I get to their apartment and the air is already thick with the sweat and anguish of los fanáticos. All the food and rum is gone, and from the looks of it they’re only seconds away from reverting to full-on cannibalism. I push my way in. I wave a fresh bottle of Abuelo over the anxious crowd. Suddenly everyone’s cheering, a thirsty chorus of natives asking for a drink.
The girls surround me: peck, peck, pecking my cheek -like smiling piranha. They take my bags. I watch them from a safe distance, unpacking food, cutting limes and mixing drinks. They’re giggling excitedly.
Giggling about me. It feels good to be their hero again, to be part of the family. Tonight, I am not just another blue-eyed devil. At least, until the bottles run dry.
I scan the room. Panama’s down on a disputed goal, and the lads are abusing a TV mounted in a corner. I keep moving, out onto the balcony, away from their terrible screams, and towards the late, great Joe Arroyo’s cover of “El Dia De Mi Suerte” tearing its way through the speakers.
I’m feeling vaguely haunted by a reader’s suggestion that it’s better to receive anal from a gay escort than party with my Panamanian friends. Here’s this white wretch watching flights depart everyday for Central America, yet he’s never dared hop aboard.
I want to be his hero again. I want to give him hope. I want to run naked through a Central American brothel with nothing but a gold card stapled to my dick. But any concern I have quickly fades as Alberto passes me a fresh drink.
“No, como asi – asi,” he says.
He takes the churuca from my sweaty hands and starts showing me the rayando coco for the third time tonight. “It from the scraping of coconuts,” he says, over the music. Then Alberto’s up, and swinging his hips to the salsa beat.
The girls, his sisters and their girl friends, are all lean, dark and beautiful. They dance in the middle of the room, save Carmen. She’s on the balcony laughing like an insane hyena.
“She crazy,” Alberto says, shaking his head. He holds up two fingers: “She have two kid, one black, one white … but no man.”
Just then Alex leans in. She whispers in my ear: “She is just like you, she likes fucking and doesn’t want to get married.”
We share an uncomfortable silence. I know I’m with Alex, and I should feel for those fatherless whelps. But I’m no hero. I’m drunk and Carmen keeps catching my eye. I can’t stop thinking of bending Carmen over the bamboo table and giving her baby number three.
So I snatch the churuca back from Alberto and start drunkenly scraping the sides. I decide tonight’s going to be different. Tonight I’ll show everyone the white man can handle rum, temptation, and the tropical beat. Not for my critics, true love, nor the devastating Carmen, but for rhythmically challenged gringos all over the world.
-Cojito @ Panama After Dark.