What’s in a Name?
He was in L.A.X. on the side for international departures. His passport was fresh and he felt the same way. It was his first trip out of the country in three years. He was wasting time, having missed his Varig flight, and now waiting to fly on Braniff, with two hours to kill. He wasn’t in a very good mood. One simply isn’t satisfied with Braniff once they’ve flown Varig. It was three years and he was as spoiled as ever. It felt good to be spoiled and heading back down south. Read his photo magazine twice from cover to cover. Now there was nothing to do and an hour and a half to do it in.
It was late, and there were few people there to amuse him. Still, he decided to people-watch.
Directly in front of him was couple about two rows up. The dude was sleek and slim and talked with an accent. He looked Italian and it only made sense he was wearing an Armani suit. Nice Italian shoes too.
“Some sort of Euro-trash, probably wants to go home to Milan real bad.”
He couldn’t see the woman too well, she was directly in front of him, facing away, but he couldn’t miss her. She had one of those hats with an enormous brim. He could see her arm extended. I mean, how could he miss it with all that bling? Then from the other side her hand appeared. It was festooned with bright shiny rings. Double-bling.
“Probably only buys haute-couture,” he sniffed. “Probably wears it well too.”
They’d been making announcements over the P.A. system, but it was silent. Now he could hear them talking. It was time to ear-hustle. She was letting her man have it.
“You know Enrico, we mustn’t be late for the countess’s party nor for the photo shoot.”
She spoke with authority, like she was married to the dude.
“I won’t have it Enrico, I simply won’t have it. And the people at the gala last night, you let them get much too close to me, really much too close.”
She shook her jeweled finger at him and continued to reprimand,
“You know I don’t like it. I won’t have any of that either. I simply won’t have it Enrico, I won’t have any of that!”
“Yes Darling,” he repeated deferentially.
Maybe that was the only two words of English he knew,”Yes”and “Darling.” He was beginning to feel sorry for the guy. Imagine being married to her. It would be “Enrico” this and “Enrico” that, twenty-four seven.
Finally Enrico excused himself with, “I have to use the W.C. Darling.”
Poor dude, he’d do anything to get away from her.
The sleek Italian walked by, tilted his head and shrugged his shoulders sheepishly, looking as limp as overcooked linguini. Right then the P.A.system announced with a crackle,
“Braniff boarding in fifteen minutes.”
He was glad to escape this side-show. As he walked past he couldn’t help but look under the brim of that hat to cop a glance at the b*tch. Who do you think it was? It was Hanna, the girl he’d dated in college and once called Rio for a joke, after listening to Duran Duran for too many hours.
“Darling,” she screamed, “it’s you!”
She clutched his arm with her jeweled hand and pulled him down into the seat next to her.
“So it is, Hannah, but what’s happened to you? I mean…how are you?”
“Fabulous darling, simply fabulous! But it’s Rio now, Darling, Rio. The name you gave me in jest. But let me bring you up to date. I got a tennis scholarship to U.C.L.A. Just for fun I took a film class. They’d make you do all the stuff. They’d make you produce, do art design, paint backdrops, direct, and even act. All the students had to act in the films and be the audience as well. One day a student would be a director or an actor, the next day he’d be selling tickets or in the audience. We’d all be in each other’s films.
I had a small part, and when they were doing the credits they asked me how to spell my name. Spell it R.I.O., I said.
What did I have to lose? Nobody knew me there. Somebody saw it of course. He wanted to make a shampoo commercial for television. He wanted me, who else? That was the start. Then it was toothpaste, which led to a sweater catalogue for Neiman Marcus, which led to fashion, and then it, I should say I, really took off. The rest was, as they say, history. But you know all that don’t you?”
He looked puzzled. He didn’t read fashion magazines, or watch T.V. Suddenly the P.A.crackled again.
“Braniff flight 762 boarding for Lima.”
“That’s me,” he said, “I gotta go.”
She pulled him close and kissed him desperately, as if she wanted to escape. He started to walk away.
“Thank you, thanks so much,” she cried.
Had he left something? He didn’t give her anything. He hesitated a second.
“For Rio, Darling, for Rio.
While handing the stewardess his boarding pass it started raining. He buttoned up his coat, which was pretty funny since there was no chance of getting wet, the entrance was an accordion-companionway and completely enclosed. It was as if he was already thinking of how it would be down south in a rain forest where it was wet even in the dry season, and of Santa Cruz, where everyone threw water on everyone else during Carnival.
Walking down the companionway, he reflected upon what he’d just seen. About half-way down he hesitated a minute and whispered a prayer.
“Forgive me Father, for I know not what I did.”
He walked to the door of the plane, stopped once more as thoughts raced through his mind. Was he really at fault? Was his pet name what had changed her? And what about now? His scheme. Was it really a search for a magic plant to cure the ills of mankind, an exercise in the self-aggrandizement that would result, or just another something to feed his fragile eggshell ego? Would God judge him harshly for dreams he had yet to fulfill?
“Not if I can fulfill them first,” he decided, and stepped aboard, only too happy to make his escape.