“I want you to try on engagement rings,” Eduard said. “Just for fun.”
We were in San Salvador. He’d found us a hotel with a beach we could walk on. We woke early and walked along the beach for more than an hour. We climbed a hill covered with vines and on the other side there was a sea cave. We took off our shoes and our clothes and put them on a high rock and swam naked. We were in the water for half an hour and Eduard said, “Look!” and caught his own wallet floating in the water. He found my shoes in the surf. There was no beach left by our cave and we had to swim out beyond and around the rocks with our clothes in our hands to get back to land. I had wanted to make love on the sand in that cave.
I was hungry but I was hungry in that nice beach way, when you don’t have to eat if you don’t want to.
He rented a convertible. We’d never driven together in a convertible before and I turned the radio up loud. It was not hot in El Salvador that May. He told me that we should put the top up when we were on the highway but I didn’t want to put it up. We never put the top up on that car once the whole week we were in San Salvador. It never rained.
“Well, this is the place,” he said. It was a narrow street but the sun came straight down into it. A dog walked up to our car and started to sniff it. The car was expensive enough that no one would mess with it, for fear of who might own it.
Everywhere you went in Central America, at this time, if you were in a town or a city, you saw serious young brown skinny men with large rifles and submachine guns. I expect it is still the same way today. Two of them stood on each corner of this street. One smoked a cigarette and watched us shyly.
We went into the jewelry store. It was hidden in a bank building, upstairs, and we walked through several anonymous offices and two locked doors before sitting down in a small wallpapered room. They brought us glasses of champagne. I drank mine without hesitating and asked for another. Eduard frowned.
We all sat at a small, elegant table. I’d taken off my wedding ring. “She likes emerald cuts and cushion cuts,” Eduard explained to the jeweler. He was a chubby man with slicked-back gray hair in a black suit. He lay a diamond cloth open on the table.
“One carat? A carat and a half?” He had an Italian accent.
“Nothing under two,” Eduard said. “She likes fancy colors, if you have a vivid yellow. She also likes pinks.”
“We don’t have any pink diamonds over half a carat, Señor Carranza.”
My best friend from college wore a two-carat pink diamond for her wedding ring. She was an attorney in Mexico City, and she handled some business for us. Eduard had met her and he knew I admired her ring.
“I do have a lovely three-stone ring with quarter-carat pinks on either side. The center stone in a carat-and-a-half round, D Flawless. But of course I can call in a larger stone for you. I have the papers on several pinks from our partner store in Rio de Janeiro.”
I had a third glass of champagne. Eduard had a second. He looked at a dozen loose diamonds and chose a 2.45 carat cushion cut, F VVS1, $88,500. The jeweler placed it on my the back of my closed fingers and said, “Wear it out into the sunlight.” The security guard started to walk out with us but the salesman brushed him back into the store.
We stood in the sunlight and looked at the diamond. I said, “It’s not what I had in mind.”
“It’s beautiful,” Eduard said. He put his hand on my back.
“I’m not sure.”
We were playing.
The salesman said, “She wants a pink. She’s right.” He gave Eduard his card.
“If I can call you, sir, I’ll arrange several pinks to show you and the lady.” He bent toward me with a smile. “I can have them here by Wednesday.”
“I’ll call you,” Eduard said. He took the stone off my fingers, looked at me for a moment, and returned it to the man, who took it from him with the diamond cloth and cleaned it before tucking it in his breast pocket. He went back inside after shaking hands. Eduard put his arm around my waist. “Thank you,” he said. “That was fun.”
We went to a local place he knew near the cathedral and got drunk on the owner’s private collection of Peruvian brandy. I decided to drink as much as I wanted. I wanted to celebrate.
I looked at Eduard. I said, “I’m free. You don’t know how good it feels.”
“Are you hungry?” Eduard said.
“No. Are you?”
“I’ll order a few things. The food’s good here.”
When I went to the bathroom I looked in the mirror. My face looked strange. Careful, Brett, I thought. I splashed my face with water, and I went back to the table. I noticed the waiter seemed nervous. I ordered another round, and I thought, That waiter’s afraid of me.
“That jeweler liked your chain,” I said to Eduard. I had given him a heavy 18kt gold Bulgari chain when we were in Miami. It was the only piece of jewelry I’d ever given a man.
“He was too busy checking out your cleavage,” he said.
I took a big swallow of my drink. It was already empty. I took a sip of Eduard’s and waved to the waiter. “Do you take that necklace off?”
“I never take it off. You know that.”
“I mean, when you’re fucking Lurisia.”
“Does it slap her tits?”
“You heard me. Does your necklace slap Lurisia’s tits, when you fuck her? Or anybody. When you fuck your whores.”
I finished his brandy. The waiter came to the table and I ordered two more.
“Can you make a pisco sour?” I asked him. “Two pisco sours.”
“Just one, for the lady,” Eduard said. “Brett, what’s up? A minute ago we were having a perfectly pleasant conversation. I think you should eat.”
“Do they grab it. Your whores. When you eat them out.”
“For Chrissake, Brett.”
“I just want to hear about your necklace, Eduard. The one I gave you. Do they wrap it around your cock?”
He stood up from the table. “Brett, I don’t know what’s come over you. But the way you’re talking to me is not—”
“Is not what? Now that I’m finally telling the truth. Is not what, Eduard? Tell me. Tell me the truth for once.”
“Come with me, Brett. Let’s get something to eat in the room.”
“I’m staying right where I am. You go, then. Get out of here.”
“I’m going back to the hotel.”
“I guess it just lays between their tits,” I said. “The chain I mean. Unless you’re about to come. Then it probably slaps them.” The waiter brought me a pisco sour. I said, “You switch it around backwards, between your shoulder blades, the same way you do when you fuck me.”
“I’ll let you know when I make up my mind. Go to sleep. If I want to I’ll wake you up.”
“We can talk in the morning.”
Clancy Martin is the author of the novels Bad Sex and How to Sell, and the philosophical memoir Love and Lies. A Guggenheim fellow, he teaches philosophy in Kansas City, Missouri, where he lives with his wife the writer Amie Barrodale, two daughters, and an unruly labradoodle.