Nineteen

It was hot in my bedroom this afternoon. I was lying on the bed looking out the window at the sky intersected by telephone wires. I was sprawled out uncovered and I started remembering.

A day like this a long time ago. In Mexico. I was lying on a stained mattress in the middle of an empty room. It was a house under construction maybe. Or abandoned? I sort of remember the frame of a room, wooden beams, a bathroom without a door, neon light spilling in from the street through windows with no curtains. We came from a locals only bar called Risky Business in downtown Cancún. We got the key from a friend. I was sweating and panting under some local — Fernando maybe? I can’t remember the name. He was skinny enough that I felt the slight protusion of rib through skin at intervals. He had curly brown hair bleached yellow at the tips by the Caribbean sun. Fernando fucked me on this mattress yellowed with age and dirt. When I got up the floor was sticky under my bare feet. I squatted above the toilet to pee and when I looked down I saw a huge cockroach between my feet.

Please stay still, I said in English and then Spanish just in case. Tengo miedo. I won’t hurt you and you don’t hurt me.

The air doesn’t hit you when you leave an air-conditioned car in the jungle. It envelopes you like a cloak. Immobilizing.

Heat and moisture and faint music penetrated those particle board walls. Me and Fernando. Was it Fernando?

Earlier at another bar: una más tequilita por favor. Solo una más. No tengo dinero. Por favor.

The next day – a brighter sun scorching away the shame, branding his taste and scent into my skin. Not, apparently, his name. We stopped at some mechanic friend’s where tin shells of old cars competed for ground space with chickens and children. Talk to her, he told me in his halting English. He pointed at a thin woman sitting on a tire. Entre mujeres.

So I tried to talk to this sixteen year old mother of three who had never been out of Cancún and who could not understand why any young woman would travel alone.

Tenía que escapar, I explained, eventually, even though it wasn’t really true.

 

Published in Ramshackle Review 3, March 2011.

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