Rough Ride to Juarez
I dreamt of having a collapsed lung and the doctors put me in a windowless white room and closed the door.
There was a table in the middle of the room, a white table and beside it a white chair. I did not sit down. It was cold in the room, like an air conditioner was on somewhere though I heard no sound.
One of the doctors came in with a clipboard and I told him I wanted to go to Juarez. He asked why. I told him I wanted to submerge myself in the various arts of indecency. He asked why. I thought about it, and I couldn’t tell him why. He asked why I had such demeaning goals. I told him I didn’t mean to; it was just what I thought about.
He wondered why I didn’t want to go to Mexico just to soak up the culture, go to a museum perhaps or take a bus tour. I told him I didn’t think about that. I told him I had a depraved mind sometimes. He scribbled something down on a pad, looked at me from over the top of his glasses and started walking toward the door. I asked him about my collapsed lung. He said I had worse problems than that and he’d be back in a few minutes.
When he returned, he was carrying a silver tray with a white towel draped over it. I glanced at what was in the tray and it was a needle, an injection of some sort. I asked him what that was for. He said he was going to give me a shot of morality and when I’d wake up, I wouldn’t be so damn depraved.
He had me sit in the white chair and roll up my sleeve. He rubbed a cotton ball across my upper arm and jabbed the needle right in there and pushed on the plunger without even warning me. I felt very warm at first and then very tired. I don’t remember much of anything else.
When I awoke from the dream it was very cold in the room. I fell asleep with the air conditioner on. Someone was knocking and there was a voice coming from the other side.
“Come back later please.”
Too damn polite Anton Chico. Why not just say: “Leave me the hell alone!”
I showered, got dressed and went down to the lobby restaurant for some breakfast. Besides an older couple on holiday and some business sophistos in suits chattering on about the meaningless, I was the only one there.
I chose a table in the corner by the window looking out on the downtown street. I ordered eggs, toast, and coffee. I sipped and ate in solitude, staring out the window. Another hot day I assumed from the way the sunlight was pouring down all around and I could see the heat shimmering off the cement. So hot. Too hot. Inhumane heat and I wondered why was it that so many people lived here? Why so many lives were compacted into such a tight, hot, and ugly space?
I decided to drive the few blocks to Mexico in my own car, park somewhere on the American side and walk over the great bridge that spanned the two nations and the Rio Grande River between them. Great river? Dirty, brown trickle. The Great Divide. The muddy vein separating grotesque wealth and desperate poverty. It made one want to puke.
It was such a hot day, and I had my windows rolled down as I meandered my way through the maze of streets winding up and around and through downtown El Paso trying very hard to follow the signs that were pointing me in the direction of Juarez.
As I got closer to the border there was construction and roadblocks and feverish masses of people walking all over the place and I could not find my way in all the confusion and the noise and the heat and decided it would be better to just go back to the hotel, park my car and take the shuttle as I had originally planned.
One should always go with first instinct. The first thought that permeates the gut and simply says: “Yes! Do it this way!” or “No. Do it another way, this is bad.”
Anton Chico in his confused mind cannot always differentiate the first instinct from the second or even the third. He often makes mistakes, takes falls, runs from his miscues, and ends up panting and raging and slamming his fists into a wall because shit just did not work out again!
Again Anton Chico. You fucked up! But Anton Chico also had a way about him that caused him to grossly exaggerate the little misfortunes in his existence into giant, earth-shattering sins with the ability to destroy his entire life to the point he is ready to jump off a balcony and call it quits for good, to trade it all in for eternal rest and prosperity. To sleep peacefully forever in the boughs of the soft trees of universal Heaven spread out in space like a sheet of stars and to never again have to speak above a whisper or for that matter even hear anyone speak above a whisper. He was not fond of chaotic noise.
And I was immersed in chaotic noise right now.
Lost and hot and horns honking and Mexican people chattering outside the storefronts as they do, the men in white sweaty t-shirts and big dirty straw hats perched upon their dark heads; the women, large and brown wearing colorful and flowery sun dresses of thin cotton waving chunky tanned arms and making deals with the shopkeepers in the big clunk of stores huddled in a dirty mass of glass and brick and stucco right on the edge of the border on the American side.
I wondered as I drove, what had I gotten myself into now, what have you done Anton Chico? You fool! You can’t drive your little car around in Mexico! They’ll shoot at it, steal it, rob you blind and maybe even rape you for the camera around your neck or the few American dollars in your wallet. Get out Anton Chico! Get out while you still have a chance!
I drove my way slowly out of the chaos and back closer to the big buildings downtown. I finally saw the El Paso Times building. I was not too far from the hotel. I would go there and find out how to get across without having to be so paranoid and stupid.
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