Over the Wall – A Short Story

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A piece of fiction…

The old stucco bruised black under the spray from the rattle can, as Sam’s arm moved with swift, measured strokes. He had been in Lima for two weeks now, throwing up murals on walls and buildings in the Barranco and Chorrillos districts in the southern part of the city. He paused to step back and look at the gray scale image of a woman’s face in half profile. He had used the underlying stucco for the white skin tone, shading in her features with black and grey. Her black hair was laced with here and there with colored strands. Humming birds hovered near the flowers tucked behind her ears, a rainbow snake draped her shoulders and formed the lower border.

A group of young boys who had been playing in the street nearby, ran up to give their opinions. One of the boys, about ten and of Mestizo blood, spoke to Sam in rapid fire Spanish. “Señor, she looks just like the new americana chic who works in the clinic. You must have a big crush on her. Hey friends, the artist is in love.”

The other boys laughed and teased at Sam, who replied in Spanish with only a slight American accent. “No, I haven’t met her yet Juan, perhaps you could introduce us?”

“Anything man, but I’m telling you, you’re going to be hooked, like that!” Juan snapped his fingers and the other boys hooted and laughed. “She is so sexy, aye yay yay!” He continued, “You don’t know! Her face is delicate and fine like a mouse, she moves like a panther, and she has the haunches of a thoroughbred horse!”

Sam laughed with the others, “Juan, you are only ten, and you sure know a lot about animals and sex.” The younger boys turned their teasing to Juan, who blushed and stammered to defend himself.

Sam returned to the wall, tagged his name on the woman’s shoulder, and then packed his spray cans and line stencils into his backpack. He took a couple photos, then walked up the street to get a wide-angle shot of the mural framed by the surrounding buildings and shops. The bursts of color surrounding the woman’s face, with her simple, direct gaze, gave her a certain vulnerable beauty he hadn’t intended. He thought to himself, if she was indeed real, he wouldn’t mind meeting her.

Sam was very much into meeting women, and the challenge of getting them into bed, but once the initial excitement was gone, so was he. The long term relationships of his twenties had always ended for one reason or another, and he saw no point in enduring the day to day monotony of always being with one woman, when it would eventually terminate in hurt feelings and packed boxes to be hauled off to a new life.

Committing to a woman also required a lot of time, and time was Sam’s most precious resource, which he devoted almost completely to his work. In his relationships with women, he would inevitably become bitter at the endless dinner parties, the family functions, the constant invitations from friends for this or that event, and the movie and restaurant going, all of which he could ignore as a bachelor.

Sam had built a name for himself in the graffiti art scene, and his friendships were primarily with other artists like himself, mostly male, who made badass part of their body language. Women could practically smell his confidence, and adored him for his angular features, crooked smile, and big, round eyes. Sam was keenly aware that, while women might say they want caring, romantic men, what gave them that special tingle was adventure and something just out of reach. While he worked this to his own advantage, Sam saw it as fair trade. He gave women the excitement they desired, and they gave him the sex he craved. Sam was always quick to lay down the expectations for each new fling, no getting attached, no needy or insane behavior, and above all else, the art comes first.

One morning, Sam woke up in the bed of a woman he had met the night before, got dressed, and hit the streets the same time the sun was coming over the tops of the trees. He threaded his way down angled streets and alleyways that cut through the chaotic and closely packed buildings of Barranco, and it reminded him of how boring American cities are in comparison. Here, it was a 3D patchwork of pastel and tertiary painted homes and shops, old trees grew up out of impossibly small bits of earth, and a pristine church sat in juxtapose with a crumbling stone and mortar wall, both at least several hundred years old.

Sam stopped at a cafe for coffee and food. A short while later he was working on a sketch, when the sound of high heeled shoes on the cobblestones caught his attention. From behind his sunglasses he watched a light-skinned woman, with dark hair falling from under a straw fedora, approach and take the table next to him. She sat in the shade of the umbrella, facing the street, and pulled a book from her bag before ordering coffee and empanadas.

Sam could tell from her accent, figure, and sunburned shoulders that she was American, she worked out regularly, and she had recently arrived in South America. She had an obvious sense of style and looked comfortable in her own skin, which suggested to Sam that she might be capable of interesting conversation on the way to the bedroom. He set down his sketch book and turned to give her his full attention.

In English he said, “I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that you also have a Spanish-English dictionary in that bag of yours.”

The woman looked up, slightly confused, and put a hand on her bag protectively. She looked him up and and down, and he removed his sunglasses, after which she relaxed slightly and smiled. “My Spanish is pretty bad, isn’t it?”

“Not enough to make native speakers cringe, but enough to tell you haven’t used it much since high school.”

“Guess my extra two years in undergrad didn’t help much either.” She said.

Sam grinned widely. “You spend some time here and the vocab will come back, and your ears will tune your tongue.”

“That’s what I’m hoping. Have you been here long?” She asked.

“A little over three weeks in Lima, going on a year and a half south of the border. And you?”

“I arrived, let’s see, ten days ago now, although it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long.”

The waiter arrived with her empanadas and coffee, after which they continued talking, sharing stories of traveling misadventures, previous cities where they each had lived, the colleges they had attended. Sam learned that her name was Marree, and that she was a dissatisfied research scientist, thirty years old, who had quickly lost her drive to work for big pharma and decided to work a stint in the Peace Corps, perhaps eventually finding a teaching position at a university in Central or South America. Sam told her about how he took his art career to the streets after college, working shit jobs and racking paint, running from cops and eventually gaining a name for himself, then taking it on the road around the U.S. and now south. When morning turned to afternoon, they exchanged emails and he gave her his cell number. They agreed they should hang out again soon and made promises to connect.

Walking back to his studio, Sam realized he hadn’t run his normal game at all. He stopped and turned to look back down the street in the direction of the cafe, wondering how he had failed to continue engaging Marree until they ended up in bed together. The blare of a bus horn shook Sam and he leapt to the side of the road.

“Careful son!” Said an old woman, sitting on a stoop nearby.

Sam smiled to her, “I lost my head, day dreaming about a girl.”

“A girl, eh?” She laughed and shielded her eyes from the sun to look up at Sam. “Take it from this old woman, if you’re crazy in the head, better to follow your heart…just tell it to watch out for traffic!”

The old woman slapped her knee and laughed. Sam grinned and shook his head, promised her he would be more careful, then continued up the street.

A few days later, Sam was in the main street market of Barranco, looking for quinoa, chicken, and sweet peppers for dinner, when he noticed a familiar figure in the crowd. It was Marree, a red flower tucked behind her ear, matching the color of her sun dress. Sam savored the sight for a moment, then overheard her about to pay too much for a bottle of Peruvian flower water. Sam stepped up and spoke to the vendor in Spanish, “Aye man, just because her skin is the color of milk doesn’t mean she’s rich, half the sols you are asking is a fair price.”

Marree turned to look at Sam and smiled, seeing the familiar face. “Did you just tell him I look like milk?” she said, laughing.

“Only that his price is too high.” Switching back to Spanish, he haggled for a bit more, then turned to Marree, “He will sell you you the large bottle for twenty sols, or two American dollars.”

“Seriously? I was happy to pay more. He probably has a family to take care of.” She replied.

Sam looked her in the eyes, “He does have a family, but that’s not the point. The point is, he was asking an outrageous sum because of the color of your skin.”

Marree raised an eyebrow and looked at him for a moment. Then she dug in her purse and pulled out two dollar bills and handed them to the vender, who smiled and thanked her profusely, before handing her the bottle and shooting a quick glance at Sam.

They left the booth and continued walking through the market, with Sam pointing out to Marree the vendors who had the best goods and what days to visit them, while teaching her some bartering phrases. Sam enjoyed their easy conversation and Marree’s curiosity, and he teased her about her constant questions.

“I like to know stuff, I’m a scientist.” Marree replied.

Stopping so Marree could inspect some jewelry, he stood watching her for a moment, then realized he hadn’t been running his usual game on her, yet again. They were flirting, for sure, but Sam felt somehow more genuine in his interaction with Marree. She was so quick to question or call bullshit in such a friendly, mischievous manner, that he had dropped the tactical maneuvering and moved into the moment.

Waiting for her purchase to be wrapped, Marree turned to glance back at Sam, meeting his eyes with an open expression on her face, and looking, in that moment, like the woman he had painted on the wall days before. Little Juan had been right.

Marree turned and stepped up to Sam with an exaggerated swagger, “How do you like those haggling skills? Not bad, huh?”

“Not bad. But I think the owner just wanted to reward your enthusiasm. Good news is, you’ve moved from Ignorant Gringa up to Novice Haggler.”

“What?” Marree’ shoulders sagged, “Novice? Really? I thought for sure I’d be at least Intermediate Haggler of Goods in a Second Language.” She smiled winningly. Then she grabbed Sam by the arm and said, “C’mon, let’s get some lunch, all this haggling makes me hungry.”

“Fabulous idea, but I have one better. How much time do you have?”

“Not much. After lunch I gotta go over some case files for work.”

“Do you need internet access?”

“Nope.”

“Perfect!” Sam clapped and rubbed his hands together. “Tell you what…I have some work to do too, so let’s grab some food to go and ride out to Mirador Herradura. It’s got a view of the ocean and beaches, up to La Punta and Isla San Lorenzo.”

“I can’t, I really need to get caught up on this shit for work.”

“Can you do it sitting quietly in a peaceful setting with an epic view? I’ll be there, but doing my own thing,” Sam cocked his head to one side and raised an eyebrow. “I actually think you’re more likely to be the one disturbing me.”

Marree pursed her lips and furrowed her brow, leaning in to wag a finger in Sam’s face. “You don’t know everything.” She relaxed into a smile and looked around at the market stalls and the people shopping. “Alright,” she said, turning back to him. “But promise me we’ll return before dark.”

“Deal.”

They rode out on Sam’s motorcycle to the hook of land that extends into the Pacific Ocean in the southern part of town. Weather worn cliffs striated with red and brown rock sloped down into broken fingers of stone jutting at various angles from the sea. They walked down the visitor trail with their lunches and backpacks before Sam led them past a “Trail Closed” sign, down a path below the main vista point. They ate next to an old, concrete sea wall, the remains of an older lookout area. Across the water, the building and skyscrapers of Lima lined up along the waterfront. Further north, Isla San Lorenzo sat low and dark just off the spit of La Punta. The  breeze of the ocean gently tugged at them while the waves rhythmically crashed against the rocks below.

Sam, true to his word, excused himself after eating, leaving the flat area where they had picnicked, taking his backpack and walking the uneven rocks below the sea wall, looking at the weather beaten concrete intently. Marree sat blissfully for a few moments before beginning her own work, pausing to roll her eyes at Sam when he donned his respirator mask, shaking spray paint in each hand.

After several hours, Marree rose and stretched, then walked down to where Sam was painting. The grey concrete was now a canvas for a Quechuan Indian boy, dressed in a black skirt, a vibrant jacket of reds, purples, and blues. He wore the traditional flat round hat on his head, and in his hand, a rope that held a grinning alpaca. Sam stopped as Marree approached and took off his respirator.

Marree was silent for a moment, the gentle roar of the breaking waves behind them and the flapping of the wind was the only sound. “Sam, it’s beautiful.”

“Thank you.”

“I have to say I’m envious of you. You do what you love, you don’t sacrifice your time to some corporate job, you’re traveling. How do you pull this all off, seriously, I want to know. You have student loans and bills to pay, same as me. I’m obviously doing it wrong.”

Marree stood there, her dark hair dancing on the wind around her face, and Sam met her eyes briefly before turning to look out at the ocean. “I wasn’t always this way. I used to talk about what I was going to do, far more than actually doing it.”

He glanced over at Marree and found that she was looking intently at his face. He offered a small smile, then looked back at the ocean. “My best friend Darren and I would always talk about the things we wanted to do, and yeah, sure, we did some cool stuff. But much of our time was devoted to surviving, working five days a week and blowing off steam the other two. I had a college degree but still worked tending bar…Darren had more raw talent than me, but just couldn’t take the shit hours or crappy management it took to be successful in a design career, any more than I could. Then one weekend we stayed at a friend’s cabin, a group of us, and I arrived home afterwards to learn that Darren and his girlfriend had been killed in a car accident, just thirty minutes behind me.”

Marree quietly put a hand in through his elbow, and stood with him, arms linked, facing the sea.

“After that, I didn’t want to take anything for granted. I knew that if I didn’t start then, I never would. And I haven’t stopped since.”

Sam and Marree looked at each other. He took deep breath and relaxed his shoulders, it wasn’t often he told that story. “At first it was all PBR and ramen noodles, couch surfing, mooching off girlfriends…but I didn’t stop drawing and painting. Right around that time, street art began to move into the galleries. The elite crews were getting worldwide recognition, artists like me that used to be underground criminals started selling high end art or clothing lines. The practice paid off, I rode the wave, and here I am.” He held out his hands, spanning their view, an ocean in one, a South American capital in the other.

Marree lightly punched Sam in the ribs. “You’re so dramatic.”

Sam spun and caught her in his arms and she squealed. “You like it!” he said.

Marree tried badly not to smile and did not attempt to get away. They stood quietly for several moments, looking into each other’s eyes. Sam didn’t kiss her, although he wanted to, and as the moment lingered, he caught a stormy look in Marree’s eyes. It reminded him of a thunderhead approaching on the horizon.

Sam pulled away. “C’mon, I promised to get you back to the city before dark.”

Marree seemed to swallow something she was about to say, before walking up to get her things. Sam was packing his empty rattle cans when he stopped and called up to her, “By the way, there’s an art opening in Barranco tonight for an artist I know. There’s going to be art, some music, possibly interesting people…would you like to be my date?”

“You’re not sick of me yet?”

“I can tolerate you a bit more. Besides, showing up with a hot scientist will make me look good.”

“Ha! Any other services I can provide for you, el jeffe Sam?”

“We’ll see.”

Later that evening, Sam took a taxi to Marree’s small apartment and was pleasantly stunned by the sight of her walking out to the cab in a well-cut, black cocktail dress, hair coiffed and curled, with a simple strand of pearls around her neck. In the taxi, Marree asked Sam about the artist, whose work they would see tonight, and about why so many graffiti artists had begun to travel around the world doing their art. Sam enjoyed the look in her eyes as she processed what he said, and the spark that ignited as she came up with a new question to ask, feeding her curiosity. He also appreciated that Marree challenged ideas that didn’t make sense or didn’t fit with her own experiences. He made a mental note that in the future, he should hang out with more sexy science chics.

The art gallery was in the Barranco district of Lima, a small district situated in and around a shallow ravine that runs out to the cliffs overlooking a sandy beach, a popular destination for the aristocracy in the 19th century. The architecture of the homes, restaurants,  and other buildings, clearly reflected the classic Spanish colonial style, and in the 20th century, had become a gathering place for artists, musicians, and poets.

The gallery itself was inside the Biblioteca, the old public library facing a large, open square. The flat walls were painted a deep magenta and detailed with cream colored trim work and doric columns, topped in the center with an ornate clock tower. Sam was greeted warmly by the the hosts, a husband and wife both wearing black formal wear that was richly embroidered, and each with long, salt and pepper hair pulled back into braids. Sam made introductions, the woman taking Marree by the arm like family, while the husband jokingly begged Marree to convince Sam to spend more time painting on canvas rather than on walls, confessing that his real motivation was to sells Sam’s work, make a fortune, and to retire to a villa in the mountains.

More guests arrived and Sam and Marree excused themselves, stopping at the bar for glasses of wine, then walking along the gallery walls to view the paintings. The other guests reflected the bohemian nature of the Barranco district, including those of indio, Spanish, and mixed blood from various Latin American countries, expat Europeans, Israelis, and even a few Chinese. Sam marveled at Marree’s ability to engage others, with her genuine interest and generous laughter, as they entered into and out of various conversations during the evening.

After many introductions, several glasses of wine, and dancing, Marree suggested they go outside for walk down the Bajada de los Baños, the walkway that runs through Barranco to the sea. Outside, the air had cooled from the heat of the day, the old buildings rested quietly in soft pools of light from the street lamps, and a gentle breeze carried the salty smell of the ocean.

Sam and Marree walked arm in arm, sharing with each other which people they had found interesting, and laughing at others. They paused together on the Bridge of Sighs, looking out over the illuminated gardens and courtyards in the ravine below, where tall, slender cacti rose up like quiet men without hats. When Sam looked at Marree, she had that stormy look in her eyes again. Sam reached up gently, a hand on each of her cheeks, and pulled her close, kissing Marree and feeling that passionate storm break over him. Sam accidentally knocked loose a clip holding up her hair, which fell down around her face and enveloped him. Inside that space, the fine, delicate features of Marree’s face took on the quality of ageless youth, and Sam imagined that he was young again, a teenager filled with reckless passions, and Marree was sixteen, he was discovering beauty for the first time, and nothing else existed except for the two of them, their lips and their bodies pressed together.

Sam was mesmerized, and slowly, a firm conviction formed in his mind and repeated again and again as he looked at Marree, ‘I choose you.’ He didn’t speak these words, but held them steadily inside. After a time, Marree laid her head gently against Sam’s chest and they stood with arms wrapped around one another, looking out across the rooftops that marched down to the cliffs above the ocean. Then she looked up at him and said, “I want to go home with you.”

The next day, Sam woke up early and left Marree sleeping in his bed, taking his sketch book and coffee up a flight of stairs to the rooftop. The silence of the night was replaced by the excited chatter of birds and activity of the city streets below. Drawing, Sam lost track of time until he heard a soft rustle behind him and looked up to find Marree walking out with a blanket wrapped around her shoulders, hair tousled, and a satisfied grin on her face.

“Hi Sam.”

“Morning Marree.” He said, returning the smile.

She revealed a cup of coffee from inside the blanket, and the fact that she wasn’t wearing any clothes, and took a seat next to him at the table.

“This place is so beautiful,” she said.

Sam saw a brief shadow pass across her face, her smile dimming slightly with a small sigh.

She looked at Sam. “Why did I have to meet you now?”

“What do you mean?” Sam asked.

“It’s just…I feel like I could exist here, perfectly happy, forever. But I can’t.”

Sam looked puzzled, but waited for her to explain.

Marree looked out over the city for a moment, then turned back to Sam, “Like I said when we met, I’m only at the clinic here in Lima for training. Next week I leave for the village, where I’ll work for the next two years. But I want more time here. With you.”

Sam had forgotten that fact, which in the beginning had seemed like the convenient makings for a short affair, but now carried the heavy weight of fate. He took a drink of his coffee and swallowed hard. Looking out over a city that was full of variety and rich with detail, Sam thought now about what that city didn’t have for him. He shrugged.“In that case Marree,” Sam said, setting down his mug and looking her up and down with an evil grin, “I better not waste any time!”

He pulled her up out of the chair and she fell, shrieking and laughing, into his arms. The blanket fell from her shoulders and Sam kicked it out flat before they tumbled down on it together, their bodies joined under the warmth of the equatorial sun.

The next day Sam got up early and headed to the outskirts of Lima, into one of the poorer slums, and spent the day throwing up a mural on a thirty-foot section of a cinder block wall. Returning after dark, he saw a missed call and several texts from Marree. He didn’t call her back.  He went out for a few beers to decompress from the day’s work, then passed out early.

The next morning he woke up, checked his phone, and read a text from Marree: “WTF? Your phone better be dead, or you better be dead, cuz I am very much alive and wanting to see you.”

Sam sighed, and smiled, “Fuck.” He started to text her back, then stopped. He made coffee. He picked up the phone and read her message again, “Goddamnit.” It was noon before he texted her back. He stayed at his studio for the day, painting, before meeting Marree for dinner and drinks.

Marree was playful and teasing when they met outside the restaurant, but Sam didn’t smile much. Halfway through their second drink, Marree went straight for it. “Sam, you’re acting weird. What’s up?”

“Nothing, just…I don’t know. Been feeling like I’m in two places at once the last few days. I mean, I’m working…yesterday, I turned an ugly wall in the slums into a piece of art, today I painted all day, but I’m not feeling it. I don’t know what’s going on, I think I’m done here in Lima.”

Marree look softened and she placed a hand over his. “You’re a nomad, huh?”

He looked at her, but said nothing.

“Well, I’ll tell you what,” she said. “I am all for pouring passion into things…art, music, dance…but one thing I’ve come to believe is that human connection is the most important thing for us. Connecting with other people. It’s what we all want, yet find a really hard time doing. To connect with other people, you have to give up a little bit of yourself, and that’s not always easy. It seems to me you might be avoiding that…but I can understand why.”

Sam took his hand and put it on top of hers, giving a slight squeeze. “It’s true, I agree.” He leaned back and took a sip of wine, letting go of her hand. “I don’t know, get like this sometimes. Things seem off and I don’t know why. It’ll pass. I’m glad to be here with you now though.” He raised his wine, and their eyes met as the glasses clinked together. All he saw was Marree.

Sam and Marree spent time together over the next several days, as they both prepared to leave, but the night before Marree was to catch a bus out of town, Sam didn’t return her calls. He had agreed to go with her to the station in the morning. Sam woke up to the downstairs buzzer for the door, squinted at a clock, then got up. As her threw on pants and a shirt, he looked at the woman in his bed. He couldn’t remember her name. That’s going to be awkward, he thought, then he went down to answer the door. It was Marree.

“You look like shit. Did you just wake up?”

“Thanks, yeah…” Sam replied hoarsely.

“I have an hour until I leave, I thought we could have coffee.” Marree turned to grab her bags from the taxi.

“Uh, hang on.” Sam said. “I’ll be right back down. Lemme grab some shoes.”

Their conversation over coffee was awkward, and Sam was distracted. At the station, with Marree’s bags strapped to the top of the bus, Sam hesitated, then reached in his backpack and pulled out short roll of canvas and handed it to Marree.

Marree unrolled it to reveal a painting of her face in full profile, with jungle flowers in her hair, and a rainbow serpent draped over her bare shoulders.

“Oh Sam, it’s so beautiful!” She hugged him, then pulled back and looked him in the eyes. “So, you don’t want to talk to me, but you want to give me this really beautiful painting?”

Sam shrugged.

“You’re a funny guy Sam, but I’m glad I met you. I hope you find what you’re looking for.”

“Yeah,” Sam sighed. “Me too.”

Marree kissed him on one cheek, then touch the other with her hand, smiling. “Bye Sam.”

“Take care Marree.”

After Marree got on the bus and it pulled away, Sam turned in a full circle, looking at the city around him. It had brought him something unexpected, something beautiful, but also something short-lived, like a gift he couldn’t accept. He didn’t want to think about it, it was time to move on.

Sam pushed south, stopping to paint murals in several of the coastal towns of Peru and Argentina, working his way down to the rugged tip of Tierra del Fuego. When he wasn’t on the road, he was painting, and strangely, he felt a new energy had come into his work. He couldn’t help but think of Marree often, transforming his memories of her into a muse for his art. In Buenos Aires, he met up with two other American artists, and they worked together for three weeks, painting in the slums that surrounded the city. Their work was documented by a journalist from an arts and culture magazine from the States, which gave them an eight page spread in the next run. In the interview, Sam said he had found a new muse in Peru, and he wondered if Marree would ever read it, and if she would know he was speaking of her.

Three months after leaving the bus depot in Lima, Sam got a call from a good friend in New York. His friend had sent some of the photos Sam had emailed back from Central and South America to a publisher. The publisher was offering to publish a book with the complete collection of his murals in Latin America, as well as the paintings he had done during that time. The money earned would easily support Sam for two years or more living in the States, and longer still traveling or living in developing countries. Sam told his friend to go for it.

Part of the deal involved Sam returning to New York and working with a writer to tell the stories of the journey and the art that would be featured. One night, still in Buenos Aires, Sam was packing up his paintings to be shipped back home, thinking of Marree and their time together. Since his friend’s phone call, every time Sam had imagined flying back to the States, his thoughts had turned to her, imagining her working in some anonymous village in the Andes. Packing made leaving a reality, and she felt now like a tie to this land he couldn’t break.  He paused, and allowed this feeling to sink in. He wasn’t done here. He couldn’t go home yet.

It wasn’t until he was sitting on a cramped and overcrowded bus, heading up the near vertical wall of the Andes mountains, that he began to have second thoughts. Was he crazy? Did he expect to show up out of the blue after several months and have some woman he had know only briefly fall into his arms? Even if she did, what then? She still had a commitment there for another year and a half. Sam continued to question his sanity on the slow, torturous passaged up the seemingly endless switchbacks. Stopping in a small town that marked the midway point of the mountain pass, and the beginning of their descent on the other side, Sam decided to turn around. Another bus would be returning to Lima in the morning.

Sam sat eating lunch and drinking a beer in a small cantina, wondering if there was a decent place to spend the night, when he saw a group of Quechuan Indian children walking with a young woman up the road. He was reminded of the mural he had done on the sea wall, while Marree worked quietly nearby. They hadn’t talked much that afternoon, each busy with their own work, but somehow that time together had sealed their of bond friendship. He longed for that simple companionship again, that intimate connection with a woman, with another human being, with Marree. He remembered the conviction he had, looking at her, saying silently, ‘I choose you.’

The mountain peaks rose steeply around him. Another conversation in the cantina broke out in laughter. Sam finished his beer then stood up, looking around at the faces of strangers, some smiling, some without expression. Then he grabbed his bag and left.

 

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