in Narrative

The Insufferable Gringo

It was late, and I was on my hands and knees, weeping, and vomiting paella into a Casco Viejo gutter when things suddenly got weird.

“You wan flowa mista?”

I wiped my burning mouth and looked up from the 17th century cobblestones. An old man with rubber boots and a torn “Omar Vive” T-shirt was jabbing at me with a withered rose. I glanced up and down the street; we appeared to be alone.

“Flowa mista,” he said.

This time he was more insistent, shaking the flower angrily, like he wanted to beat me to death with it. A petal fell to the ground like a red tear. The old man had these vacant eyes. He twitched and shivered, as if insects were chewing on his spine.

“No, Señor, deja mi solo” I said, rising to my feet.

I tried moving away. I mean – what the fuck did I need with flowers? As I walked, I started thinking about all the years, all the money, all the plans, and promises and tears. Where was she now? What was the point?

Rain started to fall again. But the old man just kept on coming. I turned to confront him and he shoved the rose back into my face. It felt like an accusation, the thorns, inches from my delicate Nordic skin.

My first instinct was to run. You know how these natives can be; they load up on dangerous flora, and swoop down from Curundu and Chorillo like tropical Huns. The average gringo never sees it coming.

But then I figured he probably meant no harm, that I should just buy the damn thing. Who was I to frustrate a local entrepreneur? So I started fishing in my pocket for a couple of loose Balboas.

He watched me expectantly, absently scratching his bare arm with a thorn. He was filthy, high on something, but he did seem keen.

“How much for the flower?” I said.

He held up two fingers. “Dos dollares,” he said.

I gave him his coin, made it seem like I was getting a great bargain. He handed me the flower and smiled. I laughed. It was absurd, bleeding again over a rose.

So I kissed it – an air kiss, because who knows where it had been. I admit, I felt a little raw being reminded of what I’d lost. Satisfied, the old man turned back towards one of the broken buildings. A light was glowing from somewhere inside.

“Cuidate,” he said, before disappearing down a dark passage.

I didn’t answer. I was beat. I slouched against a brick wall and waited until I was sure he’d gone. Then I walked over to the curb, and dropped the flower into the gurgling gutter.

I stood there, alone, feeling the intimacy of the pounding rain. I watched until the rose was swept out into the Bay of Panama. A passing taxi honked its horn. I jumped in, and told the driver to take me back to the hostel.

In that backseat I didn’t think I’d ever return to the U.S.. And I wondered how long I’d survive if I didn’t. Not long, I guessed. Hopefully, not too long.

-Cojito @ Panama After Dark.

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  1. was the sancocho bad or was it something else? I got a list here of some of my favorite places in PTY. I will get you to the proximities and then you need to find the exact location. This is the fun of discovering the interior areas from Campana Hill to Santa Clara. Campana Hill is on the old Road. The view from the peak is truly unfuckinbelievable, and on locally picked shroons even better. There are three water falls/swim holes. Goofy Falls which is actually in Tocumen, out past the airport. There is an old olympic cycling racing stadium from the seventies out there. You need to cross a pretty large field to get to the falls, but very worth it. There is this water fall with natural slides which dump you into a cool water swimhole maybe a ten foot drop. Rockie Falls is out just past Coronado on the mountain side of the highway 40 foot drop, 50 if you jump from the tree. Santa Clara swim hole is just off the highway before you get to the main entrance of Santa Clara, on the mountain side of the highway as well. The cliff diving at this waterhole is awsome, maybe 15 feet or so. San Carlos River is my favorite. I do not recommend you jump off the bridge unless someone can show you exactly where to land. Palmar beach just past San Carlos is a great body surfing beach. Lots of Americans live out there. The sand is extremely hot so use flipflops. The sand is half black half white. And of course I recommend a round of golf at Coronado Golf course, a massage and steam after your round followed by a meal and drinks at the clubhouse. After you experience this I would like for you to write about them. One more place you must see before it is too late, Tits Beach.

    later and stop peeing on the sidewalks

  2. something else? bad sancocho in panama? that's crazy talk rrroyo.

    ah, so you've been picking shrooms? now i know why you settled in sf lol.

    an excellent list. thanks man. a friend tells me san carlos is a couple of hours outside the city? does that sound right? if that's the case, i'd probably catch a bus and stay overnight. although it sounds like having a car to explore these areas would be best. if (and when) i can get there i will definitely write about my experiences.

    tits beach? lol for the love of all that is holy and just – where's tits beach!?

  3. it's 11am in panama. monday morning. i'm reading hemingway and the vodka floats on my brain like lilypads on an indiana pond in july. some day i'll end it the same way he did. but not berfore i visit that house in key west again. better to go out on your own schedule, i always say. somebody is always trying to control us, knows what's best, knows what we need, knows how to save us. i'll trace my fingertips over the soft curve that starts at a woman's waist and runs to the crest of the hip…, the smell of her skin, the gentle slope, the soft flesh of the inner thigh…i'll do that for a few more years or until fate intervenes with some hideous disease, then i'll pull the plug, but not before.

    "any man's death diminishes me for i am involved in mankind; therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls…it tolls for thee…"

  4. lol like papa? i dunno man, a shotgun blast to the face is kinda drastic. think of all those unhappy mourners weeping over your headless cadaver.

    how 'bout a heart attack in a whore house instead?