4:20 am –
i hang my head out my slider window, and listen to the steady drip of an air conditioner on my neighbor’s metal roof. i can’t sleep. and i’ve tried everything: rum, poker, reading, writing, tv, sex.
nothing works. i feel like i’m in a zombie-like daze. my mind is on fire. i don’t want to leave my home. but i must; there will be no more 90 visa extensions in panama for cojito. and i keep asking myself – is this it, have these been my last days in panama?
6:05 am –
i drink coffee on my balcony. the sky opens up over cangrejo. shafts of tropical light break through the moody clouds. the breeze freshens. clusters of green birds flutter past. petite young cleaning ladies walk briskly in the street below.
i can smell their perfume in the air. a horn honks. my eyes burn as i finish packing. it’s almost full-on morning in panama city. i’ve been up all night.
6:30 am –
our taxi pulls up. alex hands me a list of things i need to buy her in the u.s. its a long list. i guess i was hoping alex would give a little. perhaps, insist on a quickie in the back of the taxi. “one last time – quiero tu pene baby!” she’d moan.
no. not a chance. all i get is tense hand holding, tears, and several reminders not to forget “the list.”
our driver’s juan. 3 years ago, alex and i stayed at the hotel california, and juan would always drive us around. back then the hotel was always half empty. juan says its filled all the time now. p-city’s grown so fast. the ride to airport reveals dozens of new buildings going up.
alex tells me this is the spot where several travelers have been robbed coming from the airport. i look around suspiciously as we stop to pay a toll. i’m not all that worried. how could i be? surely, these new visa changes have already made the streets of panama safe again.
juan asks the toll girl if he gets to pass through free – because he has a “cara feo,” an ugly face. or maybe he says, “caro feo,” an ugly car. i dunno. both statements are true, and i’m tired.
i try to laugh. but i catch my reflection in the dirty window. damn, i should pass through free; i look like i’ve been on a week-long ether binge with hunter thompson.
alex looks pensive. she clutches my hand. her chocolate eyes dart about with questions she dares not ask. i look away. a cool pacific breeze pounds me through the open window. just as well girl, i don’t have the answers.
7:30 am –
a long line greats me at the airport. at the counter i’m told there will be a 90 minute wait. shit, even american airlines runs late in panama. i decide to go through customs early. that way, if there are problems, i’ll still have time to run to an atm machine for a bribe.
will i get arrested? fined? cavity searched? banned? alex stays behind. i see her wave, and give me a pained smile. up ahead, the customs lady is already complaining (in Spanish) about a rude gringo. i ease up to her, give her a shot of the ol’ cojito charm. oddly, that works, and i’m through easy.
the lobby’s a sea of plastic chairs. i take a seat. a fat native snores violently over my shoulder. her exposed brown belly shakes. fuck, this is what happens when the locals are exposed to the gringo lifestyle – they get fat, sloppy, and snore brazenly in airport lobbies.
10 am – will someone please hook chow fat up to a catheter?
we’re handed a bag containing a tiny muffin and fruit cup as we board. this will be our last taste of panama. i was kinda hoping for a cuba libre. so i order a couple for the ride home.
on our short flight to miami, an asian man (whom i dub chow fat) slams into me several times as he slouches down the aisle to empty his humming bird-like bladder. i briefly contemplate garroting him with my $2 american airlines head phones. but then i’d miss the movie.
instead, i start a rumor that he’s the Chinese rep for poisoned toothpaste in panama. but it seems no one’s up for taking down an asian industrialist with baldder issues. after all, it could get messy.
so i try an’ sleep. and every time i begin to doze, i’m shocked awake by the nightmare of a crashing, burning plane. and me trapped with chow fat.
i ask for another drink.
1:00 pm miami –
for the bargain price of $5 i purchase a medium berry smoothie from a thin black girl with gang tats. i swear she’s the only one in the crowd speaking english. it feels like i’ve landed in cuba.
i ask if she has any cuban rum for my smoothie. “i wish.” she says. we have a brief flirtation. cojito, the hungover world-traveler, cued up for a healthy beverage, and Keisha, crack whore in recovery, working her $5 airport smoothie scam.
at first blush, it seems we have a lot in common. and by the time i dash for my connecting flight, i’m convinced i could get her, or at least a healthy discount on my next berry smoothie.
7:30 pm boston –
logan’s always a bitter disappointment. the denizens of boston are whiny, pasty, and deadly dull. there are no flirtatious crack whores on hand, no hard-bodied Latinas to flirt with, no eager hookers asking for dates.
nothing but puritans on their way home from work. i swear, it hurts just to look at em. i flip my shades down, pop and aspirin, and hang in until the next bus arrives.
2 hours later i’m in wellfleet.
10:40 pm –
coming up the dirt road known as old king’s way, i come across two fleetian punks on mountain bikes. one of them recognizes my truck. he peddles wildly up to my passenger window, laughing and making faces.
a mile ahead i pull down a long dirt drive to a vile hole known as “max’s cabin.” behind me is caleb potter, aka yellowbeard, wellfleet’s best loved pirate. caleb hugs me and howls when i get out.
christ, i think, he more excited to see me than my girlfriend.
inside the main house, caleb comes over twice more to hug, and tell me he’s happy i’m back. it’s touching, like getting dry humped by a big hairy dog.
the next day –
caleb’s mom and i chat in the kitchen. i turned 50 this may, and ever since then, i can’t help but sense the end. these last couple of years, i’ve tried to live in two places, manage two lives. and it hasn’t worked.
so i’m whining about getting old, my girlfriend’s mounting medical bills, panama’s sudden immigration changes, and that bitch chow fat, when a call comes in; caleb’s been hurt in a skateboard accident.
it seems caleb was surfing through town when he crashed, and hit his head savagely on the pavement. at cape cod hospital we’re told caleb has broken every bone in his face, has sustained severe brain damage, and is being given only a 7% chance to survive the night.
and just like that, all my plans, worries, fears, and whining look foolish.
(this blog has been set up for comments, donations, and updates on caleb’s recovery.)