Colombia, had I gotten a stomach illness. During my last trip I had learned to cook most of my meals and limit the street food, but in the last month I had gotten cocky and started eating from the street again. At the Vitória bus station I ate an odd-tasting coxinha de frango, a deep-fried chicken and cheese ball that was neon orange on the inside. I figured it contained a kind of cheese I hadn’t had before.
There wasn’t a whole lot to tell Paula about the previous seven months. In Medellín, I had written a new book, studied Spanish, and put a lot of energy into sleeping with Colombian women. It included going to the university to hang out in the common areas to ask girls for help with my Spanish. Instead of being the old guy in the club, I was the old guy in school, but thankfully girls like men around 30 years old. I made a couple new friends, dated a really nice girl who pokes me every now and then on Facebook, and played blackjack in the casinos. Life was good, easy, and most importantly of all, cheap.
Colombia had spoiled my return to Brazil because it competed so well on many fronts, including quality of life, cost of living, and women. I had held Brazilian women on a magic pedestal for a long time after my return to the States, but now Colombian women were almost there with them. Picking one over the other would come down to a matter of personal taste because I doubt different men who have experiences with both would consistently arrive to the same conclusion.
My stomach continued to churn as Paula gave me updates on her life and her new boyfriend. I started sweating and figured I could squeeze my ass cheeks together for another half hour before using the bathroom at her place, but it’s amazing how the human digestive system can move at the speed of sound when it wants to. I finally excused myself to visit the bar’s restroom.
The lone toilet was covered with drops of urine and the toilet paper was out, so I quickly grabbed a dozen paper towels from above the sink, put four on the seat, and sat down. My body shook with a tremendous explosion as the entire contents of my bowels ejected in less than three seconds. There was a loud “bloo-bloop” sound and then, just like that, it was over. I lifted my ass to take a peek at what was underneath and thought, “That wasn’t so bad.”
We left the bar soon after and went back in her place, where I had to go again. The only problem was that her bathroom was inside her room, only six feet from the bed. There was nothing I could do to mask the embarrassing ass explosion sounds, not even a dinky ventilation fan. Over the next ten hours I had to go to the bathroom at least fifteen times while Paula slept. Poor girl—I’m sure she thought I was shitting on her head. My anus became so abraded and raw from all the wiping that it felt like I had been sodomized with a Brillo pad. During brief moments of sleep I crossed my legs, for fear that I’d accidently shit on my foam mattress.
Two days later, after a few meals of rice and potatoes, I was fine again. No fever, no lingering pain, and no constant gas. No five-month ordeal like last time.
“Whenever I see you, you’re sick,” Paula said, shaking her head. “Maybe you should see a special doctor.”
“I was healthy the past seven months, I swear!” She probably thinks I was a premature baby and now have to deal with some type of lifelong immune system disorder.
Not wanting to impose, after three nights at her place I checked into a hostel and began looking for an apartment.
“It’s so good to hear from you,” she said.
“Guess where I am right now.”
“Rio de Janeiro.”
They say you can tell when someone is smiling or not on the phone, and I like to think she was during our conversation. We chatted for a few minutes and made plans to hang out in two days.
Over the previous 23 months I had thought of her often, but I didn’t overdo it. I didn’t think of her as the solution to my problems and I’d stop myself if I wandered into any girlfriend fantasies. It’s true that she had rarely popped in my head when I was seeing a new girl, but after the dust had settled and I was alone again, I’d remember our time together and wonder if it was the real deal or not. Was I romanticizing a short relationship made intense by what I was going through my last time here, or was she really the one?
Now that I was back in Rio, I had trouble holding back. I got excited. For the next day, all I could do was think about what our reunion would be like. Should I pick her up when we hug? Should I go for the kiss right away? Should we end up in a club after a drink or two at a quiet bar? Should I dress up or keep it simple? Should I trim my beard or keep it a little long? I found myself thinking about things I didn’t usually worry about.
We agreed to meet the next afternoon at 5pm. At first I thought she wanted to meet early because she couldn’t wait to see me, but then I realized she probably had other plans later that night. I was ready to jump to the conclusion that she had another guy. After all, it had been two years. What did I expect? Was she supposed to greet me with open legs and scream, “Take me, Roosh! I’ve been waiting for you all this time!” Back to reality, and that reality is that a lot of time had passed, and people meet other people. Still, her having a boyfriend would destroy my plans for picking up exactly where we left off.
CONTINUED: PART TWO