I was only slightly nervous as I drove through the iron gates to his house. Broad-leaved tropical trees arched over the long driveway, casting it in speckled shade, a welcome relief after the hot, dry, dusty roads I took to get there. Bougainvillea of every shade of pink grew underneath in abundance, and a sweet, exotic, slightly familiar scent wafted through the open windows of my car. When I crested the hill, I was stunned by the view. His house stood at the very top, above the dense jungle canopy. The trees fell away down into the valley below and then climbed back up to the far ridge, and the ridge beyond that, and the ridge beyond that, each fading further away in the late afternoon light.
I took a second to gather myself, make sure I was presentable. Checked earrings and sunglasses, made sure my hair was still neatly tied after the windblown drive. I couldn’t resist putting my camera in my pocket, although I had been warned that he wouldn’t allow pictures to be taken. His PR people didn’t want them get out on the internet and ruin his image, but this was my one chance, and I didn’t want to miss an opportunity.
I couldn’t believe I was really here. I had just happened to mention, when making small talk with the woman who runs the bed and breakfast where I was staying, that I had heard he lived in the area. Without hesitation she said she would make a few calls and find out if there was a chance I could meet him. She thought it would be fun for a single woman like me on vacation to see a little of the local wild life, as she euphemistically called it, then laughed her lightly chiming laugh.
I had been told there might be a few other people invited, and I could see them milling around in the living room through the wide open front doors, cool drinks in hand. Young women mostly, naturally. Don’t be silly, I told myself, as I noticed the twinge of jealousy. It’s not like you expect him to notice you, you just want to see what he’s really like. See him in his native habitat, so to speak. Tell the folks back home you met him.
I joined the group in the living room, and after a careful look to see if I could spot him anywhere, wandered around scanning the publicity photos on the walls. I had just started getting a little bored, when a distinctly frazzled middle-aged woman entered and told us that he and his friends were down in the “play house” and if we would just follow her, we were invited to join them there.
With giggles and a grabbing of each other’s arms, the young women filed out the front doors in quickstep after her. I wasn’t yet out the door myself, when I heard the young blond with a tattoo on the back of her neck squeal, “He’s soooooo cute!”
The play house turned out to be an open air cabana with hammocks to lounge in and slides to play on, even a fireman’s pole to slide down to the next level, if one were inclined to do so. The party was in full swing. There must have been eight or ten of his friends, beautiful specimens all. Handsome, expressive faces, soulful eyes, graceful, long-fingered hands, each immaculately groomed.
I was the last to enter and stood slightly off to the side, just inside the door. He must have spotted me from the upper level and came bounding down to greet me. He was gorgeous: wiry, warm brown hair, distinguished white beard and whiskers, eyes like deep primal pools. Before I could so much as say hello, he grabbed my arm in both of his elegant hands, gave me a squeeze, and swung into my arms. I was completely charmed. He was everything that I had expected and more. I looked down into his smiling eyes and said “Nice to meet you.” In response, he started playing with my hair. Gently at first, then more roughly. I reached up and guided his hand away. He thought for a second, then touched my face.
His lean, athletic body was surprisingly supple and without any warning he climbed out of my arms, up to my shoulder and onto the top of my head. Which is pretty much what I had always wanted to happen. But then he started rolling around, rubbing my hair all over his body, private parts included. I reached up and lifted him by the chest and he jumped onto the table in front of me, sat back emitting mischievousness from every pore. He leapt directly onto my head. I reached up again. This time he wrapped his tail around my arm and swung back and forth upside down. I reached down with my other hand and he climbed back into my arms, like a baby. A baby with perfectly matched, wickedly sharp teeth, that is.
He jumped back on the table, sat back, eyes gleaming, then leapt, grabbing my forearm with his hands. He hung there for a second, then swung his feet up and wrapped his whole body around my arm, belly pressing against it. I reached over to scratch him behind the ear, and he leapt back to the table, opened his mouth in a wide, white-toothed smile, and started to laugh his little monkey laugh. Again and again we played that game, him laughing all the while.
Then he tired of me. Without so much as a “Here’s looking at you kid,” he sought another woman’s attentions. What more could I expect? I have no regrets. It was short, but sweet, and no matter what happens, we’ll always have Costa Rica.