I am crisscrossing Europe with my friend Ranjan from Bombay, and of the cities in Europe we have seen so far, Venice certainly takes us to a dreamland like no other. I notice a self-congratulating chuckle on the face of the gondolier for having said something so clever as to pair the great lovers with the great liars. Perhaps more true of the Latin lovers than the others. The reputation they must have earned from the speed with which they move forward, totally infatuated in pursuit of the objects of their desire.

My friend Irene in Chicago is head over heels in love with Bruno – a  handsome singer guitarist playing at a Lincoln Park venue around the corner from her apartment.  He is good looking for sure, soft spoken, charming and a smooth operator. Irene believes in whatever lies he tells and the promises he makes. And before any of us realizes, Bruno has moved in with her. We actually like Bruno and are even charmed by him. But we are protective of Irene. She is particularly vulnerable and we don’t want her once again to be hurt. We suspect all along and tell Irene that he is probably happily married with kids back in Mexico. But something as trivial as that never stopped Irene from her amorous escapades. And then he is gone. As we had suspected, before departing, Bruno confesses to Irene that he indeed has a family in Mexico and is in Chicago to  make a few fast bucks. Whether Irene expected him to leave his family and stay with her, I don’t know. But she is devastated nevertheless. Like others before Bruno, Irene manages to move on with time. Though I know, he was for her more than just a fling.

Fortunately, in most cases, it’s just that. A fling. Short and sweet. Just like one of the two American Playmates I had invited to come to Mexico some years earlier to help us promote the local edition. We are in Acapulco and have an afternoon off.  We linger at the beach front bar restaurant long after lunch. While one of them decides to waddle through the sand with a juicy paperback in her hands and stretches out on her stomach, baking under the sun, the other decides to be adventurous and signs up for parachute jumping. So off she goes with an instructor. Young, svelte, gleaming bronze tan and of the body toned like an iron statue – Roberto is certainly handsome. He speaks reasonably good English and is probably tickle pinked that he gets to help this American beauty – a Playmate, no less. He is vivacious and charming as he buckles her up and snaps in the parachute. Gives a little push on the small of her back, she taps her feet on the sandy ground and struts towards the approaching waves. The parachute unfurls and she is airborne. Roberto shades his eyes and watches her pulled up and away.

By the time she comes back down on the earth, she is exhilarated and giggly. Roberto unsnaps her and helps her undo her gear. Free of constraints, he gives her a congratulatory hug and like a true galan, escorts her back to us. All of these couldn’t have taken more than total of ten minutes. But for a true Latin lover, that’s more than enough time to hook his prey. I can just imagine his squeezing in hola guapa, que bonita eres and don’t you want to have a drink with me? along with other phrases of endearments that Latin languages are so rich with and come natural to them. How can you even begin to compete with te amo and eres mi corazon, or ma chérie amour and j’taime in French or ciao bella and bellissima in Italian?  In comparison, you’re beautiful, i love you and ich liebe dich sound absolutely hollow.

The next morning, we meet again at the same table and are waiting for the Playmate to join us for breakfast. As punctual as she normally is, it seems a bit strange that she isn’t there already. She is about half an hour late when we see her making her way towards us, swinging on the arm of, who else? Roberto. They part with a quick peck on cheeks and as she approaches us and as if in answer to the big question mark on our faces, she is all smiles. No need for her to elaborate. Her smile and how radiant she looks tells us all. We all smile back the knowing smiles. Thinking: Good for her. Knowing well that it’s just a passing fling and there is nothing for us to worry about. And so it was. Some months later she is married to a good American boy back home.

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