I’ll spare you the humiliation of the grilling I was subjected to when I presented myself to the Mexican Consulate in Chicago.  In nutshell they were suspicious of the motive of me going back to their country so soon. When asked, I answered:

‘Because I have fallen in love with your beautiful country and would like to explore it more.’

The consul Jose Antonio Arias gives me a skeptical look,  yeah right! He is probably looking for a justification to be able to deny me the visa. That would mean, I would be temporarily out of the job. The prospect would have absolutely devastated me. But before the dismay takes over and shows on my face, something outrageous crosses my mind.  Something that happens only once in a blue moon and only on impulse. I couldn’t possibly have thought it up. I meet the counsel’s gaze.

‘Yes, you’re right.’ I agree with him, even though he hasn’t said anything to my having fallen in love with his country.  ‘Of course I have fallen in love with your beautiful country. But the truth is: during my three weeks stay there, I met this most gorgeous woman in my life. And I think we are in love.’

Still looking skeptical, his face softens.

‘What’s her name?’

‘Maria Elena…Maria Elena Luna.’ The woman that comes instantly to my mind is the typesetter at the Mexican edition. A petite blonde – very pretty. I don’t know how much that convinces him, but what can be more compelling than un hombre enamorado?  He lowers his pointed gaze. Picks up my passport and flips through to the blank page facing my earlier visa.

Entonces, bueno.’

The passport with the visa stamped inside, I rush to the airport.  The American Airlines’ waiting area is mobbed. Still feeling drained and humiliated of  the experience, I am walking around in bit of a haze, completely oblivious to a young man approaching me.

‘Aren’t you Haresh Shah?’

He looks familiar, but I can’t place him right away.

‘Lalo. Lalo Guerro.  From Time?’ Of course. The Mexican young man. He is now working for American Airlines as their on-site PR agent. I tell him about my job with Playboy and about just having started a Mexican edition of the magazine.

‘Give me your boarding card!’ he practically snatches it away from my hand. Walks over to the check-in counter, walks back  and hands me another boarding card. ‘I’ve got to run to the Dallas flight. Have a nice trip.’ And he disappears in the crowd, as suddenly as he had appeared. He has upgraded me to First Class.

I don’t even like champagne, but don’t turn it down when the flight attendant  hands me a flute with the bubbles hurriedly rushing up.  As I sip on the dry and crisp, chilled-to-perfection glass of Moët et Chandon, I feel my humiliation and frustrations  dissolving like an Alka Seltzer in a glass of water.

© Haresh Shah 2013

Illustration: Jordan Rutherford

Next Friday, February 8, 2013

MY LATIN VALENTINE

Premonition?  I certainly don’t believe in such nonsense! But then there are times when you can’t help but give such a notion the benefit of the doubt. Because on my trip after the Chicago visa debacle, I meet an exotic morena  at a party and we promptly fall in love.

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