Bajando of Livingston Guatemala may not look it but he is the town’s Garifuna prince of romance, hands down. Anytime of the day you will find women languishing in Restaurante Sanchez Dias, waiting for the chef to have a moment or an hour for them. Without a doubt each would submit him for star contender in “Guatemala’s Got Talent” if ever that franchise rubbed up against these shores.
Right now two women loaded for bear, one at a table and another sitting at the bar, are formidably perfumed, bangled and entrenched when Veronica and John arrive to sample the specialty: “Camarones con arroz y frijoles,” shrimp with rice and beans. These are Livingston Guatemala style shrimp, each the size of a small child’s shoe.
Bajando greets them with his torch bright smile, a fresh triangle of a scarf over his fraying corn rowed hair and four female eyes following his every move. They are like slow blinking lizards tracking an air looping dragonfly.
Daniel also told them that since Bajando’s arrival six months ago there’s been a steady queue of women seeking his attention, which he has been more than happy to provide.
Veronica and John were like, “This guy; really?”
“Yes. Bajando is a happy man, floating in a limited-time-only joy bubble,” Daniel predicted, with an odd mixture of cheer and remorse. As they passed the Hotel Villa Caribe, he filled them in that wife, Sarah, and their sons would soon be joining him.
Daniel confessed he knows all this because he’s not impervious to the sticky toffee of gossip, which is as thick as an encyclopedia and as persistent and strong as a Gifiti hangover in Livingston Guatemala.
After placing their order for two shrimp plates and two Gallos, Veronica is watching Bajando move around his open kitchen. She takes in and computes the qualities of Livingston Guatemala’s most notorious love machine and is stumped.
She sees a man, maybe in his late 30s, early 40s, of no great height, kind of a chunky build, torso to leg not in the classic proportion, big glasses constantly sliding down a shiny nose. A cute guy in a friendly school crossing guard kind of way. “But what gives with all the lady friends?” she whispers to John.
As he crosses the room with their two beers, he stops briefly at each woman’s sentry spot, offering a smile that seems to satisfy like a full-blown sundae. When he moves through the restaurant, it becomes clear that he can steep a room with a summer mood or any of his choosing. Like he’s a on the way to a party and its main focus is to celebrate you.
“Just a few more minutes for the camarones. Mmm Mmmm Mmmm. These are so good, today I’m teaching them to speak Spanish and giving each one a Christian name,” he says, radiating a warm visceral energy as he puts the beers down on their table. It’s like he’s a human negative ion machine, waterfall or pine forest generating a natural and intoxicating wellbeing that settles over Veronica like fine mist.
As he leaves to look after dinner she’s suddenly feeling like she’s just whacked the piñata out of the ballpark while still managing to keep her pointy kids’ party hat on.
More magic in Livingston Guatemala: she hasn’t felt this way since her sixth birthday; a jittery excitement; an uncluttered hopefulness; a circling of unconditional parental love, as expected and as unanalyzed as the wallpaper in her childhood bedroom.
“Wow. What a gift,” Veronica thinks, as she watches him work his way through the room, floating a grin at each grateful lizard lady on his way back to the kitchen.
“Okay, I get it now,” she proclaims festively to John.
To her dismay, he is gazing at the rooster logo on the Gallo beer label as if it had the mystic answer to the age old poser: why do socks go into the wash in pairs and come out in singles?
He’s out of radio contact again, like he’s been since this afternoon on the beach.
“John?” she presses.
She leans forward, taking his left top and bottom eyelids between her forefinger and thumb, manually opening the lids wide and peering in closely. “John, are you in there?”
Down the street, Angela of Livingston Guatemala is leaving the Hotel Leddie at the end of a long day. As the light turns to evening, the town’s two dozen-plus roosters let off their last call of the day to Angela. Their featherweight brains don’t know how else to communicate all the secrets to Angela, that is, how to return her to her rightful place in the universe.
They don’t know where the socks go either.