The Girl From Ipanema
By Anon Allsop
I sat alone on a tall stool at the end of the bar and watched the passersby on their way down toward the Ipanema beach. I was barely past my twenty-fifth birthday and on a whim took a trip down to Brazil to contemplate whether I was cut out for the hustle and bustle life that my father wished of me. The Cachaca I was drinking made from fermented cane sugar and lime was smooth yet sweet, and going down way too easily.
I gave the tender a high sign by holding my empty glass into the air, and silently watched the groups on the terrace below me. Wishing desperately I could be more like the man down at the beach side table with the four stunning women seated around him.
Feeling the glass of liquid vibrate the bar near my hand caused me to glance back; the tender had placed my drink and gathered the empty. He smiled and followed my gaze back toward the table of beauties.
I sighed under my breath and shook my head, “Now how do you suppose a fella got so lucky as to have the company of such lovely ladies…”
“Pardon?” The bartender asked in heavily accented English.
I hadn’t realized he heard me and looked down at my drink with embarrassment. “Oh…I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware I was speaking aloud.”
The man’s mustachioed smile stretched wide, “Good day for a swim…eh amigo?”
I shrugged, secretly loathing the darkly tanned Adonis and his harem of beauties. “That one…” I nodded my head in the direction of the table, “He could have his pick of any of those beautiful women at his table…and here I sit nursing the drinks you keep bringing. How does a man get so lucky to be surrounded by such hot women?”
“That’s a funny one.” The man laughed as he dried a glass he had just washed when I spoke about the handsome man at the table. “I know Sergio; the man at the table, he is a good amigo…” He sat the glass back on the shelf and removed another from the sink to dry. “While you wish for his luck…right now, he is probably wishing he could be up here at the bar getting drunk on a Cachaca like you.”
“I doubt that seriously.” I said as I glanced at the table and took another swallow from my glass.
“Oh?” He said as he placed his elbows on the bar and looked down toward the table, “Sergio is annoyed…I can tell.”
“And how can you tell that.” I replied as I sat my glass back down on the paper coaster.
“I know…you see mulher bonita…pretty women…but what you don’t know is that two of them are Sergio’s loud younger sisters and the other two are their obnoxious friends. I glanced quickly at him and he laughed…”You see, it isn’t at all as you think.”
I smiled and glanced back at my drink, “Lesson learned.” I added as I again took a quick sip of the sweet alcohol. I began to glance down toward the boardwalk and spied a stunning young woman slowly walking down toward the beach.
“Ah…I see you noticed Gabriela, she is quite a lovely…” I heard him began but his voice easily drifted out of my head as I watched her hypnotizing walk toward the sand carrying her bag in one hand and a book in the other. Her beach cover-up was gently flowing in the soft breeze, drawing my eyes to her stunning beauty like a moth to a flame.
Beneath that thin cover-up, bits of her bikini would peek out and fuel my lustful imagination more and more. I realized then that I was holding alcohol still in my mouth and swallowed it.
I was completely immersed in her captivating beauty as each step she took, a subtle bounce was sent throughout her frame causing a pulse within her deeply tanned pert breasts. The entire time my gaze was riveted upon her lovely form, the old song kept replaying inside my head…
Tall and tanned and young and lovely
the girl from Ipanema goes walking
and when she passes
each man she passes
Her haunting beauty drew my gaze in and never allowed me to release it until she was well out of my view. Even after, I continued to study the throng of people for several minutes for another brief glimpse of her….of Gabriela.
I felt a tap on my forearm; the touch caused me to quickly look over. “Ah my amigo…that one…she is not for you, you would be better off chasing after Sergio’s sisters or their friends.”
I turned and again stared into the area where I saw Gabriela disappear, “I have never seen a woman so beautiful…”
“All Brazilian women are beautiful amigo…but it would be best for you to put that one out of your mind.” He walked away and filled another patron’s glass, then slowly made his way back. “A girl like Gabriela could never make you happy.”
I smiled, “Sure she could…I’d remind her of my love every day I was alive, were she mine and give her a reason to return that love till the end of our days.”
He laughed and again picked a glass from the sink to dry, “You American’s are a strange lot, and I don’t think I’ll ever truly understand your people.”
I emptied my glass and slowly pushed it away, “I think I’ll wander down to the beach for awhile.”
“We talk again soon, eh amigo?” He took up my glass and gave me his patented smile. “You take care my amigo…you a good boy, stay out of trouble…eh?”
I smiled and continued out of the bar, turning to the left passing the table of beautiful young Brazilian girls and headed down toward the boardwalk.
For three days I searched the beach and boardwalk for the beautiful Gabriela, not once did I discover her in my desperate vision. Today though, today was different.
From a long way off I could see her approaching in the morning sunlight, her dark tan I would know anywhere. Here or there the brightly colored yellow bikini would show, leaving little for my excited imagination to realize. The wide flounced-brimmed hat made her look as lovely as those old classic actresses of a bygone era.
Positioning myself discretely on a nearby bench so she would pass directly by me, I waited. Her hips rocked like a metronome, keeping time to the song that seemed to repeat within my head…over and over again.
When she moves it's like a samba
that swings so cool and sways so gently
that when she passes
each man she passes
I found myself set up straighter, puffing out my chest in a thinly veiled attempt to resemble the Brazilian men who seemed to be all around me. Would she notice me? Would she see that I wanted her to look at me and smile?
Each thrust of her leg forward, split the long cover-up. The sheen of her glossed lips reflected the bright sun that was a prelude to how the day would become. I scooted forward upon my bench as she neared, mind racing to come up with something witty to say to her should she look my direction. Closer and closer she neared, ‘Could she speak English?’ I wondered…I hoped so; Lord, how I hoped so.
Mentally I counted the distance as she closed within my position upon the bench, ten seconds…not much more. In her wake, men would turn and swivel their heads in her direction, each one lusting for the beauty that was Gabriela. Like the song, each one deeply sighing as she passed them by.
I must speak to her, to hear the dulcet feminine tones as she would reply to me. I was in love, smitten by a stunning Brazilian beauty that I had never truly met. My mind raced to find the words to speak of my love, words which seemed to perch upon my lips; words which in an instant would endear her heart to mine.
She was almost to me now; I rose slightly in my seat and cleared my throat of the nervousness that seemed to strangle me. Her haunting beauty seemed to freeze me in awe, I struggled to speak but nothing came forward.
And as soon as she arrived, she passed and was slowly walking away; her hips swaying as if dancing to an unheard samba. I licked the dryness from my lips…I was crushed; I had my chance to speak to her and allowed it to pass by without a single word.
To my left I heard giggling; I glanced quickly at two young girls who had witnessed my epic failure. Lowering my gaze, I turned and quickly made my way toward the bar bathed in the abject embarrassment I felt.
I could feel them watching me as I walked away; hoping the crowd upon the boardwalk would swallow me, covering me from their amused view. I slowly made my way toward the bar and perched myself upon the seat I seemed to inhabit so often the past few days.
“Ah, it is my young amigo!” The bartender loudly exclaimed, “Why you looking so glum on this beautiful Brazilian morning?” He smiled as he observed me for several quiet seconds. “What can I get for you amigo?”
“Just coffee...” I sighed as I turned my head and looked out at the passersby walking along the boardwalk. Certain of the failure etched in my body language, I sat up straighter and attempted to shake off the events of this morning.
He sat my coffee down and poured himself his own, “This wouldn’t have anything to do with a bonita Brazilian Senhorita would it?”
I sighed, “Only one my friend…”
“Ahhhh…I think you are speaking of Gabriela, no?” He sadly shook his head and offered me a basket filled with bread. “Pá£o de queijo?” He smiled, “Cheese bread, take one…good for breakfast.”
I removed one and gently tore it, slowly pushing the broken piece off into my mouth and chewing. “That’s very good bread…thank you!”
“You listen to ol Ramá³n, he won’t steer you wrong…I know all about fine wine, fine women and great bread.” He laughed and patted me on my arm.
“Who is she…Gabriela? What do you know of her?” I pushed another chunk of the warm bread into my mouth and washed it down with a sip of the dark coffee.
“All of Ipanema…shoot, all of Brazil knows of Gabriela. She is a famous model here in our lovely country…but Gabriela is not for you my young amigo.” He sadly shook his head and frowned.
“You’ve told me that before. Are you afraid of an American coming into Brazil and taking away one of your beauties? I assume you think she wouldn’t be interested in me because I don’t show my status?” I looked him squarely in his dark eyes; I could hear a hint of my father in my voice.
“No amigo, it is not that at all…the woman you are attracted to is not a woman at all.” He smiled and drank from his own cup.
“The hell…no way!” I blustered. “Impossible!”
He laughed aloud as he watched the shock on my face. I couldn’t tell whether he was pulling my leg or not by the way he laughed. His eyes were smiling at me all the while, reminding me of an old uncle that playfully teased me throughout my young life.
“Are you serious Ramá³n? You wouldn’t be pulling my leg, would you?” I studied his expression for the chink in his story that would tell me for certain that he was teasing…I saw none.
My stunned gaze slowly dropped back to my cup, “But she is so beautiful…and feminine…”
“Brazil too has her specialized doctors…I’m sure Gabriela knows them well.” He downed the remainder of his cup and carried it to the sink as he spoke. “You forget about that one, find a real woman to keep you company while you enjoy what my country has to offer.”
I slowly finished my bread and coffee in stunned silence, part of me disbelieving the news Ramá³n just dropped on me. Pushing my cup away I stood and attempted to pay for the coffee, Ramá³n shook his hand and smiled.
“Amigo, you go to the beach today and feast on the real women that Brazil is famous for…forget about Gabriela, she is not for you.” I nodded slowly at his comment, turned and made my way back toward the hotel where I was staying.
At night my dreams were haunted by visions of Gabriela, walking past me; replaying the day I waited for her again and again in my mind. I knew what she was…now…and yet, I couldn’t seem to shake the fact that she was stunningly gorgeous.
Ramá³n’s comment continued to drone throughout my dreams, “The woman you are attracted to is not a woman at all…the woman you are attracted to is not a woman at all…the woman you are attracted to is not a woman at all…”
I sat up quickly and shook the sleep from my head; bright morning sunlight was streaming through the window and was making it hard to see. Slowly throwing out my feet from under the sheets, I sat up at the side of the bed and running my hand through my hair; I gradually stood and dressed for the day.
Noon again found me perched upon the bench waiting for Gabriela to pass, this time knowing that the strange desire to see her...him was odd even for me…still I waited.
As before, she passed me as though I weren’t there; never once looking toward me as she made her way to the sea. Her long dark hair gradually shifting in the gentle breeze, the bright sun casting her shadow across the ground, almost caressing me as it passed.
Oh - but he watches so sadly
How - can he tell her he loves her
He - would just give his heart gladly
But each day when she walks to the sea
She looks straight ahead not at he
I followed her with my eyes until she was gone, and then gave a short laugh as I looked toward the boards beneath my feet. What had I become? A young American wasting away his life, chasing after a transsexual albeit a gorgeous one that I saw on the boardwalk…and yet, there was something about the girl that seemed to pull on me; a desire to engage in something that transcends the borders of my own self imposed boundaries.
Tall and tanned and young and lovely
the girl from Ipanema goes walking
and when she passes
but she doesn't see
no she doesn't see
she just doesn't see...
Those words rang so true to me, a song written long before I was born and playing out as if it were solely written with me in mind. I stood and began to follow, pulled down the boardwalk in her wake…down toward the sea, in a thinly veiled hope that I would again spy the beautiful Gabriela.
I didn’t want to appear to stalk the girl, yet I was doing just that…pining for a girl that I could never hope to possess. Walking out onto the beach, the sand falling like rain from my sandals with each step I take; I made my way to where I thought Gabriela had gone.
I searched through the multitudes for over an hour but found no trace of Gabriela, sadly I made my way back up to the little bar where my quest for her seemed to have begun.
“Hey amigo, so you come back to pay ol Ramá³n a visit…eh?” He smiled and began creating the concoction that I had on that first day. After a long moment he sat my drink in front of me, “Your Cachaca my amigo.”
“Thanks Ramá³n.” I said as I took a small sip from the glass. I stared at the liquid as I rotated the glass around to see the bar’s logo. The haunting words from the song replayed over in my head as I silently studied my glass.
Tall and tanned and young and lovely
the girl from Ipanema goes walking
and when she passes
but she doesn't see
no she doesn't see
she just doesn't see...
Movement caused me to break my train of thought as Ramá³n pushed a small bowl of peanuts near to me, I glanced at them and took a few placing them on a napkin in front of me.
“She is going to be a warm one…eh?” He asked as he worked behind the counter. “Sunny and warm…a typical day in Ipanema…yes?”
I nodded in respect of my new friend; but my thoughts were elsewhere as I was beginning to think about my family at home. I realized that I was wasting my life chasing women…well one woman all over the city. Deep down, I knew that I should accept the responsibilities I owed my family and return to the states to begin working for my father. I sighed and took another drink of the sweet alcohol.
“Ah, amigo…you look as if something is troubling you?” The older man stood from behind the counter with two limes and began to cut them into wedges. I slowly nodded while watching him work.
“My friend, it is time I should be heading home.” I pursed my lips and gave the bar a slight pat, “I believe it’s time for me to face my father and stop chasing ghosts around your lovely city.”
“By ‘ghosts’, I assume you are speaking of the one we call Gabriela.” He gave me a paternal smile, “It is for the best my young amigo, one such as she would only bring you heartache.”
I tilted my head slightly and studied his face for a moment, “You have said that to me at least twice now, if Gabriela is so convincing as a woman here in Ipanema; why would anyone think she’d only bring me heartache?”
He raised his eyebrows in surprise, I continued, “She is as believable a woman as any I have seen…in fact, she is much more beautiful than many your city has to offer! If it isn’t one of those, what is it?”
He smiled, “Ah my amigo, yes Gabriela is quite beautiful, but she cannot give a young man what he desperately wants and needs.”
“And that is?” I asked as I tossed a peanut into my mouth and crushed it between my teeth.
“I trust that American men are the same as those men here…all want to sire children. That one, he indicated Gabriela with a general sweep of his hand, can never give a man a child…can never create an heir to his name. No sadly, any man who would have her would give up his right for a namesake…his name would die with him.”
I laughed, “There is always adoption, that child could carry on his name.”
He frowned, “I know adoption is always out there, but there is something about a child created from your own loins; with your blood also coursing through his veins.”
I raised an eyebrow at him, “I was adopted...” I waited to see a flash of embarrassment cross his face, “I feel that my parents loved me as much as their own child if they could have had one.”
“Ah, amigo…I am sorry…I have offended you.” He frowned and looked down sheepishly.
I reached out and patted his hand, “That’s okay my good friend…I think I understand the point you were making, and no, I am not offended.” I smiled and pushed my glass toward him, slowly stood and offered him my hand.
“When will you leave?” He asked as he gently grasped my hand and shook it.
“I’ll probably get a spot on the bus in the morning and take it to Rio International.” I paused and looked out upon the sunlit beach in the distance, “It’s time for me to go anyway…but you can bet I’ll be back.”
“If you’re able to return, promise that you will come see ol Ramá³n!” He grinned broadly, his mustachioed face beamed with genuine friendship.
“I will my good friend…I will.” I gave him a smile an a nod, slowly turned and made my way out into the bright sunlight heading back toward my hotel.
My dreams at night were subject to flashes of Gabriela as she walked past me toward the beach, always facing forward, never looking my way. There too was the constant niggling in my mind of returning to my father’s business…the pressure of taking it over and trying to make it profitable always there, always a worry for him.
The phone ringing brought me to sudden wakefulness as I sluggishly sat up from the programmed call. “Shit…” I sighed and trudged into the bath to make myself ready for the long flight home.
I ate a quick breakfast in the hotel’s dining area, and then walked the boardwalk in the early morning sun one last time while I waited for my shuttle to arrive. Part of me hoped that I would stumble across Gabriela as she walked upon the path…part of me just wanted to put everything about Ipanema behind me for good including the girl.
I leaned at a rail and watched the surf from a distance; there were a few people out in the early morning sun. The Gulls high pitched squawks were piercing the air, off against the horizon a large boat had it’s sails unfurled and was just catching the morning breezes. I sighed at the serene scene I was sure to miss, then looked back toward the hotel just as the bus was pulling up.
Begrudgingly turning, I headed back to gather my belongings and load them into the bus. Taking a seat, I watched our hotel and surroundings lazily drift past through the windows. Regretting leaving, but partially I was excited to return again home to those who loved me.
Our quiet ride into the Rio International airport allowed me to rest somewhat, only waking as I felt the bus slowing down. Almost as one, we gathered our bags and slowly made our way into the airport.
I headed straight toward the ticket counter to purchase my flight, I was thankful I could finally leave my baggage behind. It didn’t take me long to find the terminal where I would catch my plane home. For me, security was painless and they had me quickly through where I could take a seat and quietly wait to be told we could begin boarding our plane.
Finally, after almost an hour wait, I was able to seat myself by the window as other passengers filled their seats. Looking out at the bustling workers as they readied our plane for flight, each busy with their own important duties.
I felt my mind returning to my father and his business. His company was a high end clothier on the east coast with distribution to the entire United States as well as Canada and several countries in Europe. While I did have a feel for the business, I was hesitant to make the changes to the company necessary to raise profit well into this century.
Somehow I would make it work as it was expected of me, but fearful because I never want to let my parents down. I shrugged and thought about taking over the company as my father wished…I knew I could do it, I felt I was able…but without dad calling the shots, I was fearful…perhaps of the change I knew it would take.
Movement outside caught my eye as our plane began to slowly taxi down the runway; I leaned toward the window to look back on the city I was leaving. Overhead, I could hear the usual drone of the attendants of which I ignored like the countless other times I had flown.
“God, I hate flying!” I heard the feminine voice fearfully whisper as we took off. Without turning I smiled watching the land drop away below.
“Do you fly much?” She asked, I realized then that she was talking to me.
“I do fly some for the company that my family owns.” I spoke and turned to look at her. As soon as my gaze locked upon her, I knew that the woman next to me was the lovely Gabriela.
“Gabriela?” I sighed. Her complexion was absolutely flawless, I could feel all of the desire to hold this beautiful creature in my arms suddenly lurch in my stomach.
“Do we know each other?” She asked softly. “You have me at a disadvantage, sir.”
I held out my hand, careful not to show my tremble at being so near to the woman I loved. “Stephen Cosgrove…I’m an American.”
“Well, obviously you already know who I am…I’m Gabriela Caravalho.” She looked at me closely to see if her name rang any bells in my expression. “I am a Brazilian model…”
I nodded and gave her a quick and nervous smile, “I know.”
She grinned; the gloss of her lips seemed to mesmerize me. “I should probably let you know so I can avoid any uncomfortable conversation…I am a transgender…I transitioned when I was young. I had SRS on my 18th birthday.”
“Okay.” I smiled, thankful to be drinking in her beauty from such a close proximity. “You’re an extremely lovely woman.”
Gabriela arched a well manicured eyebrow, “And that does not bother you? I must say, I’m a bit surprised.”
I shook my head, completely captivated by her accent as well as her breathtaking beauty. “I…I have to tell you something too…ever since I saw you on the boardwalk in Ipanema, I have been held transfixed by your beauty…and that’s the truth.”
Gabriela looked away, I wasn’t sure if it were from awkwardness or embarrassment. “This is unusual for me.” She replied softly, “Most men I meet are interested in me, but as soon as they find out what I once was…they avoid me.”
“I’m not most men.” I replied candidly.
“I can see that.” She answered, gracefully placing a straying lock of hair behind her exceptional ears. I realized that she was slightly uncomfortable as she sought to change the subject. “I’m heading into New York to try and get a modeling job…try to make a name for myself beyond Brazil.”
“Perhaps I can find some jobs for you, I know quite a few modeling agencies in New York, and perhaps they can put you in touch with Designers through my families business.” I offered.
“But I’m a...” She argued, gently touching her slender fingers to her full chest.
I interrupted, I knew what she was about to say. “In my eyes, you are a woman…and that’s all that matters to me.” I held out my hand and waited until she demurely took it within her tiny grasp.
“I’ll have to find a place, I guess once I’m settled, we can work something out.” She replied thoughtfully.
I looked down at my hands; the nervous energy seemed to permeate from them. “I…I have a penthouse that you are welcome to stay at…apartments are pricey if you want to live in the better neighborhoods….separate beds of course.”
Gabriela looked at me in shock, “You offer to share a room in your apartment with me…why?”
Again, I looked down sheepishly, “Gabriela, do you believe in love at first sight?”
“My parents met while on a one day trip…so yes, I believe it is possible.” She again captured a stray lock of hair and tucked it neatly away.
I looked at her sparkling dark eyes, “From the first day I saw you, I was in love…I was crushed when I couldn’t capture your attention on the boardwalk…but, if you’d have me, I’d treat you like the princess you are!”
“I am in complete shock, Stephen.” She looked at me intently. “So…now what happens?”
I smiled, causing her to smile, “It depends on you.”
“Oh?” she tilted her head in surprise, “Aren’t you afraid your parents may object to your cavorting with a transgender woman?”
I shook my head, “Do they need to know?”
Gabriela laughed and the sound she made reminded me of the small wind chimes that hung from my parent’s porch. “They will find out eventually.”
“That’s possible, but I really doubt it that they would care.” I responded to her comment. “You see, my mother also transitioned when she was young.”
There was a strange relief that washed through Gabriela’s eyes, I knew then at that moment that the strange song no longer held sway over me…the girl from Ipanema was mine!
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