A couple of weeks after my return from Cuernavaca, Miguel called me. He told me that Ana Laura had directed him to contact me, to offer me a position as a design engineer in their Mexico City office. Since I was presently “between gigs”, and always enjoyed Mexico, I accepted.
The first project they wanted me to handle, was to design, and begin manufacturing a one kilowatt uninterruptible power supply (UPS), for a desktop computer. At that time the largest capacity UPS on the market for a desktop computer was ½ that, was roughly three times the size of the computer, and allowed about five minutes battery backup. They wanted me to build them a transistorized unit that was only about four inches high, with the same footprint as the processor, and twice the battery time.
And it had to be cheaper than the others.
I put all my stuff in Dallas into storage, and headed south. Ana Laura helped me find a nice condo in a very nice neighborhood, and I moved in. My furniture consisted of a sleeping bag, an ice chest, and a suitcase. All the comforts of home! It was a ten block walk to the office, and a seven block walk to my favorite watering hole. That covered pretty much all my necessities.
I started working on their mini-UPS immediately, and was surprised to see that I hadn’t forgotten all of my engineering studies. Slowly but surely, it all came back to me, and I ended up with a physical design that I was extremely proud of, and even smaller than what they had asked for. From a performance standpoint, its efficiency was higher than either of us expected, and the battery backup was slightly over 15 minutes. I began ordering components for a prototype, and starting working on a conceptual design for an initial manufacturing facility.
A few months after I moved into the condo, I went shopping for furniture. A bed seemed to be the most pressing item, as my back was beginning to complain. Then came a refrigerator. About the time I got those items, Ana Laura called me to ask me if I was interested in a roommate. As I began thinking about how unlikely it was that I would survive inviting Sergio’s daughter to live in sin, she quickly went on to explain that she had a friend – a male friend – that was going through a divorce, had a houseful of furniture, and no place to put it.
Long story short, we met, we clicked, and we agreed! This shortly led to accepting a roommate into my leased condominium, also recently divorced, a textbook womanizer, heavy drinker, inveterate gambler, and in every way, a stable, well adjusted individual. His name was Jorge (hôr´-hay).
Having just rediscovered my freedom, tequila and the joy of decorating my own home to my own tastes (until Jorge moved in, my furnishings consisted of a double bed, a boom-box, and a refrigerator), I was perfectly content to live a life of celibacy. I had my work, my favorite bar, my own place, my liberty to do as I chose, and unfettered use of the bathroom. If I chose to lounge around the house naked, I could do so (although after Jorge moved in, I at least put on some shorts. I never knew who he might have over. He alternated between impromptu trysts, and serious high-stakes poker games.) I felt no need to complicate my life by inviting another female to exercise any kind of control over my happiness. I had already made that mistake once (well, twice, to be accurate), and was in no hurry to repeat my folly.
Jorge, however, was never happy with things as they were. Having divorced his wife, Patti, of 17 years, he promptly began cavorting with yet another Patti (who, strangely enough, had been named in the divorce proceedings). Both Patties were beautiful, intelligent, and pleasant, although Patti #1 was understandably less pleasant to Jorge than was her counterpart. I had the pleasure of accompanying Patti#1 on a short trip to celebrate their son’s graduation from elementary school, and very much enjoyed her company, although I think it might have been more enjoyable for all concerned, except Jorge Jr., if Jorge hadn’t been around.
When I met Patti #2, I was impressed with her presence. She was lovely, a professional, successful in her own right, and a thoroughly enjoyable person with whom to party. However, I was unable to compare her favorably to Patti#1, and asked Jorge what had prompted him to throw away 17 years. His response? “ ‘Sabe?”…which is to say, ‘who knows?’
Then one day, less than a year after his divorce, I came home to find an ecstatic Jorge, bouncing around like a kid with a new toy, bubbling something about him and Patti going to the races next Saturday, and how happy he was.
I knew that Patti #2 and he had gone to the races before, so I was puzzled, and asked him what was so special about taking her to the races again. Imagine my surprise when he told me, “Not that Patti, PATTI!”
“Patti #1?” I asked incredulously.
“No, no! Patti! A new Patti! Patti #3!” he said.
Well, about this point, it occurred to me that my friend had some sort of fixation on the name Patti, and I made a comment to that effect. It didn’t seem to bother him any, as he was still on cloud nine, thinking about the race Saturday. I shrugged it off, and changed my shirt for my daily foray to the bar.
Jorge owned his own business, and one of his employees was from the state of Zacatecas, about a nine hour drive from Mexico City. One Thursday evening, Jorge informed me that he would be out of town for the weekend, as he had been invited to accompany this friend to Zacatecas. He intended to return late Sunday night or possibly Monday morning, so I had the place to myself. I promptly scheduled a party.
Jorge was aglow Monday night, having fallen head over heels in love with his friend’s sister, (you guessed it) Patti! He totally forgot about Patti #2 and #3 (Patti#1 was long since archived), and began to focus upon his conquest of this new prey. He began leaving for Zacatecas earlier every week and arriving later, until he was soon passing four or five days a week there, and overseeing his business via cellular phone, if at all.
By this time, I was convinced that he was deranged, and I was just glad that I had neither a sister nor a daughter named Patti.
After a few weeks of “commuting” like this, Jorge returned, and told me that next week, I had to join him, so I could meet Patti’s friend, Coco. Yeah, right, I thought. That’s just what I need. Not enough that I’m happily single, but now I’ve got a neurotic gad-about that wants to bed every Patti on the planet, and he thinks that he’s qualified to play matchmaker. I declined his gracious offer. Firmly.
He made passing mention a couple more times, that I really ought to ride down with him and meet this Coco, as she was really fun, attractive, a professional, etc. When he told me she had a great personality, my defenses really went up. “No, thanks, Jorge”, I told him. “I think I could seriously consider homosexuality, rather than subject myself to the kind of torture that I know a woman can dish out. You go, have a good time; bring me back something.
Well, he did bring me back something. From Coco. A card. One of those joke cards, you know the type, where you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. It went something like this:
If you throw this card away, you want to kiss me.
If you give this card away, you want to marry me.
If you tear this card up, you want to make love to me.
If you keep this card. . .
And so on…
The bottom line is, if you believe in card prophecy, you soon realize that having laid eyes upon the card, you have absolutely no choice but to acquiesce. I don’t put much stock in cards being able to accurately predict the future, but I was intrigued by someone that would send such a joke to someone they had never met. As Mexican girls go, this lady was a bit forward, and had a sense of humor. I was curious enough that when Jorge repeated his invite the following Friday, I accepted.
From that point on, my fate was no longer in my own hands.
We left Mexico City on Friday afternoon, and flew down to Zacatecas. A couple of hours by plane, versus nine or ten hours driving, each way, for a two-day weekend, that’s a no-brainer, right? Patti (#4, remember?) met us at our gate, and we proceeded to exit the airport. When we approached the doors, I was informed that Patti hadn’t come alone. And so, I was introduced to Maria del Socorro (insert six or seven last names here), nickname – Coco. I can understand why people would opt for nicknames, with thirteen syllable names being so common!
My faith in Jorge was partially restored, when I saw that Coco was, in fact, quite attractive. Enough so that I became a little paranoid that he might have led her to expect more than I was able to deliver in the way of looks. After all, what the hell did I have to offer a knockout like this, a professional, with a respectable position in the state government, pretty as all get-out, from a wealthy family, (did I mention she was gorgeous)? I shook her hand, and in my fluent Spanish (at that point in my life, I probably possessed a maximum ten percent command of the language), proclaimed my pleasure at finally meeting her. I must not have said it too incorrectly, because she didn’t slap me. In fact, she even accepted an invitation to have a drink.
The four of us headed to a place called the Cave, which is a small bar, about a hundred feet below the surface, in a five hundred year old silver mine. Quaint, no?
The booths were HUGE, and Jorge and Patti promptly hit the jukebox and the dance floor, while Coco and I tried to get better acquainted. Unfortunately, I’m a little hard of hearing, and with the jukebox turned up, and a football field for a table between us, I could only watch her lips move. I guess when I suddenly scooted around the table to her side, in order to be able to hear, I made her nervous. She actually began to tremble a little, she got so nervous. By that time, I was SURE I had blown any chance with her, and the night didn’t get much better as it went on.
She didn’t drink, she didn’t want to dance, she started shaking if I even looked at her. Yeah, this was going just great! Then, in an effort to carry on a conversation, she asked me what I did for a living, had I been doing that for a long time, is that what I had studied for, did I enjoy it, etc. When it came out that I had been in the military, she asked me what my job had been. When I told her I had trained to be an electrician, but that I had been cross-trained as a Corpsman when I went to Vietnam, you could have heard a pin drop.
It seems that nearly all the socially-conscious youth in Mexico had heard of the US involvement in Vietnam (imagine that!), particularly the more publicized aspects of it, such as the Me Lai massacre, and were largely of the opinion that all US soldiers, at least during the Vietnam conflict, were a bunch of baby-killers, rapists and murderers, not to mention drug users/dealers, home-burners, and cowards. Most universities had experienced a number of demonstrations against the war (apparently, they felt it likely that Washington D.C. would be swayed by THEM marching in protest, even though they refused to heed the tens of thousands of AMERICANS marching, striking and burning in protest of the war. Now, THAT’s optimism!).
If I thought that Coco seemed a bit standoffish before, now it seemed she might bolt for the door any second. I don’t think five minutes passed before she suddenly noticed the time, yawned, and apologized for keeping me up so late. I had already pretty much written off any hope of seeing her again, so I suggested to Jorge that they drop me off at the hotel, and Coco and they, could head for their respective homes.
We set a time to meet for breakfast, and thanked each other for a lovely evening, and when they deposited me at my hotel, I figured I would be on my own for the rest of the weekend.