Paving the road to nowhere, one word at a time.

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Location: Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico

American born, living in Mexico since 1992.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Five Years, More Or Less

The line started forming at five o’clock in the morning. If I got there by six, I was lucky, and the door still wasn’t open yet but we were only twenty deep. I read the newspaper and joints were passed around, I was reading the business section while everyone else was getting stoned because the work was mindless enough for it. Those not smoking were drinking, admitted alcoholics trying to survive somehow. I refused a hit off of anything, I was trying to survive too, and I was mostly older than they were.

The door finally opened and we piled in and signed up.

Someone put a movie on and we waited and our names were called eventually if we got lucky enough. It was horse-shit work for minimum wage. Someone occasionally had a car and we piled in and took off, or else Tony would just drive us himself, and we did whatever they told us to do. Even the stoned guys, slowly and lazily, attempted to do whatever. We got paid daily. After we cashed, we drank or smoked or whatever on a corner near Twenty-fourth Street, Darren was there on Fridays and it was the only part of it that made any sense.

Then I drank. We all did, even the people smoking more joints and blunts, we sat there and celebrated our own miserable existence. I drank quarts of Coors and Darren drank malt liquor and everyone else drank cans of crappy American beer. We spoke English and Spanish, and Fridays were always that way for a while. I was almost proud of us, the lowest common denominators of society, on the corner of Cleveland Avenue and somewhere west of 24th Street in National City. When it broke up, some of us wandered over to the trolley station, stood there and waited, ticket or no ticket, we went home eventually.

The sun was always setting as we stood on the platform, waiting.

* * * *

Juan leaves Thursday for camp something-or-other, and then home for a weekend in August, and then to Wisconsin and then back to Iraq. He’ll start with a new rate, what with being in the National Guard now, but I told him to fix someone’s tank whenever possible and they’ll probably have him back as a mechanic in no time. It’s hard work, but you don’t get shot at as much, which should be his goal there. After that, I reckon I’ll go back to doing whatever, standing in line somewhere with the drug addicts and alcoholics and trying to get lucky for seventy dollars a day.

I honestly don’t care.

This leads to that, and leads to something else, which leads to whatever, it goes wherever it goes, I’m satisfied that I have very little control over it. I only know that I don’t want to go back to where I just left, I don’t want to be put in charge of anything that I have no control over (by design). If I get lucky then I can land something near the trolley and avoid busses altogether or maybe something in Otay Mesa where all of the warehouses are. Whatever I do doesn’t matter.

Me and Juan and Anna have been playing video games and drinking beer (except for Anna), these days have passed by quickly. I have ordered Juan to go park his car up at his grandparents house where it can be behind a locked gate, and I am holding the keys because everyone will want to drive it and no one has a license or insurance. It doesn’t seem to matter much here, the license and insurance parts of driving, but it matters to me. Maybe it shouldn’t.

Maybe these are things that I should add to my list of not caring much about.

* * * *

At four-thirty in the morning, most of Tijuana is sleeping. The morning is chill, cabs are easy to get, and destinations are reached quite rapidly. Downtown in the collectivo costs ninety cents, and sometimes when money is tight I would walk to the border from there, through downtown and then onto the pedestrian bridge over the Tijuana River. Five o’clock in the morning is interesting on that bridge; it can be deserted, dangerous, or even ridiculous. One morning it was thirty-five degrees outside and there was a naked sixty-year old woman standing there screaming at a moderately well dressed Mexican gentleman, who looked quite confused about everything. Another morning, the cops would stop me and demand identification, I reckon that night was slow and they were looking for breakfast, no tengo dinero señor policia, I make the border, regardless.

Even at a quarter past five there is already a long line to cross, but it moves quickly because the bad guys are still sleeping, even the government knows that. Jumping the trolley, I get off and stand in that line, the faces will have changed but the people will be the same, the drugs and alcohol will be there, and so will I. We’ll file in whenever they decide to open the door and sign up. Someone I don’t know behind the glass will motion me over and look at me.

"Have you ever been here before?"

"Yeah. Back when you were up in National City."

"How long ago was that?"

"Five years, more or less," I will say, and then probably have to fill out more paperwork.

I wonder if Bukowski had to fill out paperwork when he went back to work at the Post Office.


Anonymous Wallace Snow said...


I think I found you! DUDE! It's the me the-"Guero Tijuanero" that speaks Spanish with a gringo accent! From "El Nuevo Perico Bar"

If I rang your bell than email me @:

11:57 AM, August 12, 2009  

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