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La Paz, BCS
Monday, August 29th:
Where was I?
Oh yeah – so we’re in La Paz, Mexico, after 900 miles of unbroken sweltering desert, and I want to get some blow, goddammit. But Chalk is holding his ground that this is a dumb idea. But I know that he means something closer to “It probably won’t work, and then our time will have been wasted” than “Please don’t take this excessively reckless risk”.
I explain how absolutely foolproof my plan is, citing again the ease with which I managed to connect with a yaylesman in Ciudad Acuña that time. Chalk challenges me with “You just finished telling me two seconds ago about how you had to walk way the fuck out into the middle of the barrio in the darkness of night with some sketchy Mexican kid just to score.”
“True, I did just finish telling you that, though I never said the kid was sketchy.”
“Oh well then my bad-“, Chalk allows, mockingly. “I didn’t mean to rush to judgment about the guy offering drugs to total strangers as long as they’re willing to walk a half a mile out into the Mexican ghetto with them.”
“Either way,” I continued, undaunted, “you’re overlooking the salient point of the story, which is that in the end I did return with cake.” I hold his gaze as I lean in to take a sip of my sky-blue tropical beverage (the kind that you might get your ass kicked for drinking in the U.S.); but I misjudge the location of my drink, and the straw pokes me in the nose and causes it to start bleeding. “See?” I say, grasping at straws in every sense of the word – “It’s a sign. This is supposed to happen.”
“That’s an awfully convenient interpretation of a blatant omen,” counters Chalk.
“I don’t think so,” I say, while stuffing a rolled-up napkin up my nose. “Check it out, I’ll just go outside for a cigarette, and I can almost guarantee you I will have a guy lined up before I’m done with the butt.”
While Chalk is not endorsing my plan, he is ready for a butt; so we head outside.
As soon as I stand up, I feel that familiar rumble in my bowels- an early Pavlovian reaction to the mere thought of doing coke- which is familiar to all powder monkeys . “See?” I point out, cheerleading us along, “It’s starting to work already!”
Hector y Carlos
Outside the bar, Chalk hangs back while I go to work. I pull the same discreetly-touch-my-nose trick that worked so well in Acuña that time; and the next thing I know I have made two new friends, Hector and Carlos, two local guys who look to be in their early 20s. They both speak enough English that conversation flows smoothly, if slowed by thick accents all around, and I quickly convey my ultimate purpose. Turns out Hector just so happens to have a friend who can get me what I’m looking for!
Although the gas station where his amigo works is close by, Hector suggests that we drive, since the local cops start asking a lot of questions when they see American gringos strolling through the town square accompanied by local young men.
Sounds reasonable to me! Let’s go!
We jump in Hector’s beat-up pickup, and head off into the night. The gas station is an oasis of bright light amid a sea of blackness. No matter- eyes on the prize. When Hector’s friend is not at the gas station, he steers the truck deeper into the barrio, claiming to know where he is. I half-heartedly protest this unforeseen delay, because it is sure to lead to me getting back to the bar later than I promised Chalk I’d get back. But Carlos is very convincing that this is “no problemo”, and that we’ll be back in just a few minutes.
Lost in the Barrio
Awhile later I am sitting with Carlos in a truck on a dark street, as every sketchball in La Paz wanders by, peering in and asking what’s with the gringo. Carlos manages to reassure them that it’s cool, and they move on.
Hector is off on a mission; but he returns empty-handed. He starts to run off down a different street, and I try to stop him. I need to get back; but he is very convincing that the hookup is imminent, so I relent. Eyes on the prize. He comes back empty handed again. This time he pulls the truck away and continues on deeper into the hood.
They are both so friendly and clean-cut that I trust them, though admittedly a large part of this “trust” stems from the fact that I don’t seem to have any recourse but to trust them. What am I gonna do, jump out of the truck and try to make my way back on foot? Not likely. And anyway I am sandwiched in between the two of them in the wide bench front seat of Hector’s pickup; so I couldn’t jump out even if I was dumb enough to want to try.
So Carlos Won’t Suspect Something’s Wrong Here
I decide to just surrender to the flow, and desist in my attempts to reason my tourguides into abandoning the mission. But I must admit their confidence is inspiring. That said, I am also mindful of the fact that there are doubtless a lot of shallow graves scattered throughout Mexico, filled with the remains of people who found someone else’s confidence inspiring.
We make several stops, each one “definitely the last one”; and it occurs to me that maybe these guys don’t know what the hell they’re doing- maybe they’re the Matt Bevilaqua and Sean Gismonte of Mexico. That thought makes me feel infinitesimally safer, though- like maybe somehow they’re less sketchy specifically because they aren’t well versed in the ins and outs of the local yayo trade. I dunno… that doesn’t really make any logical sense. At any rate, here I am.
After an age, Hector finally returns to the truck, sporting an impenetrable poker face as he approaches. He gets in, hands me a tiny little baggie, then fires up the engine and drives us up on out of there. I drop the baggie into my shirt pocket.
Cops in the Barrio
We’re almost back at the bar when a cop flags us down, wanting to know why there is a gringo in the truck with these two. Carlos snatches the bag out of my pocket just before the cop starts sniffing around with a flashlight, and for a moment I think the jig is up, and that he and Hector are about to take my coke and run off, leaving me to fare as I might with this policia.
But not at all; in fact somehow my two amigos manage to get the cop to look the other way, albeit with a little help from my wallet. As I’ve said before, if you talk to a cop in Mexico, you’re paying him. Period.
I give the guy twenty bucks, which for him is probably two weeks’ pay, and he releases us to the night.
Dude, Where’s My Chalk?
When we get back to the bar, it’s closed. WTF? What country are we in? And what time is it, anyway?
Well, it turns out it’s almost 2 AM; but that’s still no excuse for a bar in Mexico to be closed. Also, though- I’ve been gone for two hours; and that’s not cool. Plus, I know there’s no way that Chalk left that bar going “Hey no big deal- I’ll just meet Deek at the hotel whenever he gets back. Either way, it’s all totally mellow.”
No. Not Chalk. And not any other reasonable person, either, for that matter. But especially not Chalk. Chalk’s not exactly known for his ability to take undesirable plot twists in stride; and although he’s never been tested in a situation exactly like this one (read: an undesirable plot twist plus his friend and travel partner being MIA after disappearing with two Mexican dudes who promised him drugs in exchange for a short drive off the edge of the world), I feel I know what to expect when I do find him. Which is why I’m dreading it.
So I’m not looking forward to facing Chalk’s wrath when I get back to the hotel room; but reconnecting with him as soon as possible is absolutely mandatory, and all other pursuits- including even trying the coke- must be on hold until that happens. That’s how serious I am. Plus, it’d be wise to confirm that Chalk is in fact back at the room, and not off digging his own grave at gunpoint in some nearby alleyway.
On the other hand, maybe walking through the door with a bag of bump fodder might brighten Chalk’s spirits. Hell, come to think of it- maybe he’s in the middle of getting laid by some Mexican bombshell right now! Hey this isn’t so bad- this could be anything! Oh, the lightness of being.
They Want to Have My Cake and Snort It, Too
Problem: when the dudes drop me back at my hotel, they want to come in and do a little of the blow with me. And while this is not at all an unforeseeable request, I kinda wish I’d known this was their objective back when the whole saga began; because I gladly would have (in addition to the twenty bucks U.S. that I’d already given them) bought them their own bag, for the trouble of driving me around- even if the mission did take six times longer, and yield way less coke, than I considered to be worth it. In fact, the meager amount I got, split now four ways, is now pointless. You can get higher thinking about coke than doing an amount this small.
But how could I really say no to these guys? For one thing, it wasn’t their fault that the yield proved so small; and as far as I could tell, it also wasn’t their fault that the mission had taken two hours. I mean, I can’t imagine how it could have possibly benefitted them to waste two hours of my time on purpose, just to achieve some hidden agenda; so I must believe their hostliness to have been genuine. And anyway, they were both really nice guys- not the muscle-bound, tattooed, hair-net wearing tree-trunk-armed men with expressions of hatred and sexual rage in their eyes that you’re probably picturing.
This Room Smells Like Hotel Illness
I slip quietly into the room, and see a vaguely man-shaped bulk underneath one of the blankets. I figure this must be Chalk, though there is no concrete visual proof of this. At any rate, whoever it is under there is fully covered, blanket pulled over the head- the whole bit; and they don’t appear to be awake
Nevertheless, I usher my new amigos in as quietly as possible. I’ll probably feel in retrospect that this was not the best decision I could have made at this moment; but for now I’m committed to it.
I ask aloud, ostensibly to Chalk- or possibly nobody- or anybody- “Would you like a bump?”, but all I get is a low guttural grunt that doesn’t even necessarily indicate wakefulness. And if it does indicate wakefulness, then it most likely carries the subtext “You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me get these fucking Mexican dudes out of here right now and by the way I’m gonna kill you.”
I pour the contents of the bag out onto the dresser and am instantly dismayed to see just how little there is. It’s probably for the best anyway at this point, though- it’s not gonna benefit me all that much to sit up alone ripping zoots deep into the night with Chalk laying there two feet away smoldering like an angry dragon.
Throw Back the Little Ones
This is the smallest bag of coke I’ve ever seen, bar none; there’s only really enough for three wimpy-ass lines. I cut these out onto the dresser while constantly reminding my two rent-an-amigos not to make a sound.
This is the lamest fucking party ever. The room is so tiny it might as well be an office cubicle, and we are packed so tightly around the wooden dresser that it is a bit of a challenge to balance properly without falling over onto the beds. But I know that if any one of us loses our balance and falls over onto Chalk, what ensues will become a cautionary tale for all shit-heads, a timeless yarn which will endure long after all else has gone to dust.
I keep glancing over at the Chalk-shaped bedspread three feet away, and I swear I can see smoke rising from it. Part of me doesn’t want these guys to leave, because I’ve got a feeling that as soon as it’s just the two of us in here, I’m gonna find out just how asleep Chalk really is.
We each do our pointless little pinner, and then I politely let Carlos and Hector know that the party can’t continue any longer, gesturing toward the Chalk-shaped bundle on the bed by way of explanation. They seem to understand, or maybe it’s just that they are as aware as I am that we’re all out of blow. At any rate, we slip out of the room and I see them downstairs and out to the parking lot. They drive off, with waves and smiles. Adios, mis amigos.
I hang around outside having a cigarette that I don’t even want; I’m stalling going back to the room.
Back upstairs, I slip in the door as silently as I can and whisper “Are you awake?”- secretly hoping that I have spoken the words inaudibly. But Chalk is awake. However he never even shows his face; I just hear his voice emanating from behind the blanket, and the voice says “Shut the fucking light off.”
I start to say something, but I am immediately cut off by Chalk saying “We’ll talk about it in the morning.”
I climb into my bed and turn out the light, and lay awake like a fool for the better part of an hour, staring off into the darkness, craving more coke, and afraid to make even the slightest sound that might indicate that I am actually awake. My eyes are glued open, my sclera a pair of glowing white donuts, each with a large chocolate munchkin in the middle.
Finally the coke wears off, and I drop out of consciousness.
Next: Chapter 17: Cheltdown #1