June 13, 2005 | Beware of sweet nothings, ladies. They just might amount to-well, nothing.

Juan and I met in Mexico, his country of birth, my temporary residence. Land of love songs and laments, Mexico was the perfect setting for a storybook romance, and Juan was well-suited to the role of his namesake, Don Juan.

"My love, my delight, my life," he'd croon, looking deep into my eyes with a fiery gaze that made my heart smolder, "I love you with every breath I take, I can't live without you. You are the queen of my existence, and I your slave."

Whether or not I believed Juan, I can't really say. So dazzled was I by his declarations of love, so mesmerized by the burning look that accompanied them, discernment failed me. Juan made me feel desired, cherished, worshipped. His words entered my bloodstream like an elixir and made my heart cha-cha-cha. In love with Juan's verbiage, I let it work its magic and asked no questions.

Life with Juan was all-day siestas and all-night fiestas, serenades at my balcony, roses at my doorstep, and Juan pinned to my ear, cooing his inimitable Mexican mating calls.

"My nightingale, my heaven, my saint," he'd tell me, letting the words trickle down my earlobe like warm honey. "I love you with every beat of my heart. You're part of my very being, as essential as the air I breathe. If you left me, I swear I would die."

Leave Juan? I supposed I might one day, but I was in no hurry. Life as Juan's novia (sweetheart) was sweet indeed. As long as the nectar in Juan's tongue continued to flow, I saw no reason for our idyll to end. Latin courtships might last months, years, long enough for me to soak up volumes of Juan's odes and oaths.

"My light, my soul, my treasure," he'd whisper endlessly, growing bolder, drawing me closer, so close that I could see the facets in his eyes glow like hot coals. "I love you more than I love myself, more than your own mother loves you, more than—may the heavens forgive me!—more than God Himself could ever love you. I swear I would die for you."

Fortunately for most Juans, their words are never put to the test. No doubt, my Juan banked on the same luck. But as fate would have it, circumstances intervened—drastic circumstances—that actually did thrust my very life into his hands.

One weekend, Juan took me to a small seaside resort outside Playa Blanca where we intended to spend a few quiet days romancing to the rhythm of the waves. The setting—white-hot sand, placid sea, a caressing breeze—had all the promise of a sultry summer daydream. Shortly after our arrival, however, a nasty storm blew in, and the tide rose like a waterfall in reverse. Out I ran to the beach with Juan calling after me, "My love, the sea she's mean. Don't go!"

He was right. I was no match for the waves. Tossed about like a dummy, suctioned down into the drink again and again, I quickly felt my fight give out. I was actually drowning. "Help me, Juan!" I screamed. My mouth filled with brine each time I opened it. "Help me! Help! Help. . .!"

"Sweem, mamacita, sweem!" Juan cried back.

"Help!" I cried desperately, a dozen times, a hundred, though Juan no doubt had heard me the first time.

"Sweem, por Dios! Sweem!" he repeated, matching me yelp for yelp.

The poor man was beside himself, clearly. He ran up and down the beach, weeping, wailing; he tore his hair, waved his arms, fell to his knees. . .and never so much as wet the tips of his toes.

When a wayward wave finally heaved me onto the beach where he waited dry and safe, I couldn't help but feel sorry for him. Not meaning to, I had exposed him.

But Juan showed no sign of embarrassment. To the contrary, his face lit up and he shed tears of joy.

"My goddess, my angel, my adoration. . ." he cooed, riveting me once more with his searing gaze as he tried to lead me away.


Germaine W. Shames has written from six continents—soon to add the seventh—on topics ranging from the Middle East crisis to Aboriginal land rights. She is the author of the critically-acclaimed novel, Between Two Deserts, and her articles have appeared in such publications as National Geographic Traveler, Hemispheres, Success, and many others.




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