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Excerpt from Chapter One

The Perfect Couple

Hanna never traveled to the US. Her idea of Miami came from readings on cultural differences in the workplace, and for the rest, the quotidian, she relied on reruns of Miami Vice, documentaries such as Cocaine Cowboys and the classic Scarface. She also relied on the only statistical book she found in the series Cities of the World in Numbers, a dated edition ranking Miami first under Murders per Capita.

Flying form Hamburg to Miami she dozed off, her head on Sebas­tian’s shoulder. A strange dream crept in. A disfigured man driving a Rolls-Royce kept following her, an assault weapon on the passenger seat. She saw no exit from the streets, and futile any attempt to outrun a Rolls-Royce—even if she broke the Olympic record. The man rolled open the side window and ordered her in. “Sorry, sir, I’m German. I don’t speak Spanish.” The man grabbed the assault weapon: “Get the fuck in before I blow your brains out!” From afar a voice encouraged her: Run Hanna, run! She ran but all doors closed in her face. The only way out—from a short story by Borges she had read in high school—was waking up. She opened her eyes. 

Sebastian was still looking out the window. She recalled exchang­ing charged words—not quite a fight. They had too much to drink. It started as they readied to board. Hanna placed both her palms on his chest, they stood the exact same height, and asked him, please, refrain the humorous child within (buffoonery she deemed insulting) for the duration of the flight, particularly going through costumes. She had read, train­ing for the Miami post, the only borders separating nations were the metaphoric foundations on which humor is built. Sebastian said half in jest, she might not realize it, but she was asking him not to be himself for several hours. Hanna pleaded. Sebastian gave in. Okay. He promised to act the part his passport listed under occupation: cardiologist and busi­ness administrator. Neither true nor false. He stopped practicing medi­cine a decade earlier and, having sold his interests in a photography studio, had no business to administer.

A man of independent means, Sebastian was coming predisposed to conquer America. That is not how Hanna saw it. Half a million Eu­ros—proceeds from selling his interest in the photography studio—didn’t make him rich. He had nothing else to his name and was fast ap­proaching fifty.  Sebastian protested, his optimism she couldn’t quanti­fy.

Not optimist, the adjective she preferred for his erratic readings of reality was naïve. Her therapist in Hamburg (Hanna had issues relating to lesser beings, people inapt for mathematical precision gave her col­ics) asked: “You find not conflictive Sebastian’s proclivity to disregard reality? You find not conflictive that you live in the real world but his world is possibilities?” Sebastian spent five years advising the popular TV show Doctors on the intricacies of an emergency room, too long immersed in the world of make-believe had an effect, but his personal­izing reality was an occupational hazard within her power to amend.

Clouds engulfed the plane like gauze. Irritated, Sebastian won­dered, did he make a mistake coming along? Too late to change his mind, they were closer to Miami than Hamburg. 


DECEMBER 13, 7:00 - 9:00

The Cafe at Books & Books

​The Adrienne Arsht Center

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