a hard tropical rain drove me off the balcony. I went back inside and picked a cold Imperial from the cooler. A call came in. It was my old friend Ortiz. He sounded dangerously excited.
– You lucky fucker.
– I hear your divorce is final.
– I heard that too.
– Two years, you were calling me every fucking night, weeping like a little bitch. Now look at you – you magnificent bastard. You’re roaming Central America like a tropical Kwai Chang Caine.
– Dude, didn’t he die jacking-off in a Bangkok hotel?
– I’m just saying – keep writing fucker. You’re living the dream. We have great respect for writers and poets.
– Sure you do.
– It’s true.
– And I still can’t find a good used bookstore in Panama City.
– We respect writers. We don’t read books.
– Ah … I don’t know man. Divorced and writing at fifty? It’s all a little too dilettantish and futile – don’t you think?
– We’re all going to die anyway amigo.
– Easy to say. You hit the genetic jackpot when you inveigled that poor chola into having your kids.
– Jackpot? Have you met my family? I’d smother them all to do what you’re doing.
– I don’t believe that. I mean, who’d feed your dog?
– Don’t worry about me. My mistress loves animals. Worry about you amigo. After twenty years you’re free a man. Don’t fuck it up.
– Too late.
– She cheated on you pendejo. More than once.
– And I forgave her. More than once. Sex addiction was just part of her charm.
– I don’t care how good the sex was, you should have dumped that bitch years ago and moved down here. Shit, back in the day, with your blond hair and blue eyes – you’d have killed.
– Killed, or been killed?
– Amigo, Noriega, the Zonians and Dignity Battalions, your wife, they’re all gone.
– Don’t forget my youth, my hair, my sanity, most of my money, and I swear my cock’s gotten a half inch shorter.
– Trust me, you’ll be fine. Your dick was never that big anyway.
– You’ve never seen it erect. With the proper lighting …
– Listen, you’re in Panama now. For a gringo like you there are opportunities and beautiful women everywhere. Just be cool, and avoid the Colombians.
– I know, but all the money and violence is fucking up my country. And my government lets Colombian whores in by the thousands. Amigo, these plastic parasites are looking for a rich man to support them – oíste?
I heard him. I just didn’t buy it. Colombiana’s were hardly unique. Every woman I’d met in Central America was looking for the support of a good man. I couldn’t fault them for that. We get old, sick, injured, we lose our jobs, and our way in the world. Sooner or later, we’re all going to need help.
I mean, why commit yourself to one person if you can’t lean on them when times are hard? Not that it mattered anymore. I couldn’t be counted on to save any of these women, or their families back home. I wasn’t even sure I could save myself.
And that’s when we both realized my “situation” would probably have the desired prophylactic effect. Satisfied, Ortiz rung off. And I was alone again.
I broke the seal on a bottle of Abuelo. A gift from a friend. I’d been saving it for a special occasion. I spent the rest of the night, alone on the balcony, trying to anesthetize the last throbbing part of me that still gave a fuck.