Salvador, Bahia State, Brazil

They weren’t doing well.

Emerging from their hotel door was not so much stepping into the street as it was being swept up into a mosh pit. They had no control over where they were going, they simply had to follow where the current led them. It took an hour to move three blocks, inch by humid inch. The air was oppressive, the crowds defied description, and the flower his lover had tucked behind her ear was beginning to wilt.

So was she.

This, plus the heat and the noise and the uncertainty of how to get back to the hotel, was making Joss decidedly edgy. They needed to sit down somewhere but so far all they had managed to do was wrench themselves from the riptide, press their backs against a brick wall and stay out of the way of the sweaty, sexed-up throngs that comprised this bloco of Salvador during Carnavale.

It was simply beyond everything: innumerable people drinking, shouting, dancing, kissing. In an uncontrolled explosion of happiness that flung sexual shrapnel over 700 meters of streets. It seemed the perfect recipe for a riot. And yet no menace was in the air. Not the slightest edge of danger as strangers greeted and groped. The world was genuinely and unabashedly in love, lust hung in thick clouds and the skies rained permission for anything and everything. It was exhilarating, overwhelming…

And if only they could sit down for two damn minutes and take it in.

Then, salvation: a young couple sitting at a table at one of the cafes that lined the street, waving at them. Them? The couple nodded, pointed, made beckoning gestures, pointed to two empty chairs. Come! Sit!

He grabbed her hand, and without breaking eye contact with these two wonderful stranger-samaritans, muscled his way through and across.

The couple introduced themselves as Eduardo and Rafaela. They were both painfully beautiful and extraordinarily friendly. He spoke English, she did not, but she clucked and cooed over them in Portugeuse with concern that needed no translation, and she summoned the waiter as if by imperial decree, ordering well-iced drinks. Now, from the safety of their ringside seats, finally hydrated, basking in Rafaela’s tactile hospitality, the American couple relaxed into the atmosphere.

“First time at Carnavale?” Eduardo asked.

The foreigners nodded absently, looking in all directions, taking in the dancing, the music, the breakdown of social order, the air of possibility that pervaded everything.

“Dentro de quatro paredes,” Rafaela said, touching both their hands, “sob os lençóis, e por trás da máscara de carnaval, tudo pode acontecer.” She sat back with a knowing air. They all looked at Eduardo to translate.

“Within four walls, beneath the sheets, and behind the mask of carnaval, everything can happen,” he said.

“Tudo,” Rafaela repeated with satisfaction. She spoke again, at length, and Eduardo again translated.

“Brazilians tend to allow expressions of sexuality and eroticism that are quite unacceptable in other areas of the Latino world,” he said. “Especially in public. ‘Everything,’ or tudo, refers to the world of erotic experiences and pleasure. The phrase fazendo tudo, ‘doing everything,’ means Brazilian men and women have an obligation to experience and enjoy every form of sexual pleasure and excitement, or more precisely, those practices that the public world most strictly prohibits. This, however, must all be done in private, between four walls, under the sheets, or…” Here Eduardo gestured expansively, indicating the swirl of revelry around them, and said, “Behind the mask of Carnavale.”

“Sacanagem,” Rafaela said, and her voice dripped a dark, luscious secret. Eduardo half rolled his eyes and muttered something dissmissive. She swatted his arm and spoke her mind.

“It doesn’t translate well, sacanagem.” He smiled at the Americans, his hand warding off Rafaela’s gentle beating as his brow wrinkled in thought. “It means…the world of erotic experience,” he said. “Or perhaps the erotic universe. It doesn’t matter. Tudo andfazendo tudo are key elements of sacanagem. A Brazilian most clearly embodies the erotic ideal of sacanagem by doing everything, particularly those practices that the public world most condemns and prohibits. The transgression of public norms brings the playfulness of Carnavale into everyday life.”

The Americans nodded, a little bewildered by this lesson in a cultural concept alien to them. Now Eduardo and Rafaela were having a heated debate. Or rather, heated on her end, and Eduardo responded with a tender tolerance.

Lost in the sparring Portuguese, she drank the last of her beer and looked over at her lover, tousled in his loose, white shirt, his fingers slowly rubbing his chin, regarding their hosts with fascinated amusement. She took in the tilt of his head, how the streetlights turned his skin golden and caught the blue in his eyes. She ran her fingertips along his forearm, from wrist to elbow, up under his sleeve, thought about his body under his clothes, and a longing ache settled down low in her lap.

He felt the heat in her touch and looked at her. His heart splashed in his chest. She had her ballerina on, poised and delicate in her white dress with her dark hair drawn back. He reached and took away the crumpled blossom in her hair, smoothed the damp tresses behind her ear, ran his fingers along her jaw. He drained the last of his beer, then he lay his hand, cold and wet from the bottle, on her leg under the table, pushing up her skirt to get his palm full of her smooth skin. His mouth watered. His eyes narrowed. He moved his hand further up her thigh. She uncrossed her knees, sat back a little in her chair, raised her chin at him and let her own gaze soften and blur.

They stared. Seconds stretched out like taffy. A hole opened in the night, and they began to creep towards its rim. His cool fingertips reached the lace edge of her underwear and deftly slid beneath. The table, the street, their Brazilian friends, all receded, grew faint, dim. She slowly pulled her knees further apart. She was wet and easy and his fingers inched up and into her. His chin rested on his other hand, elbow on the table, expression innocuous save for his eyes—his eyes smoldered as his fingers slid in and out of her, glossy and warm.

Sacanagem, she thought. She was going to come. He was getting her off. At the table. In public. In front of strangers. He had never done such a thing. But the way he was looking at her, intent, unsmiling, not teasing, not letting up on her…

“Go on,” he whispered, low enough for only her to hear. “Go on…”

She tilted her hips, rocked down on his hand, breathing softly through her mouth, not looking away. Her face didn’t betray the slightest thing until the tiniest of orgasms made her close her eyes for an instant of piercing pleasure. She opened them again, stared at him, fell into him. Her fingernails bit down into the skin of his arm. She called to him, but no sound came forth.

He held his hand still then, awed by the shape of her mouth around his name, feeling the pulse of her around his fingers, the hot wet core of her, that crux of everything she was. He stared. He thought he had never seen her look so beautiful…

An audible clink broke the spell. Eduardo had set his beer bottle down on the table, and set his other hand gently on Rafaela’s mouth. She stopped talking, and Eduardo leaned forward to them on his elbows with eyes that missed nothing.

“Basically all this is to say my wife is trying to get you in bed,” he said.

“Me?” they both answered at the same time, and Eduardo threw back his head in a magnificent roar of laughter. “Yes, you. Both of you. Look, take advantage of the fact that she doesn’t have a word of English, finish your drinks and go back to your hotel.”

She sat forward and he discreetly withdrew his hand from her skirt. They both shut their mouths and exchanged tentative, American glances. Eduardo laughed again. “Hesitation,” he said. “Bravo. I like that you at least consider the offer. But trust me, amigos, this isn’t what you want. You only want each other. Go back to your hotel and fazendo tudo.”

He asked where they were staying and scribbled a small map on a cocktail napkin. He stilled any last protestations Rafaela had, and she capitulated with kisses on their cheeks and a heady rush of perfume.

Eduardo embraced his American mate heartily, fists thumping his back. “Your wife is beautiful,” he murmured. “I saw you making her come under the table.”

“She’s not my wife.”

Eduardo laughed once more. “Fazendo tudo, trás da máscara de carnavale.”

As quickly as they had been rescued from the crowd, the Americans were jettisoned back into it. Armed with directions and heads spinning with fervent, feverish thoughts, they made their way through the bloco and were swallowed up. Gone.

At the table, Eduardo watched them disappear, then he kissed Rafaela. “Sacanagem,” he said. “I never think it’s going to work but fuck damn, it gets them every time.”

She preened in his embrace with the air of one who knows she is always right. “That was stupid easy. How long was that, what, all of twenty minutes? One drink each. Child’s play.”

“I liked them.”

“You liked her, you mean.”

“Oh, as if you weren’t eating him alive with your eyes, he’s totally your type.”

“Ai meu Deus, did you feel the heat coming off them?”

“Did you feel the moves under the table?”

“When he kept whispering go on… I almost came myself. And her face the whole time? She barely blinked. She’s good.”

They kissed a little more, teasing and giggling. “They have to be back in their room now,” she said.

“Either that or he couldn’t wait and he’s got her up against the wall in an alley.”

“Oh please, there isn’t an unoccupied alley in all of Bahia tonight!”

They both howled with laughter, slapping the table. “Definitely their room,” she gasped, wiping her eyes. “What do you think they’re doing?”

“Fucking like gods,” he answered. “What are they not doing, is the question.“

“He’s definitely finishing what he started, ” she purred. “He can make her come like that under the table in a crowd, think what he can do alone in the dark.”

“She’s coming, Rafé. Right now. As we speak. She’s under him, a beautiful mess, crying out his name. Can you see it?”

“She was lovely.” Her eyes blinked sensuously as she ran her hand up his thigh and into his lap. “You’re hard for her. Right now. As we speak.”

He crossed one knee over, trapping her hand, drank the rest of his beer, and neither confirmed nor denied.

“I can’t believe you let them get away.” Her hand in his lap was expert.

“It was better.”

“We could've had them,” she said, insistent.

“No,” he said. “No, he wouldn’t share her.”

Then Rafaela nudged him and indicated with her head across the street. He looked, flicked his eyes back to her and nodded. Her hand withdrew from his lap. They put on their masks: big smiles and expressions of concern. They waved at their new catch. They beckoned grandly. They pointed to the empty chairs.

Come! Sit!