And so it began, this waking dream; an embrace, and kisses, so many kisses; a life time’s worth. Fingertips touching, her hands on me and mine on her, until our hearts echoed the primal beat of the selva below. We made love slowly and deliberately until our bodies and souls ached with relief and exhaustion.
When we were finished Alma lay in my arms, her back cradled against my chest. Her hair smelled of the mingling of our sweat. I kissed her neck. She sighed and nestled against me. We faced the window and listened as the sapos croaked their eerie serenades. Alma showed an unusually keen interest in the birds and bats that crossed the borders of the window on their ways to shelter or to feed. We lay until the grandfather clock chimed five.
Alma got up and put on her night gown. “Maria Terèsa will have our dinner ready at seven.” She yawned and stretched and kissed me lightly on the cheek. Alma left through the shared balcony into her and Hèctor’s bedroom.
I put a pillow under my head and just lie there looking up through the mosquito net at the intersection of ceiling beams. I was physically spent and emotionally confused from our ‘love making.’ I thought of the term, ‘love making’. I asked myself if I could love Alma. I was so very, very attracted to her, and I hoped that her participation in the act wasn’t done completely out of revenge toward Hector. I believed she was attracted to me. Yesterday after I carried her back from the stables and she recovered from fainting, we both felt that unmistakable connection, that unguarded and vulnerable opening of the soul to another who also experienced the same feeling at the same instant. That spark between us illuminated the path that we seemed destined to take together.
Here I lie conquered, not by the usual self-loathing, or self-pity, but by something much larger than myself. I also felt oddly at ease, a sense of relief even, that I was being swept along by powers beyond my control. So what if everyone and everything pushed me into this role. I didn’t know if I was being weak for allowing Hèctor to use me, or for succumbing to Alma’s needs and ultimately my frustrated desires. But I went along and played my part.
I didn’t want to be the odd man out either. I remembered how I felt when I saw Sylvie and Alex that day on the street, him with his ‘wonderful’ news, and me left to wonder my lifetime if I was the father of a lost son or daughter. I didn’t want to go through that again with Alma. I could leave any time I wanted. That is, with Alvarez’s cooperation. I could tell the main office the project wasn’t viable. I got out from under the mosquito netting and put my clothes on. I was going to find Leòn. Hèctor and Alma would have to dine without me.
I asked Maria Terèsa. She said Leòn would be by in a little bit and to wait on the swing in the veranda, because he would be coming up out of the selva. I sat and waited.
The sun had not yet set when Leòn entered the rear yard and came up to me.
“Ah Señor Aguila, como estas? Feeling well, I hope.”
“Well enough. I must ask about la señora.”
He knelt in front of me. The dying light played off his hair like a halo. “La señora?”
I wished I could have seen his expression better, but the light was in my eyes. “Why can’t she leave?”
Leòn shifted his weight from one knee to the other. “Señor, she entered your dream, sì?”
“The dream world is a sacred place. Some people who go too often, well, they become part of it.”
“What do you mean, part of it?”
“Each time they enter, they leave part of themselves behind and take something back with them.” I nodded, he continued, “When la señora first came to me and asked if I could help her into the spirit world, she hoped to find peace. She was hurt by something. She called on the jaguar…she called on the jaguar too many times. She only wanted its power.
“She is not strong enough to overcome what she has let into her soul. She will be lost to herself and El Patròn… and to you.”
I sat back in the swing and crossed my arms.
Leòn continued, “Señor Aguila, la señora is becoming her spirit animal.”
“The jaguar,” I said softly.
“Sì, she becomes more and more the huntress. When she is her spirit animal she thinks it and becomes powerful.”
“Does she become a jaguar?” At this point I could believe just about anything.
“Oh no, señor, no, that is impossible. Her soul enters a certain jaguar and that jaguar’s soul enters la señora. When it happens in the night, and la señora sleeps in her bed, so does the jaguar’s soul inside of her. When la señora’s soul enters the jaguar, the jaguar takes her away. At first she could will it to do what she wanted.”
“She takes control of the animal?”
“And if la señora continues?”
“Her soul will be trapped in the jaguar and the jaguar’s soul will be trapped in her. If that happens, neither can live. La señora will go mad and the jaguar will destroy itself, for it cannot live as a person. Since the jaguar is the stronger it will be the master of both her and itself. When that happens, la señora’s soul will no longer be, the jaguar will have consumed it.”
“Can’t we find the jaguar…and kill it?”
Leòn flashed his teeth in a grimace of pain. “To kill the jaguar is the greatest of sins. To kill the jaguar is the same as killing la señora. No señor that cannot be done. It cannot be done.”
“Well, what can be done?”
“The strength of two souls can save her,” Leòn said. He stood and bowed. “Buenas noches, señor.” Leòn headed toward the rear gate and passed into the twilight.