Right after Nando and I got married, some Colombian guests came to stay in the Airbnb: a husband, wife and her brother David that worked as a waiter at a famous hotel in New York City.
We got a message that David retired from being a tray trotter to the rich and famous and he wanted to take a trip back to Winter Haven. When he arrived, we had a few minutes to catch up before heading to Lakeland for a meeting. “Where is your sister and brother-in-law?” I asked. “My sister is back in New York and my brother-in-law, James passed away 3 years ago.” David paused for a second and patted his eyes with a handkerchief before continuing. “He was very ill for a very long time. It is a terrible trick life plays on you. You know what I mean. He beat the cancer and just as he was growing his hair back he had a massive heart attack and died.”
“Damn, I am sorry David,” I was stunned.
David paused and then continued, “The last vacation we took before he was ill was here on the farm and the 3 of us had a fabulous time.” He wanted to talk to us about something, but it wasn’t the right time. We did not know him very well, but being Colombian like Nando and he was staying on our farm, we didn’t think twice about it. We had to run so we agreed that we would visit later in the evening and have a glass of wine to catch up.
The cork popped and he poured three glasses of champagne for us as if we were royalty at his hotel. Instead of wine, we welcomed the champagne. I mean everybody knows I love it, maybe he watches my Instagram stories. Either way we would never turn down champagne and a good visit.
We chatted about how he waited on every First Lady since Jimmy Carter. Nancy Reagan was his favorite. He told us fun behind-the-scenes stories about things that happened in the hotel like how people would try to split after they drank 3 bottles of champagne. Or how he was supposed to pretend that he didn’t know who he was serving even though it was Lady Gaga or Barbara Streisand. One woman even brought a cockroach in her purse and he watched her place it on the remains of her Chateaubriand. We were kind of “warmed up” by now possibly due to the fact that David was so good at delivering champagne that we didn’t even notice he had managed to pour the entire bottle and was uncorking another without missing a beat in his story.
“I would like to make a toast to,” and he paused for a moment like he did earlier in the afternoon, “God rest his soul, my brother-in-law James and now I would like to tell you about him.” We thought, he has been telling us about him all night. They had both worked at the hotel, he in the dining room and his brother-in-law the concierge. They traveled together and were very close friends to the point where it sounded like David’s sister Maria was jealous of their relationship. A click of the glasses and another sip of the bubbly and David continued with his tale. “I am going to tell you two something that only my sister and my other sister and maybe one other person knows.” He stopped talking, grinning my way giving a knowing look then toward Nando to make sure we were listening. Talking just a bit softer Nando and I had to come closer to David to hear, “My brother in law was actually my husband.”
Right there under the full moon over Eagle Lake under the stars we were all speechless for the first time in 2 hours. Everything that David had been speaking of that evening all of a sudden made sense and this 70 year old man was now sitting before us with tears rolling down his cheeks. He looked back and forth between the two of us to see if we felt what he knew, which was love. Nando and I were both wet with tears. We too knew his love. David and James had met at the hotel and fallen in love. The tall dark handsome Colombian spoke of James as a beautiful fair skinned blonde, blue-eyed larger-than-life man like a Trojan. They could not deny their natural feelings for each other any longer but they were in a position where they were expected to. They would both lose their jobs at the hotel. They already got strange looks from people when they were on outings together and David was afraid his mother back in Colombia would drop dead if she found out about their relationship. She, for years had already lamented that David had not married and had grandchildren for her.
After years of keeping this secret, an opportunity presented itself. David’s sister was not a US citizen and her green card was expiring and she was going to have to go back to Colombia. So James, who was fond of her, offered to marry her and she could stay in New York. They went to the justice of the peace, David was the best man/witness as his secret love/best friend married his sister. Maria was so proud of this beautiful husband that she had conveniently acquired and could not wait to consummate the marriage that evening. How great to be married to her brother’s best friend what a beautiful life they would all live together. To her dismay, her husband never shared a bed with her. He lived in another room within their NYC flat, with her brother.
With James’s last breath, David felt like he had lost his own life as well. He would never be able to love another man the way that he loved James. Everyone was mourning for his sister that she had lost her husband and barely thought about David. Well, here he was, he had picked us to tell this huge “confession” in a way. “With this beautifully sad story that you have chosen to share with us comes something else,” I said. “It would make a great film. Second, it is ok. You will heal and James is still with you and he would want you to live and love again.”
We popped that last of bottle of Veuve and he told us when he and James secretly got hitched. We ended the night suggesting maybe he should move to Winter Haven for a fresh start. David said, “That is why I am here. I plan to sprinkle Jame’s ashes tomorrow on the farm and put him to rest.” He smiled and then continued, “Plus the taxes and champagne are really high in New York.”