About a week ago, I published a sweet post about my turning over a new leaf. In it I implored you, the public, to dump suggestions for writing topics on me. The rules are highlighted in that post – check ’em out if you’re interested!
I’ll cage these beastly entries in the newly created You Tell Me Category of my blog – this will be the first!
“I’m not sure how the hell I ended up here… Let’s hear your thoughts on leaving the country, becoming a mexican and sneaking back over the border.”
Art by Christopher Rush
It had been a long time since Mike had eaten a good taco.
He used to love tacos, but that was the last thing on his mind as he prepared himself for yet another dull day in the office. He sighed and farted, feeling old, hearing his knees groan as he bent down to lace up his shiny black Oxfords. “Another day another…” he began, then, realizing what he was saying he stopped, suddenly disgusted with himself. “Ugh, fuck that“.
Standing back up, he straightened his posture with some effort and his tie subconsciously. The knot was perfect as usual but for once, it wasn’t what caught his attention in the mirror today. It had also been a long time since Mike had really looked in the mirror with anything more than a passing glance. But now for some reason, he focused that same intensive gaze that he normally held over his clothes and external appearance to just himself. His actual self.
Slowly and intentionally, Mike started with his feet and worked his way up. He applied the same scrutiny usually reserved for his outer appearance to his actual being.
The gaze was unforgiving.
As he looked, he gradually came to see, and then to understand, how little of his appearance was actually a reflection of anything that he’d ever truly wanted for himself. His shiny black shoes and tailored, relaxed-waist tan dockers. The black Italian leather belt, entirely for show. His crisp Armani shirt, a perfect fit, and the sleek indigo tie, knotted into a perfect Balthus classic. Well put together. Professional and very impressive. But was all this really Mike?
He hesitated for a moment, summoning his nerve. Then, feeling braver than he’d ever felt before, he directed his stare directly at the mirror in front of him. Mike looked dead on, straight into his own eyes…and he saw himself.
He saw the reasons why he’d become who he was – what he was – over time. Then he saw the direction that he was headed in. The face in the mirror crinkled in repugnance but he was so lost, staring so deeply into his own eyes, that he didn’t notice. Finally, finally, Mike saw the person who he really was, underneath the facade that he had spent years building up around himself. He spoke without thinking.
He wasn’t who he wanted to be. He wasn’t what he wanted to be. In a near trance, Mike had a beautiful vision. It was as though a clear, incontestable path was being laid out in front of him, brick by golden brick – and he himself was the brick layer. It was then that Mike knew what he had to do.
He would quit his job, sell his belongings and travel to Mexico; it was there he would fulfill his new dream and begin his new life as a Mexican.
It didn’t cross Mike’s mind that shifting from one race to another wasn’t possible at a physical, genetic, social or even cultural level, or that merely broaching this topic with most other people could likely only lead to contentious outcomes.
It didn’t matter to him that his primary language was of course, English, and that whatever Spanish he’d learned in school had been buried under decades of mental neglect. Nor did it occur to Mike that he knew little, if any, actual Mexican culture or history. He remembered the Alamo and he loved tacos; that was about it.
But, guided by his random, undiagnosed and utterly complete mental breakdown, these largely irrelevant details would prove to be more than enough to ensure that his transition became a reality, to him if to no one else.
By the time he should have been in the office indulging in his second cup of coffee, Mike had confounded his bosses by severing ties with his company with no explanation beyond “I quit – no me gusta!!” followed by a stream of random, broken Spanish. He set some clothes aside – some old polo shirts, undershirts, socks and undergarments, some solid work boots and a pair of Dickies from when he’d gone to a Halloween party as a construction worker – and heaped the rest of his expensive suits, ties and shoes into the back of his 2013 BMW. They barely fit.
Powered by righteous mania he sped to the nearest used car dealership, offering the entire bundle for $15,000 but with the stipulation that the dealer pay in cash. Paydays like this didn’t come often; the owner practically tripped over himself power walking to the petty cash safe.
Had he still been employed at his company the 15k would have constituted about two months’ salary, but Mike had never felt richer holding the three stacks of cash, 50 $100 bills apiece. He jammed the cash into his pockets and caught a bus home, his mind racing.
Once there, he collected his passport and a few other personal belongings, tossing those items and his remaining clothes into an old sturdy backpack he’d found in the back of his closet from his backpacking days.
And so began Mike’s trek to Guadaloupe.
It was largely uneventful, consisting mostly of bus and train rides with the odd hitchhiking segment here and there. Mike tried to limit himself to speaking only in Spanish for the trip, but found this to be more difficult than he’d anticipated. Unperturbed, he resorted to pointing and grunting when verbal communication failed. He felt more Mexican already.
Getting through customs was much easier than he had anticipated, and in a few short hours, Mike had arrived in his new home.
His smartphone indicated that the cheapest hotel rate in the area could be found at HOTEL LE-GAR, so he hailed a cab. Thankfully the driver knew of the hotel already and further communication wasn’t needed. Approaching the main lobby, Mike did some quick math. He’d need a month or two, he reasoned, in order to fully acclimate himself to the local customs, experience the local diet, become fluent in the language and change his outlook on life. In other words – in order to become Mexican.
Mike casually peeled 22 $100 bills off a stack and laid them out on the counter. “Dos meses, por favor”. The clerk’s eyes widened, clearly confused. “Sir” he began, but Mike would hear no part of it and reiterated. “Dose meses. POR. FAVOR.”
With a shrug the clerk scooped up the cash, not bothering with the standard paperwork. “Your key, sir. Room 213. Take the stairs to the second floor, make a left, and you’ll see it.”
The clerk shuddered at the terrible pronunciation as the man, who had so clearly understood his perfect English but had chosen not to reply for some reason, turned and walked away.
Mike settled into his new digs quickly. He still had a little over $11k left over and was feeling pretty invincible. He was doing it, he was actually doing it!! Soon he’d be Mexican – he had no doubt – but first he had to finalize this stage of his metamorphosis. So late that night, he left the hotel and walked until he found a dumpster in a quiet alley. There, Mike torched his passport, driver’s license and credit cards. At last, he was free.
The next six weeks were rough.
The hotel room was reasonably well furnished with a sink and microwave, but there was no stove. Mike sought to quicken his transition by eating as much ‘Mexican’ food as he could, but since he had no knowledge whatsoever as to what constituted actual traditional or contemporary Mexican fare, he had to trust in his gut. And despite getting larger, it was often very wrong.
He tried supplementing his diet of canned beans and frozen chalupas at local eateries [surely this must be authentic!] but, while delicious, this approach was starting to get expensive.
His difficulties weren’t limited to food. After over a month’s worth of attempts Mike had netted just a single day of employment; menial physical labor at a construction site, all under the table of course. His broken, incomplete Spanish was immediately noticeable and acted as a natural repellent to recruiters. This also prevented him from creating, much less maintaining, any sort of interpersonal relationship with anyone else.
Days passed as Mike sat alone in his hotel room. He was virtually surrounded by empty cans of beans and futbol en vivo blared on the tv in the background. Cases’ worth of spent Corona bottles had collected flies, now dust, and though tequila had always disgusted him he pulled his head back for yet another shot. Another shot of medicine, he told himself. One more shot, one more medicinal step closer.
He persisted, but his thoughts kept nagging him: He was trying everything he could think of; why was this taking so long? Why wasn’t he Mexican yet?
What was it to be Mexican? Fluency in a language? A particular diet, or set of religious beliefs? A general outlook on life? Was it his skin color? What was wrong, could it be his DNA? He slammed another tequila shot as he scoured his brain for the hidden essence of cultural identity, his frustration mounting. He could feel himself getting noticeably drunker but was too angry to process his thoughts.
Mike stumbled to the bathroom to peer into the room’s only mirror, half-stumbling, half barging through the refuse which was scattered about the room. He arrived at the portal to his inner self and summoned his courage once more. What was he doing wrong?
“Que pasa, MIKE?!?!” But this time, the mirror yielded no answers.
Suddenly furious he slammed his fist into the wall, accidentally dislodging the ornate metal frame which bordered the bathroom mirror. It fell away from the wall, bashing Mike’s temple. Black, red and white lights splashed through his vision as he fell backwards, cracking the back of his head against the porcelain bathroom tub on his way down. By the time he hit the ground he was unconscious.
He came to nine hours later, sitting on the toilet and cradling his aching head in his hands. Where was he?
What was he doing here?
Mike searched his surroundings, not understanding. Was this a hotel room? Cans of beans? Tequila? Corona? Mike muted Telemundo. He hated soccer.
He opened the drapes and looked outside; there were store signs visible from his window but they were all in Spanish. Was he in…Mexico?
His phone yielded no clues whatsoever. He searched the room and found just a single backpack and a few pairs of his worst clothes, most of which were filthy. Mike felt horror pass through him as he realized that both his driver’s license and passport were nowhere to be found. A small pile of US dollars and pesos were the only currency Mike could find, about $50.
What had come over him – what had he done?? Then he glanced at the bathroom mirror again and it hit his brain like a double chili cheese burrito to the colon. He remembered everything. Getting ready for work, his vision quest in the mirror, hawking his belongings, burning his identification. He’d done this to himself, to change, to liberate himself from his job and from his old life. And to become Mexican.
What the fuck had he been thinking?
He had to get back to the U.S., but how? He’d have to figure that out later, but first things first. He bought the next available bus ticket to the nearest border town, packed up his few possessions and headed back to the border.
The clerk watched him sprint out the lobby but made no attempt to stop him, technically the room was still his for over another week. “Adios.”
Mike arrived at the border within a few hours, where he promptly engaged in a shouting match with the nearest member of the U.S. Border Patrol.
“But I’m a U.S. citizen!!” he yelled, but the border patrol guard wasn’t convinced, or even concerned.
“Sir, you’ll need to go to the embassy to re-apply for a new passport. Just bring your driver’s license or some other form of-”
“But I told you already, I burned them!!”
“Sir, you’ll need to resolve this there. Without the proper documentation I just simply can’t let you pass.”
“But I don’t have enough bus money to-”
“Sir! There’s nothing more I can do for you here. Please move along.”
“You won’t let me in?”
“I can’t let you in. I’m losing my patience, now move along.”
Mike stepped out of line, flabbergasted, confused, broke and most of all, afraid. He had to get back home, but how? He walked down the block, searching for a bar. He had to think.
Eight Coronas later he knew exactly what to do. It was so simple. He’d have to pull some strings and call in some major favors, but it was just crazy enough to work. He grabbed his phone and got to work, drunken dialing like he’d never drunk dialed before.
The sleek black helicopter touched down at midnight in the designated location, the middle of a deserted patch of open land a few miles deep into Mexico. Laying on his stomach concealed beneath some shrubbery, Mike watched it land, then made a break for it.
The door slid open and he hurled his backpack and body inside, frantic. Once he pulled himself in he was surprised to find that the chopper was empty save for the pilot.
“Quick, let’s get the fuck outta here!”
“Relax junior! There’s no way they’ll be able to detect us, not with their inferior radar! This helicopter is state of the art!”
With that they touched off, slowly hovering up and away. Out of Mexico and back towards the good ol’ US of A. Mike watched as the border fence disappeared behind them, feeling his fears shrink proportionately. At last his sphincters loosened and he allowed himself to breathe out, relaxing a little bit.
It was over, his nightmare was over.
He’d need months of therapy to recover from the existential shock of dipping into, then snapping out of a weeks-long state of delusion, he knew that much for certain. Then there was the matter of getting his job back and getting new identification and credit cards. Maybe he’d explore whatever areas of his psyche were responsible for his hilariously limited views on cultural and racial identity.
He’d definitely stay away from mirrors from the time being.
But his plan had worked after all, which was evidence that things were looking good on the job front at least. He’d been an outstanding campaign manager, after all.
“Hey, pilot! Thank you man, you saved me! I gotta say though, I sort of can’t believe that your boss went for this!”
“What do you mean?” the pilot shot back immediately. His visor was down and his voice was muffled, but commanding. It reeked of authority. Mike could have sworn he knew it from somewhere…but he couldn’t place it.
“Well it’s just that for the past few months, sure, I’ve raised millions of dollars for his campaign, and always privately, just like he asked! I’ve exceeded all the goals that he set for my branch, so I can see why he sprung the money to have you pick me up out here…but still, I was worried he might be too much of a cheapskate! I mean hasn’t the guy ever struck you as a greedy asshat?”
The pilot didn’t reply, but Mike thought he noticed the gloved hands tighten on the controls.
“I mean I’m grateful and all, but between me and you I never wanted him to win! I mean seriously, can you imagine him as president? The guy may be rich but he’s a fucking moron!”
The door next to Mike slid open silently, automatically, and then the pilot stood up, backing away from the controls.
“H-hhey, what the hell are you doing?! We’ll crash!”
“No we won’t junior. I told you, it’s the best money can buy. My money.”
With that he took a step closer; Mike had to move back in order to maintain his personal space. Then the pilot reached up and, like the Predator, slowly removed his helmet.
As absurd orange hair exploded into Mike’s vision he felt his knees weaken. Oh, shit.
The Donald glared at Mike through beady eyes, then suddenly jumped forward and shoved him hard, in both shoulders. Mike felt himself flying back back back, past the point where he should have collided with the closed helicopter door.
But the door wasn’t there. Mike was flying down down down, down to the ground hundreds of feet below him, the air whistling past his head.
He looked upward as he plummeted; The Donald was looming above him in the open doorway of the chopper, glaring at him through those intense little eyes. The image got smaller and smaller, but somehow Mike managed to hear him yell over the sound of the wind.
A week later, a member of Texas border patrol was munching on the most delicious taco while he walked his route. He noticed a group of coyotes and vultures in the distance, and gulped down the last bite as he picked up his pace to a jog. Ugh, probably another illegal fence-jumper who succumbed to the elements, he thought.
Dreadful as it was finding bodies in this region of desert wasn’t terribly uncommon, and he radioed it in. No identification of any kind, just another undocumented immigrant.
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