Ortiz dialed up the radio just outside Pavones. Right away the speakers started bumping. The surfboards started vibrating on the roof.
“Easy player,” I groaned from behind my Raybans. “I’m trying to die over here.”
“Still hungover amigo?”
“Feels like my soul’s decomposing old friend.”
Ortiz started cackling from under his straw hat.
“You have no fuckin soul gringo.”
It hurt to laugh.
“Me? Or are you saying all white people are soulless?”
“I think your wife sucked the soul right out of you.”
I glanced down at my balls. I wondered, was that even possible? Ortiz jerked his head in the direction of the plastic dashboard Jesus, wordlessly suggesting Christianity could be my way out.
“Clan of the red beanie? Are you high man?”
“You gotta believe in something.”
I believed. I believed in my marriage, in my friends, in the life I’d built. Hell, I even believed I could come to Central America at 50, find love, and reinvent myself as a writer. Surely I’d indulged in enough wishful thinking for one lifetime.
Our fat joint still smoldered on the dash. I grabbed it and took a healthy rip: “I still believe in cannabis.” I coughed, expelling a blue-grey stream of smoke.
“Amen to that,” he said. “Selling weed to gringos paid for my house.”
It got quiet as we worked on the roach. Shafts of sunlight, broken by the trees above us, filtered through the cobalt nebula forming inside our van.
“You ever hear about something called the age-genius curve?” I said.
Ortiz shook his head and took a massive rip. Smoke seeped from his nose and lips, partially obscuring his ruggedly handsome face.
“Apparently our creative life-force is toast by 50. It’s simple biology. That’s why I’m unlikely to succeed as a writer. And that’s why my wife left. She needed someone younger, more vital, someone with a future.”
Ortiz expelled the hit, and for a long time he just stared at me. He seemed confused.
“You giving up amigo?” he said, finally.
“Nah man, not as long as we still have weed.”
It would have been better if I’d died, I thought. Then I could have checked out in my prime, still believing. Now I was damaged. And I knew the ride would only get harder from here on out.
– Cojito @ Panama After Dark