After my cereal I sat contemplating the likelihood of me getting a car, which was probably reported stolen by now, past the officious pig-fuckers of the United States Border Patrol. I looked in Nurse’s rearview to see how I looked after the beating and the crash. Any visible abnormalities could thwart my emigration intentions indefinitely. I prodded, pulled and slapped my cheeks, lifted my eyelids, examined my corneas, smiled and frowned and grimaced and yawned. My face seemed ok. Perhaps a little tired. But aesthetically satisfactory. I pulled up my shirt to examine my upper body. Bruises of blue and purple and burning red were painted out across my abdomen and torso, like a constellation map of the galaxy. It was beautiful, in a way.
I concluded that as long as I didn’t get strip-searched, my appearance wasn’t going to be a problem. And being a thirty-three year old white western male and a Canadian citizen no less, being so much as asked to leave the vehicle would be a highly unlikely circumstance. However, one small hitch nagged my more nervous neurons: if the young Nurse had reported her vehicle stolen, and nominated me as the primary suspect, then I would no doubt be driving into a very premature denouement of my Trip.
But that my friends, was also highly unlikely. You see, as I told you before when I was musing on the makings of the pretty young Nurse: she is a white, middleclass American living in the Deep South, her primordial instincts would immediately direct her accusations first at Hispanics or Blacks or maybe even hopped up Natives. The cops would probably make the same knee-jerk conclusions. God bless white American hysteria.
Of course they would eventually collate my sudden disappearance and the theft of Nurse’s car happening within minutes of each other. Eventually. But the fog of ingrained white American hegemony would afford at least, a few days more on the lamb.
There is a racism that sleeps a light slumber in the hearts of every European settler in the United States, despite their current political leanings. From swastika painted neo-Nazi skin heads who ride the beast proudly in their rallies and in the beatings of black teenagers; to the public prosecutor in the courthouse fighting-the-good-fight against the scourge of immigrant street warfare, sipping coffee made from beans from Latin-America and Ethiopia; to the Columbia grad who knows subway stops he shouldn’t alight at. America: the land of the brave, and the lynch mob; America: where freedom is quantified by skin pigmentation – a cast system no less pernicious or toxic than in India; Yes, America, where even in the abolition and white guilt and progressive liberalism of the North, soccer-moms cower behind curtains and whisper words even darker than the skins of the new black family that recently invaded their suburbia.
Not me, though. I’m Canadian.
I got in to Laredo around 1am. It was a peculiar time to be crossing the border and I knew it would probably be subject to scrutiny by the patrol. But stopping and booking into another motel was not an option. I’d been assaulted by enough innkeepers for the night.
I drove around near deserted streets, left and right and left again around the city’s grid system, stewing and driving before the Last Judgment. It was Monday by now, I think. Ghostly Laredo had returned to the coyote days of old, muted and lazy drunk. I half expected a tumbleweed to brush across my path. Or perhaps this queer tranquility was just the solemn hush before a desperado was thrown through a saloon bar window. Or the quiet before a hyperbolic gunfight rolled out into the street with bullets in cowboy hats and screams of whores. Or maybe it was just the reverent silence before the frenzied rape of a shopkeeper’s daughter by a tequila-demented bandito. Warm whispers in the evening air reminded me it was Wednesday, not Monday. It was probably time to move on.
Laredo was founded in 1755, christened Villa de San Agustin de Laredo by one Don Tomás Sánchez, a veteran captain of the army of New Spain. Nearly a century later in 1840 Laredo had been declared capital of the independent Republic of the Rio Grande: an unrecognized state set up by insurgents who opposed Santa Anna’s Centralized Mexican Government after he disbanded Mexico’s Congress and suspended the constitution. After a bitter and wild struggle, the rebellion failed, and Laredo was once again embraced by Mexican sovereignty.
In 1846 during the Mexican-American war the United States military occupied Laredo with a force of Texas Rangers. Military might broke the back of the Mexican resistance and the territory was ceded to the United States of America.
What followed was a referendum by the people of Laredo to petition the American government to return the town to Mexico, which was denied. So the Laredan people left their homes and crossed the Rio Grande River and formed the new settlement of Nuevo Laredo, in Mexico. Their old homes practically a pebble-throw from their new ones, and hopelessly visible from the banks of the Grande.
The Laredo border is now one of the most heavily guarded crossings in the developed world.
In 2005, I Robert Giraud, your protagonist, visited Laredo to celebrate the 250th anniversary of its founding with my father-in-law Phil, my ex-wife Jan, and Jan’s mom. The festivities were electric.
After about an hour of moseying and dawdling, disappointed at Laredo’s lack of gunfights and bar-brawls, I joined up with the Juárez-Lincoln International Bridge en route to the border crossing. I was slightly pensive, mostly drunk again, but not detectably so. The Gates of Mordor approached, and its Orcs were waiting for me with their axes and clubs and standard-issue 9mm pistols. Vigilance was required once more.
There were no other cars pulling up to the booths at the border, only empty lanes. I could almost see the guards and their cinderblock heads bobbing together buoyantly, reveling in the good job they’d done keeping brown people out today. I had my pick of the lanes. I decided center was safest.
I was met by a cinderblock with a shaved back-and-sides cut: A living ex-military cliché. Just another, I thought, among a nation of real life clichés that never seem to disappoint. He wore aviators at night.
He tapped the window of Nurse’s car with a ballpoint pen.
I rolled it down “Evening officer.”
“Bit late t’be callin’ the evenin’” snorted the cinderblock. A local brick-head it seemed.
“My apologies, officer. Good morning.”
“Can ‘ah see your passport please, sir?” He scanned it. “Canadian.”
“Get too cold fer’ you up there in moose country or somethin’?” He said so the other cinderblocks could hear. They bobbed along compliantly. He grinned a redneck’s grin, except with actual teeth.
I hated his fat face and wanted to smash it with the tire iron in Nurse’s glove box, but instead I said “Just topping up on my tan.”
The cinderblock didn’t smile. He started to examine the side of Nurse’s car. “What’s the nature of yer’ visit to Mexico this evenin’, Mr. Giraud?”
“It’s too late to be calling it the evening, remember?” I quipped in the witty, wry way I often quip.
“What’s all these dirt marks on the side of yer’ vehicle, you been drivin’ off road?”
I opened the door to get out.
“Stay in the vehicle, sir.” I clicked the door back shut. He knelt down to study Nurse’s tires. I watched him in the side mirrors.
“I’d like you to pop yer’ trunk please, sir.” He said approaching the window with his cinderblock head – robust, square and true – obscuring everything else. It was huge. It had its own center of gravity. I started to feel my head being drawn by its pull. It had an overwhelming magnetism. I couldn’t fight it. I veered off unable to control my own orbit anymore. My was getting closer to his, and there was nothing I could do about it. “Woah, woah! Have you been drinking, sir?”
I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t. My head just carried on its inexorable course to Cinderblock IV. Our heads nearly touched.
“That’s fucking it.” He snapped. Yanked open Nurse’s door and dragged me out.
It seemed ever since I’d started my Trip people had been dragging and pulling and throwing me all over the place. I put it down to climate change. It was pretty hot this time of year now.
He threw me up against the side of Nurse’s car and called for the cinderblock cavalry: “Bobby, check this asshole’s trunk and glove box.” “Brandon, run this motherfucker’s plates.” He had my arm wrenched right up behind my back so I could caress my neck hairs with my fingertips if wanted to. I decided not to.
“The fuck is wrong witchu’, boy, you a queer or somethin’?” Yelled a now very angry cinderblock. He wrenched my arm up higher. I could nearly touch my head hair now.
“Look, officer, this is all a big mistake.”
He didn’t agree. He just called back out to his band of blockheads “Bobby, what’s the hold-up?”
Bobby, a smaller, scrawnier cinderblock, but a cinderblock nonetheless called out “Bottle of liquor, cereal and some other crap. Groceries mostly. Bread; milk; gas bottles.”
“How ‘bout the glove?” Said the man who had by now nearly dislocated my right arm. I’d ascertained by now that he must’ve been the Alpha-Block: King cinderblock. Überblock.
“Just a tire iron, Billy. Looks clean.”
He called out for the third block-sketeer “How’s it comin’ on those plates, Brandon?”
“Computer’s slow. Just a minute, Billy.”
“Ok, Bobby, fetch me the breathalyser.” Said the man intent on tearing my muscle tissue, whom I now knew to be Billy. Billy the redneck blockhead.
The whole scene was getting ridiculous. I decided to weigh in before a miscarriage of justice was enacted. “Look, Billy, is it? This is all a big mistake.”
“Ah’ heard that one before. You must think I’m a fuckin’ dumbass. Well ah’ think you’re a drunk faggot whose about to spend the night in a cell.”
“No, seriously Billy, I’m not drunk or anything; I’m just tired. I’m driving down on work. A really important business trip.”
Billy was didn’t respond.
“I’m a representative of the Cumbersome family oil corporation. I’m normally based at our Brownsville rig but I had to collect some personal effects from my aunt’s in Hebronville tonight. I can give you her number but she’ll be asleep by now.” His grip loosened slightly, and then tightened it again. “I’m on my way to Monclova to help oversee the setup of our new site in the Nuevo León area.”
“They found oil in Monclova?” perked a now more inquisitive Billy.
“Near Monclova; in the Nuevo León area. That’s why I’ve got all this dirt on my car. Ok I admit I may have been speeding a little on Route 16, but that’s only because I’ve got this really important meeting in the morning. I’m just tired, Billy. I’m not gonna’ get a chance to sleep tonight.”
He dampened tenacious grip again. “What about the liquor, Mr. Giraud?”
“You know, to grease the squeaky wheels of business so-to-speak.”
“But it’s open?”
“My aunt’s a drunk. She insisted on a night-cap. What could I say?”
Billy the redneck blockhead thought about it for a second. It was a plausible story to him. A majestic exemplar of thespianism I thought, though. He bat it around, played ping-pong with my story. It would be a long game. He had a big head.
He let go of my arm “alright.” called out to his cinderblock compatriots “Guys, stand down, we fucked up. Fella’ works fer’ Mr. Cumbersome.”
“He’s my father-in-law, actually. Family business.”
“I’m sorry, sir. It was misunderstandin’ on my part.” The humbled cinderblock conceded.
I got back into Nurse’s stolen car “No apologies necessary, Billy. The United States Border Patrol is an American institution, and you guys at the Laredo branch are truly innovators in your craft.”
“Thank you fer’ sayin’ so, Mr. Giraud.”
“No problem, Billy. You a pleasant day.”
I drove off into the moonlit morning passed Nuevo Laredo and out once again on the Road. With the danger no longer in my wing mirrors, I deemed it safe to once more tear up the tan sand-roads and the Byzantium night-morning sky. I was a painter again. A post-post-impressionist swirling beiges with blues, with purples, with intoxicated red hues and the other divine auspices of starry night-morning liberty.
As my wheels ripped the dessert road floor with the pious hum of motor engine reverberation, I started to feel that same stirring in my stomach I felt on Route 16 with the window down at 80mph. An indescribable feeling that can only compared to the absolute freedom of freefalling through the night with no parachute and no gear. When the only possible outcome is death; but it doesn’t matter because in those few fleeting moments before the end, there’s enough living for a lifetime.
There was Land Rover in my rear view about quarter-mile back matching my 80 with his. He was the only other wanderer on the Road that night.
I was making my way down to Monterrey, to stop for supplies and respite. It had been a long drive as far and I was running low on Cinnamon Toast and liquor. I prayed to the Aztec gods of Mexico that they kept their shelves stocked with my favourite breakfast cereal. I tuned into a local radio station, to keep my senses acute.
It was about 2:20am and I was halfway to Monterrey. I’d slowed to a dilatory 60mph. The reggaeton on the radio was losing its rigour. The Land Rover was still in my rear view keeping its same distance.
By 3am I was so tired my head was nearly on the steering wheel. I had to fight to stay awake. I slapped my face and rubbed water in my eyes. In vein. I lost the fight and fatigue overtook me. The holy rubber steering wheel now a pillow for my forehead. I fell asleep.
I jolted suddenly, woke up to radiant light filling the entirety of Nurse’s car. I assumed it was a divine message from those Aztec gods: a memo that everything was alright, that there’d be Cinnamon Toast in Monterrey. No such luck. I checked the mirrors to observe the source of this new elysian illumination, only to find the Land Rover was right up my rear with its headlights on high beam. The intensity blinded me temporarily. I tried to focus my vision on the road ahead so as not to swerve into the ditch on the side, when I felt a thud in the rear of Nurse’s bumper. I was being rammed. I hit the gas hard speeding up to get out of reach, but the Land Rover’s engine was too powerful and persisted to ram me with crash after crash after crash, until I could feel debris come away from Nurse’s car, like scuppered oak from the hulls of an English schooner bombarded by enemy pirate cannonball fire.
My thoughts drifted away. I started to think of my old boss Reggie. Wandered what he was doing right now. Probably in bed spooning his wife, Ellen. Or maybe he had trouble sleeping, and was sat up drinking whisky with milk and watching the late-night poker channel. That would be a terrible waste of single malt. He had a fine collection of scotch. CRASH. One final ram and I lost control of the car, and descended front-first into a ditch on the side of the road.
I awoke with my face smothered by Nurse’s deployed air bag, my face buried deep in its suffocating embrace. I fought off pillowy bastard until it deflated and I could get free. I got out the car to access the damage. I stopped short when I saw the beams of the Land Rover stationary now about 50 metres down the road. There was a man standing outside the car, smoking a cigarette. I couldn’t make him out properly. I remembered where I’d seen the Land Rover before now. It passed through border control as redneck Billy was wrenching my arm up out of it’s socked. It had passed through without stopping. Without any checks.
The man got back in his car and drove off.
Nurse’s car was now nose-down in a ditch at the side of the road. It looked like I wouldn’t be making it to Monterrey just yet. Which was a shame because my milk was going bad. I decided to sleep in the wrecked car for the night.
Harold Horatio was a world famous explorer, highly celebrated for his successful expeditions and anthropological studies of the native peoples of Papua New Guinea. He was well known and was much talked about by the upper echelons of Victorian society, his work often a conversation opener at dinners in high courts. There were plans for a knighthood from the Crown should his expedition in the Amazon be fruitful.
It was hard being a famous explorer in the 19th century as most of the known world had already been discovered by the Spanish and the Portuguese and a little bit by the Dutch. So a lot of the other famous explorers spent their time walking around Australia and Africa and America and the South Pole, searching for clues of an otherwise unknown world. But these places didn’t interest Harold. Harold had a penchant for the peoples of the earth’s rainforests.
Harold’s father was the head of the nearly dissolved East India Company, a trading company founded by his great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather in 1600. Harold’s sea-legs were in his DNA, you see. But Harold’s father William Horatio felt differently. He claimed the Horatio family’s seafaring days were over and that Harold should stay in London with him and take over the company when he retired. He always blamed Harold for the company failing 1874.
After the East India Company’s dissolution William Horatio descended into desperate alcoholism, and violently beat Harold’s mother to death nearly a year later. Harold was in the Amazon Rainforest with the Chief at the time. He was hooked on Psycho-Toads. He was an explorer of other dimensions now.
Robert Giraud wouldn’t meet the Chief for another 139 years.
I awoke to the psychic rays of the pulsating Aztec sun pummelling my face through the cracked window of Nurse’s windscreen. There were loud foreign noises and commotion all around me. I got out the car to determine the disturbance.
A frail Mexican fellow in dishevelled denim overalls with no t-shirt underneath was directing a tow truck to my wreckage in the ditch. I attempted to converse with him with my high-school Spanish, but he ignored my presence as though I was a mosquito lusty for blood protein. He swatted me away as I fumbled with phonetics.
I eventually got him to acknowledge me and at least attempt discourse. But the only tangible word I could make out from his pursed prune-like lips, was policia. PO-LI-CI-A. I was always terrible at high-school Spanish.
I insisted “No policia por favor, no policia!” but swatted away again my feverish protests and hooked the tow truck to the rear of Nurse’s car. “Please, señor!” I protested once more. He stopped for a moment; spoke to me in a low quieted voice, words I couldn’t understand. But I got the gist of it. I handed him a folded Ben Franklin and he unhooked the car. “Gracias señor.” I said.
“Gracias gringo.” He smirked.
The Volvo C30, Nurse’s car, my chariot of liberty, this automobile – once a 296 horsepower freedom ticket from modern-day monolithic monotony, slavery, the American corporate 21st century – was pretty beaten up after the crash. It seems my delicate phoenix wings had been clipped by the harsh realities of rural bandito Mexico, and for now I would soar no more. I’d had to trash the car on the outskirts of town.
Before embarking on this venture of mine, this divine pilgrimage to Thebes – to Babylon, to the ancient city of Tollan – I was wise enough to memorise the maps I’d need to get me to where I was going. There was no data trail on my laptop. No analogue paper trail with Sharpie markings for evidence. Just me, and my unwavering mind. So I knew there’d be an airport on route 85D about twenty-five minutes outside of Monterrey. My plan now was to ditch Nurse’s Volvo at the airport’s car park and get a taxi into central Monterrey, where with my remaining American dollars would buy a one-way ticket to Mexico City. Once I got to the capital, I’d have to see what happens. The pace of my Journey would have to slow for now, though.
Ditching the car was an easy enough affair. Mexican airports had relatively little security in their car parks, even post-9/11 to my dismay slightly I must admit. I sat in the driving seat for a minute or so savouring a few moments of solemn reverence. Nurse’s car had served me well. But now it was time to say goodbye. I rested my forehead on her steering wheel and said a little prayer.
I whispered a quiet psalm from Corinthians. It whispered back. Alien words in a language I didn’t then understand, but now know to be ancient Nahuatl. It recited long passages to me in strange staggered rhythmic patterns, sporadically speeding up and slowing in paces I found hard to follow. I pulled my head back to see if the steering wheel was moving but it wasn’t, it just kept whispering these incomprehensible stanzas back and forth and in circles around my head. Then with unimpeded movement it opened up, shot dual beams of glistening golden light directly into my eyes through my optic nerve and into my brain. Red and gold and gossamer and warm engulfed me. Nurse’s steering wheel was showing me something. A vision. The secrets of unexplored dimensions; of parallel universe. It was comforting. I felt like a babe again, resting in maternal womb, and wished to stay that way forever. I swam around in the swampy nirvana in a new state of unknown ecstasy. It was a feeling, an emotion I’d once before experience, I think. I figured rapture had finally happened and that this must be heaven.
But seismic tremors shook, and dislodged me from my foetal euphoria. The red and gold and serene washed away as titanium claws clasped at my ankles and shinbones. Serenity was replaced by acid and bleach colours, brutal and naked white. I jerked and grabbed at the gossamer but it slipped fluid at my touch. I screamed as loud as I could muster but my voice was silent in the purgatory vacuum. I awoke suddenly with a jolt. Nurse’s steering wheel whispered one final word to me “Nimocehuihtoc (I am resting)” as I fought to catch my breath.
My time in Monterrey was largely uneventful, I’m sorry to say. I spent most of it wandering around with my tattered 7/11 bags trying to figure out how to get to the bus station. I was disheartened. I didn’t have a car to keep my groceries in anymore. I did notice though, in my dawdling about town, that there was a queer sense of ill ease about Monterrey. Something off-kilter. To look as it, it was like any other 21st century metropolis, with skyscrapers of silver and chrome and such, but something clandestine whispered of a city in the grips of crisis of identity. In the throws of existential uncertainty. Strange: Monterrey was littered with hot dog stands selling New York Style wieners on street corners; with clothing stores offering 2-for-1 on white tees with star spangled banners; souvenir shops with cowboy hats and six shooters. No sculptures of the Cerro de la Silla: the titanic bush-mountain range on the edge of town. Although a hunk of pointy olive-green plastic would hardly make a good paperweight.
Monterrey seemed to be in some way reselling the promises of the American dream to its Mexican people. Promises of personal liberty and prosperity. Of social mobility, and ‘all men are created equal’. Those covenants of the constitution. Ask any Canadian and they’ll show you the fraying hems of that tawdry tapestry. Where the batteries go in those knock-off toys. As every man north of the Rio Grande River should now know, sacred American promises come with a price tag. It all depends on whether you shop Walmart or JCPenny.
The mountainous peaks of the Cerro de la Silla watch hubristically over this mess. It gave up on western civilisation a long time ago.
By now I was nearly out of cash, but I had enough for a bus ticket to Mexico City. It was a one-way ticket that would deliver me and my fellow travellers thirteen-hours through Mexico’s arid and unloved dessert.
The bus was pretty packed when I got on, but in better shape than I guess I expected it to be (notions of yellow tint windows and free roaming livestock). I walked through the aisle searching for a pair of permissive eyes to tell me it was ok to sit down next to their owner. I got to the back and still found none. I perched myself with my 7/11 bags between an elderly lady thumbing her rosary beads, and a middle-aged man wearing dirt and oil and the other auspices of an honest day. I sat for a minute arranging my groceries before I heard a man’s voice from the middle of the bus, “Ey Gringo, come over here a minute.” I looked around to see if there were any other gringos on the bus, but there were none. The old lady with the rosaries confirmed it, “He mean’s you, gringo.”
“I didn’t know you could speak English.” I told her.
“I speak many languages, gringo.”
She didn’t say anything back, she just looked up at me through these eyes that seemed grow. And they grew, and keep growing til her crimson-black pupils dilated and expanded til they took over completely. These blood ink stains unhindered by coarse fabric, grew and grew until there was no white left in her eyes. She opened her mouth to say something but no words came, just mouthed empty syllables in lip shapes I couldn’t recognise. A voice called from the other side of the bus, not hers but that male voice in English again said “Ey gringo, you hear me or what?” I asked the old lady to excuse and that maybe we’d talk later, but she was stuck in her silent speech thing. As I stood up she grabbed my wrist, when I looked down at her, her tongue was out long and snaking. I apologised and I said I had leave, but she wouldn’t loosen her iron tenacious grip – bony and relentless. When she finally let go her eyes were still huge and black, bug-like, she said in a voice that echoed with alien frequencies “temaz, teochihuaz (he will bathe, it will be blessed).” I said I was sorry and it nice to meet her, she let go and made my way over to where the male voice had called me from.
The only empty seat was next to a man in his middle thirties, Hispanic, obviously, but with a hard face, rocky and chiselled and handsome. I sat down next to him. We didn’t talk for the first few minutes. I shuffled around and rearranged my groceries.
“What’s in the bag?” he eventually asked.
“Just my groceries. Why’d you call me over?”
“Gimme one of those Twinkies.”
I handed him a Twinkie. He ripped the packet open and ate the thing whole. I watched him as he chewed the golden cream filled treat with large oscillating chews. When he’d finished and swallowed I asked him “Don’t you have Twinkies in down here in Mexico?”
He thought about it, “Yeah. I just wanted try a gringo Twinkie.”
“Pretty good. Pretty moist.”
We spent another hour sat in silence as the bus rolled through endless dunes.
The bus’s seats were synthetic green and faux-leather, bolted down with rust-bronze thumbtacks. The lining was thin and uncomfortable; my ass went numb a couple times. The man who’d beckoned me over was staring decisively out the window at dry weeds, thinking about home and sex and Mexican Twinkies probably. “So what do you do?” I asked the man as his daydreams slipped away from him. He frowned for a second, still occupied on the arid outside: my usually piquant question, rubber and dull to him. He ignored it. Instead he responded with “So what you doin’ in Mehico anyway, man?”
I paused for a moment. Up until then I hadn’t really thought about it much, to me Mexico was little more than a section of the Road. “Just passing through.” I replied.
“Just passing through, gringo? You always talk like you in a movie? All ominous and shit. C’mon now, gringo?”
“No, really, I’m just passing through.”
“Through to where?”
“The Guatemalan border for now, I guess.”
Laughing to himself he replied, “O-k then.” Thoughtfully, he looked down at his hands, they were hard and scarred and calloused. He looked up at me once more and asked “so what you running away from then, gringo?”
“My name is Robert Giraud.”
(next section in childhood flashback)
“You keep calling me gringo. My name isn’t gringo, it’s Robert Giraud.”
“Ok Ro-bert Ge-rard. Sensitive mother fucker, ain’t chu?”
“What’s your name?”
“My name” he said, “My name is Ricardo, man. People call me Ricky, though” He held out his brutal hand for me to shake. I took the thing, a solid hand of pure carbon and titanium with a grip to fracture knuckles, to cut off circulation. We held the handshake a fraction too long; a few milliseconds more than we should have. He stared heavy into my eyes, and in his I saw a spectre of something not quite what it seemed, something off, something knowing; like in these eyes this Ricky fellow kept a jewel of some grave secret yet to be harvested. We’d met before. I fucking knew it.
He let go of my hand, “Don’t worry about the whole gringo thing. It’s a Mexican word, like err, ah, term of endearment thing.” He smiled and winked at me and then went back to his musings on the Mexican tundra, “Oooh, an Armadillo!”
We were seven hours into our journey now on a road somewhere between Guanajuato and Querétaro before we talked again. Ricky spoke first, said something about the whores in Mexico City, then something about his grandma’s place in Tlalnepantla. I sat and listened and rearranged my groceries. Everything was going bad.
“You never did tell me, gringo.”
“Tell you what?”
“Your wife’s tit size.”
“I’m kidding, gringo. No, what you were running away from back home.”
“Who says I was running?”
“Why else would a guy like you be here? I mean you look like shit but that suit probably cost a few dollars. Someone fuck you over in a ponzi scheme or some shit? No lemme guess, you catch your wife fucking some dude? Not that I give a shit or anything, but it’s a long fucking journey and you ain’t say two words.”
“I dunno. I guess I’m looking for something.”
“Looking for something. Looking for something in Meh’ico?”
“Yes. No. I mean, I mean, not a place in particular; more of like, a feeling, you know? Like it’s not a specific place manifest, it’s just I’m sort of chasing this feeling I felt a long time ago that’s only come back to me recently. It’s telling me to go south, so that’s where I’m headed, to the border.
Ricky sat thoughtful a few seconds, chewing over what I’d said. A fly landed on the back of one of his hands. He swatted it. “You’re one cryptic mother fucker, you know that gringo?” He said and smiled; I smiled back. “You stopping off in Meh’ico City for long?”
“I hadn’t really thought about it. Maybe.”
“Well, if you need a place to stay, hit me up at Lola’s in Buenavista. I’ll be there the next couple of days.”
“I dunno, I’ll probably just check into a Holiday Inn or something.”
“Think about it, gringo.” After he said it he slipped a card into my jacket breast pocket. “Think about it.”