I was living in Cuernavaca in the late 70s, a garden city south of the volcanoes that ring Mexico City. It was a city full of ruins human and stone. The Zocalo was full of superannuated veterans of both sides of the Spanish Civil War, plus the retired CIA agents who had spied on them. They drank Café Mexicanos and fought the old battles together.
I’d been dealt a great hand of cards. I was director of a bilingual expat theatre company, with a hall, and an enthusiastic membership of amateurs who did 4 or 5 plays a year for the local and expat audience. My role meant I got to meet most of the interesting North Americans in town, because my theatre company was nothing if not interesting. We did farce (James Rosenberg’s “The Death And Life Of Sneaky Fitch”) and political theatre (Peter Weiss’s “Marat/Sade”) and everything in between.
Kathy and Jean were both ESL teachers in town (what any young North American besides me was doing for a living there). They lived together in a charming garden apartment not far off the Zocalo, with an open air kitchen and a beautiful patio ringed by bougainvillea. As an Aztec and Imperial resort town, Cuernavaca basked in eternal summer all year round, and walls were a matter of choice. The best casas were courtyard houses with roofs but no indoor walls, just curtains. Indoors and outdoors were the same in paradise.
After coming to an audition, Kathy and Jean asked me to dinner. Jean was tall, ethereal, blonde with long hair like the Lady Galadriel. Kathy was not so tall, but intense, dark haired and wiry thin. They finished each others’ sentences and ate the same things. In college, eight years before, I had known a pair of girls like them, Kat and Cyn. Kat was tall, ethereal and blonde, she pulled the guys, Cyn cracked wise, she got second pick. These pairs are hard to penetrate, they are closed biosystems. I wasn’t holding out much hope, but I thought Jean was the most beautiful girl I’d seen in years.
We ate and talked late into the night. Jean said she was going to bed. I said I should go. Kathy said no, I should stay. She took me to her room, and took her clothes off. “Are you coming to bed?”. It never works out the way you think.
Kathy was a wild lover, tense, excited and explosive. Neither of us carried much weight, and our hip bones clashed like battering rams, leaving bright bruises. I didn’t leave for three days.
I cast Jean as Charlotte Corday in “Marat/Sade”, and she was perfect, a comatose angel. Kathy was the wild woman at the asylum of Charenton who attacks the superintendent’s wife. I have a photo of her still, in costume, rags flying and her face etched in fury.
Kathy and I were inseparable for the next year. I had a problem, though. I had a long term girlfriend in Canada, whom I hadn’t seen in two years, and she was coming to visit me in Cuernavaca. The day of her arrival grew closer, and Kathy and I weren’t getting any less close. By this time, Kathy had moved out of the garden apartment and was living in a hotel on the Zocalo that Emiliano Zapata had used as his headquarters in the rebellion in 1919. The brick walls were still pocked with machine gun fire. One afternoon, she looked close in my eyes and pushed me off her. “Your fucking girlfriend is coming to see you in a week, and you’re still here in my bed. Have some decency. Get out!”.
I saw Kathy around, but that was our last close encounter. I still miss her. The long term girlfriend turned out to be crazy, and I left Mexico several months later for good. I might still have been there, with mi senora Katerina, living la vida artistico in paradise, if I’d played that hand differently.