I started reading my book today, Mediodía de Frontera by Claudia Hernández, a collection of magic realist short stories set in the aftermath of the Salvadoran civil war. I first heard of the book in Chicago, while searching information online about the little country in which I’d been waiting not many hours before; waiting in San Salvador airport, looking into the dark glass of my departure gate because there was nothing else to do, just my own reflection to look at, this thinker’s face, the same face a Czech stripper had once described as a nice face, looking and waiting and not really believing that it was all over.
McDonald’s left me feeling unsatisfied, as usual. We walked around a bit afterwards. Talked about what we’re going to do back home. Went back to McDonald’s for coffee. It was the third time we’d been that day. Soaking up the Mexican culture. Well the coffee is good. Go fuck yourself.
In the morning we played basketball. We played two on two and I was amazing. Afterwards, we were going to the Zona Rosa and on the way there a guy sitting next to the basketball court said, “Hey mister”, and when I looked around he gave me a thumbs up. I wondered if he had been watching.
In the evening we were going to Cali. To get to Cali from Bogotá takes ten hours. We shared a taxi to the bus terminal with the English couple who wouldn’t STOP TALKING. I liked them though. They were interesting enough and weren’t full of shit. They were going to Medellín.
We squeezed into the cab. There wasn’t enough room for all the bags in the back so we had to lay them across our fronts. There was a small television on the dashboard playing classic rock videos which made it all right…
We waited at the gate. There were lots of Colombians already waiting there. We stood behind them. Then we were told to get on. I was looking forward to the journey. I like a night bus. You can do some thinking. You can remember where you’d gone wrong, or where you’d gone right.
We pulled out of the station and a film came on. It was a terrible film, something about returning the President’s dog. I knew it was going to be terrible when I saw Eric Roberts’ name in the opening credits. I pulled my headphones out and put on some music.
The bus bucked and jerked in the traffic. When a gap opened in front, the driver would stamp on the accelerator then brake hard. The streets were still alive with people selling, buying, dying. A jazz song came on through my headphones, something by Chet Baker maybe. I thought it was just like the bus, the fucking STOP START bus. We had stopped moving again. I looked out the window and watched a stray dog limp under an underpass. After an hour or so I wanted to BREAK something. I was feeling sick.
“THIS IS RIDICULOUS! ALL THIS TRAFFIC! IT’S ALMOST FUCKING MIDNIGHT!!!”
We turned into a bus station. I recognised it as the south bus station. On the screen above the film had finished. It had taken the length of a shit film just to get to another terminal in the SAME fucking city.
My mind was in riot and the only way I could calm it was to breathe breathe breathe. We left the station and the bus kept stopping. The traffic was gridlocked. It was midnight.
I can’t say that I didn’t like Bogotá. I almost loved her. I loved how rundown she was, how she looked like she should stink of piss but didn’t. But I felt a certain hate then.
After another thirty minutes the traffic loosened and we were MOVING, moving, only stopping at lights. We drove through the barrios. We drove past love motels and strip joints on the way out, right on the edges of the city where it didn’t look too safe.
I was out of the city. I closed my eyes.