When life becomes too monotonous for a young man from Southern California, he takes off for Baja to discover what he's been missing.
6 November 2008
6 November 2008
8 November 2008, 2pm
8 November 2008, 2pm
Let me back up.
It's just before dawn when the rain starts and she stirs next to me. I haven't been sleeping, but the last handful of hours seemed to have slipped by without notice. I don't know her name, I don't remember what her face looks like, but she smells like cerveza and coconut, and I like that. I close my eyes and listen to the storm, her breathing. It should have always been like this.
I keep replaying this moment, waiting for some clarity and direction, but nothing comes. I write it down, smoke another cigarette, and re-imagine everything in excruciating detail.
This time the shutters are flapping against the walls of the room. She's completely naked, and her hand is resting on my stomach; it's curled in a delicate fist. Asleep, she mutters something in a language I don't understand. I could listen to that sound for hours.
I really fucked it up this time.
For the better part of a decade, I've been moving, you know this. Never anywhere drastic, never anywhere different. It's just the same people with the same furniture and the same discounted decorating scheme.
My lifestyle makes it easy to leave. Living in and out of boxes for almost half of your life, you learn what you can do without pretty quickly.
I've consolidated my needs into one bag.
I guess I should explain.
Up until three days ago, I haven't been sleeping. I've been sharing a bed with Mallorie for five years now, but she just wouldn't stop snoring. I'm sure she's snored for years, but Christ suddenly it was the only sound in the room, and it wasn't even one of those adorable effeminate sounds; it was choking and guttural. I started imagining what could possibly be stuck in there: phlegm, cat hair, a fucking hamster.
It took only two nights for me to become addicted to coffee again. I was exhausted, but the thought of falling asleep next to a woman who sounded like she was grinding spare car parts in the back of her throat was just..impossible. Revolting.
It was like that for almost a month. I had to catch up on sleep in the bathroom stalls at work, on top of POS Reports, in the middle of lunch. I believe at one point in the day, I was having conversations with cube-mates in a bleary, sleep-walking state.
I came to as I was trying to stuff the toaster into the microwave.
Do you know what comes to mind when you haven't slept in weeks? Too much. Why is Boo Weekley so much like Happy Gilmore, and would he be more incredible if he played with a hockey puck? Why has no one bothered to compete with Hooters? How long will "I've just been really stressed out at work" actually work when Mallorie asks why I haven't had a hard-on since Labor Day?
Is it actually normal for a man to feel nothing when he looks at his one year-old son?
At midnight on Thursday, I started re-memorizing the Periodic Table. At 1:30 I got up for a drink of water. at 2:00, I had packed a gym bag and found myself in the garage.
I crossed into Tijuana by sunrise.
The border between Mexico and America is tacky, at best. An industrial block between economic apocalypse in the making and economic ruin that's already settled. From the car, the only part of the United States you can see is the water. I liked that.
Once you leave Tijuana, the houses become sparse. There's epic ocean to the right and dead plants and dirt to the left. Underpriced resorts are stuffed between emptied mismatched shacks and hand-painted signs in a language I forgot to study in high school.
The destitution speaks of unrelenting, empty promises. I like that. I keep driving.
A flimsy cross in the sand, a cactus ridden with drought, a five-star resort. The view, I might add, is absolutely breathtaking. In LA, it's easy to forget how utterly wide the Pacific ocean feels just by looking at it. A man can get lost in that kind of endlessness.
An hour later, I pulled off the Mex 1 and parked in front of an abandonned pharmacy. The windows are covered in blue paint: Zoloft 40% off; Viagra, Levitra 50% off; Vicodin 30% off. This was, without a doubt, the best place to leave the car. I step outside, the dog that belongs to the trailer next door lets off a half-assed bark. The road, the pavement, the sidewalks, everything is sand and dirt and dead aloe plants.
I walked into the hotel a few feet away, asked the shriveled the woman behind the counter where the hell I was. At first, she didn't understand, she just stared. There was a framed picture of Jesus above the register that accepted only cash.
"Hola senor," she says, "Bienvenido a Ensenada."
When my brothers ask me why, I'll tell them there wasn't any traffic, so I just kept going. Movement is the only thing that makes any sense lately.
9 November 2008, 4am
9 November 2008, 4am
I am. Very. Very drunk.
This of course in spite of the fact that there is a very LARGE glass of tequila sitting next to me and I can't quite see the words I'm writing. Which really almost negates the confession, yes? Judge, yes?
She was there again tonight. She's in my bed, too. I brought her back, or she walked me back and fell against me naked, really the details are a little shaaady at this point in time - did you know when temperature drops in shade the humidity actually rises? Yeah. Fucked up.
I met her last night, the girl in my bed who smells like fruit.
I checked into the hotel, dropped the bag at the door, unbuttoned the collar of my shirt and promptly went to the only restaurant on the water. Off season tourists, mariachi-belting 8 year old boys, and a live band singing some song that made my foot jiggle. I ordered the silver tequila, mixed it in with some guilt, and repeated until the multi-colored blankets hanging off the backs of every single wicker chair started looking like one mushy shade of magenta.
"Una mas," I believe I struggled, and there may have been some finger-wagging towards the bottle I wanted. The bartender obliged and I sucked on another glass. I ran my finger along the inside of the cup when I was finished.
She was standing there watching - this all took place within a brief period of time. Awake i had been for the last month, but drunk? Not once. Three shots were doing to me what a full night of binge-drinking and keg stands used to do in college. I caught sight of her as I was taking the fourth shot. She was tan, the hair lay in waves down her back, and her shirt was barely covering the essentials.
I refer to breasts as essentials because it really is, truly, it's all about the boobs.
She was standing just far enough away that I had to lean forward to get a better look. She must have heard me, she turned, winked, and whispered, "Encandada."
"Oh, I wasn't, ah..." I remember saying as I moved back to my place.
She leaned into the bartender and giggled, looked back at me.
I got this twisting in my stomach, like I was seven staring down my hot math teacher's shirt and seeing a fully filled out bra for the first time. Essentials, exactly.
I said something gay like, "What's shaking?"
She had no idea what I was saying, so I pushed my glass of tequila back to my mouth and focused on the liquid. Saw nipples, tons of nipples. Imagined her crawling on top of me, tossing her head back, screaming something to me in Spanish.
I choked on the lime in my glass, ended up spitting down my chin.
She giggled again. She walked over, dried off my face. Had the essentials not been so perky, it would have been awkward and Freudian.
"Do you see this?" I yelled to the bartender. "This, this is what love doesn't look like!"
He nodded, I think there was some winking.
"It's over commercialized, you know?" I yelled at him, "It's over-commercialized! I mean what is Valentine's Day anyway? As an institution, you know, I think love is suffering."
She put down the napkin and smiled at me. I grinned. She started dancing to the seven year old mariachi singer and worked her way between my legs, ran her hand down my chest.
She nodded, leaned into my ear, whispered something in audible, and licked my ear.
My dick hardened immediately, thank you.
"I mean everyone has these like MASSIVELY high expectations, you know?" I hiccuped, she stuck her finger in my mouth. "And I think, no I know that love is standing in the corner smoking a cigarette and having a panic attack. I mean that's a lot of pressure, poor guy."
She lifted my chin with the finger that had been in my mouth. I don't know what she said, but her mouth moved and everything started happening in slow motion. The magenta glow highlighted the teal in her shirt. I only heard "Baila Me!" from the seven year old who seemed to be looming eerily near.
"I'm sorry," I tried to stand up, but I tripped and fell face-first onto the bar. "I"m sorry, I haven't slept in um, in a really long time."
She picked me off the bar and dug into my pockets. Key in hand, she walked me to my room. And everything went blurrier.
And then I came to. It was raining outside and almost dawn. And.
We fucked again, we fucked until ten minutes ago. When she comes it's almost cinematic. The lighting is always perfect, her nipples are always erect, and the sweat glistens adorably on her collarbone.
If she weren't so tight, I'd think she was the hotel's hooker.
Before I came here, I read that a summer in Mexico can change your life forever. Does it matter that I came in autumn?
10 November 2008, daylight
10 November 2008, daylight
The beach here is amazing. I mean, MFA-level vocabulary does, in no way, represent the awesomeness of way lies before me at this very moment. Everything was tossed around in the storm last night, and the delicate destruction is breathtaking. Choppy sea, bent palm trees, sand punctuated by heavy rains. Everything's cooler, more vibrant than the desiccation that's half a mile behind me.
I used to get nosebleeds daily.
They came unannounced, unprovoked, I just found myself wiping my nose with the back of my hand, on afternoon, and there it was, the bright red streak on my sleeve. There would always be a headache associated – this thumping right behind my left eye. Once, I thought I’d actually blown a blood vessel, but when the secretary didn’t freak out when she took a look at me, I figured I was probably okay.
At home, Mallorie saw my shirtsleeves and promptly accused me of snorting cocaine.
“You doing okay at work? You look a little wired, a little tense.” She cocked her head to the side, wrinkled her nose. It was not a question; it was an accusation.
I informed her that I’d had better days, and I was tired of being the only man on the floor who still worked in a cubical. Other than that, no, everything was fine.
“Because your eyes are a little bloodshot, Zac.” Her head popped to the other side. For a moment I envisioned the Exorcist.
I shrugged, told her I didn’t know what she wanted me to say, and asked if she could get me a beer from the fridge.
“Because, I don’t know, Zac, it’s just not everyday that your husband comes home from work with blood staining the side of his shirtsleeve. I’d just really appreciate it if you trusted me enough to tell me what’s going on, here. Because, really, Zac, I’m open minded.” Here, she put her hand on my knee and rubbed it in a maternal fashion. “I’m ready to help, babe,” she whispered.
Mallorie would fucking love if I were snorting cocaine. Her life would be infinitely more incredible if I were. Suddenly the insomnia, the jitters, the caustic wit, it would all make sense! Finally, her friends could feel justified in telling here every day of her life that I’m a waste of space!
I was so tempted to just tell her what she wanted to hear. Instead, I just sat baffled, speechless, numbed by that repetitive rubbing on my knee. When I didn’t answer, she puckered her lips and ran her tongue along each of her front teeth. This was a threat, not a come-on.
I moved my knee away from her. “Nothing’s going on Mallorie, I just cut myself on the corner of my desk.”
She nodded. “M’kay,” she resolved, making an effort to reach over and pat my knee again. “M’kay, well I just, I want you to know that I’m here for you, Zac. We’re a team. You and I, we’re a team.”
When she said “team” she brought her hands up to her chest and gripped them, like a power-fist, like she was pumping me up to continue on with life.
I fucking hate when she does that.
There hasn’t been any bloodshed since I’ve been here, only spilled sweat and bodily fluids on the various fabrics surrounding my room. The girl, the one who’s made a second home in my bed, she’s run off somewhere for the day. It’s just me and the ocean and the damp sand. And pretty much no other Anglophones to be found.
I like that.
I went to the bar a while ago, helped myself to some cantaloupe juice and rum – yeah, I can drink fruity drinks in Mexico, no judgment. The same guy from the night before, the one who saw me bite it into the bar, the one who saw me feeling up the girl in the short top, he was there. He winked at me again when I approached.
“Hola, senor,” he chuckled, already pulling out a glass and gesturing towards the liquors I could pick from.
“Hey, man. Rum? Cantaloupe?”
He nodded, started pouring the right colored liquids together. “So you like my sister?”
His accent was absurdly thick, but the fact that there was someone else in this forsaken desert who could speak English? Perhaps it wasn’t so terrible knowing I could have a confidant if I really wanted one. And on a more important note: his sister. Hm.
“Matias,” he wiped his hand on the shoulder towel and held it out for me to shake.
“Zac,” I said into the glass he handed me. “Good, this is good.”
“Her name is Sabina.”
I choked a little. Riding her until dawn was perfectly non-threatening, but now that she had a name? There were expectations with names. There were unspoken commitments and assumptions with names.
“She’s a sweet girl, that one.”
“Man, don’t bullshit me, I see how you looked at her.” He grinned again, started cleaning glasses. “When she wants something, man, she gets it.”
“Lucky,” I forced a chuckle.
And then he gave me one of those smiles – that lip-curling, eye-rolling, I-will-fuck-up-your-world smile that made my balls retract.
“No sweat, man, no sweat,” he reassured me, doing nothing to rebuild my confidence.
Matias took my empty glass and casually invited me to his place for a real dinner, said I earned it. In Baja, he told me, you treat everyone like family.
Too bad that’s the only word in the English language that sends chills down my spine.
11 November 2008: face down in frittatas
11 November 2008; face down in frittatas
I was locked in a bathroom.
I drove to Ensenada to get away from needing to lock myself in a bathroom, and yet here I am again, except this time instead of corporate stalls there's a furry pink rug on the floor and ceramic figurines of Jesus in various stages of the cross.
Matias insisted I join him for dinner tonight, and at a loss for a good reason not to, I accepted.
I thought I was doing well. I’d made it to the door, the girl I’ve been fucking – I can’t even say her name – was ignoring me appropriately, and I ate empanadas while wedged between their obese mother and their even fatter and pregnant teenage cousin. It was all very calm-before-the-storm. The pregnant cousin kept smiling at me, twirling her hair around her inch long, royal blue fingernails. Girl I’ve been sleeping with winked at me from across the room. Matias nefariously dug into his pockets. So I just smiled.
Preggers smiled back. Said “Hola,” and bit her lip. She stretched out her blue fingernails and spooned up some of my rice. “Gracias, Papi.”
There was something horrifyingly desperate in the way she said it. Sabina (fine . there.) picked up on it, she twisted her lip in a very Mallorie-suspecting-me-of-shooting-up kind of way.
“Qué mierda dijo?”
Fuck if I knew what she was saying, but I thought there was about to be a catfight of pornographic proportions. Except for the fact that one of them was massively pregnant.
Preggers shot up in the air, knocked over my plate of greasy orange-colored goodness. Absolute madness ensued. There were toddlers screaming, rice throwing, Preggers grabbing Sabina’s hair, I, I don’t know I think Matias was digging in his pockets. I ducked out as quickly as possible, as small children, pregnant women, fried foods, and foreign languages are generally a bad combination.
Every few minutes, something got tossed against the door. I didn’t have the stones to go back out there, so I just squatted on the furry pink toilet cover and stared at our Lord and Savior.
I got curious. I got curious and bored and the statues of Jesus were freaking me out and I starting digging through the cabinets. Spanish brand toothpaste, a pink box of tampons, depilatory cream, a bunch of other labels I couldn’t read. I don’t’ know what exactly I was looking for, but my hands felt like they had a mission. Idle hands, idle mind, evil naturally ensues, right?
I landed on a little orange prescription bottle stuffed with a baggie.
Now, of course, I’ve been accused of imbibing pretty much every standard form of illegal drugs one could procure from the street, but I’d never actually gone through the motions of sampling such substances. Oh, the temptation, oh the potential satisfaction of being able to look Mallorie in the eyes and honestly say, “Yeah, I fucking toked it.”
Fingers still digging into the opened pill bottle, Matias opened the door and caught me. His arms were crossed at first, and he looked confused, territorial, and then suddenly amused.
“You’d be surprised what five kids can do to you, man.”
I pulled my fingers out, wiped them on my pants, and capped the bottle. You’d be surprised what one kid can do to you.
He just stood there and watched me. “Did you wanna smoke?”
I got cold palms, I was so terrified.
“I mean, Sabina and I were going to take that stash tonight anyway. There’s maybe an eighth left.”
We stepped out of the bathroom together. The living room had turned into some war zone, rice and chips and beans were stuck in conspicuous places and the pregnant girl was readjusting a stick-on nail that must have come off during the brawl. When we were outside, Sabina in tow, I asked him what they’d been fighting about. He kicked over a dusty rock and asked if I had a light.
Sabina led us back to the ocean, and we sat in a circle in the sand. As the sun was setting, Matias sparked the lighter. The next half hour was an utter blur of me coughing and Sabina artfully ignoring the two of us.
Once I got the hang of smoking, I started rambling.
“There was this guy who used to live across from me who loved Chase Crawford, man, like loved him, like up on his computer and his wall and all this shit. And he stripped in front of well-lit windows and liked taking dumps whenever we could see into his bathroom. So all this time I thought he was gay, and I was okay with that. I got used to the idea of him stripping for an inanimate picture of an actor he’d never meet. It was like, hey, there’s an attractive gay man who can’t even be happy, you know? And then one afternoon I see him with a woman in his room. And she’s half naked, digging around in something on the floor, bent half over in front of him and I swear to God, suddenly I was totally freaked out by the whole incident. Like, gay or not? I don’t know. I didn’t know!”
Matias choked on his smoke and I then informed him that my entire perception of reality was forever fucked up after that point. Just like at that point where we were sitting in a circle half naked smoking something rolled into white paper.
“Perception is imaginary anyway,” he told me.
Which only begs the question from me, “Then what makes reality?”
He snapped at Sabina, who promptly took the joint from between my fingers, sucked on it with those perfect, perky lips and passed it back to her brother.
“It’s whatever the fuck you need it to be, man.”
Sabina, hands free, crawled over toward me and blew the smoke in my face. “Te quiero,” she said before planting a baked, sloppy kiss on my face. “Pero mi hermano.” And she sat back down, brushed some sand off her fingers and just…sat there.
And then there was this floating-brain feeling that overcame me, and it just, nothing mattered anymore. I was so damn mellowed out.
“Do you feel this sand?” I asked.
It felt incredible, It just, it bunched between my toes and felt fucking … just fucking amazing. I coud live in the sand. I could spend my entire life building a sand castle and actually live in it.
Matias passed the joint back to Sabina and laughed. “Alright,” he nodded. “It’s alright.”
“What’s your reality?” I asked, unable to peel my eyes away from Sabina as she stood up, stripped off her shorts and began walking towards the water.
He put out what was left of the joint in the sand. “I haven’t decided yet. This place is just so dead, you know? There’s more out there, I just haven’t found a way to get there yet.” Matias was watching his sister at that point. “She doesn’t know any different, and I guess she’s okay with that.”
All we could see was her silhouette in the dusk. She was fading into the ocean, peeling off clothes as she went. It was stunning.
“Do you mind me asking…I mean, how did you learn English anyway?”
He cracked a smile. “Talking to assholes like you all day long.”
“And the rest of your family?”
Matias finally looked away from his sister’s direction. He pressed his lips together in a harsh, straight line. “Look around you, man. What the fuck do you expect?”
And that was it.
I passed out on the beach and woke up alone on the sand with high tide at my toes. Sabina’s shorts were still laying nearby.
12 November 2008, noon
12 November 2008, noon
Sabina took me to the flea market in her neighborhood. I thought I’d seen it before, the lifestyle they had here, but in daylight, in sobriety, it’s so much more heartbreaking. She led me – by hand the whole way – down the broken asphalt and sand road to an open-air market. The houses lining the streets were astonishingly varied – single-floored ranches next to trailers next to what looked like houses made of clay and mud. No one had grass, only cactus and browned aloe in the side yards.
She doesn't fit here; there's just something about her. The quiet elegance, the confident way she navigates the sidewalks, the way graciously greets everyone with a kiss to the cheek. She had no idea how incredible she was.
I needed shirts, that was the goal at least. Having never successfully done a load of laundry for myself and finally having exhausted the inside-out routine on the clothes I’d been wearing since I arrived, purchasing one was inevitable. Finding one that wasn’t triple extra large and emblazoned with primary colors was a bit more difficult.
“Hey,” I called, “Hey you want some phone chargers? There’s a table of phone chargers.”
Sabina turned to me and winked. In her hands she carried a fluorescent blend of cotton and polyester; a shirt not unlike something that would have surfaced from my older brother’s closet during that strange high school phase where he pretended to be from New Jersey. But she insisted in a language I didn’t understand, and I couldn’t say no to that face. I whipped out a few American dollars and bought it immediately.
I was toying with the idea of putting on the shirt in the middle of the street when I noticed a truck with blatantly sexualized fruits emblazoning the sides.
“Does that, ahh,” I looked at the truck and back at her. “Does that not bother you?” The melons were so intricately placed, the halved papaya and kiwi so carefully laid out, there was absolutely no doubt they were paying homage to the female reproductive organs.
And I thought bananas were dirty.
“Makes you want to take a big bite out of an apple, doesn’t it?” I chuckled. She stared back at me blankly.
I gestured toward the breast-shaped pears. “You don’t see it?” I asked, cupping my hands around imaginary knockers. When she shook her head, lifted her eyebrows in amused confusion, I answered for her. “It’s so awkwardly obvious. And nobody cares?”
She grinned, shrugged her shoulders. “Fruta?”
I began walking away, but she grabbed my hand and kissed me. It must have surprised her, and she skipped off, beckoning me to follow.
I have never gotten that hard that fast in my life.
Back at the hotel, Matias was waiting by the front desk for our return. Arms crossed, lips frowning, crazy Matias eyes staring at us as we entered. They argued, he yelled, he threw a towel on the ground, she spat at him and ran off.
“Hey, man,” I stepped in awkwardly afterward. “What’s up?”
He sneered. “You’re spending a lot of time with my sister.”
I picked at the polyester shirt I’d purchased. “I didn’t want to do laundry.”
For a second, it seemed like he was buying the excuse. And then, “You can’t keep spending time with her like that. She gets attached, she gets really attached really fast, and then you’re just going to go back to America and she’ll be here by herself again. You’re just a tourist, some asshole who decided to drive down to Mexico one afternoon and fuck the local girls until you felt good enough about yourself to go back home.”
“It’s, no it’s nothing like that.”
“It’s exactly like that. You think you’re just having a good time, you think there’s this beautiful Hispanic woman who wants you, but the truth is Sabina doesn’t know what she wants. Sabina meets a million guys like you every week here.”
“A million, that’s a lot.” I was choking. Matias is absolutely terrifying when he’s angry.
“So tuck your dick back into your pants, wash your clothes in the sink, and stop thinking you’ve found some fling.” He bent down to pick up the towel he’d thrown earlier.
“Hey, man, I thought we were cool.”
“Oh, we’re cool.”
I didn’t budge. Sudden movements could have easily set him off again.
“No, we’re definitely cool.” He patted me on the back. “Hey, so what are you up to tonight anyway?”
So for a change of pace, we’re going dancing. The three of us.
This should be awesome.
November 12, 2008; four to tango
November 12, 2008; four to tango
The relationship between Sabina and her brother is bizarre. I won't drop the word "incestuous" but it's definitely been running through my mind. As has the word "possessive" and "suffocating."
We purchased cigars for the event and downed a few glasses of tequila before hitting the floor. I was still terrified that Matias was spiking my drink and planning to take me out back and murder me Braveheart style, but I pushed those fears aside for the chance to get completely shitfaced and forget about the fight that had happened only hours before.
I've never tried to tango, I'm a terrible dancer. So terrible, in fact, that I was once kicked out of a bar in Los Angeles for offending too many women in one night with a move my brothers like to call The Duct Tape. To tango with a woman I've slept with and her brother who's not keen on that fact would require a substantial amount of substance abuse.
Let's be honest. This entire trip is about substance abuse.
"Light me up," I said as I leaned back into the wicker chair with a giant cigar in my hand.
Despite the rampant fear running through my veins, I was poised to wonder if this is what it truly feels like to be happy, carefree, liberated. Vacations – is that was this was, only a vacation? – vacations with Mallorie were tragically stressful. Last year, on our way to Barbados for one of my brother's weddings, the toilet clogged, as it often did. And we couldn't leave it until we returned, we couldn't even wait ten minutes to see if it was just being stubborn. Raging, screaming, cursing, she went to the landlord and demanded he replace the toilet, swore that I had to leave without her, that she wouldn't be able to make the trip because she was waiting for the toilet to flush. There were actual tears of rage on her behalf.
After fifteen minutes of melodramatics, the landlord stomped into our house, touched the lever and everything worked perfectly. We made the flight, we made the wedding, and she never once apologized for threatening our landlord's masculinity and well-being.
I mean, Jesus Christ.
Sabina leaned forward to offer me the lighter. I could see straight down her dress and there was no bra. Matias was watching her every movement towards me, but his speech was surprisingly cavalier.
"Have you ever tasted anything so incredible?"
I've only smoked three cigars in my life – this being the third. The first two were cliché, college graduation and someone's bachelor party where we encircled a $500/hr hooker and watched the numerous ways in which she could open a bottle. Gruesome, really, is the only word that applies there.
Choking back smoke, I told him it was superb, smooth.
We looked like gods, sporting our linen pants and floral polyester shirts, a cigar in one hand, a beautiful woman between us, and a breathtaking landscape on all sides. This moment could not be surpassed; this feeling of infiniteness could not be squelched.
She stood up and approached Matias to dance. The sun set behind the both of them and I could only see silhouettes and faint outlines of facial features, gold and orange sky. Matias's cigar was still in his mouth as he took his sister in hand; the burning tip seared through the dimming light as they moved.
I wanted to be drunk.
Sabina gracefully broke away from her brother and reached for me to join. I hesitated, shaking my head and gesturing with the cigar. "No thanks, can't dance," I said, shrugging.
Matias stepped aside. "I insist," he said.
I didn't trust him, but I wanted to touch her again, I wanted to be part of that silhouette. Taking me, she slid her arm around my shoulders. She encircled me wholly. Her feet began to move, and she struggled to teach my body to move along with hers. I stumbled, I tripped, I stepped on her shoes, but she did not pause. Sabina smiled, she leaned into my and whispered what I can only imagine were filthy words.
What the feet were doing was irrelevant. This dance was about movement and sensation and pulse.
Just as I began to get the hang of the rhythm, Matias returned. Rather than pushing me out of the way, he positioned himself behind her and followed the same steps. The three of us moved together, Sabina leading the whole time. He kept his hands by her waist, his eyes closed. We were dancing slower than the music indicated, but my pulse began to race. I kissed her; it was impossible not to.
Matias made no violent outburst as he had earlier, he just kept behind her. "Just relax," he said. "Just let go."
I let my eyelids fall, felt Sabina's breath on my neck as she removed her mouth from mine. Her heart pounded against my chest. "Escucha me," she whispered and pushed away. I felt her drift from between the two of us. Matias filled her space. At first I froze.
"Relax," he repeated. "Just focus on the music."
The buzz off the cigar was beginning to get to me, and I didn't fight it.
He moved closer, a hand running along the back of my neck.
“Just move,” he whispered.
I was overwhelmed with sensation. Sabina was lingering nearby, I kept expecting her to step in, step between. My skin flushed with chills. He came closer, and we were body to body.
A voice broke our trance. “Uhh, Zac?”
I jumped back, horrified by who stood in the doorway. “Taylor?” My voice cracked like I was 11 again. “What the hell are you doing here?”
He coolly greeted me. "Oh hey, Little Bro, what's up, man?"
Matias stuffed his hands in his pockets and moved aside Sabina.
My older brother lingered in the doorway, a hand in his pocket, a smug grin beneath his aviator glasses. He was wearing a peach colored shirt – his collar popped.
“I feel like I’ve interrupted your little moment. Please, please continue.”
I smoothed out my shirt and asked the obvious question. “How did you find me?”
Ignoring me, he walked up to Sabina. "Jesus Christ, who is this fox?" In a very typical my-older-brother-fashion, he curled her expertly around his arm. She bent backwards in an exquisite dip. "Beautiful," he muttered to her, "You're beautiful. What the hell are you doing feeling up this dude, when this absolute goddess is just sitting by?”
I took back my seat, letting my nerves slow. Taylor took her, and she loved it.
I’m not sure what I’m going to say to him. I have a feeling “There wasn’t any traffic” isn’t going to cut it anymore.
14 November 2008; sunrise
My brother can easily be summed up in one recurring image.
Let’s return to a simpler time, a summer day on the beach. I was eight and preoccupied with the scab on my elbow. I spent the entire day picking at it, watching Taylor and our father in the water. He was tossing my brother into the air with arms and legs spread wide while he waited to catch him with raised arms below. That was all it took, that moment, for Taylor to forever be immortalized as the Preferred (not the favorite, of course, never the favorite. Our parents couldn’t discriminate their children in such a manner as I do with my own).
The years of preferential treatment had gone to Taylor’s head and manifested in nasty ways. He assumed that everyone preferred him: teachers, friends, siblings, pets, women (insert here memorable image of older brother visually raping Sabina), and God. Yes, God. Once his balls dropped and he discovered what he was put on earth to do (teachers, friends, women, pets…), he began taking protractors and rulers into the bathroom with him.
When I was 11, I thought he was just doing his math homework in there. When I grew older, though, he lost all sense of shame. I was minding my own business, brushing my teeth, and Taylor burst in bare-ass naked, blue plastic ruler in hand. I could only see him through the mirror, but that was more of him than anyone needed to see.
“Step aside, man, you’re blocking the light.”
He said this, of course, with dick and ruler in hand as he waddled towards the sink. This morning ritual of nudity and plastic apparati became unfortunately regular.
His dick, by the way, is very, very small.
When he dropped by unannounced last night, I had this horrifying flashback to standing in that bathroom, his pinky of a penis in hand and ready to fire. He’d followed me to back to the room that night, lit up one the cigarettes in his pocket by swiping the match across his leg, and fed me all the lines one could expect upon such an encounter.
"Jesus, man, you come down to Mexico for a week and you turn gay? Mallorie is going to love that."
"You know it's nothing like that.”
I’m not entirely sure what it is like, but…
"Honestly, little dude, I don't know what to think. I'm not judging -- okay, yes, I am judging -- but I won't.”
“I’ve been sleeping with Sabina all week.”
He took a long smoke and chuckled. “No you haven’t.”
“Yes. I have.” I took the cigarette from him for myself. “And on a much more important matter, what are you doing down here? You’ve never been to Mexico before.”
"Oh, just thought I'd take a mini vacay down in Baja – Oh, and by the way, WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?!"
These outbursts are very Taylor.
“There was no traffic, so I just kept –”
I paused when he held his hand up to my face. “I’m going to stop you right there. Shut the fuck up, Little Bro, give me the cigarette, and cut the bullshit. Seriously. What the fuck are you doing down here?”
I fell back into the chair. Where to begin?
“When do you reach the point when you’ve replaced what you used to consider home with a place that actually feels like home?”
Taylor took a long draw from the cigarette and looked over the balcony at the beach below. “I’m sorry, what were you saying? Man, it’s gorgeous here, how do you concentrate on anything?”
“Jackass,” I muttered.
“Listen, Zac,” he said, waving the cigarette in his hand as he talked. “You’ve been here for five days, you’re a little freaked out right now. You just had some guy feel you up last night. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” He paused to check that his collar was still popped accordingly. “Seriously, it’s so fucking gorgeous out here.”
I snapped in his face. “Focus, Taylor, focus. Breasts. Large breasts.”
“You had me at nipple. Listen, I’m not going to try to talk you out of this – I swear to God, man, it’s like I’ve got ADHD; LOOK at that ocean!”
We didn’t return to the conversation at hand. Taylor continued chain smoking the stash in pocket and waxing philosophic about the view. Eventually, we worked our way back downstairs where the usuals were. Matias cleaning glasses; Sabina against the bar watching; a small boy wandering around singing next to whom I could only assume is his father.
My brother wasted no time returning to Sabina’s side, brushing a lock of hair out of her face and muttering compliments that she couldn’t understand. Matias looked on with a sneer, as could be expected, and I just stood by.
The birth of my son evolved in a similar manner, something I’m only now admitting. To say I’d wanted a kid would be a stretch. Mallorie was the girl I drank with and dated in college. Then one morning in bed, she rolled over and vomited. Seven months later, two nurses where hoisting back her legs as she was squeezing out our offspring. The moment of truth – 10:30 on a Tuesday morning last fall – I managed to be face down on a bar in the Valley.
It wasn’t entirely accidental, and I’m still waiting to feel guilty about it. That alone is cause for concern. But that’s why I’m here. To gain some perspective.
Last night, Taylor insisted on seducing Sabina. He has his ways - perfected over several years of trial and success. He brought along a calla lily for her - where he found it, I’ll never know.
“I hope you don’t mind,” he said to both Matias and me as he bent down to kiss Sabina’s hand.
I’d like to think she looked to me, pleading that I rescue her from the grips of my skuzzy, small-dicked brother, but there was only enchantment in those eyes.
“I’m not going back without you.” He spun Sabina before him, letting a significant amount of side-boob peer out from the edge of her dress. “I encourage you to take your time, Little Man. I’ve got nowhere else to be but here.”
When she stopped spinning, he slid his hand down her body, from her neck, between her breasts, and he stopped at her bared belly-button. She giggled.
“You know, you should call her,” Taylor added as Sabina curled her body upwards towards him. “Mallorie, you should call Mallorie.”
A chill rushed to my hands and feet. “I thought you weren’t going to lecture me.”
“I’m not.” Taylor smiled and let go of Sabina. He turned to me. “I just, I mean I went to all the trouble of coming down here to find you – and let me tell you that driving through Tijuana and Rosarito and not stopping was an incredible sacrifice on my part; you’re welcome by the way – that I have to at least tell you that you fucked up.”
Taylor, always insightful.
He continued. “She’s looks like shit, man. I don’t think she’d eaten anything since you left.”
And there, that feeling I’d been fleeing all week returned. A cold, dull pang in the pit of my stomach. I’m not upset so much that I’ve turned her into a sobbing, fasting blob of a woman. That sounds harsh, I know, but when the image of a crumbling woman is all you’ve seen for years, hearing about it isn’t nearly as shameful and shocking as you might think.
To be honest, I’m more distraught that even hundreds of miles away the situation is no different. I’m still a pansy who lets his older brother manipulate him. I’m still the coward who lets the girl get away. I’m still the asshole who just runs.
If Sabina is just this vehicle, just this outlet, just the woman whose name I never wanted to know – because reality is the last thing I need right now – then I’m at a loss for an explanation for the searing nausea that came while watching the two of them together.
This morning, I woke up to a nosebleed.
There was a small red spot on my pillow and two of my fingers were sticky with blood. I just rolled over and let it come.
14 November 2008; sunrise
15 November 2008
15 November 2008
16 November 2008, 2pm
16 November 2008
17 November 2008, 4am
17 November 2008, 4am
Blood, again. It's never a lot, just dried and burgundy underneath my nose. If I felt like I had something to lose, I might be more concerned.
In retrospect, I am an asshole.
I have not solved a problem, but rather created multiples in place the real reason why I came here. And to be frankly honest (is that redundant? Everything else is.), “my wife sounds like a garbage disposal when she sleeps” isn’t entirely the reason I’m here at all.
This morning, Taylor asked if they made condoms in Mexico. He had, as he had every morning since his balls dropped, decided that he was getting laid.
I told him that his dick was too small for a condom and to try a band-aid.
“Fair enough,” he agreed and proceeded to the bathroom where he stayed for what I could only imagine was the rest of the day.
Everything has started happening in reverse.
I spent my life in Los Angeles waiting for something to change my perception, and nothing did. So I left. I came here and drank and fucked and imbibed some mind-altering substances on a beach in an attempt to experience this joie de vivre everyone keeps telling me that living is about. But somehow, somewhere in the last week I’ve managed to fail even at that.
I have been reduced to my brother’s punch line.
I went down to the bar and started to complain to Matias, who had reclaimed his role as platonic bar tender and listener, but before I could go beyond, “My brother’s a twat,” he’d thrown in the towel quite literally and we were off to the beach.
“You worry too much,” he told me. “What you need to do is release.” And then he compelled me to actually take a vacation.
These things are all true. I do worry too much. I need to take a vacation from my vacation. I have issues. I have a twat for a brother. I use “I” too often. The last time I released I had a homoerotic moment...
We took his truck – a faded green version of what was once a moderately decent mode of transportation – and drove south of Ensenada. Matias had tossed a few beers into the backseat for good measure. I never saw any signs, but the few developments that littered the side of the highway in Ensenada disappeared completely. There was no air conditioning, so we drove with the windows down.
“How do you get any more desolate than Ensenada?” I asked before I could stop myself.
We drove for about half an hour. Matias tossed me a warm beer, and we took to the beach. By the time we’d parked on the sand, a fog had rolled in from the ocean and obscured any view of the shore. We were completely hidden.
I didn’t ask him about it, Matias, the tango, the relationship he had with his sister, Taylor. He didn’t bother pressing the issues either.
See, in Mexico it’s different. In Mexico, you can drink tequila and sleep with tanned women who smell like coconut and let strange men feel you up. Everything is tactile and temporal. Everything is novel.
What happens in Ensenada has no effect on your otherwise complicated life.
I had a beer, set it in the sand, kept myself from thinking. After a few moments under the clouds, I passed out.
If desire is the essence of the human spirit (just go with this), then fulfillment, which satisfies desire, is arguably the death of pursuit and therefore the death of the human spirit. Ultimately, I don’t know what I want. Not knowing what I want means I can’t even struggle to achieve some desire, which means I’ll never be fulfilled in the least. There’s no issue selecting temporal desires – Sabina, tequila, sleep, sand, drive, quiet – but once those things have been fulfilled I’m left wanting more, only I’m not sure what that is.
I just know it’s not Mallorie. And it’s not my son. And that’s what makes me an asshole.
On the ride back, I said, “I like this.”
Matias grinned. “That’s an improvement.”
I’m not sure if I was telling the truth, but I went with it anyway.
When I returned to the hotel room, Taylor yelled at me from behind the bathroom door. “Hey, Little Bro! What have you been up to all day?"
Of course he was in the bathroom; of course he was trimming his balls. I kicked open the door. “Dude, what the fuck? You’re still doing that?”
He set aside the clippers. “She’s a work of art, Little Man, and creating art for art’s sake takes time.”
I fucking hate his fake aphorisms. “She totally shot you down didn’t she?”
He guffawed. “No.”
“She totally did. You haven’t gotten laid yet. I hope you realize she actually picked me over you. Big Bro.”
“Don’t get cocky, Zac, there’s no reason to get cocky here.”
“Says the man with his balls in his left hand.”
“Har, har.” Taylor slammed the bathroom door, and I walked away with a false sense of triumph.
What I want, if I’m forcing myself to figure it out here, is one-up my older brother. This will ultimately fill me with a sense of pride, accomplishment, manliness, and virility otherwise obscured by Taylor’s self-aggrandizing, masturbatory attitude.
Fret not, this list will grow.
18 November 2008
18 November 2008
Taylor cannot willingly admit defeat, but rather looks upon misfortune and poor timing as intangible, yet clear-able, hurdles. After carving the letter “T” into his pubic hair (“Reinventing the happy trail, Little Z,” he’d told me.), he reached into his duffel bag and tossed me a blue plastic bottle. "Those," he told me, "are going to make our evening."
I poured a few of the pills into my hand. "What the hell is this?"
"Honestly, I'm not sure. And I like it that way."
He threw on a shirt and opened a beer with his belt buckle. My brother, ever-efficient.
"How are you not dead yet?" I asked him honestly.
"How aren't you?"
The man had a point.
"And speaking fucked up, have you talked to Mallorie yet? My gut tells me that no, you haven't bothered calling your wife who's probably not slept in a week now to check in on her or the status of your infant offspring or of the security of your marriage because my guess is that if she could stop sobbing long enough to think clearly, she's probably already dumped half of your shit out the bathroom window and burned holes in the crotch of your pants."
I couldn't answer him.
"Great. Like I said, take as long as you like. Sabina will crack eventually. Toss me one of those pills?"
And so another night, another debacle began.
In the end (can I say in the end? Is it really over, or am I stalling?), in the end when Mallorie and I had sex it was totally meaningless. We’d been pushing parts of ourselves into one another for weeks, months maybe, but we had acknowledging one another. We weren’t touching one another, we weren’t feeling one another, we were just fucking. The release was nice, but the movement had stopped satisfying long before.
One evening, after what Taylor would eventually refer to as “squidgy sex,” we lay on opposite sides of the bed staring at anything besides one another, I said to her, “It’s annoying coming without being fully hard.”
She didn’t say anything, just rolled over and sighed.
For a while, I thought I’d never have a satisfying romp in the sack ever again, thought I was doomed to this half-limp humping that left both parties unhappy. But sex with Sabina is so, so very different.
Last night, sex with Sabina was so, so very wrong.
Whatever Taylor insisted we all take wasn’t what it’s label claimed to be. Within what felt like moments, I was doubled over, vomiting off the balcony onto the sand. Taylor, I believe, was cheering me on. At some point as I was laying in a cold sweat on the bed, Sabina came in. She and my brother were mumbling and before I had a chance to speak up, it appeared that they started moving together, bodies together.
My recollection of events that transpired from that moment on occurs as snapshots, flashes of memory. Bodies. Skin. Taylor and Sabina. Her head thrown back. His hand on her breast. Her shirt on the floor. The two of them on the bed next to me.
And then everything fades away.
Ask me what the fuck I woke up to. Go ahead. Ask me.
First and foremost, I was not wearing anything I fell asleep in, or anything at all for that matter. Sabina was appropriately naked next to me. On the other side of her, however, was my brother, with that fucking “T” carved into his pubic hair staring me in the face.
I rolled over and vomited again and then without another moment’s hesitation, launched myself over Sabina and punched him square in the face.
“You son of a bitch!” He yelped, springing up to tackle me.
We were never very skilled fighters, my brother and I. The most we ever got into it was harmless wrestling, tripping, or otherwise “playful” and “innocent” bickering. This, however, this very much constituted an assault.
“WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK THIS IS, WEST VIRGINIA?!” I was, without question, irrational, pissed off, humiliated, emasculated, confused, nauseous, and somewhat still hung over from whatever we’d taken the night before.
Taylor scampered over the balcony and onto the beach before I had a chance to grab him. “Just calm the fuck down!” He screamed from the beach.
I tossed on a pair of boxers and hopped over the railing after him.
I imagine we looked ridiculous, slap-fighting on a beach half-naked, but I couldn’t stop myself. Here was my dickhole of a brother who had intervened on my journey to self-discovery, shown up unannounced, drank my tequila, wore my clothes, smoked my cigars, and now he had had his way with the only good sexual partner I’d had in nearly a decade, a fucking decade.
Somewhere between straddling him and giving him a black eye, it occurred to me that I had no legitimate reason to be angry – I had nothing to defend. Sabina is an object, something I can idealize as needing me so I can feel like I’m contributing to some effort.
Taylor was shielding his face with his hands when I rolled over, breathless.
“Sorry,” I said. “You’re still an ass, though.”
He touched the purple skin on his face and flinched. “You too, Little Bro. Damn. Where’d you learn to hit like that?”
Sabina was gone by the time we returned to the room. Sitting there, while Taylor panicked over the deteriorating situation on his face, I felt smutty. She’s really nothing, Sabina, just this girl, this object, this thing that’s masquerading as happiness.
I never thought I’d be that guy, that detached jerk who demystifies and objectifies the female. But, there you have it.
God, Matias is going to be so pissed off tomorrow.