I turned 20 in Medellin, Columbia in 1962. In a country where the average wage was $2 US per day, I earned a hundred bucks a week. I drove a 1959 BMW motorcycle and lived with the Begue family who became dear and lifelong friends.

It was a weeknight and I had taken a drive to La Cuerva del Bosque (the Curve of the Forest) the legal red light district. It was a pleasant place to go for an evening. Courteous uniformed police walked their beats in pairs and the madams had whistles with which to summon law and order if needed. The girls had all the proper medical records up to date as required by Colombian law at the time. A madam had her reputation at stake and her business depended on a repeat clientele. She did not want her house besmirched by reports of disease or disturbances.

The houses were of classic Spanish architecture with open interior courtyards, brightly painted and well maintained. The front rooms usually boasted a Wurlitzer jukebox, a bar and abundant overstuffed furniture and coffee tables. There was no pressure on the clients, since the girls made plenty of money however they entertained a man. Drinks were at nightclub prices and for every rum and Coke a customer drank, he paid for at least one (without the rum) for his escort. I stopped at one house on various occasions just to play chess with a young lady with whom I had no other intercourse. I was amazed at how well she played chess and at how much Coke she could drink.

One could spend all evening in La Cuerva just buying drinks and dancing, although at 20 that was hardly likely. I had driven my motorcycle up to the front door of a house, and sat there for a minute deciding whether to go in. Two girls came down from the porch and began a playful barter for the sweater I had on. Either of them would spend the evening with me for the hand knitted wool sweater that my mother had sent to me for Christmas. I told them I couldn't do that. The stakes went up. I could have both of these beautiful young women at once for the pieza (for the madam) and the sweater. It was a dream come true, but my mind conjured up visions of arriving home some blistery winter day, my mother greeting me at the airport with, "Oh Dear, why aren't you wearing that nice sweater I sent you last Christmas?"

I have always been a lousy liar. I couldn't tell her that I had given it up for a few moments of carnal bliss with a couple of Colombian bimbo hookers, but she would know. The girls were showing lots of cleavage and rubbing up against me. I was sweating. The sky darkened. The girls tried to coax me inside before it rained. I gritted my teeth. I closed my eyes. I saw my mother, an incredulous look on her face saying, "David how could you? I knitted it with my own hands."

With a great exercise of willpower, I did something I shall eternally regret; I stopped hyperventilating, thanked the girls for their most generous offer, started my motorcycle and drove down the street into the oncoming downpour.

What was I going to do now? The damn sweater would probably shrink if it got soaked, which it was about to, and I would have to wear it home with the sleeves up to my elbows and the waist above my belly button. I was out of sight of the two girls from whom I had so abruptly departed. I parked the bike under an awning and ducked into the next brothel as big raindrops started falling.

Inside I encountered a big bosomed, dignified madam and a pretty, dark eyed girl about my age. It was late on a weeknight. Business was winding down and the girls had gone to their rooms either with customers or alone for a good night's sleep. Elena and the madam were the only ones up and I kept up a lively conversation for as long as I could. The women asked all kinds of questions about the U.S. I told them I was from Massachusetts. They asked what part of New York that was. It was a common question. I told them about snow and oceans and other things they would probably never see.

After about an hour, my enthusiasm and their interest began to wane and it became clear that the rain was not going to stop soon. The madam asked if I didn't find Elena attractive. I replied without lying that she was far more than attractive; she was a most beautiful woman. It was getting late and with the rain there would be no more customers that evening. I was welcome to stay with Elena if I liked. She was also telling me in her very polite way that if I did not want to stay with Elena, it was time to go. It was still pouring, Elena was truly beautiful and I was 20 with an overdose of testosterone. I thanked the madam for the courtesy she had shown and held out my hand to Elena who rose with a sweet smile and led me down the hall to heaven.

I had the sweater off and my shirt unbuttoned before she had a chance to turn around. When she saw me she laughed, "Cochinito, que hay tan afan?" (You little pig, what's your hurry?) I realized that even a hooker can use a little romance and that I had most certainly forgotten my manners. I stopped, sat down at her dressing table, and apologized for my bad manners. She laughed again, "Es nada. I like you little gringo."

It was then that I noticed the photos tucked all around the edge of her mirror. One was of a handsome young man in some kind of a military uniform. Others were of a little girl in white, her first communion dress. In some, the little girl was escorted by Elena and in others by an equally pristinely dressed middle aged woman. All of the photos were in a rural setting. Some were taken outside a country farmhouse. I slid over on the bench and motioned her to come sit, "Venga pues. Come tell me about these photos. Who are these people?"

She explained each picture one by one. The middle aged woman was her mother and the little girl her daughter. The town was Andes and her neighbors and family understood that she worked for a big boss at Coltejer, took care of his kids on weekends and could only come home on weekdays, usually at the beginning of the week.
"They believe you?"
"They have no reason to doubt."
"And your mother?"
"Sometimes I think she knows, but she would never admit it. We don't talk about it."
"And the girl's father?" I pointed at the picture of the soldier.
"My husband," she corrected me, "Dead, muerto in a plane crash in the service of his country."
"Si." "Aerofuerzo Colombiano?"
"And you get nothing?" "Nada, nothing but a letter saying your husband has died in an unfortunate accident and there will be no more paychecks "

This woman wanted to be proud of her husband's final sacrifice to his country, the government of which could not see fit to support his wife and child for it. We talked no more about the man in uniform. She told me all about the day of the first communion instead.

Elena shut out the lights and we undressed under the rose and orange reflection of the streetlight shinning through the multicolored panes of the skylight. I spent some time with her, hoping she might get some pleasure out of it, and upon completion, passed out as though I'd been hit with a baseball bat.

I slept. I dreamt. I dreamed the hard erect dreams of youth. As I awoke, I felt the warmth, the soft moist pelvic pressure, and the weight on my hips. I kept my eyes closed for a while as though opening them would break the spell. She might stop if she knew I was awake. I thrust my hips slowly upward in synch with her rhythm, then felt her hair on my face then her tongue on my lips. This was no dream. This girl was really making love to me like no woman had ever made love to me.

I opened my eyes. Her hair made a tent around our heads and shoulders. I brushed her nipples with my tongue and felt her clit respond. I wet my thumb in my mouth and pressed it against that swollen little nub. Again we took our time. It was easier to hold back this the second time. She rode me high, threw her hair back and shook her head. I rubbed her standup nipples between thumbs and forefingers. The skylight was directly above her head. Rain dripping over the sash ran down the panes and lent the streetlight new dimensions. The glass added color and the rain added motion to the blur of diffused light. Oranges and ambers, reds and browns all in motion silhouetted her dark shinning eyes and cascading hair. My eyelids closed but the silhouette of her face continued to float behind them. I lost myself to a swirling orgasm of colors that blocked out all other sensation and left me unconscious

My 7:00 AM class of sincere and gung-ho students had left my classroom in dismay by the time I awoke. It was another half-hour before the madam came with the key to let me out of the lobby. I left Elena asleep and never saw her again although I have made love to her often lying on my back with my eyes closed, alone.

When I noticed the L.L. Bean label in the sweater, I was relieved to know that my mother had not knitted it by hand. Where I finally lost it, I know not. I only know that it did not return with me and that my mother never mentioned it for the rest of her life. Nor did I.



I turned 20 in Medellin Columbia in 1962. I got my eyes opened.
I watched people die in the streets, sick old beggars with no family to help. I watched a man hurl himself in front of a bus and when the bus stopped, beg the driver to run over him. I watched a peasant father with two young daughters as his suit and their embroidered white dresses turned to dirty rags. The father told me his wife had died. He did not know how he could work with no one to look after the girls. Within three months none of the them were still wearing their patent leather shoes. After living four months in the streets, the girl's stomachs were distended and in six months the little family was gone.