The more deep you went into it, the more you realized it was the same as the beginning. A girl no more than six was selling flowers – and her indigenous ancestry made her look much younger – she could barely stand over the weight of the bouquet. She was a mixture of terrified and sleepy, probably riding the bus several hours to sell. I knew I had been played – someone sending their child out to sell flowers, most of which were on their death’s bed. I put 5 qs in her hand and she snapped out of a trance, reaching for one stem and missing like a boxer knocked out, pawing on the ground. I told her “Por favor, ten cuidado hoy”. What words of wisdom from a genius, what an ominous and creepy thing to say. What is there to say?
It was 100 degrees Farenheit and I had run out of water. I decided to steal my companions, a correctly surly and powerful Mexican, being about 5’6 and 220.
I was looking for a candle to burn at night, but the next too-young-to-be-working in a shop in a brick and mortar tienda didn’t speak Spanish either — “candela” “encendedor” “quema”, I took out my ramen noodles and lit an imaginary flame under them, to which she responded with five fingers splayed, which either meant five quetzales or “please stop doing that”. A hulk of a man appeared behind me in a manner that either suggested he wanted to purchase something as well, or that he was going to kill me.
A woman on her first trip outside of the country, stout, with a better phone than me and in her Sunday best, her wallpaper a heavily photoshopped version of herself and TSA pre-check asking me to translate the post-flight instructions, given from not a flight attendant, but what appeared to be a random man with both a perilous grasp of the English language and intense fear of public speaking, whose tone of voice was similar to being encircled by a chorus of colicky children in full diapers.
Trying to be helpful and failing, I tenuously explained the concept of customs before I was interrupted by an Asian woman with better English and Spanish than I. It was only shameful because she was not fluent. I was not listening at all to the man, so I was translating words I did not ever listen to. And being a true Guatemalan now, I attempted to help anyways.
Long flight, blue eyes, blonde hair, no coffee, surrounded by an international potporrui of polygots, and me? Que lastima.
I circled back around, passing a man with gas gangrene on his left leg – sprawled in the traditional manner of head down / hands up of the indigenous elderly, his former ambulator sprawled like a roadkill crab to reveal an insidious combination of both diabetic infirmary or a fulminating staphylococcus infection. He was in dire need of an amputation, and was ill in a manner that suggested he would shuffle the cosmic deck promptly. I wondered if it was a calculated decision, insofar as revenue was concerened, given that a clinic would be like “Yeah, we are going to cut that off. Start counting back from 100.”
I hit on two Taiwanese girls. I assumed they knew each other, but they did not. I did it as a favor to my friend, one he did not ask for nor need. These girls were pros, like south side prostitutes in their heyday, insasmuch as they were running a tandem clinic on pretending to be interested — the older one on what to do, and the younger one on not to do. In return, lodging and food for free with a nod and a smile but paying for it in spades by having to talk with us. They were clearly uncomfortable the advance, as was I, and communicated this by having an iPhone for each finger.
“Are you drunk?” one of them asked me.
L’esprit de l’escalier, I’d need to be.
I wasn’t, and I slinked back to my room.
I was bitten by a mouse. The gentle nip of a mosquito coupled with the faint brush of a lucky rabbit’s foot lending its unsolicited strokes to my lower back. The all night “tsst tsst tsst tsssssssssssssst” of a rodent slithering through your bed. The incisions must have nicked a heavy capillary tree and I bled for 24 hours straight, straight through to the mattress, and then onto the next night. I had seen it for a few days but did not want to embarrass my lovely host, and realized I had left it shut in a room without food for that duration. Just wanted a snack.
I later learned the Taiwanese non-twins were stone cold famous – paid to travel the world, married even, to each other. I sat tacitly, cowed by my once-in-a-lifetime attempt to have a conversation with strangers. They cooked us dinner and it was really good.