El valle de Elqui -Chapter 11-

The first real sign of warlike belligerence Jeremy noticed, apart from blatant rudeness towards his English Self, was the deteriorating state of the bedding in his room. Before Pinochet’s detention in London, Catalina would change the sheets every three days but a week and a half had passed and the sheets stank. He knew his daily consumption of beer and fags was not helping but still the cleanliness of his bed should not be subject to the changing judicial circumstances of an old dictator. He wanted to restore order himself but he did not know where Catalina kept the extra pillow cases or the sheets and heaven forbid he tried to speak to her. Juan, on the other hand, was all growls and avoidance. He even took to leaving the table as soon as Jeremy sat down for breakfast. Juan would have probably slapped or punched in the face at some point if it wasn’t for the exchange program committee which was paying Jeremy’s bills and much of Juan’s mortgage. Luckily, the old bear had exercised control up to that point though the undercurrent of hate and hostility was driving Jeremy bananas. Juan would spend the days walking around muttering angrily under his breath and shouting violent insults at the TV every time Pinochet appeared on the news and the general was everywhere. Every single news channel in the country reported the ins and outs of Augusto’s case and the legal challenges to his extradition case to Spain. The more he watched the more Juan hated England and by extension, Jeremy. He even started to question the gratefulness of his beloved Thatcher and accused English people of being two-faced amoral sons of dogs. When Chilean Anti-Pinochet asylum seekers appeared on the screen denouncing the General, he would pull his hair and kick his slippers around. Watching him was nerve-wracking. Though the childish outbursts of the mad Patriarch were expected. What was more disappointing was Catalina’s sudden cold shoulder. She had not directed a single word towards him after the arrest. She stopped stocking up the fridge and would not wash his plates. Gone also was the delicious fruit, the oily avocado spreads, the fresh apricot sponge cakes and the infinite variety of cereals and exotic fruit juices she would load the table with. During the weeks that followed the incident Jeremy would go to UNI with an apple and a slice of old bread as his only collation. He knew she was baking and cooking and hiding food in their room but there was nothing he could do about it. Catalina would not even bother to remove the evidence of their secret banquets. Jeremy was persona non-grata. No more washing clothes obviously and definitely no beer nor wine to be seen. Though he was pretty sure Juan was perennially drunk during that period. Who knew what the maddened bear was capable of? He would have to move.

His home environment was deplorable but Lula’s absence was the main catalyst for the attack of full blown misery he was experiencing. He had tried interrogating Miguel and Ulises but they had sworn they had no clue. Fuentes had told him to bugger off and stop thinking about Chilean pussy. Where the demonios was she? After all, the kiss was all her making and though he was obviously delighted but had not asked for a single thing. Why did she disappear? What the hell was going on?

Jeremy attended classes that week and consumed De Aguilar lessons with special attention. They studied the Trojan Wars and the fate of Paris, Hector and Achilles. He felt like Lula’s rejection was the Trojan horse which would open in the middle of the night and infiltrate the last remnants of his hope. He also felt bonded with Paris and understood how he would risk his whole empire for Helen’s beauty. He basically could think of nothing else but his Chilean goddess and most of what he studied about the Iliad he never remembered again. On the Friday after class Miguel approached him and initiated conversation with the gringo. He felt sorry for the state of gloom Jeremy was evidently immersed in. He