THE MEXICAN SWIMMER
You can screw your way home like Burt Lancaster swam his way home in 'The Swimmer'. The voice comes to my head clearly as I stand on the balcony of the Utopia whorehouse in Ciudad Nuevo, Mexico. You can do it, the voice echoes in my mind. It's like God speaking to me from the burning bush.
Even with a hangover, somehow I feel great, basking in the pre-dawn light and being the ruler of all I survey. At least, all I can survey from the balcony of the highest-class brothel in town, with the highest-class prostitute lying asleep in the room behind me.
What a night, I think as I take in a deep breath of air, and what a beautiful morning.
As I exhale, the idea of The Swimmer returns to me. My bodyguards and I happened to see part of that movie on a bar television a few nights ago, so it's fresh in my mind. I think; well, there are no swimming pools around here to swim home, but this area certainly has enough whorehouses to swim home another way.
I turn to my two bodyguards, who have stood watch out here all night, and say, “Oye hombres, I can do what that guy did in The Swimmer.”
“What’s that?” the bigger one named Ernesto asks me.
“You know," I tell him, "like in that movie where Burt Lancaster swims in a bunch of rich people’s pools and gets closer and closer to his house. He swims home, like he says.”
"What's he talking about?" I hear my smaller, but stronger bodyguard, Armando, whisper to Ernesto.
From where I'm standing, I can almost see my house three kilometers away, but a hill full of homemade shanties blocks its view. “I can do it,” I say to them. “You see, over there? Since they built the Amiga Caliente, there’s a line of whorehouses all the way to my home.” I chuckle and say, “I'll do it. I'll screw my way home.”
"But Boss,that's not swimming home,” Ernesto says gently, so as not to talk down to me and arouse my anger.
“So what?” I tell him. “It’s almost like swimming home.” Though my mind is blurry from last night’s partying, I am determined to follow the epiphany that has come over me.
"Si, pero..," Ernesto says hesitantly. "...in swimming you can catch your breath and swim on, but when you lead your buzzarino to water, you can't always make it swim firmly."
Armando laughs out loud, but when he sees I don't, he chokes it back.
Looking back at the brothels that line up from my balcony here at the Utopia, down into the valley and then up the hill, I start pointing and counting. “Let’s see, there’s La Escalera next door, and the Mandalay, and then the Amiga Caliente. After that is the Bamboo, La Serenata, the Diamond Penthouse at the top of the hill, and then the Iguana on the other side. After that, it's through the forest and then maybe a one kilometer walk to my place.”
Ernesto makes a confused face and says, “But Boss, why would you want to do that?”
“Because the brothels are there,” I say to him, knowing the expression is more for mountains than whorehouses.
“If that’s what you want to do, Boss, we’ll do it,” Armando says.
“Nah, I don’t want you two along,” I tell them. “It’s my idea, and I’m going to do it alone.”
“But Boss,” Ernesto says to me meekly, “it’s dangerous.”
“Not to worry,” I reply. “This is a zona de tolerancia.”
“Si, effe, they tolerate it here,” Ernesto agrees, “but it’s not the policia I’m taking about.”
“Callate,” I tell him. “I’m gonna do what I want. You guys take off. Hasta luego.”
Ernesto and Armando look at each other, shrug, then turn and head down the balcony stairs. I go into the room where Rosita is still sleeping wrapped in satin sheets. It’s the most beautiful room in the most beautiful whorehouse in town, and Rosita is the most beautiful girl in Mexico. Some might give me an argument on that point, but Rosita was a beauty contest winner in three places; Guadalajara, Juarez and Matamoros. After that, she decided to cash in her beauty for pesos, a lot of pesos per night. Hell, I never minded paying her for what she had to offer me.
I get out of the silk robe that the hotel gives customers and toss it on the floor. I’m still a little dizzy from last night’s twenty-six thousand pesos a bottle Barrique de Ponciano Porfidio tequila, but I manage to get into my clothes. I put on my Borsalino hat and pull it down low on my head. I toss a few extra thousand pesos on the pillow next to Rosita, go downstairs and head over to La Escalera, the first brothel on my swim home.
When I enter, the red-velvet wallpaper makes my eyes hurt. The manager, Alejandro, greets me with a smile. Though surprised to see me at five in the morning, he knows what my usual is and leads me to the elevator that goes up to the Santa Ana suite. In just a few minutes, all my usual food, drink and selection of women arrive. I don’t eat, but I quickly drink down a rum-spiked Horchata. The Aztecs and Mayans called it the drink of the gods and I welcome its cinnamon taste.
Next, I choose my favorite woman, when I frequent this place. Her name is Sonja, and even though she’s not as beautiful as Rosita from last night, Sonja is earthy and worth her weight in cocaine.
As the other three women leave the room, I wonder if I’ll be up to the mark with Sonja because of all the energy I expended on Rosita just a few hours ago. But then it occurs to me that perhaps Rosita and I just drank, gambled and fooled around a little on the bed before we both passed out, so perhaps my energy is still intact for Sonja. And even if I had spent myself on Rosita, it was hours ago, so maybe I could still grab the heifer by the udders.
Well, which ever way it was, I just finished milking Sonja, so I know she will give me high marks, should anybody come to check on how I performed.
My next stop is the Mandalay. As I enter its plush settings I start to wonder, what the hell am I doing this for? I just mentioned this wild idea of mine to impress my men, but now I’m stuck with actually having to do it, do it and complete it. And I’d better complete it with gran estilo, as no doubt the rumors of what I’m attempting have already begun to spread, because Ernesto and Armando have big mouths. They’re always telling tales of my exploits to anyone who cares to listen. That’s the problem with all the people that I know; they talk behind my back, but when they approach me, it’s always with a smile and their hand extended....palm up.
Well, what the hell? This is the price of success. And miraculously, I still have enough energy to tener relaciones sexuales con puta erotica se llama Carmelita. She’ll, no doubt, speak well of me to anyone that stops by the Mandalay.
However, entering the newly opened for business Amiga Caliente, I know for sure that I’d be no good in bed for the rest of the morning, no matter what the quality of the women are here. So I pick out a very young and shy senorita and take her to the best room that is available. Her name is Theresa. Named after a saint she might as well be, because I’m too spent to touch her.
“How long have you worked like this?” I ask her, pouring us drinks of overpriced tequila.
She answers almost inaudibly without meeting my eyes. “A week here, a couple of months at another place.”
“Well, you can relax,” I say to her gently. “I just want to sit and drink here for a while. I’ve had a long night. I need some quiet.”
She keeps looking down, but nods her head.
Looking at Theresa's virginal face reminds me of a badly cast Christmas pageant that I had once seen in my church days. I say 'badly cast' because the Virgin Mary in that nativity play was just too virginal-looking to be believed. And as virginal-looking as Theresa is, I believe that for the rest of her working life, when she gets down on her knees, sadly, it won't be in prayer.
Be that as it may, the important thing is that if my bodyguards ever check this place out, Theresa would be the last girl that they’d figure I would choose to bed. And even if the manager told them which one of the girls I had selected, they wouldn’t believe this shy young whore if she said that I never touched her, so my macho reputation would still be intact.
Drinking with her for about thirty minutes, I think that this place, the Amiga Caliente, is rightly named for me tonight, because instead of a bedmate, Theresa es mi amiga, except not so caliente. I give her a couple thousand pesos, pat her on the head, and leave.
Making my way to the next house of prostitution, named the Bamboo, is a little scary, even though I'm packing my .38 caliber pistol. The homes are becoming increasingly shabby, with many poverty stricken people sleeping right on the sides of the street. I've never been in this low-life area of town and it quickly starts to disgust me.
Inside the Bamboo, there are only a few girls here, due to the lateness or earliness of the hour. They are wearing cheap Japanese kimonos and geisha wigs, but I know they’re from the Philippines or Taiwan. Who are they trying to fool?...Me?
I grab a drink at the bar, ignore the two girls that try to hustle me, and head for the door.
I knew right after I thought up this foolish swim home idea, that I couldn’t actually screw my way home in every one of these places. As I already mentioned, that was just to show off to my men. But if I go inside each whorehouse, look around and have a drink or two, that would count as visiting the place and make it okay for me to say that I screwed my way home. And who would have the nerve to question my word? Nobody.
On the way to La Serenata, I have to keep my eyes half-shut to not let the ever-increasing filthy streets and people affect me. Now with the I-don’t-know-how-many drinks in me, plus my hangover from last night, I’m pretty wobbly on my feet. Still, I make it to La Serenata, and what a rundown whorehouse it is.
As I enter, the stench of smoke, cheap perfume and fungus overwhelms me. It’s all I can do to make it past the homely looking girls sitting here and get to the bar. I order a soft drink to not put anymore alcohol into my blood, but the bartender laughs, pours me a cheap whiskey and asks for three times more than it’s worth. He obviously doesn’t recognize me with my Borsalino tilted low on my face, because if he did he’d give me the good stuff, if there is such a thing in this rat hole. He’d give me the good stuff, and say that it was on the house, and then offer me every hooker in the place de gratis, as well.
I feel like telling him who I am just to see him shake in his boots and, but I don’t bother.
And then I hear one of the girls from behind me say, “Rodrigo?”
I turn on my barstool to see a very plain looking woman, about my age, smiling at me. Her broken teeth give me a sensación extraña and I look away from her.
I look back at her, but try not to focus on her face. “Who are you?” I ask casually, given her appearance.
Her smile fades as she says, "I am Gabriela Santiago. Don't you remember me?"
“Oh, from high school?” I ask her.
“Oh, I’m so happy you remember me after all these many years,” she says, treading the ridge between truth and sarcasm with the skill of a mountain wolf.
I do remember her from years ago. It was in the 10th grade. At a friend’s basement, I forced her to lose her virginity. Three months later, I sent her to a dark upstairs room overlooking a butcher shop, to stop the birth of our child.
I turn my back on her, down my drink, and walk out the door without looking back.
Have you ever noticed how the most miserable looking bars and brothels have the classiest names? The crummier the dive, the more deluxe sounding label the owners give it? The Diamond Penthouse is no exception. Hijo, it's worse than a two-hundred peso casa de citas. And Jesus, they have girls here that I wouldn’t touch unless I had a kilo of penicillin shot directly into my brain. I’d need the same shot to even think about drinking out of one of their glasses at the bar.
Right away I turn to leave, but a large hand grabs my arm. I look up at the gorilla of a hombre who has hold of me. “Hey, amigo,” he snarls. “You came and saw the girls, now you have a drink, and you pay.”
I look up at him calmly and say. “My name is Rodrigo Villalobos.”
The bastardo lets go of my arm like it’s on fire and backs away from me like a wounded matador retreating from the bull. “I’m sorry, Senor Villalobos,” the gorillas says in a little girl’s voice. "I didn't know it was you."
I give him a look he’ll never forget and then I leave this manure pile that they dare call the Diamond Penthouse.
Now, as I walk on towards the Iguana brothel, the street is obscene, with garbage, filthy animals and lowlife peasants. I almost throw up twice, and it isn’t from all the alcohol in me. It’s with loathing of what this neighborhood and people have come to.
Anyway, it's just one more whorehouse to go on my stupid adventure, swimming my way home in a river of sewage. I'll have a drink there and call it a 'yes, I-screwed-my-way-home' morning. After that, it's through the forest and then just one kilometer down to my house.
It's around 7am as I enter the Iguana. Thank heaven there's no music playing as my head is throbbing its own rhythm. And thank God, what's left of the prostitutes are half-asleep on cigar-burned sofas.
As I approach the bar, the bartender gives me a look, and I know from the expression on his scarred-up face that he recognizes me. That’s good, because I’m sure he won’t try to force me to drink what I don’t want to drink, or try to force any mala puta on me either.
I sit down and order a whiskey. He slowly reaches under the bar and then quickly comes up with a baseball bat and swings at me. I partially block the blow with my arm, but the bat still connects to the side of my head. As the slumbering girls wake up and scream, I fall to the floor and before I can fully recover my senses enough to protect myself, he’s on me with a God-damned switchblade knife. I grab his hand before he can stab it into my chest, but it cuts my right arm. Working my foot into his stomach, I push him back hard and he flies into the bar.
I quickly get to my feet before he can attack me again. “What the hell is this,” I yell at him.
“I’m Hernando de la Vega,” he screams at me, getting up and waving the switchblade.
“I don’t know you," I tell him honestly, waiting for his next attack.
“You had my father and brother killed,” he yells and starts to move forward.
I pull out my snub-nosed .38 and he stops cold in his tracks. Often, whorehouse workers wear bulletproof vests, so I don’t fire at his chest. What my bullet hits, explodes like a candy-filled pinata with a cherry bomb going off inside it.
I turn my back on De la Vega's body and leave the Iguana with my head screaming in pain and my arm bleeding.
Who was that guy? I ask myself. I know many De la Vegas, but I can't place him.
However, as I walk on, ah yes, I remember the De la Vegas, the father and son eggs that I had to break to make an amulet. They were trying to stop my climb to the top, so what was I supposed to do, give up all that I had worked for? Let my dreams go unfulfilled? I did, in fact, order them both killed and my loyal men, Ernesto and Armando, took care of it efficiently.
Well, the De la Vegas weren’t the only ones that had to be taken care of, I tell myself as I walk away from this cesspool of a neighborhood and head towards the forest.
Screw all of those nobodies that had gotten in my way. They’re history. Their names are forgotten by me, I say to myself, as I painfully stumble over snarled tree roots and push the hanging vines out of my way.
I can make it. All I have to do is to get through this God-forsaken jungle of a forest, and then it will only be another kilometer down the hill to my home.
However, the pain in my head and arm is getting worse. My right jacket sleeve is soaked with blood. Jesus, can I even find my home or has my sense of direction left me because of the blow from De la Vega’s bat?
And my arm? Will I bleed to death before I get anywhere near my house? What a screwed up idea I had this morning. Burt Lancaster indeed....What the hell was I thinking?
As I dizzily make my way past the insect ridden tree after tree, thoughts of my life come to me; how I had been an altar boy to my sainted mother’s pride, how I had been sent to the best schools, the best university, had the best opportunities. And now I shuffle off the names of people I killed like a rattlesnake shed’s its skin.
The pain, alcohol and nausea finally get to me and I stop to heave my guts out onto the trunk of a Montezuma Cypress tree.
Is this what I've become? Some low-life injured animal, staggering through the forest, looking for a place to die?
I’m the worse piece of garbage in the world, worse than any of those condemned girls that work the houses that I had just hopscotched through.
And after this, will the final tragedy come? Not being accepted by God to enter his kingdom?
God forgive me, I am finished.
However, after a few more trees and vines, I see the light at the end of the forest, just a few more steps ahead.
Walking this last kilometer is a blur for me, but then I think I see my house in the distance. Is it really my house? Yes, the back garden. But where is the gate? I hardly ever enter my place from this direction. I climb over the small brick wall with my head and arm throbbing more violently in pain than ever.
Heading toward the back door, I trip on a small potted plant and fall into some dead rose bushes that scratch my hands. I see one of the black roses turn half-red from the blood dripping down my jacket sleeve.
Finally, I see the back door. I knock on it, but there's no answer. Again I knock, and there is nothing. I look through the small window next to the door, but I see only darkness.
I sit down on the marble landing and lean back against the door. Will I bleed to death here?
God take me.
I fall back as the door is opened. The strong, but gentle hands of my houseman, Gilberto, grab me. He calls my assistant, Ramon, for help and they pull me into the house. They carry me to my back parlor and lay me down on a sofa. I’m too nauseous and in too much pain to speak.
Gilberto and Ramon take off my sweaty suit, bloody shirt, shoes, socks and underwear. Then they gently get me to my feet, carry me over to my private sauna area and lower me into a warm bath.
Gilberto, who is used to taking care of wounds during his military service, treats my arm and puts a bandage around it. “It’s not so badly cut, Señor Villalobos,” he tells me. "It will heal up fine."
The bath water begins to sooth me as Ramon hands me a mug of his special sober-up-drink as he calls it. It’s hot with a triple shot of caffeine, cream, cinnamon and some other ingredient that is Ramon’s secret, a secret that I don’t mind him keeping from me, because his concoction always works.
I take the three codeine tablets he hands me, put them in my mouth one by one and wash each one down with the hot drink. I slowly start to feel better, both in my body and mind as I gulp down the last of it.
Ramon takes the empty mug from me and hands me another one. I drink this one slowly and let the hot caffeine-filled drink and codeine bring me back to life as Gilberto gently shampoos my hair.
Now they get me out of the tub, wrap a towel around my waist and walk me over to my personal barber chair. Ramon shaves me with a straight razor, and though he is over seventy, his hand never falters, nor has his loyalty to me.
Finally, they dress me in new underwear, Charvet shirt and tie, and a twenty-thousand peso Armani suit.
“Your family is just coming downstairs,” Ramon says, as he puts a white carnation into my lapel.
I walk into our dining area and see my lovely twenty-seven year old wife, Esmeralda, in a white dress bringing our children to breakfast. Her beauty is that of an angel, and with her college degree from the University of Mexico, she has the intelligence to grace any party and to raise our children properly.
Marco is my five-year-old son and Pasha my two-year-old daughter. They greet me warmly and then sit down at the table as our cook, Aldonza, serves us a delicious chili-tomato stew, with eggs and cheese wrapped in tortillas.
After we finish eating, Ramon approaches me and says, “Señor Villalobos, you’re first meeting is at ten this morning. Your car is waiting for you.”
“Oh, thank you, Ramon,” I say getting up from the table and taking my briefcase from him. I kiss my children and Esmeralda saying “Hasta más tarde,” and go out my front door.
Ernesto and Armando are standing by my limousine. Ernesto opens the door for me and says, “Buenos Dias, Señor Mayor.”
Armando nods to me and asks, "How is you're morning going, Señor Mayor?"
My mind quickly searches out and selects just the right word. "Swimmingly," I tell him.
I get into my limousine and we drive off to City Hall for another day of serving the people.
END SHORT-STORY (chapter one and two)
The Complete 112 page Kindle novella comes with a free download of the 3 hr. audio-book performed by Julian Scott Urena with effects & music. $2.99. http://goo.gl/EooQy3
Listen to the Analysis of The Mexican Swimmer by Adam Simiou of Syracuse University: http://goo.gl/rqRDVB
Copyright Ronin Books March 2014