Hills like Green Iquanas (Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, 1971)

The hills near Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, a peninsula in the south, were luscious and filled with tall, wet green foliage, and had its share of lizards, including the giant iguanas (six to seven feet ): the green and the three-eyed reptiles. In the most plateau area below those towering scenic hills, along the South China Sea, there was plenty of white sand and almost no trees to provide shade, for US military support groups, during the 10,000-day Vietnam War in 1971. On the top of a hill above the 611th Artillery Company, there was a cool shadow of a building, called the Enlisted Men’s Club, that belonged to the Air Force. The Vietnamese girl, with him (Lee Evens) sat at the bar; Lee drinking fifteen hundred cans of beer and the girl drinking a glass of Japanese rice wine. It was a very hot night, and there was a song with the words “… silver wings …”

“Should we have another drink?” the girl asked.

He leaned back in his chair, smiled at Corporal Lee Evens, hands on the table, the waiter, pouring the drink into a short, thick and thin wine glass.

“It’s very hot,” Lee complained.

“Put some ice in my wine,” the girls asked the waiter.

“Two buckets, will that do?” asked the waiter as if he was running out of ice tonight.

“Yes, two will do.”

The girl drank a small portion of wine, sucked the ice cubes from the top of the glass as if to cool her tongue. She was looking out the side window, toward the distant hills, they were just outlines in the twilight, like charcoal shadows, but she knew how green and wet they often were.

“They look like the backs of green iguanas,” the man heard him say, his mysterious date for the night.

“I’ve only seen the small ones, never the big ones, right?” the girl asked.

“I guess so, I mean, yes, I have seen an eight foot one once, with its back as if it had a double spine, with spikes on the sides of the face, and it was very aggressive, another one that I saw once. he had three eyes. “

Then the man drank his beer and ordered a third round.

“I heard there are two guys, it seems like you’ve seen them both!” the girl replied.

“I guess so,” Lee said quietly, waving his glass back and forth on the bar counter.

The man noticed a sign over a small room and a bead curtain covering the entrance, “What does the sign say? It’s in Vietnamese,” he asked.

“For private use only,” he said.

“What does that mean exactly?” He asked.

“It’s for a more personal use, you know, if a man and a woman want to drink privately instead of being watched by everyone, but they have to spend $ 10.00 minimum to use it.”

“Should we try?” I ask.

The girl looked at the curtain, then Lee, there was no one there and she realized, “No, I don’t think we need to do it yet, we’re just getting to know each other, right?”

“I guess so,” he answered in a tired voice.

“Do you want more ice?” the waiter asked the girl.

“I don’t know, I don’t think so,” he replied, adding, “although it’s refreshing on ice.”

“Well,” said the bartender, “I’ll ask later, when the ice is completely melted.”

“It chills my tongue,” said the girl, and put the glass back on the bar counter.

“Oh stop talking so foolishly,” Lee said.

“Well then what should we talk about?” the girl asked.

“Are you trying to amuse me? If so, stop and let’s try to have fun instead, okay?” Lee said.

“Okay I’ll try it simple I was commenting on the green hills and the reptiles that live in them, for lack of anything else to say I guess it’s not that funny but then what else can a girl say than not Are they ice cubes and green hills? “He said slowly and calmly, as if on the brink of boredom.

“I want to try a new kind of beer,” Lee said, “put some tomato juice in it. I heard if you did, you could drink all night and never get drunk.”

“Is that all we’re going to do is drink and get drunk?” the girl asked.

“Maybe,” Lee said, “Why not?”

The girl looked at him strangely; the bartender looked across the bar at Lee as well, with a strange look.

“They are really green hills this year,” he said. “They don’t really look like iguanas. I just meant that the dark green seems to be the same color as the lizards here, their skin, like the leaves on the trees, and the tall grass, and the tall trees, you know. we have one of the largest ecosystems (flora and fauna) here in Vietnam-in the world? “

“Do you want another drink?” Lee asked.

“I guess so, why not?” Said the girl; proud for a moment of what she was saying, or trying to say, on behalf of her country (similarly, she lowered her head for a moment as if to quell some feelings, she knew the war was damaging what was once an ecosystem abundant that provided not only chemicals for drugs, to a better humanity all over the world, but every day the war continued, the biggest damage to their future way of life, at present, it was the eradication of many species of animals, insects and plants alike, and Vietnam and its people would feel it later, especially if the South was united with the North, and the population was constantly growing, of course, he was thinking thirty years ahead of his time).

The cool breeze from the ceiling fan blew over their heads and Lee wiped his forehead with his sleeve.

“The beer is nice and cold here, not like in our Company Enlisted Men’s Club, it’s warm like a person’s body temperature,” Lee commented.

“How cute,” said the girl.

“No, really,” Lee said, “beer is horrible when it’s warm like that, I mean it.”

The girl looked up as if she was trying to imagine the rest of the night with this soldier that she had just met today, in her village, with whom she agreed to spend the afternoon and the night, as long as he paid the bill, but that was all he was doing, paying the bill for the drink.

“Do you mind, Mr. Bartender, if I open the door a little, let in some fresh air, the fan doesn’t work?” Said Corporal Lee, a slanted tone in his voice.

The waiter didn’t say a word, and Lee took it as a no.

“I’ll buy you a cold beer, Sergeant Henry,” the girl said to the bartender as if she knew him, “let the air in for a few minutes, then we’ll close the door again, so that the mosquitoes and flies stay outside?”

“Go ahead,” said the waiter, as he cleaned the counter.

“What should we do Lee, after we leave the bar?”

“We’ll find out then, I guess whatever you want to do.”

“What bothers you, I mean I want to make you happy if I can,” the girl explained.

The Girl looked at the private room with the bead curtain; she reached out to touch his.

“Do you think if we hold hands and then go to that private room, we will both be happy?” asked the corporal.

“Oh yeah,” she said with confident certainty, “you don’t need to be afraid of me, a lot of people go in there and they all come out at the end,” she laughed lightly.

“And I suppose you’ve done it in the past?” Lee asked, like a brat.

“Well,” said the girl, “if you don’t mind, that’s fine by me, we don’t have to go in there.”

“If you really want to, we can,” Lee replied, with a lighter tone than in their previous dialogue.

“No, it’s okay; it seems you really don’t want to,” said the girl.

“I care about you,” Lee said.

“I know,” the girl said, but you get angry so easily, I mean, if I talk about hills and green iguanas, you think it’s funny, but you have nothing more to say to me, I’m just trying to strike up a conversation. . “

“I think I get like this when I’m bored,” Lee said.

“You want to make love?” the girl asked.

“If I do, you want some kind of agreement, I mean a payment, something financial with me, right?” Lee asked.

“It’s perfectly simple, yes!” the girl said directly and now almost coldly. “Then we can do it.”

“What do you mean by doing it?” Lee asked.

“I don’t care where we do it, or all that about me, I need the money and I would like to have a boyfriend, my old man went to the United States and paid me a third of his check to make it his. Stable, but I worry about you, and I worried about him. ” He said without any emotion, his face as blank as the evening sky.

“I’m not sure if I want to do it with you, if you feel that way, I mean it’s a lot of money you’re talking about, what if your boyfriend comes back?”

“He’ll be back in three months, and then our adventure will be over, but I don’t want you to do it with you if you feel that way.”

The girl stood up and walked along the bar, looked out the window towards the hills, the hills of a dark green and gloomy full of water dragons and iguanas, tall trees and foliage that reached the edge of the hill. , towards the target. sands of Cam Ranh Bay.

“We could have a lot of fun for three months,” the girl added to her now monologue, “I mean, you could start tonight if you want.”

“No, I don’t think we can, I don’t want to spend all that money and have someone I have to pay to take care of me. Just to leave me and take care of someone else in the same way when the time comes, I’m not so desperate for sex and a woman. Actually, the desire to have you is gone, and I feel like I don’t have to pretend anymore, and I don’t like lizards, nor do I care about hills, I killed a six-foot lizard a few weeks ago; They have big fat eyes, and I feel nothing for the death of that ugly lizard or for our separation, from their ways, you’re not really good for me. honest. “

“Okay,” said the girl, “but you must realize, you soldiers come and go, leave the girls pregnant and never look back, I am no worse than the rest, surely no worse than you soldiers.”

She sat down next to the corporal again, and they both had their drinks, they drank it and he ordered another round, he looked at her and she looked at him.

“I’m perfectly willing to buy you drinks for your talk time, and I’m sure it will be our last date, but I think I like you more as a friend than as a lover.”

“It means a lot to me that we can get along,” said the girl, “and it’s okay for you to say what you said, could you please not talk bad about me with your friends? I’m sure you will.” will we see you there? “asked the girl.

“I don’t care about anything you’ve done,” Lee said, then that song played again … silver wings, “Hush!” he said, listening carefully to the words.

He took his hat, and his hand, left the bar, still listening to the song, looking up at the dark sky, not afraid that it might give the wrong impression, “How do you feel?” he asked the girl.

“I feel very good,” he said, “nothing’s wrong with me, it’s a beautiful night, with a good friend, what more could you ask for?”

And they walked down the white sand beach, to the town where she had picked her up, they gave her $ 3.00 to give to the Cowboys, a gang of kids in town who would stop her before she reached their cabin. , where she and her mother lived, she would pay the gang not to beat her or rape her, they knew she was with an American, they always knew which girls were dating American soldiers, and the Americans had dollars and $ 3.00 was the price for safety.

Written at 3:00 AM, 12-31-2008 (Lima, Peru)

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