It didn’t last very long. Ross sat up and leaned his head against the back of the couch, looking up at the ceiling. I wasn’t sure how much it had helped him. Wiping his nose with the back of his hand, he leaned forward, forearms resting on his thighs, hands loosely clasped. “I don’t know how much longer I can stay with this, Amy,” he confessed. He rubbed his nose again with his thumb. “It’s just one fuckin’ disaster after another, one failure after another. I’m getting too old for this. The hatred never stops—you plug the hole somewhere and it starts streaming out somewhere else.”
Then to my surprise, because he seldom made any mention of Michael, out of nowhere came the statement, “I’m surprised you’re still here, when you’re used to better . . .” He ran his hand over his face, pinching the bridge of his nose, closing his eyes, “. . . whatever,” he pronounced sardonically. “You should have stayed with Raynes—your timing’s bad. You’d be rich and famous by now . . . the glamour-puss girlfriend. You’d like that, I know. (Why would I like that?) No more spaghetti for dinner five days a week, uh?” Focusing his gaze straight ahead, squinting slightly, he sighed, “Traipsing all over the planet, schmoozing with movie stars—a bit more fun than trying to cut down people strung up by their balls.”
Shifting my position on the couch, I pulled at the back of Ross’ collar so he would sit back and face me. I couldn’t stand his fidgeting, the doubt swimming in his eyes. There was also that terrible something again, that deep darkness sunk in the blue pool of those eyes, and I caught a flash and glimmer of it as it moved through the angry waters. It frightened me for him. He seemed to be simultaneously reaching out for comfort and steeling himself against the inevitable onslaught of derision. I wanted to redress the balance. His lower lip was chapped and split on one side, bleeding slightly, and I patted my finger on it; he pulled my hand away.
“I guess it’s necessary to say this out loud,” I said gently, taking his hands between mine and rubbing them; they were ice-cold. “You know I love you, Ross. I love you.” I tapped his chest. “Not the do-gooder, no; the man just trying . . . a part of you doesn’t believe me, doesn’t trust me, I think.” I paused. “At any rate, I’m not planning on going anywhere.” I said, touching his cheek. “You think I’m nuts?” Ross had to smile slightly at this, breaking the coagulation on his lip.
Encouraged, I continued, “I spend my time working here because it’s what I want to do, not because I need something to do; it’s what I have to do, what Jorge, Dan had to . . . You’ve made me be true to myself, believe in myself. Why would I want to go back to being some tag-along? Don’t you have more faith in me than that?” Ross opened his mouth to protest, but I stopped him, laying my fingers over his lips. “No, let me finish. I do admire Michael, and yes, he’s a big success, and it takes talent and will to do what he does, and he deserves his success. But his success depends basically on himself. He’s out there alone, and he either wins or he loses. And it’s hard, but it’s a game. You gotta remember it’s a game. With us, with you, you know—it’s scary—it’s life and death; it’s humanity you’re fighting for, and the whole world has to cooperate with you in order for you to win, and you’re so scared of losing. People might give a damn from time to time, but they have their own problems. You battle the worst aspects of human nature again and again and again. That anything gets done, that a few people’s lives are saved or eased in some way is phenomenal. That you sometimes persuade people to think and act is your victory.” I paused to catch my breath. “I think you’re heroic, Benny,” I said quietly.
“Stop it, it’s too much,” he said. We sat in silence for a time while I continued to tend to his hands. Then he continued with a little more equanimity, “You know, when I first saw you in that church . . .” he shook his head, raising his eyebrows. “Here’s this girl, this girl staring so intently at me that I had to wonder, what the hell does she want? The answer to what question? You were looking good that night as I recall, and yet you had this huge indentation thing running across your forehead. I thought, is she crazy? But somehow it didn’t matter; I wanted to be the answer, be whatever it was you wanted. But I wasn’t sure I could. I was afraid that I’d screw it up.”
“You haven’t screwed it up—it’s you and me, Ross. You and me.”
Ross cupped my chin in his hand and ran his thumb across my cheek. “Don’t leave . . . ever,” he said solemnly. He moved his thumb back and forth across my lips; his eyes beautifully revealing, the dark lashes still wet. “My very own . . . I think you still have a fever . . .” The phone rang just then, breaking through the refuge we had built around our grief.
“I’ll get it,” I said. I went into the dining room and picked up the phone. It was Natalie still at the office. Was Ross there? Did he bring home a copy of the press release? I turned round to Ross, “It’s Natalie. Did you bring home the press release?”
“It’s in my briefcase,” Ross said, leaning his head back again against the top of the sofa, his long legs bent and spread wide apart, hands clasped between them, too weary to get up. “I think I left it in the car.”
“Hold on, I have to run out to the car.” Putting down the receiver, I grabbed my keys out of my purse on the table and ran out of the room.
“Put your coat on. You’re sick!” Ross called after me, still unable to move.
Returning with Ross’ briefcase, I picked up the phone again. “Okay, I have it.”
“Professor Herrera’s gonna call you—can you read it to him?” Professor Herrera was on the Faculty of Agronomy in Quezaltenango, from which Jorge was a graduate.
“Sure, but they must’ve faxed it down there. Why doesn’t he call John in New York?”
“I don’t know. I couldn’t really get what he was saying. He was upset. He wanted to speak to Ross.”
“Sure, fine. Go home, Natalie. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
I hung up the phone. “Herrera’s going to call here,” I explained to Ross. He silently nodded. The phone rang. “Hello? Yes. This is Amy. No, yo tampoco puedo, no hay nada que hacer … No, eso vendrá mañana. No, no lo es. Lo siento. Lo voy a leer. Coloque a la persona en el teléfono, y lo voy a leer con él. (No, I can’t either, there’s nothing to do . . . No, that will come tomorrow. No, he isn’t. Sorry. I’ll read it. Put the person on the phone, and I’ll read it to him.)
Danilo Morente Vallar, 32, legal adviser to several Guatemalan trade unions and Jorge de Leon Gomez, 29, an agronomist, were found dead on a Guatemalan highway on the morning of March 3, 1989. According to reports received by Human Rights International, the two men had been abducted and subsequently “disappeared” on March 1.
Danilo Morente was abducted on March 1 by armed men in civilian clothes as he was driving his motorcycle in Zone 3 of Quezaltenango. Jorge de Leon’s seizure by uniformed members of the armed forces occurred the same day, near the parque central (park central) of Quezaltenango. He was handcuffed, severely beaten, and forced into his abductors’ vehicle, according to witnesses. The bodies of both men appeared in the early hours of the morning of March 3 on km. 165 Carretera Pacifica (Pacifica Highway), near Cuyotenango-Mazatenango, Department of Suchitepequez. Morente’s body showed signs of torture; de Leon’s body had six bullet wounds and showed signs of strangulation.
Human Rights International is a worldwide movement of volunteers working impartially for the release of prisoners detained anywhere for their race, gender, ethnic origins, and nonviolent expression of political or religious beliefs; for fair and prompt trials for all political prisoners; and for an end to torture, “disappearances” and executions. HRI has requested its membership to immediately send telegram/telexes/airmail letters to Guatemalan government officials urging that an immediate and full-scale investigation be initiated into the circumstance behind the killing of Danilo Morente Vallar and Jorge de Leon Gomez, that the results be made public and that those found to be responsible be brought to justice. A list of government officials to be contacted follows.