Evil vs. the Angels of Stony Island
by Jim Heaney

“So how much money did you give the boy?”
“you are so lame,” she hissed. It even sounded lame to me. Fortunately, before the situation could escalate, the waiter showed up to ask if we wanted some- thing from the bar. “your most expensive wine,” Maria told him.
“The American is paying.” I nodded to the waiter and turned back to Maria.
“Are you really leaving tomorrow?”
“Jim, you knew I had a conference in Montreal on Monday. you knew this was a short trip for us.”
“Okay, I’m sorry. I know this relationship is difficult for you and I was thinking maybe I would come to Toronto soon.” “Oh, this is SO you, Jim. Guess I’ll take an ad in the Globe and Mail, ‘The Great Jim Coming To Toronto.’ For months I’ve been after you to visit, meet my family, but no, not until I’m so mad at you I never want to see you again. THEN you decide to finally favor us with your presence. Well, don’t bother.” I tried the distraction card again.
“Do you know that you were the only one who stopped for the child today? That’s why I love you.” “It takes more than love, it takes commitment. you have until the end of this dinner to make a plan with me or…that’s it. I’m moving on. I’ve met someone else—” The wind must have shifted, because suddenly all I could smell was the smoke from the trash dump.
“—he’s a pilot for Alitalia. He’s stationed in Rome. He’s charming. He’s paisano. Both our families come from Monteleone and we have a lot in common. I’m meeting him later this evening at the Hacienda Disco.” The waiter appeared again and asked if we were ready to order.
“What dish takes the longest to prepare?” I asked.
“It’s a dish called vengeance and is best served cold,” Maria snapped. She pushed back her chair and threw the white table napkin in my face. “you are a donkey.” I watched as she stalked out of the Su Casa.

WE HAD MET A YEAR EARLIER at another Acapulco restaurant, Carlos and Charlie’s. We both were traveling with friends. There were no tables for two so the maitre d’ put us together in a party of four. Maria spoke freely about her family’s migration from Italy to Canada in 1957. Her brown eyes hinted at the men she’d considered and dismissed. As we discussed the cultural differences between our two countries, she expressed her understanding of American fashion but could not comprehend America’s racism. She was open with her feelings on family and sophisticated in every sense but still had a strong simplicity at her core. Life was not complicated for her; she was able to live in the moment. Her life was personal but not selfish, and her kindness flowed quietly like a stream which had no beginning or end. In the months since that first dinner, it became clear to me that Maria could have any man she wanted. She had a low opinion of most American men she had met, and yet…she wanted me. It terrified me.

LUIS DROVE ME BACK to The Acapulco Plaza and picked me up again at eleven. I walked into the disco and scanned the room for Maria. I saw her sitting alone five rows higher than the dance floor. She was glancing down at her watch and then looking around the room. I positioned myself directly across from her but on the other side of the dance floor. As I walked down to the middle of the dance floor, she saw me gesturing for her to come down and dance with me. She smiled, shook her head, and slowly walked down. The guitar and piano music blended perfectly as The Rolling Stones’ “Waiting On A Friend” started. She reached out and took my hand. “If you cared, you would have followed me,” she said.
“Listen to the song,” I whispered.We swayed back and forth, and during the final notes of the song, I pulled the silver bracelet from my pocket and put it on her wrist. “After all the travel, romance and intrigue is over, we’ll grow old together, just you and I and our memories of a glorious life.”
“Are you saying yes to me?” Maria asked.
“No, but I’m getting close. Please come visit me in Chicago after your conference,” I said. “I have visited you so many times that Immigration has flagged me. They think I’m trying to move without permission. I’ve got maybe one more visit before things get sticky. I’ve told you all this before.” Her voice had risen to a scream. She regained her composure and continued more quietly.
“I want to know something. When you look at me, what do you feel?” I paused, and then told the truth. “I feel safe.” “Safe?” I could tell from the tone of her voice that this had not been the answer she had been hoping for. There was a commotion behind me. The airline pilot had arrived. He kissed Maria on both cheeks and introduced her— in Italian—to his crew. He looked at me while she fumbled an introduction. “This is my friend Jim. He’s from Chicago.” He took his fingers, made a gun, looked at his crew, laughed and playfully aimed at me. “Al Capone, huh? Mafia. Bang, bang, bang.” everybody but me thought this was screamingly funny. I looked at Maria and then at the floor. “Give me a moment,” she told the pilot. She took my hand and walked me to the door. “I want to be more than your friend and I certainly want to be more to you than ‘safe.’ I mean, really, Jim, ‘safe’?”

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