“I cannot count the number of times I have given my deposition,” she said.
“Aha. Then you already know a good deal about how I used to earn my living.”
“I do. If my deposition is never taken again, it will be too soon for me.”
She swirled the remnants of the double vodka in her Old Fashioned glass.
“When I first took this position, we had twenty-two lawsuits pending against the company. I had to work through every one of them with the lawyers and get rid of them.”
“How did you find time for the normal human resources stuff?” he asked.
“Simple. I worked all hours of the day. Still do in fact. The job is 24/7. I checked my cell phone before we left the house tonight. There were six voice messages waiting, all business. I'll take care of them in the morning. I'm on vacation.”
“Helluva vacation when people call you all the time.”
“Has to be. That's all. I am good at what I do, and the money is good, too. I like the money.”
“Excuse me. Si. Otro vodka para mi amiga. Doble. Y para mi, agua mineral por favor. . . . . .No. No. Con nada. Vodka solamente. Si. Gracias.”
This would be her third double. He had grown adept at keeping a count of everyone's drinks at a table, even a table of eight—a skill akin to an experienced Bridge player's ability to keep a count of the cards out in each suit. There had been a time when he could not keep track of his own.
“And where did you say you are from, Steve? Sorry.”
“'s okay. I'm from Iowa. Not where potatoes grow. Where corn grows.”
“I know where Iowa is. What brings you to San Miguel? You're living here now, right?”
“I really don't know.”
“Don't know what? Why you are in San Miguel? If you are living here now? Or whether you are really from Iowa?”
No, no. I am from Iowa. I am sure of that. I have an Iowa Driver's License that says so. Wanna see it?”
“I mean that I would be happy to explain to you if I could,” he said. “It's just that every time I have tried that, my explanation came out so lame, so dopey sounding that it was embarrassing.”
“Is your name really Steve?” She was grinning.
“Oh, come on now. Yes, it is Steve. I am not disbarred. I do not owe the I.R.S. My child support was paid long ago. There is no warrant out for my arrest up there. I am square with all that.”
She drained half of the new double and contemplated her glass for a moment.
“I would love to live here. I wish I could live here right now. I have been coming here for seven years.”
“Why don't you?” he asked.
“My 401K was crucified.”
“Oh, of course it was. I should have known.”
“You have no idea what that feels like. One day my statement is this long.”
She held one hand above her head and the other down by her side below the seat of her stool.
“Then one day my statement comes, and it is one page long. My 401K had disappeared!”
“Not completely, I hope.”
“No, but a big, big chunk had just. . . . .disappeared.”
“It became a 201K?”
She did not laugh. She sat silently for a time. Then. . . .
“I like nice things. I like nice things around me. That is important to me.”
“I see. In other words you could quit and come to live here but not in the way you would like?”
“Exactly. I would like to quit and come here to live just like you did.”
“Ooooooh, now wait a minute. You would not want to come here like I did. I don't have shit, Carmen. I live like a gypsy. You need a house nicely done, like Linda's or Bob and Sharon's. And you need nice things. You just told me that.”
“Yeah, I do. That 401K thing has ruined all my plans. I might have been here by now. I gotta take comfort in what Bob and Sharon told me. That rest of that 401K is still out there somewhere. I need to give it time to come back home.”
“How do you live?”
“Carmen, I honestly don't know. I just do."
“Okay then, what do you do during the day? Just tell me about a typical day.”
“There again, it's very difficult to explain. I have no typical day. Many times I don't know what I am going to do when I get up in the morning. Occasionally, I go on a little excursion here or there with friends or alone. Many times I just explore the city. Or I might stay home and read a book. Or write a book review. . .”
“Book review? You mean like a book review for other people to read?”
“Well, yeah. But nobody reads them. . .Excuse me. Si. Otro vodka para mi amiga. Doble. Gracias.”
“You know something, Steve?” She fixed him with a stare.
“We have been sitting here talking for a pretty long time, and I still don't know a goddamned thing about you. I mean, I know the usual things. I know you have been married before, probably more than once. I know you have children. I know you have grandchildren, although you're not sure how many. I know you were a lawyer. But I don't know one goddamned important thing about you. I mean, I don't know what sets you apart, if you know what I mean.”
“I'm sorry, Carmen. I really don't know what you mean. That's about it. In a nutshell.”
“Sheeees. . . . . . . . "
"Still, I would like to do just what you did, Steve.”
“But Carmen, we have already been over that. You cannot. You cannot do just what I did. You need nice things.”
“Yeah. I know. I know. You're right. Tell me something important about yourself. What is it that sets you apart?”