I always think of her when I smell coffee.
I saw her the first time when I was walking through an open air market in Brazil. Every move I made was lazy and slow in the warm sun. I loved feeling the coolness of the gentlest breeze. The heat and the country slow me down.
People all seem to move slower in South America, not rushing from one pointless, deadening job to another, like we do in the North. While I am there, I become one of them, enjoying tastes, sounds, people, and living.
Vendors pack the open air markets, selling more fruit that you could ever imagine. Cashew nuts come from a fruit, and so does chocolate. But I loved the coffee more than anything. Nothing beats the smell of fresh roasted coffee beans.
One day I was in the market just smelling the coffee and feeling the warmth, and she walked by. She wore a yellow bikini, with a blue kanga wrapped like a skirt around her waist. Her curly brown hair fell just below her shoulders.
She was slim, but not girlish. I think she was in her late twenties; she always lied to me about her age, and her mother never told me the truth.
Brazilian women all seem to have beautiful bottoms.
But her eyes were what held me. I've always been attracted to blue eyes, but her brown eyes and coffee colored skin promised mystery, sensual pleasure, and passion to me. She was like the spirit of the country born into a woman. From the moment I saw her my breath stopped.
I must have been staring for minutes when she looked up and smiled.
I played the scene in my head many times over the next few days. I was the dashing, wealthy foreigner, tall and handsome. I charmed her from the first few words and talked her into having a drink on the beach. We walked along the beach watching the sun set, and she fell into my arms, pretending to be shy as we fell onto the deserted sand. We made love three times and she came time after time before we drifted asleep in each other's arms.
But it didn't happen that way. Embarrassed at being caught staring, I dropped my eyes. I think I may have even blushed. Some lady killer. When I looked up, she was walking away, and I froze in place watching her hips sway as she walked away.
I don't believe in love at first sight. People need time to know each other. I've never been good at one night stands. I need to like the woman I am with, and I don't seem to connect with very many people. Despite all that, I couldn't stop thinking about her. I wasted the next three days of my vacation at the same market, hoping she would walk by. Many beautiful woman did walk by, but not one was good enough because not one was her.
Finally I gave up on seeing her, and decided to wander around the city. Then I found out that life was smiling on me. I rode a bus on the way to a beach on the outskirts of the city, and as we passed through the business district I saw her.
This time she wore a more conservative skirt, and a floral blouse. But they did little to hide her figure and nothing to hide her eyes. I signalled the driver for a stop. He kept driving. But I was too drunk from my own obsession to be embarrassed again. Keeping one eye on the street dropping away behind us, I pleaded with the driver to stop a little early. We hit a red light, and he let me out in the middle of the street.
When I ran back to where I saw her, she was gone. I just had a feeling we were destined to meet, so I waited, watching people walk by. She didn't come. I was on that corner for almost two hours, and I was getting hungry. So I decided to search. I checked every shop anywhere near the corner.
I finally found her working in a book store about three blocks away. And then I started doubting myself. Would she laugh at my American accent? Would she think I was stalking her? Was she married? If she liked me, could she live up to the fantasy in my head?
It didn't matter. I had gone this far; I wasn't going to stop. I walked into the store and up to the counter.
"Hello. Can I help you?"
"I, umm. Yes."
She waited. Then I blurted it out.
"I know this might sound crazy, but I saw you at the market four days ago and I haven't stopped thinking about you. I've looked all over the city for you and I desperately want to talk to you and I see your eyes and your yellow bikini in my dreams and I don't normally do this, but would you please have a drink with me?"
"I don't drink."
"How about dinner tonight?"
"I can't. I'm going to mass."
"I understand. Well, I'm sorry for wasting your time."
As I turned to leave, she asked: "Can you pick me up at home tomorrow?"
The first time I saw her, my breathe stopped. This time, I thought I would hyperventilate. Have you ever tried to look calm and cool when you heart was beating two hundred times a minute?
"I'd love to."
"Great. Here's my address. I'll see you tomorrow night."
"See you then. Seven?"
"Eight is better."
"Eight it is."
I walked slowly out of the store. Two blocks away, after checking that I couldn't see her anymore, I sat down and thought about the evening. And I thought about how she dove through my defenses and defeated me without even trying. What was my attraction to her? Was it physical? Was it the vacation? Are we soulmates after all? I still don't know.
On one level, anticipating the date had agitated me. On another level, not searching anymore had calmed me. I got back on another bus, and made it to the beach for the late afternoon after all, the whole time trying to understand if I became a different person in Brazil or if I just let my true self come out.
I found her address at five 'til eight the next evening. I know the custom is to show up late, but I barely managed to force myself to weight until eight on the dot before I knocked on the door.
It opened on a middle aged woman, and then I started to panic. I didn't even know the younger woman's name. How could I ask for her? But the older woman had her eyes. She was twenty pounds heavier, with some gray in her hair, but still lovely.
"I'm here to have dinner with your daughter."
"Come inside. We want to meet you."
Their apartment was friendly and warm, but small. They clearly weren't rich, but they weren't suffering either. It looked like there were two bedrooms. There was a shrine on the wall with a statue of the Virgin Mary. The living room centered around a small T.V. And there was a small balcony.
I think I met her entire family that evening, mother, father, aunt, and brothers. We spent the first ten minutes kissing cheek to cheek and saying, "Tudo bem, Bom dia, Muito prazer,..." They wanted to know all about me. I actually enjoyed talking to them, and I enjoyed watching her. Her name is Beatrice, by the way, Bea for short.
Now it was her turn to be coy. I tried not to stare, but I couldn't help myself. And when she caught me looking at her, she would smile and look down. She dressed very modestly.