Thirty thousand feet high in the air, sitting on his bed, looking at the bright reflection of the sun on the silk of his initialized linens, AP, the Senator for Life reveled for a minute in his victory . . . for he had actually gotten away and was now traveling through the sky on a specially designed 727 from Cobre's Air Force; fast and furious on his way back home. In the crisp dry air of the cabin his skin had instantly felt tighter, like it did up in the mountains. The feeling of his skin allowing him finally to believe that summer, eucalyptus trees and his supporters were waiting.
He was returning against the maneuvers of his enemies, against his own failing body and above all against the overwhelming fog that like a white mist had begun to blur in his mind the boundaries between moments.
That was his fear . . . dying in England in captivity in the disgrace of an upper-middle class suburb . . . that was comparatively comical! However, to be brought back mindless, a drooling vegetable for his enemies to laugh at . . . or even worse to feel sorry for him, that was what really haunted him.
Through the wall and the turbines' noise he could hear a muffled celebration. The young captain of the plane had come to greet him and had welcomed him back to Anational territory, mi General, the way his men still addressed him. He looked like the type of soldier that was so helpful during and after the coup. Always sharp, virtuous and with an unwavering determination to obey at all costs. The sort of ideal soldier portrayed in his favorite German posters of the early forties. Maybe his friends at Colonia Dignidad would be there to receive him. Although the news of child abductions and molestation had sent Colonia Dignidad's leaders on the run, his friend Arnold Huffer had gone into hiding and had ruined a community that was a beacon of the German Fascist ideal.
A communist plot for sure, as always underhanded, pura mugre!
But he was going back! And that repeated realization overcame him and the soft pillows on which he was now resting felt good and without a struggle he let himself slowly sink into the dream that was already unfolding as he fell into his sleep.
In this dream he was back in the bombed out, burnt out shell of the government's palace, the air still smelling acrid loaded with the tangy taste of machine gun fire and burning wood. The whole thing looked like a Hollywood movie set with halogen lights set all over the place, bodies laying around and military security everywhere.
They had moved swiftly without eliciting attention, clearing quickly from checkpoint to check point.
On reaching Amador his men cleared to the sides and the then General, and now Senator for Life, took a step forward.
On looking, his disgust was only superceded by the hatred he felt for the man whose remains looked as if suspended on a moist brown halo still growing on the Persian carpet. For sure the people of the nation of Cobre would believe it was a suicide, after all everybody knows that socialists are cowards. As he pronounced these words for himself in his mind, deep within the dream behind a door that he did not want to crack, inexorably, he began to hear the voice of Amador in that last radio transmission while frenzied Hawker Hunter planes plummeted with rockets the government's house in downtown El Valle and leveled the transmission towers of all democratic radio and television stations. A last departing speech had been aired that morning on the radio pushing through daunting technical obstacles. In it, president Amador Sepulveda spoke of him personally and of the other generals in the Junta as 'los generales traidores' and set himself as a martyr. He hated martyrs.
The depth of his anger shook him out of his sleep and woke him. He could no longer sleep that well anymore and his dreams were shorter, darker and more intense. This particular dream was significant, since over the years he had come to view it as an omen for things that were beginning to escape his grip, the odds not being so clearly stacked and that he was losing control.
While in captivity at Virginia Shores he had spent countless hours in front of the computer monitoring the Internet looking for newspapers from Cobre or anywhere that were carrying commentary of the injustice that had been committed against him and the people of Cobre by his detention in London.
He was aware that the balance of forces back home had changed, that the
Socialists were back out in the streets and Rios, their candidate, would most likely be elected to the presidency.
In the ambient light still filtered through gauzy curtains he remembered . . . and as he did so the draw of memory pulled stronger, as it was normal these days, than the desire to be awake and so he drifted again into his dreams.
Somebody sounding like him in his younger years was asking from far away . . . What should we do with all these people, are we committed to carrying this through? . . . I think the best solution is the sea. Take care of this General Orellana. Make sure that there is no trace left behind in the places of detention and interrogation. Set up a fast helicopter convoy, but first alert and mobilize intelligence across the country so that the key figures are strategically gathered in detention centers and then as soon as you arrive summarily execute them.
If you think someone could be of better value alive, send him to our boys in Pisagua. They will know how to deal with that.
You have to do these eight strategic locations in ten days and I want daily updates. Clean up Gestacion and its university in particular. It is a disgrace for Cobre, do it even if you have to kill most of them. Keep your men looking for Senador Altamirano. He could not have disappeared and intelligence says it knows for a fact that he is not in an embassy. He is out there and I want him. Don't let me down General Orellana. You are acting on my orders, you only answer to me, is that clear.
And Orellana had been good. He cut off the collective head of the opposition in one quick blow and after a week the word was out that any dissidence would not be tolerated and reprisals would be severe. The mayhem of Amador's government was over and military law and the Junta ruled the land.
When ten years later and he still in power, terrorists tried to kill the Senator for Life in El Cajon everybody realized that he had gone soft and that he needed to tighten up. However, the people that could do this sort of thing by that time were a mixture of civilians and intelligence agents and they were not thorough.
Blowing up people in broad daylight was bad, like when they blew up Parcelier in downtown Washington or shot at Suarez and his wife on their way to dinner, in plain view, on a public street in Rome. It is true that the orders came from him and that the American intelligence agencies had approved of them, but in executions of this type, like in real estate, location is everything.
A tap on his shoulder woke him up and he was startled not to recognize the place he was in and the face of the old heavy set woman with too much make-up speaking to him. She didn't look like the cold mannered English nurses that had attended to him. She was telling him to take some . . . slowly the fog in his mind broke and the moments became differentiated again and he recognized his wife and he took the pills and swallowed them.
The day was fading behind the curtains and even though he hated eating in planes he thought better to eat now and be done with it for the evening.
With the help of Lucrecia and the military nurse he moved from the bed to the table and all of a sudden, as he stood, he felt an expanding warm sensation in his groin and then a warm flowing sensation dribbling down his legs. Lucrecia noticed it at the same instant, not only from his face but also, from that fastidious nose of hers that could pick up scents nobody else could. She noticed that urine was now accumulating around his socks and slippers and she was overwhelmed. In 1973 when she rose with him from military middle class to the pivotal signifier they became for Cobre's upper classes during the following two decades she would not have believed the inconveniences that she had come to endure. Disturbed, she walked out while the nurse politely assured her that he would take care of everything. As she walked away she could hear him paging Luis, the young lieutenant, for an extra pair of arms.
She was disturbed, who wouldn't be. After all the years of avoiding any awareness of her husband's sinister shadow, the last sixteen months of world wide criticism had begun to weigh on her, and she felt everyone was doing them a great injustice. The media attack of the communist was now following them back to Cobre and friends in El Valle were not returning calls and other strange people were calling instead.
She feared going home because she had no idea what that meant. He could be hailed as a hero in a reversal of sentiment and his image would then become the image of the nation and all would last a bit longer, or he could be in jail within six months humiliated for all to see. She could not bear to think of her own future - that was too horrible even to contemplate.
She called for Consuelo, her present assistant and took out the cards and had her sit and play Canasta until the day broke through . . . which it did strangely sooner than anticipated, like a not fully realized night still lingering in the daylight. In a strange way she longed for staying suspended above the earth forever, not having to face the disturbing reality that now unfolded below all around them.
Consuelo in turn thought how insensitive of Senora Lucrecia . . . had she not been aware of the frantic work she had performed on the rushed departure/escape from Virginia Shores to the airfield?
There the plane awaited, engines running, only a few moments later it was burning rubber down the runway and up into the pale light of an English February afternoon.
The word, out amongst the crew was that the Senator for Life could not set foot on a single country en route to Cobre, Interpol arrest orders awaited him everywhere. The crew remained hunched in the dark bubble of the cockpit, tight, not knowing if they would be forced down onto unfriendly territory and at the same time hoping to arrive in a single hemisphere to hemisphere leap of about eighteen hours to El Valle the next morning.
It was a fact, that the army was coordinating the operation and as she knew, if the army was in control then everybody was tense since they always screwed up. Consuelo Gazmuri was Air Force and could not help but think of the Army as a lower life form, one considerably less polished and worldly. So to be called from her evening's rest to play cards with senora Lucrecia was, in a certain way, humiliating since everyone knew that she was exhausted like everyone else. She remained in the bondage of Senora Lucrecia who now had obviously decided to stay up all night.
Luis, the lieutenant, on the other hand sized up the situation immediately and concluded that for a change he was on better standing than the woman who just hours before had ordered him around like a slave without the slightest sign of courtesy. She was now sitting, bristling with exhaustion and anger, still wearing the stiff uniform in what one could gather would be a very long game of cards.
So he made all possible remarks about how good it was to finally go to sleep, he yawned and carried on until he left, not once looking at her in the eye, feeling her eyes in turn burning holes in his back.
On his way to bed he thought about the highly confidential rumor among the troops that stated that if an order to intervene in the political process would come from above, many would not obey. This was a major event since the last time such a thing occurred in the Cobre army it was 1973 prior to the coup when scores of low rank officers and soldiers were internally executed on suspicion . . . of course he was not born then yet, but the institutional memory was haunting and had instilled such fear through the ranks that it lasted clear for almost thirty years. His father himself was an old Fascist and proud to be so. A germanophile who loved military marches like the Senator for Life himself.
His old man also had a certain predilection for leather and sadomasochism that he had become aware of at sixteen when he discovered, while poking around, some color photographs of very aroused people spanking each other in the lower drawer of his father's desk.
The old man had just stood there while leaking, but then he actually was mortified and not willing to deal with it. Luis thought that the Senator for Life was almost not quite there, that the old man was fading in and out. That what the English doctors declared was true, that this man was on the way out, falling off . . . out of touch with the world.
The Senator for Life woke up in his quarters before the light broke through the horizon and as he laid face-up on his bed, the hum of the plane helped him get a grip with which to steady his thoughts. He couldn't quite remember how he had gotten in bed but came to accept that he had and that he could not remember. He was going back, that much he knew well and that they would be arriving this morning. From where was he returning he could not recall. Only that suddenly remembering, he felt a jolt of adrenaline, like a horse kicking him in the chest. The 'being gone' not so much of a problem but the 'coming back' almost too excruciating to contend with. He lit a lamp and the light immediately settled him so that now he could close his eyes and have the glow still visible across his eyelids to reassure him and keep him awake. In this twilight behind his eyelids he decided to take account of his situation. This pure intentionality made him feel sharper and that was the first order of the day. To feel that he could do it. The rest was all pushed back so that the sheer terror of it would not make him piss on himself again.
In moments of weakness, he had devised a gadget, a maneuver. He would think of his grandest moments. The biggest one certainly being that official photograph that circulated around the world of him sitting there amongst the other members of the Junta looking sharp behind his black sun glasses. That moment was a defining moment, and he could always draw strength from it. That the image inspired so much fear across the world was what made him revel in his power, since it was fear that he ate others weaknesses his strength.
As an old soldier he now struggled with the fear of losing altogether touch with the world and when he would lose this battle, it felt somewhere in there, like a benediction.
Luis turned off the lights trying not to think of the Senator for Life's piss since it had glued itself to his nostrils and even after multiple upside down rinses with water he still felt like he had his head in a stall.