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Flambé Arrives in Cuernavaca

Flambé finally raised enough money for the breast enhancement surgery: $11,550 in total, mainly from her GoFundMe account. With Nick’s help (he was good at that sort of thing), she made her travel and other arrangements.

The plan was to arrive at La Casa de Pechos and have her initial consultation, with the surgery occurring a day later. The entire procedure included ten days of post-operative accommodations in the Cuernavaca clinic. She would book an additional two final days at a private hotel nearby, just in case she didn’t feel like returning home immediately—a booking that could easily be cancelled with 24 hours notice. Nick would drive her to the airport and pick her up again on her return. Then, she’d recuperate at the Perkins Street flat.

She told her dog-walking clients she’d be unavailable for the next three weeks, although she didn’t tell them why. Finally, the big day arrived. Her flight to Cuernavaca was scheduled for 8:30 a.m.; she and Nick arrived at Oakland International Airport two hours early. They had a quick breakfast together, then said their goodbyes. “I know how important this is to you, Flambé,” Nick told her. “I’m really happy for you.” Flambé, with tears in her eyes, embraced her friend. “I’ve been waiting for this a long time,” she said, as Nick held her. “I know, sweetie, I know.” Flambé had a fleeting thought: she wished it were Devon there with her instead.

The big 747 took off under clear skies, and soon, Flambé, from her window seat, was watching California fly by beneath her. They made the wide, sweeping arc over San Francisco to head south; Twin Peaks loomed over the central part of the city, while Salesforce Tower, with its swooping funnel shape that always reminded Flambé of a dildo, dominated the east. They transited the Peninsula and the Santa Cruz Mountains, then, south of Big Sur, the jet veered out to sea. Flambé put on her sleep mask—ruby red in color—adjusted her neck support pillow—royal blue—slipped half an Ambien into her mouth, and settled back for a nap.

She awoke somewhere over the Central Mexican Plateau, a vast region of brown fields, punctuated here and there with green patches of farmland and the occasional village or small city, limned on the east by the Sierra Madre mountains. Eventually she saw distant Cuernavaca, at first a grey smudge on the horizon, then gradually expanding and coming into focus, its red-roofed buildings assuming distinct geometric shapes, interspersed with parks and plazas. Then they were on the ground. After a brief interval going through customs—no problems encountered—Flambé found her way to the passenger pickup area of the small terminal, where La Casa de Pechos had sent a driver, in a town car that had seen better days, to meet her.

Her driver was Carlos, young, curly-haired, smiling and unabashedly flirtatious. Under other circumstances, Flambé might have been interested, but after the long flight, her nerves were fluttery, and the unknown risks of the immediate future rattled her. Carlos, whose English was passable, understood. “Don’ be scare, lady,” he told Flambé, looking at her through his dashboard mirror. “It gonna be okay.”

La Casa de Pechos was in an old colonial mansion, originally built (so she learned) in the 1820s, as the residence of a wealthy livestock rancher. It had lush gardens through which flagstone paths wound; everywhere the blues, yellows and greens of clay tiles lined walls, balconies, balustrades. Orchids bloomed by plashing fountains; palm trees shushed in the mild breeze; here and there a peacock strode, or colorful parrots squawked in violet-flowered jacarandas. Flambé was shown to her rooms, which consisted of a small sleeping/sitting area and bath, with a patio leading to the garden. There was a welcome dinner planned for that evening, for Flambé and one or two other newly arrived clients. Tomorrow, she was told by the concierge (a sweet lady named Lydia), she would have her first consultation with Dr. Lopez.

At the welcoming dinner she met two other Americans who had arrived that day: Mistral, from Venice Beach, and Roberta, a young standup comedian from Miami, whose routine was geared to Lesbian clubs. In addition there came to the dinner four of Dr. Lopez’s patients who were in various stages of post-operative recovery. To eat, there were tamales and tacos of all kinds; the house drink was Prosecco, there being no medical restrictions on alcoholic beverages, except on the day of surgery. It was an easy, informal gathering, a good opportunity for the newcomers to interrogate their more experienced neighbors as to what to expect.

Flambé went to bed early. She was tuckered out after the long, eventful day. Tomorrow, she knew, would start early: up at 6 a.m., and her initial consultation with Dr. Lopez at 8. There was much to do, much to learn; on the day after that would come the surgery.

* * *

Her room phone rang promptly at 6 a.m., awakening her from a deep sleep. Her dream had had something to do with walking the dogs through a thick, weird jungle; but she could remember no specifics, only a feeling a dread. She showered, ate a quick breakfast (toast, papayas, yogurt, coffee), then made for Dr. Lopez’s office.

The consultation was thorough and impersonal. Dr. Lopez, whose English was good, first inquired about Flambé’s general health and mood. Then he turned to the size and look of the new breasts she would shortly acquire. It was a topic Flambé had barely thought of. She wanted nice breasts, of course, but not enormous ones: she wasn’t a drag queen. Dr. Lopez showed Flambé brassieres in different sizes that she could try on and see how they looked in the mirror. He also had a virtual reality simulator on his computer, so that Flambé could view herself, with her new breasts, from a variety of angles; it even allowed for changes of clothing: a Chanel suit, a flouncy blouse, a gown, a bikini, or no clothes at all.

Dr. Lopez explained what Flambé could expect immediately before, during and after the surgery. She’d be medicated at 6:30 a.m., with antibiotics. “Before” photos would be taken; then she’d be wheelchaired to the operating theater, where Dr. Lopez, Lydia (who was a registered nurse), an anesthetist and an assisting physician would perform the procedure. The anesthetist would run an I.V. into Flambé’s right arm. “That’s the last thing you’ll be aware of before you fall asleep,” Dr. Lopez explained. “When you wake up, you’ll be in recovery.” The actual surgery, he added, would take about an hour, depending on whether there were complications. He expected none, he said.

And in fact the operation went smoothly. When Flambé awoke, she was in a post-op room, white, sterile and air-conditioned, with a tube in her arm and her chest heavily wrapped and iced. She felt no pain, at first; later, Dr. Lopez had warned her, the pain would come; but when it did, she would have an ample supply of OxyContin.

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