Rio de Janeiro, 1976
'If I see you one more time, I'll buy myself a lottery ticket!'
The woman who had just ordered her coffee at the table at the Copacabana sidewalk café turned to face the dark gentleman with the unmistakable Australian accent who had helped carry her luggage that morning. He was seated at the next table with his coffee writing picture postcards.
'You again...', she smiled. 'Are you following me?'
She offered him a cigarette from her pack of Peter Stuyvesants, he shook his head.
'No, just stalking...'
She laughed as she placed a cigarette in her mouth and lit up. She then noticed that the last vacant table at the café was taken by a couple.
'It's beginning to fill up. May I join you?'
'I'd be honoured', he made an exaggerated look at her right ring finger that made her quietly laugh, 'Miss...'
'Bekker, Aileen Bekker...are you staying in Rio long?'
He stood and pulled a chair out for her to be seated, she smiled as she sat, and pushed her chair in.
'You're quite the gentleman, Mr?...'
'Danté, Phil Danté. I'm just passing through, I'll be flying out late tomorrow evening.'
'So am I. Where are you off to?'
'Sydney, Australia...Africa is where I'm from...Jo'burg.'
'That's where I'm off to, and I'm from Sydney.'
'One flew East...'
'One flew West...'
They simultaneously said,
'One flew over the Cuckoo's Nest'
To his surprise she continued,
'O-U-T spells OUT...Goose swoops down and plucks you out!'
Phil laughed as she did,
'So you did Aileen', he smiled, but he noticed that she had a penetrating look on her face, 'You know, I've never heard the rest of that before, I thought it came from the book that they made the Jack Nicholson movie out of.'
'It's from a nursery rhyme. Funny you mention that fill-em, because you remind me a lot of Jack.'
'Because I'm as mad as a hatter?'
'No, because I can tell that you're one person against the entire world...like I am...'
Her eyes showed sincerity and he was touched. A memory flashed in his mind and he laughed. She placed a coin on the table.
'Cruzeiro for your thoughts...'
He picked it up and looked at it, but his mind was far away in the past, for once he would share what he was actually thinking with someone.
'When I was a boy and I did something stupid my mother would gave me such a look...', he imitated his mother, '"It's not you, Philip...it's the world..."'
She pensively looked into his eyes,
'I've been around the world a few times...your mother was right...'
They both ordered the beefsteak special with a Brahma lager with the pair's rapport continuing.
'What are you doing after lunch, Master Jack?'
'When I was in school I loved a superspy movie set in Rio, so I've always wanted to go to the Christ of the Andes.'
'Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die?'
Phil showed his surprise that she knew that film.
'That's you all over. I'll be your Dorothy Provine.'
'You know, I always thought she was imitating Miss Penelope from Thunderbirds.'
'That's awfully observant of you, Philip', she replied in an superb imitation of Sylvia Anderson's voice for the British television marionette.
'I had a crush on that puppet...now I've met you, so my dreams have come true at last!'
The pair found their way to, then travelled up the funicular railway. Phil noticed someone taking their photograph when they left the cable car.
'We'll be in the high society column of the newspapers, Master Jack.'
The afternoon passed splendidly with more conversation, spectacular views, and drinks at a café with the pair becoming more simpatico.
The mystery of the photographer was revealed when upon their return they saw their photograph together on a souvenir ashtray for sale that she bought.
'Where are you staying, Master Jack?'
'An overpriced bland place near Copacabana. What's Centro like?'
'Cheap, traditional, a bit tattered around the edges, just like me.'
'Then you'll have to show me.'
He took her to his room, where she admired his view of the small islet with palm trees that looked like a minuscule Arabian Nights kingdom...or a prison.
Her eyes said all that was required.
Like something out of one of the paperback potboilers he read or watched in the cinema, the pair ended up in bed together beneath the ceiling fan for a late and satisfying siesta. Their time together seemed to last in an island of forever...
'We've one more day, Aileen, so it's your turn to do what you want to do tomorrow. Any suggestions?'
'I've always wanted to ride the tram I saw in my favourite Brazilian movie...Black Orpheus.'
* * *
The wonderful couple who owned the hotel had lent the Australiano a water jug to make his tea. Like him, she loved and needed her tea and took it black without sugar. The couple drank from mugs as he watched her from the bed in fascination as she performed her usual female rituals in front of the room's mirror.
He reflected that a mirror image reflected accurately, but oppositely. The adventuress from the East was going to the West where he was from and vice versa...Reflections...
She suddenly began to sing a strangely beautiful song without words, like the Sirens of The Odyssey...
'That's beautiful! What is it?'
She turned and smiled to him and held her mug of tea in both her hands.
'Don't you recognise it? It's from another movie that reminds me so much of you!'
She turned to face the window with the view of the islet with the castle and palm trees in the harbour as she drank her tea. He held her in one arm and his mug of tea in the other, pressing her close to him as they both enjoyed the view.
She repeated her song without words.
'I don't recognise the tune...is it Ennio Morricone?'
'You couldn't be any closer, it's his arranger Bruno Nicolai.'
'What's the film where it's from?'
'I'll tell you tomorrow, when the right time comes.'
After changing into warmer evening clothes, he accompanied her to her Copacabana hotel with his small overnight musette bag. He offered to pay the hotel clerk for the extra bit required for a double room, but the Brazilian leered, refused to take money and winked.
They had an intimate supper on the balcony of her swish hotel; she was living higher than he thought a single woman on her own would.
* * *
After breakfast then storing their luggage in their respective hotels, the pair went to the area of the tram line of Black Orpheus.
The tram of the film was no longer running, they followed the old tracks that had remained on the street and talked about their memories of Black Orpheus, That Man from Rio, and OSS 117 Mission for a Killer. He had never met anyone who was as big a film fan as he was. To the both of them, Brazil represented exotic beauty, tropical romance and exciting adventure with a catchy musical beat when they watched those films in their youth in their staid home countries...
'We lived in different countries together!', Phil exclaimed.
After lunch the pair went to the large Tijuca park that was a small jungle. Phil had a feeling of being at home in the quiet of the bush when the pair walked through the pathways going through the vegetation. They held hands, with Phil recalling a moment, many, many years ago in Australia where he went to hold hands with his date and she quickly moved her hand away from him as if he were a leper. He confided the memory to a friend who laughed and said,
'Nowadays you sleep with a girl first, then you hold her hand'.
For the first time, things had happened that way, so much had happened in his Brazilian interlude that soon was coming to an end. He had never even had dreams so wonderful as what their time together had been...but soon he would be East of the Sun and she would be West of the Moon in the very nations that they had been born and raised in and they had departed from for their own adventures.
She stopped in the bush and faced him, they seemed to be as alone as if they were shipwrecked on an island in the South Seas...
'Do you recognise which movie was filmed here?'
Phil gave the matter some thought, then looked at the many large hanging vines.
'One of the Mike Henry Tarzan movies?'
'The Last Mercenary. They shot the opening Congo scene with Ray Danton here, then the film had a few minutes elsewhere in Rio before they moved to Spain.'
She repeated singing Bruno Nicolai's haunting Rio de Janeiro theme from the film that she sang in his room.
'You're one up on me; I've never seen that film.'
'But you've lived it, haven't you?'
He gave her a questioning look.
'It shows...have you wondered why I never asked what you did for a living?'
'Good manners, I suppose. I usually tell people that I do pest control or I'm a retroactive family planning specialist.'
'Have you wondered what I do?'
'Does it matter?'
He had the fear that based on the rapid time before they went to bed together that she was in the extreme hospitality industry.
'Wouldn't you like to make some very good money and do a lot of travelling? I can get you into it.'
Phil sang the opening lines of Just a Gigolo and began laughing hysterically.
'No, Phil, it's not "have you know what, will travel". I don't see why it's so funny, though.'
'That song brings a flashback and I can't control myself.'
'You'll run away screaming and have me committed to a loony bin for the terminally sick.'
'In Vietnam we had a contact with some North Vietnamese. They went to ground and we threw some grenades in their hideyhole. The leftenant told my mate Dave-O to see if any of them were still alive...', Phil began to laugh, 'Dave-O came up holding one of their heads that had been blown off and starting singing like Louie Prima "I-i-i-i-i ain't got no body! No body! No body! No body! No body!" Everyone burst out laughing except the leftenant who got shitty like a spoiled schoolgirl and started shitting out Dave-O, then Dave-O says "Awwww, he was dead anyway!"'
To Phil's surprise she broke out laughing so hard that tears were coming from her eyes. At last he had found his soul mate.
'The leftenant didn't know whether to shit or wind his watch, then Dave-O kicked the head to him like a football and shouted "INCOMING!"'
She laughed and fought to speak to him,
'I'd say, stop, you kill me, but you'd best forget that, you might take that expression the wrong way!'
'Like the Irishman hunting in the woods who saw the nude sunbathing sheila. He asked her, "Are you game, love?' She smiled and said she was, so he shot her!'
The pair were laughing uproariously.
'I'm a bit strange, Aileen...'
She immediately calmed down and to his surprise she began to beautifully sing Master Jack, by South Africa's answer to The Seekers, Four Jacks and a Jill. Phil had never expected anyone to suddenly sing a song he loved in a Brazilian jungle, and soothingly sing so bloody well and hauntingly.
There was magic in the air, there was love in his heart, admiration in his mind and a feeling in his soul that he never had before.
When her song finished she went into a hyper serious expression.
'I'm in the import-export business.'
'Extremely duty free?'
She laughed, 'That's a great way of putting it. There's a place for you.'
'No Aileen, it's not my cup of tea.'
'You're a mercenary.'
'I'm for hire, not for sale. I train soldiers and sometimes lead them. When I'm out of the operational area I don't have to look over my shoulder for the rest of my life.'
He recalled his mate Balty that he had worked with, far, far to the North of that hemisphere. Balty was a gambler and always on the lookout for the next something big; he eventually outsmarted himself and ended up in prison. At least he didn't drink himself to death like some of his other comrades-in-arms had done, or as Cole, their second-in-charge so quaintly put it, 'they found blood in their alcohol'. .
'Phil, there's no one else in my life that I'm as comfortable being around as you. I had the feeling you'd be my Mr. Right. We can work together. A couple attracts a lot less attention that going on your own. Just imagine, paid honeymoons in bridal suites for the rest of her lives.'
'Until we get caught and it's separate rooms for a decade or two.'
'You risk your life all the time.'
'And for a lot less money too, but I'm not that type, Aileen. What if we give up our current occupations and settled on something safe and boring where we'd be together forever more?'
Though it was a bright day it was as if a cloud passed over them and blocked the sun, placing them in a permanent shadow. She remained loudly silent. He pleaded,
'Let's enjoy the rest of our time together...you don't have anything in your room that would get us in a spot of bother would you?'
He read the answer in her eyes.
They rode the bus together back to the city in silence.
'We can meet again at the airport...'
She shook her head, they forever went their separate ways...
Author Notes: Happy a better New Year to all...