During his years in the Colombian army, Pierre continued to grow. The food and physical demands aided in this, but combat seemed to fuel his growth more than anything.
Pierre was fierce on the battlefield. In the rebels, he instilled fear. In his fellow soldiers, he instilled courage. His comrades looked up to him, even though he was younger than most of them.
The second youngest among the soldiers was a man by the name of Pascual Ortiz. Unlike most of the other soldiers, Pascual was only a couple years older than Pierre. Because of this, the two bonded. Pierre was far superior when it came to soldiering, but Pascual possessed a quality Pierre wished he had, the ability to read and write.
One day Pascual, feeling indebted to his friend because he had already saved his life on more than one occasion, offered to write letters to anyone Pierre chose. “A woman, perhaps?” Pierre took him up on his offer and had him write a letter to the most special woman in his life, his mother.
For the next several years, Pierre communicated with his mother through Pascual. Pilar, who was also illiterate, had one of her newest whores, Marisol, read his letters to her. Marisol was a young lady who was supposed to go off to university but instead became a prostitute after accidentally wandering into Pilar’s brothel. Pilar would dictate letters back to Marisol, who gladly scribed them, even though she would have rather been working in her new profession.
When the letters came back, Pierre would keep them in his breast pocket until the next opportunity arrived for Pascual to read them to him—usually during a meal. Pascual read the letters out loud, but changed his routine one day when the message opened with “Dear Pierre” instead of “My dearest son.”
“What is it?” Pierre said with a mouth full of arroz con coco. Pascual read the letter to himself, a strange thing for him to do. But what piqued Pierre’s curiosity was the somber look on his friend’s face.
Pascual looked up—on the verge of tears, “I’m sorry, my friend. Your mother has died.”
Pierre swallowed his rice. “Read it to me.”
“I, I…,” Pascual stuttered not wanting to perform the task requested of him.
“Read it!” Pierre shouted.
“Dear, Pierre,” Pascual began. “My name is Marisol. I have been the one writing the letters for your mother all these years. Your mamá had been suffering with tuberculosis for some time now. She kept this from you so that you wouldn’t worry. She was doing quite well, but just the other day she suffered a horrible coughing fit that resulted in her death. I was there with her when she passed. Her dying wish was for me to write you this letter. By the time you get this, she will have been buried for several weeks, I imagine. I am sorry that word could not get to you in time for you to make the funeral. If you ever do make it back here, please look me up, and I will take you to her grave. Sincerely, Marisol Rivera.”
When Pierre began to sob, Pascual got up, left the letter, and walked out of the dining tent. The rest of the soldiers soon followed, some leaving full plates of food behind. None of them thought less of Pierre. The young man had proven his manliness countless times on the battlefield. Many of them were alive because of him. They all knew there was only one thing that could make a man of such caliber cry, and they left him to do so alone in the mess tent.
Later that evening, Pierre presented the letter to his commander and asked to take leave. The colonel denied his request. He instead promoted Pierre to sergeant and gave him a squad to lead. Pierre was too good of a soldier to be granted leave. The colonel knew that if they were ever to engage the enemy without him, many men would end up dead.
For several weeks, Pierre requested leave, and each time the commander denied it. His superiors told him the time was not right. So he waited, growing more and more impatient. He was willing to dedicate his entire life to the army. All he wanted was a little bit of it for himself so that he could pay his respects to his mother.
After more requests and more denials, it became apparent to Pierre that the officers he reported to had no intention of ever granting him leave. His first impulse was to desert, but then he would be hunted by two armies. He had personally seen to the deaths of so many rebel soldiers that he became the first person in the Colombian army to have a bounty on his head who was not an officer.
Deserting meant that he would no longer have the protection of the army but that that very army would also be looking to put a bullet in his head. To Pierre, death didn’t seem like such a bad idea, but not as a deserter. That was dishonorable. He was a good soldier, the best. The army won many battles because of him. If they couldn’t grant him leave, then to hell with them, he thought. He would no longer fight for the same people who held him prisoner. Death in battle would be an honorable way out and an even better solution. He would do more than see the spot in the earth where they buried his mother. He would join her in the afterlife.
The army received word of a rebel camp just a couple days’ march away. Pierre was to lead one of the squads. The mission was to find the camp, torch it, and bring back any surviving enemy soldiers. The day before the patrol headed out, Pierre requested leave for when he got back.
“I’m sure we can figure something out upon your return,” the colonel said. Pierre knew what this meant. He had heard it before, too many times. He decided that this was the last patrol he would ever go out on—at least, the last for the Colombian army.
“When I woke up, I was lying on a table. A doctor was working on me by lamplight. Trying to dig a bullet out of here,” Pierre tapped on the scar right below his sternum. Esperanza was intrigued by the story and didn’t say anything for fear of interrupting him. “‘You should be dead, Señor,’ the doctor told me. ‘I know,’ I told him.”
“I had been out for three days. All of the men that went out on that patrol were dead. All but me,” he told Esperanza, looking down at the ground as if in shame. “When we got to the camp, the rebels were waiting for us. The men didn’t stand a chance, especially since I was there to get killed—not to kill.”
“I just stood there watching my men get slaughtered as I waited for a bullet of my own. I didn’t even raise my rifle. I could see the rebels. There were many well in range, which meant they could have easily shot me. But they kept missing and taking out the soldiers around me instead. I didn’t realize how much the men depended on me to fight. I saw so many of them fall and was about to say, the hell with it and start taking out rebels, when the bullet I was waiting for finally struck me.”
“I dropped my rifle and fell to the ground in pain. I waited on my knees for another shot to hit me, but I must have passed out instead. The rebels slaughtered the rest of the men, and then went through and stabbed all the bodies with bayonets. That’s how they found me alive.” Pierre took his green shirt completely off and turned his back to Esperanza. He tried to point to the spot where the bayonet had pierced him, but couldn’t reach it.
Esperanza touched a scar and asked, “This one?”
“No,” he said. “Lower.”
“No. Too low.”
She tried another scar.
“No,” he said. “To the left.”
Esperanza got the point, but she got so much pleasure from touching Pierre’s bare back that she continued. “This one,” said determined it was the right wound.
“No. Just above…” Esperanza touched a scar that was the straightest and most subtle of all of them. “Eso,” he said.
“When a rebel pierced my flesh, I let out a gasp. He was about to push the bayonet all the way through me when his commander stopped him. Based on my size, he guessed who I was and thought it essential to keep me alive. So, I became their prisoner. It took them three days to get me to their base camp. A trip that should have taken them half that. I guess I was quite a load to carry.”
Esperanza caught herself still touching Pierre’s back long after she’d identified the wound and quickly dropped her hand to her side.
“They never got the bullet out of me, but I healed anyway. In my convalescence, I got to know the rebels. Their base camp was also their home. Not their real home, the government seized that property, but a temporary one. Their families were with them. They had nowhere else to go. While the men went out looking for supplies, the women stayed back preparing meals and tending to the children.
“You notice I said go out for supplies?” he said to Esperanza, wanting to make sure she understood this part. “That was all they ever did, was go out looking for food and things they needed to live. They never went out looking for us or to cause trouble, like we were told. We went out on patrol to interrupt their supply runs. We killed men who were just out trying to find food to feed their children. And we took that food,” his voice grew louder, “back to our camp!”
Esperanza could see the pain on his face and hear the remorse in his voice. She had already been fighting off the temptation of throwing herself at him, but seeing the side of the giant warrior made the temptation worse.
“The only reason they kept me alive was their hope to get me to fight on their side. I could have easily done it, but my goal was to die so that I could see my mother, and I was halfway there. As far as the Colombian army knew, I was dead. The rebels burned the camp and the bodies along with it. With this, I could make my way north without being hunted by either side.”
“I gave them as much intelligence as I could and swore to them that I would never take up arms against them ever again. I also swore to myself that I would never take up arms against any rebels, ever.”
“They sent me off with two escorts, and I made my way back to Panamá. The two escorts kept me alive whenever we ran into any other rebels, by simply introducing me as a friend. I kept the two rebels alive when we ran into patrols of Colombian soldiers, by killing the soldiers.”
“Paying respects to my mother brought me no joy, and I started to regret not dying back in Colombia. I became a drunkard and began wandering the earth looking for wars to fight in. I fought in all sorts of armed conflicts as I traveled north. After Mexico, I found myself in Cuba and then ended up in Africa. Always fighting on the rebel side.”
“Even as a drunk, I was still a hell of a fighter. I killed many men. But being a drunk has its disadvantages. My reflexes slowed, and I began getting injured more and more often. I was stabbed, shot, and hit with grenade fragments. Some of the injuries were minor, but most were not. This was when I started to notice a trend. I heard the words, ‘You should be dead,’ over and over again. I began to wonder if I would ever die.”
“Men joked with me, saying that I was immortal. In Panama, they even started a rumor that I was an immortal soldier. For years that rumor followed me, and then one day, I started to believe it. I didn’t want to, you see. I didn’t want to be immortal. In fact, just the opposite. I wanted to die, so I put my pistol to my head and pulled the trigger.”
Esperanza gasped when she heard this and responded with, “Ay, no!”
“It’s okay,” he said with a chuckle. “I’m here. Aren’t I?” Pierre began to part his long, black hair next to his temple. “Maybe it was just dumb luck, or maybe I just have a hard head, but the bullet traveled around my skull under my scalp and came out the other side.” Once he knew Esperanza saw the scar hidden by his hair, he parted his hair on the opposite side of his head, showing her the exit wound. “It burned like a son of a bitch.”
“For years, I heard the words, ‘you should be dead,’ but never died. Not even close. So you see, Señorita, I cannot be killed. Not even by you,” he said as he grabbed Esperanza by the waist and brought her into his bare chest. “And even if you could kill me, dying because I made love to you would not only bring a much-wanted death, it would be the most glorious death I could ever have dreamed of.”
Esperanza closed her eyes and said to herself, “Thank you, Pita.”
Before Pierre could even lean in for a kiss, Esperanza already had her lips locked onto his and her arms wrapped around him.
As busy as she was getting their meal ready that afternoon, Esperanza had forgotten to close the wooden shutters on the window in the front of the shop. They were both so engaged in Pierre’s story that they hadn’t noticed the crowd that gathered in front of the window. Many of the villagers were peeping in, looking past the dark front of Doña Luz’s old bakery and into the well-lit kitchen in the back. When the two finally embraced, the crowd erupted into cheers and applauds.
“Upstairs,” Esperanza commanded, slightly embarrassed, but eager to continue. Pierre picked her up with one arm under her back and the other under her knees, and carried her up to the bedroom without the slightest bit of effort. The crowd awarded this action with more cheers and even some órales.
With disappointment, the crowd dispersed, but they were content with what they assumed would take place next. They all felt, especially the women, that it was long overdue.
Upstairs the couple undressed each other. Esperanza was struck with a bit of fear when she noticed that every part of Pierre was proportionate to his stature. For the first time in her life, she thought that her lover might kill her.
Pierre took what Esperanza thought was an eternity to enter her. She had minimal experience with foreplay. And even though she enjoyed it, she was anxious to both feel him inside of her and see if he would live through the experience.
When it finally did happen, she felt more pain than she had experienced when she unwillingly lost her virtue to her stepfather. She thought God had gifted her virginity back, but it could have been the massiveness of Pierre. It made little difference. As the pain faded, she began to feel the tension build as it had with Antonio Cruz before he climaxed and died. Only, this time, her lover persisted, and she was on the verge, at the age of thirty-five, of her own hard-to-come-by orgasm. The first of her life.
As the two made love, their passion was so strong that they started to emit a glow—a glow that grew brighter as they each grew closer to erupting in pleasure. At first, only a few of the townspeople noticed the white light coming from the bedroom windows. But, eventually, the light became so bright that it woke some people out of a dead sleep when they mistook it for the sun.
The pleasurable moans from Esperanza as she began to climax expedited the satisfaction of Pierre, and he began to emit passionate groans of his own. Concern grew in Esperanza as the moment of truth approached, but she was so overwhelmed with physical pleasure, so caught up in the moment, that she didn’t dare do anything to stop it.
As their passionate cries grew louder, the light coming from the bedroom grew brighter. So bright that some of the villagers who had come outside to investigate shaded their eyes. The two reached their climax together, and out of both fear and pure joy, Esperanza began to cry. Pierre collapsed on top of her.
With the immobile weight of her giant lover on top of her, the crying Esperanza started to panic. She thought surely she would suffocate or, in the least, be stuck there for days until someone finally forced their way into her shop to find her, naked, underneath Pierre’s dead, stiff body. She was curious, though, to find that she wasn’t having any trouble breathing at all. It was as though not all of Pierre’s body weight was on her.
Before she realized why she could breathe, she heard words, “Thank you, Lupita.” It was Pierre.
Through more tears, she began to repeatedly slap her naked lover on his shoulders, chest, and face. “You did that on purpose,” she yelled.
“Grrr,” Pierre responded like he did when he played with the children. He propped himself up on his hands and knees and growled again through the biggest smile Esperanza had ever seen on the man. “Grrr,” he said again as he leaned in and gave playful nibbles on Esperanza’s neck.
Her crying subsided a bit to make way for laughter as she gave a few more slaps, eventually stopping and wrapping her arms around her lover. Her tears continued, but they were tears of joy.
Pierre let out one more growl as he brought himself up onto his knees and proudly stuck his chest out. He raised both his fists in the air and screamed, as if he were on the battlefield making a declaration to his enemy, “I am immortal!”
When the light from the bedroom faded, the whole town erupted in cheers, and an impromptu fiesta began. Music started to play, and everyone danced and drank in the street until well the sun came up.
Just before two p.m. the next day, there was a gathering of hung-over women outside the front door of Esperanza’s shop.