Photo by Cheo Silva Cordoba

My glasses fog up every time that door opens. Yesterday, it was a record high of 107 degrees with no sign of letting down. The local radio station cooked an egg on the sidewalk just to test how hot it was. Everyone showed up, even the local news channel. Unfortunately, with all the excitement about the egg getting cooked, the weatherman forgot to warn us about the approaching shower. So, now as we sit in this bar with no air conditioning, sweat pours down my face, the heat rising off the ground from this wretched heat wave has mixed with rainwater, body heat, cigarette smoke, creating the most unbearable sauna. About a dozen worn out pool tables line the walls of the bar; lamps glow in the haze, creating angelic halos around the cowboys and thugs playing billiards. I almost want to say heaven will look like this, but feel cooler. My jeans begin to stick to me, so I take a long swig of beer to cool down. The bartenders switch on the television; the local broadcasters are covering the egg cooking that took place earlier. I notice they are drinking lemonade.

The regulars usually keep to themselves; even if we know you by name, we don’t need to mention names…everyone around me feels the same way, we drink to numb the suffering of life in this broken town. The only time I ever talk to anyone is if they want to buy a bag of coke or if I see a girl I want to fuck. When they know I’m carrying, they’ll let me fuck them in the bathroom as they snort a few bumps. The only friend I have in this town is the bartend. When I come in he greets me warmly. He’ll have a frosted mug waiting for me filled with my favorite poison.  I guess after a while he is obligated to act friendly towards me. Maybe he doesn’t give a fuck, but as for my business, he doesn’t seem to care, as long as I pay him a cut and never get busted.

The reservation is about an hour drive from the bar. How ironic that the last building in the county is the bar, which is closest to the “res”.  There is a casino across the highway from the bar, but I stay out of that place…it’s the only way we can fuck white people out of a buck or two now. Even the drunks in the tribe stay out… I always laugh when I drive down the highway at night, passing all these random casinos, these flashing lights scattered aimlessly across the New Mexico terrain, majestic colorful lights flashing from out of nowhere. Survival.

From the bar, we have to drive thirty more miles to get into the city, which is the only place to buy food once the food stamps come in. The people there can be so cruel as soon as they realize we drove in from the res, our government issued license plates substitute as our own personal Star of David…outsiders… even on our land. These random, unknown eyes with their constant gridlock stare on each hand, following, making sure nothing slips into any pockets, quietly muttering under their breaths towards each other, as I pass through each aisle; never resting their eyes, always watching. I can still feel the chill I felt close to these primitive random fucks. Once I got to the counter, the clerk would always say, “Make sure you don’t have anything else in those pockets.” Silence always ‘til I walk out, silence ‘til the doors open and shut on the rusting ‘74 Chevy, silence ‘til the ancient motor warmed up… I’m forced to sit, idling, staring face-to-face with the random eyes looking back at us. As soon as we pull away, they begin to laugh. Relief.

The bar is different. Here we are accepted, because true drunks see no color. The regulars that come to me sometimes leave a few bucks extra for another round. The only way I’ve ever really had money has been selling these bags of coke. It takes months for a call back from Burger King, but only a few hours to get a couple of pounds – a healthier profit than working steady shifts. After my probation I couldn’t afford life and court fees. Low key, small market, only way to stay out of trouble, it’s enough to get by…I had a taste of the big time, but once I got busted, my aspiration was humbled.

The snitch that sold me out was a college student. I really thought I had sold to him before. To me, all the trust funds running around the college campus looked the same.  All I had on me was a little baggie, enough for a few bumps…enough to stay up the night before a final…enough to get me arrested. The tribe’s lawyer helped me out and reduced my sentence from three years jail time to three years of probation and community service. In return, I pay court fees up the ass, and every month I’d have to sit in a room with some asshole behind a Goddamn desk – my probation officer, a middle-aged balding fuck of a man. Month after month for the next three years, I’d have to lie my way out of our appointments in his office. I’m sure he knew. But who cared, his next appointment was always some sixteen year old slut with curly hair who was going to blow him; he has other things on his mind. “When was the last time you had a drink?”  No hello, No need for dribble. “Since before my probation”, sometimes its hard hiding the smirk, but I continue.

After my meeting, I head to the bar, take a few shots and drive home. The road is so desolate, if you’re not careful, you will miss the turn that leads to the apartments. I honestly think they hired some sleazy porn director to design the apartments – mustard yellow shag carpeting with a brown fridge and stove. My tattered mattress lay on the floor in the corner under the only window. The wallpaper had flowers in different shades of pink. The person before me tried tearing it off, so now many of the flowers have stripes in them. My sink’s so small it faces a wall with no window. The only sound in the entire apartment is the running water as I rinse the dishes. My cigarette is burning to the end and the ash is falling into a cup, mixing with the soap. I rinse the cup out and take a deep breath, dry my hands and reach for another cig. I can hear a baby crying in the apartment next to me, I’m sure her mom is passed out from too much meth.

I look in my fridge – it’s completely empty. The bar sells burgers, so I grab a few bags and head outside to start my engine. There are no radio stations out here, so there is plenty of time to evaluate life as I travel to my limited destinations. The moonlit road makes shivers run up and down my body. With no light posts around it’s very difficult to see anywhere, only what’s in front of me and what the moon lights up on the side of the road. The glow from the casino ahead is the only sign I’m getting closer. When the elders decided to build the casino, they all agreed it would be a wiser choice to move into the city, to be closer to the business. Since then, it’s been rare to see their presence among us. It’s easy to spot them driving around, in a slick SUVs with tinted windows. Usually their kids drive around in similarly dark luxury cars as well. These brats don’t even know their own language, never come to tribal meetings or pow-wows. It’s a shame to see someone neglect their heritage. Sitting around the fire watching different families, four to five generations deep gathering around, the music, remembering our fathers – these are the only reasons I’m still around. Even though I’m considering leaving soon, I’d never pretend this place doesn’t exist. I pull up to the bar, kill the engine and wait ‘til the dust clears. I reach for another cigarette but the pack’s empty. Motionless, I just sit in my truck. As I peer inside I can see who is sitting just by the outline of their shadow. The bartender sells packs behind his counter, none of the brands I prefer, but whichever kills me faster, oh well. I walked to the bar, find a seat and order a pack and a burger. He gives me a beer on the house. I notice a petite blonde a few seats close to me. I offer her a drink and she smiles. I offer her a bump, and her smile gets bigger. I notice she is biting her bottom lip.

Following her to the bathroom, its hard to tell where I’ve seen hair like that bounce before, so I quit looking at her hair and look down to her ass. It’s a shame I didn’t meet her somewhere else, the stale cigarette smoke overpowers her sweet flower perfume. She opens the door, her bronze legs glide through the doorway and I quickly follow, shutting the door behind me with the arch of my heel and push the lock into place. I turn the lights on and expose the dingy mold crusted all along the corners of the cinderblock walls in this narrow room. She walks towards the sink and I reach into my back pocket, pull out a bag and a Target gift card. I begin to pour powder onto the stainless steel countertop over the sink. With the gift card I begin to shape lines out of the pile. She pulls a dollar from her bra and begins to roll it into a tube. Looking at her, I know she has seen me before… it was obvious this treat was expected. As I cut, she babbles on and on over pointless shit I’d rather not pays attention to, I tune her out as I craft these perfect lines. Taking a step back, she moves closer to the counter, bends over, shoving her paper tube into her nose she begins to rail the lines without rest. I notice her short denim skirt hike up as she moves down the stainless steel top. My mind begins to wander. She leans up and stares into the mirror locking her eyes to mine. Then closing her eyes and squishing her face, she takes a deep sniff, I can hear her nose clear up. Opening her eyes she looks at me again and begins to crack a smile as she bends over and finishes her lines. I laugh and ask her where I know her from…no reply. She puts her dollar down and turns around, walking towards me slowly…she keeps her stare. She knows I’m watching as she hikes her skirt up. Her hand starts fucking with my belt. I begin to stiffen up, she gets on her knees and looks up. I noticed a little blood dribbling out of the corner of her nose so I get some paper from the stall. She stands up but begins to wobble. Her nose continues to bleed more and trying to calm her, I tell a joke but she drops to the floor. As she beings to convulse, I notice she is wearing a pink thong with a black bow. Frantically, I try to clean her frothing mouth; I clean off the counter and reluctantly flush the rest of my stash down the toilet. She opens her eyes, looks up towards the ceiling and her mouth foams again. I push her onto her side and she begins to convulse again, her head bobbing back and forth, I suddenly realize where I know her from.

How could I be so naive to forget the curly hair slut thirty minutes after me month after month?  The convulsing stops. Pacing back and forth, I have to determine if anyone saw me come in here with her. Trying to play it cool, I slide out of the woman’s washroom and I sit back down at the bar. Nobody looks up, nobody says anything, and all I hear is “order up”. My appetite is gone. Sweat slides off my nose and into my warm beer. I look up and see how pale I am through the mirror. I have one more appointment left and then I’m off probation. I close my eyes and the film begins…I see myself boarding a plane with a one-way ticket. I’ve brought along random post cards so they  know I’m okay. I’ve been thinking of places I could run off to overseas… my eyes are closed as it plays.

As expected a woman begins to yell.  Lifeless bodies always make women yell. The entire bar rushes to the door of the bathroom to see the commotion, and I am forced to look. The guy next to me takes a photo of her thong with his phone while the bartender calls the cops. Not once does anyone look at me. Even with all the shit the world has handed me, I knew this would be my ticket to prison. I once had dreams of drinking coffee in a small villa in Columbia and sitting on a patio watching the sunset over true vineyards in France. I want to lie down on a raft and watch the trees slide by me as I float down the Amazon River…

After my probation, I swear I’m going to get away – go somewhere where I can breathe the fresh air, where I have to walk across town for a chipped cup of fresh coffee.

I go back to the bar and sit down. My beer is gone and I look up. The bartender hands me my burger bagged up. “It’s gonna get hot in here in a minute, nobody is going to remember you.” And with that I ran. My hands were shaking so much, I dropped my keys a few times and I could feel my heart pounding as the motor warmed up and as I pulled away. Driving in the darkness, I try to catch my breath. I pass the casino. Not sure of what just happened, I continue to look at my rearview mirror, my sweaty hands grip the wheel. I feel too scared to grab a smoke. For once, I feel relief to see the unmarked road to my home. I pull into my driveway and slowly make my way out. My truck is parked under the tree I broke my arm on when I was younger. I walk into my dark house and lay down on my mattress; so quiet I can hear the mother singing to her baby next door. I light up a cigarette and stare at the door. I won’t sleep at all tonight.

 

Originally from Canyon, Texas, Cheo Silva Cordoba moved to San Francisco in 2007 to pursue a career in photography. Currently, studying at San Francisco Art Institute he is focusing on fine art and spend his free time writing. His shorts are a combination of fiction and biography.