Oh death where is thy sting?

Honduras Travel Blog

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  I've never seen a dead body in person before. Or maybe I have I've just blocked it out of my mind. Most of the time my life is a mystery to me.

            I mean, I've seen bodies in caskets, with alien smiles on their lips and cakes of makeup slathered on their strained faces making make them look like constipated zombies. But I've never witnessed someone die right in front of me, or be dead in front of me, at least until recently.

            I was riding the bus back from school one day when we slowed down and noticed a huge crowd gathered on one side of the highway. I stood up and stuck my head out the window to get a better look. There was a car in the middle of one lane shredded and strewn about. Slightly behind it was a large truck pointing nose down into the side of a mountain. The car was a mess. I felt there was no way someone could have survived its demise. As I looked closer I noticed the cars top had been completely torn off. Two arms stuck out from under a blue jacket and the rest of the body was folded in half. The body was missing its head. There was brain and blood splattered all over the interior of the car. As we drove a little further along a man was led weeping back to his truck, where police stood grimly waiting. I sat down stunned and tried to breathe, feeling as though life had just ended for all of us….

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 I like to walk down the streets late at night after all the bars have closed on the weekend even though people tell me it's not very safe. SO far so good *knocking on heaven's door*. One night I was walking home but it wasn't very late, say, round Midnight. I was walking feeling good and drunk but tired and tosseled as I had worked all week and the fatigue had just set in. I didn't feel like making the half-hour walk back to my house and wished and prayed something like a taxi would drive slowly by and let me slouch in.

            No sooner had I thought this when a SUV came rolling by. The driver rolled down his window and offered me a ride. I was about fifteen minutes from my house but still readily accepted. I remember thinking wow, people are so friendly out here…

            The driver was a middle aged man wearing a baseball cap and casual business attire. He had olive coated skin and a wiry mustache and kept glancing over at me softly. He spoke English.

            "Where are you going?" Smiling.

            "Barrio Suya Pita, next to the Batalion." Frowning, looking to see if we're going  in the right direction.

             

            "I know where it's at.." Smiling stupidly, looking over at me dreamily.

            I was looking out the window when I felt his hand on my leg. I looked over at him mortified and knocked it away.

            "What's wrong?" Smiling stupidly again.

            "You muthafucker!" Raising my voice, feeling like I had really done it to myself this time.

I checked to see if we were going in the right direction.

            "You can drop me off over there." Relieved.

He didn't slow down. He grabbed my dick. I knocked his hand away again and faced him so he couldn't touch me again, backing against the passenger side window.

            "What the fuck is wrong with you!" Desperate though unafraid.

            "You don't like men?" Looking confused.

            "Uh..nooooooo." Looking confused.

He came to a screeching halt.

            "I can't drive you all the way home.." Disappointed.

            "Trust me, its fine." Liberated.

 

It wasn't until later the next day did I realize the guy thought I was a prostitute. I told my gay roommate that if needed extra income there seemed to be an abundance of freelance gigs out here…

I became friends with some of the local strippers at our local strip club Beso Del Sol. There was this one black chick who worked there, as there is a sizable black community along the coast of HondurasGarifunas they're called. She spoke English well enough and we were both black so we had at least two things in common right off the bat. I would go there every weekend, long after the novelty of seeing beautiful, naked, gyrating women wore off, which was around the second or third time. The place just seemed to be a hub of morbid activity, and the game these chicks played amazed me.

 

            During my Christmas vacation I was hanging out there feeling rather strange after the recent phase of violent and diabolical behavior I had been engaged in. A few hours into my night a dude I had chilled there with a couple of times bopped in. He was black too, and so with little Spanish I knew and what tiny English he knew we would crack each other up and drink ice cold brews well into the morning. When I saw him walking in we gave each other some dap love, I bought him a beer and made some small talk.

            At some point in the evening I brought a sack from a guy who frequented the place and was cool enough, by that I mean he hadn't tried to rip me off as of then.  I had lost track of the Garifuna brother and stepped outside to get some fresh air. The Garifuna brother appeared out of nowhere smiling broadly, telling me he knew where to cop some better grass. I shrugged and said "Vamanos", and we walked a few feet to the bar next door. We were standing outside talking when the guy who sold me a sack ventured out. He looked over at me and mouthed, "Don't say anything about me selling you weed" and gestured towards the Garifuna brother standing in front of me.

            It happened quickly. Why or how it happened I do not know for the Garifuna brother started talking fast, started becoming agitated and animated and was in the other dudes face ready for war. I think I blinked. But I distinctly heard the "whap!"sound that occurs when flesh meets flesh in that inevitable though completely preventable collision. I opened my eyes and the dude who had sold me a sack was holding his face looking shocked. The Garfinua brother was wilding out, yelling in his deep hoarse voice, grabbing a huge rock to do further harm with as two other people, one small guy and one small girl, ran outside to calm him down. The girl was hysterical. She clutched the sides of her head and screamed for everything to stop. The smaller guy clutched the Garifuna brother and held on tight, with all his might. His muscles flexed rigid and he got dragged in circles as he held on, the Garifuna struggling with him but he didn't let the Garifina go. I held the other dude back, feeling queasy and not wanting to see something spiral out of control. The Garifuna brother tried to free himself and come at the other guy but I stood between them, slightly surprised he simply didn't knock my ass out the way.

            "Go home!" I said to the other guy, "Venga te!." He slowly began walking away and was halfway down the road when the Garifuna brother broke free and ran after him. I yelled out to him helpless over what I felt was to transpire. You see there's something I forgot to mention. The other guy who had been struck had a foot and half long machete neatly tucked within his pants. I knew he might use it as the Garifuna brother was carrying as if he had lost his mind, he felt dangerous. I was tiring of the violence I had been engaged in and was witnessing. The last thing I wanted to see was severed limbs.

            The Garifuna brother was in the face of the other guy, defining his souped up masculinity with amped up aggression. The other guy stood his ground, looking coolly at the Garifuna brother and retorting angrily. The Garifuna brother took a step back and swung. I felt the punch in my temple-- blinked. When I opened my eyes again the other guy was screaming his mouth gaping and open, almost like the cries of a baby he was screaming in agonized primal rage and waving his machete around. The Garifuna brother bobbed and weaved and tried not to get cut.

            The guy who had been holding back the Garifuna brother appeared by my side and shook his head, gazing up at me forcing a sad smile. I looked down at him but didn't say anything. I began pacing back and forth, wanting to leave but compelled to stay, if not for the story than for living and dying. The guy with the machete and the Garifuna brother made their way over to us. The Garifnua brother dodged a quick machete slice and ran across the highway to the opening of a small neighborhood. I reached over and tried to hold the guy with the machete back. He whirled around with that awful baby scream and raised his machete as if to cut me off. I raised my hands despondently and slunk back.

            He ran across the highway and into the dark layers of the neighborhood. I could hear them both howling like hounds in heat and chase, the dogs in the neighborhood responding to their cries with clipping yelps and mournful bays of their own. I stood at the edge of the highway and threw my head back, drinking in the foggy air like rice milk, breathing in the toxic exhaust expelled from semi-trucks whirring by.

 

What would James Baldwin do?   

 

I wondered if the Garifuna brother was dead. Chopped to little bits and pieces of brown sinew and rotting intestines, carrion ripping off chunks of meat from his ribcage.

 

What would Bukowski do?

 

I began to wonder what it felt like to get chopped by a machete. That moment when the blade comes cracking down on your skin and tears it in two, the blade diving into your skin a parasitical entity because metal that sharp should not ever penetrate the skin--never. I imagined the pain would be terrible, searing hot or just a numb dull heat a biological bulletin of the life eking out of you.  I remembered Charles Campbell telling me about a friend, a relative maybe even, in Jamaica. He had gotten carjacked, forced out his car at machete point and made to cower by the side of the road.

 

And then this guy just chops at my cousin wit this big fucking machete. My cousin raises his arm and catches it right in the bone. The guy peels it out and chops at him again. They didn't kill him but they cut my cousin up good

 

The night is open for deadly possibilities and the guy who had been holding the Garifuna brother back trotted across the highway. I sighed, gulped in a mouthful of stinking air and followed him.

 

What should Charles do?

Even though this was my first Christmas away from friends and family I discovered that I could've cared less. Not that I don't sometimes miss my friends and family. It's just that, well, days are merely days to me. Reminiscing is for those who don't want to forget, those who can't forget because memories are all they have. I sincerely believe I still have a lot more adventures in store with my friends, my family, and it's not stopping here, no matter where I go.

           

            For Christmas Eve there is a tradition in Honduras of setting off firecrackers. The evening of the 24th felt like a holiday in Fallujah three years ago, with mortar rounds and the pop of machine gun fire all around me. I spent the night at my boss's mother-in-laws house, making and setting off firecracker bombs with some of my students (Siguatepeque is like the Appalachians in some regard, as everyone seems to be some sort of brother or sister or extended cousin). I went home later that night, laid down, sighed deeply and slept until ten o'clock the next morning. Christmas day I smoked the last few bowls of ganja I had and wrote and listened to music for the duration of the day.

            I made the mistake of going to the Discoteque again, a few days later and after my initial hazing. I was at the local pool hall talking to a guy who by all outward and inward means was a complete asshole but who spoke a little bit of English, so I chatted it up with him for the novelty of the experience. We played a couple of games of pool, drank a few beers when this, this woman walked in. She was shaped like a Mrs. Potato head, had a face like Godzilla. She was loud, she was over-bearing and she kept grabbing my ass and tugging on my boxer shorts as I attempted to line up shots on the pool table.

            They asked me if I wanted to go dancing. After chugging three beers I wholeheartedly obliged. As we barrel rolled to the Discoteque I stuck my face between the woman's breasts annoyingly after she grabbed my ass again. As I purred in her teta's the guy became furious.

            "Hey, hey man! This my girl. What the fuck?" Though he appeared angered he still flashed me a grin.

            I laughed and apologized, feeling frisky and simultaneously sickened. When we reached the Discoteque they managed to get me in free. We checked our coats and sauntered in. They bought me a couple of more beers and I swerved from table to table engaging people in conversation with my grossly inadequate Spanish. Later on I danced on the Discoteque dance floor like a perverted maniac and all the woman stared at me amusingly.

            Last call came after what seemed like minutes and the guy and his girl informed me they were leaving. I was talking to a cute girl and was distracted, telling them that I would catch up with them in a few minutes. When I finally did leave, a few minutes later, the guy and his girl were gone. I went back inside to retrieve my jacket, a slick peach colored number that my dad had given me. It had sentimental value as the relationship between my dad and I is, well, sentimental.  

            The woman who ran the coat check looked at me confusingly. She informed me that there wasn't any jacket in the coat check room that fit my description. I didn't have the vocabulary to express the fact that she had checked my coat, so obviously she knew what it looked like, and, consequently, its whereabouts. I tracked down the owner and demanded to know what happened to my jacket. He looked at me frightenly and told me that a "short woman had just taken it." Again I didn't have the sharp vocabulary to express what I felt like yelling at that moment. "Why the fuck did you give my coat to someone else?"

            After that incident I developed a major paradigm shift. I hated Hondurans. They were sketchy to me, deceitful liars. I hated the fact that I was just a Negrito to them and when it was convenient, a rich American, which is so unbelievably far from the truth.  At the same time I understood why some of them did what they did and couldn't harbor such feelings for very long. Americans have been invading their land since the early 1980's, building military bases to support the Contras which hunted and pecked at Nicuragua's Sandanistas. America has bought huge tracks of Honduran land, bought major exporting companies and provided millions of dollars of mostly diverted military aid to a country the size of the state of Tennessee. Yet most of that money lined the pockets of those in the military, the government. That's not to say things have not improved for the average citizen since then, but poverty is a cold, blunt fact out here. Hell in some respects, it's a way of life.

            Nonetheless there are many a good people here in Honduras, and it took those experiences to realize that. I sincerely believe something like a God walks with all of us…but some of us just can't handle its stride.

Damn what a fucking month. December was one hell of a lulu, let me tell you. It was during my vacation. I was restless and hitting the clubs at least three times a week, maybe more if the mood was striking me tender. One night I went to the Discoteque, which was notorious for random slayings especially during the holidays. Don't even ask, kay? 

            I had been having fun, but I was horny and feeling wily. I met some kids who danced like ol' school break crews from Brooklyn and they had a bunch of girls with them. I asked them to bring the girls back to my house for a nightcap and damn they looked good. I don't know what I was thinking, in hindsight. O.k. well maybe I do know what I was thinking, but it was with a head that was convoluted and engorged and only thought one way—hard.

            The kids, wouldn't you be surprised, couldn't get the girls to come back with us.  Feeling dejected I suppose, they asked if they could all come to my house for a drink and in plain English I answered them: Hell no. 

            They asked me if I wanted to go to the strip club with them. No.

What about this other bar, across the street from the Texaco and which had a pretty nice sized dance floor? Well…alright, damn, yeah I guess I'll go…

            We hailed a cab and climbed inside. It was about six of us, including me. One guy looked half black and had curly, dark hair like a Puerto Rican and brown skin. He was a short sturdy looking muthafucker but I wasn't paying any mind to him. Inside the cab some of the kids started sitting on each others laps and grinding their bottoms against each others crotch. Uh, you can drop me off right here…

            When the cab stopped we all got out, nowhere near our final destination. The cab driver demanded 100 limpiras for the ride and all the kids looked at me. Wha, what? Hell no! I am not paying for all you muthafuckers!

            I started walking away and a couple of the kids ran after me, jabbering in Spanish and looking apologetic. The cab pulled up seconds later and the big freaking Puerto Rican and the cab driver got out.

            I was talking to one of the kids, explaining how it was crazy that I should pay for all of them when the sturdy lookin' dude snuck into my blindside, which in fact was all my sides, as I was a little tipsy.

            I've never really been hit in the face before, or at least not on purpose. Even as a kid when I got into the rare fight I never let anybody scratch my grill, doing everything in my power to keep them away from my sable skin. But out of nowhere the sturdy dude snuck one in, sent me reeling backwards and hopped on top of me like a jaguar pouncing on a wounded antelope. He swung at me again as he cursed and frothed at the mouth, which I dodged and felt his fist graze the side of my head. "I don't understand you!" I screamed at him in Spanish. He raised his fist again to do me in and I remember thinking very clearly: I am not letting this fool hit me again.

            Before his fist came slamming down I snuck in two quick punches to his eye, forgetting about the silver rings which dot my right hand. I then grabbed his right arm to prevent him from hitting me and went down a list of options I could use to neutralize him, like gouging his eyes, cutting off his windpipe, you know, those types of things. However my good friend John's face suddenly appeared in the heavens above me as though I were a martial arts student remembering his Sensei's wisdom in a sublime moment where he had to summon the strength to defeat a stronger adversary:

            There's those times when it's better to escape than to escalate a situation. You  may not know what a person may have, a gun, a knife or other people in their  corner. No altercation is worth getting shot or stabbed over.

            I struggled with the guy until I realized I couldn't make this situation worse than it already was. Even if I did manage to subdue him he had him and his four other boys. I only had me and my maker.   

            O.k, O.k muthafucker, just get the fuck off me!

            To my surprise he did get off me. I slowly stood, dusted my clothes off and looked him dead in the eyes, laughing manically the whole while as I growled: "Damn dude I should fuck you up.." He moved towards me and I stiffened ready to clean his clock. His friends pushed him back and he paused, jumped into the cab with the driver who averted my glare. They peeled off into the thick of the night, which was covered with a thin coat of fog.

            "And this is your friend you wanted at my house, huh?" I spat at the three remaining dudes, storming off. I rubbed my jaw which had a sharp pain in it but wasn't swollen. I felt pissed though curiously upbeat. I walked until I reached the downtown and began heading towards my house. Near the town square one of the three kids peeked around a corner across the street and shouted out to me to come to where he was standing. I felt delirious with anger, and decided, stupidly I might add, I was going to settle the matter for good. When I reached him he reached his hand out to shake mine and I pushed it away. "Is he here?" I hissed, scanning the a row of people sitting on the edge of a building sipping coffee, eating pork chops and selling late night Honduran cuisine.

The kid laughed and said his friend wasn't there. "El es loco." He whispered sadly scanning my face. "Tu eres tranquillo?"

           

            "Yeah I'm fine." I said, feeling my anger subside a bit. In actuality I was fine. My face wasn't bruised or scarred nor was it swollen. For a brief instant I actually felt proud I could take such a heavy punch.

            The kid began saying something and making punching motions to his own face. I couldn't understand what he was attempting to convey. After a few more attempts on his part I picked up on what the kid was describing: "My friend… you…his eye…" The kid then made a gesture of an eye bloated twice its size. I laughed bitterly and gazed at my hand. The rings on my fingers glinted coolly in the dull light of surrounding streetlamps. "Serves him right," I said through clenched teeth, "Serves him right…"

 A couple of weeks before Christmas my school threw a party at one of our co-workers house. My roommates and I got all dolled up for the affair, drank a shit load of rum and whooped and hollered it up as we rode in our schools tiny yellow bus to our party destination.

            We had been doing a secret Santa type of thing for the month of December. I was playing ol' Saint Nick for  a dude named Bryon, a kid who wore pants so tight it made him appear as if he had a vagina yet who was so nice and polite one wouldn't be able to tell if he was gay or straight from first impression alone, or second, or third. When we were asked to write down what we truly desired from our secret Santa's for a present I wrote Yo quiero amor. Which wasn't to far from the truth. I had been desiring companionship from a woman for awhile and felt withered by its cruel incessant absence. At the same time it was somewhat of a joke, I certainly meant it as such and didn't take it to seriously

            But it stirred up some minor controversy at my school, even some of the younger kids came up to me giggling and asking sheepishly "You know what you wrote, right?" Soon kids and their parents were exposing how I needed to find me a woman out here, or how I should get married and remain out here for good. I would laugh it all off. "Me married?" I would guffaw, "You've got to be kidding me…"

            Anyways the night we went to the party I found out my secret Santa was an older part time teacher named Ms. Xiomara. She looked like she had been fine back in her day, and don't get me wrong, she was still working it. I was tipsy and kept flirting with her as best I could all night. And no, I did not care she had a husband and a couple of kids.

            The food they served was delicious. Barbeque chickens, pink like a vagina inside; potatoes au gratin, broccoli, rice and beans with raisins in it I didn't notice until later that morning.

            I didn't drink a lot that night (and as those who know me well know I can throw it back). But halfway towards the end of the party I began feeling weak and had to lay down in a hammock in the backyard, where most of the party was taking place. One of my roommates, Quinton, was roaring drunk and kept yelling out that this person liked that person, indiscriminant of age or gender. I laughed and began to feel like I was going to faint every time my body quaked from my giggles. I started sweating and closed my eyes a bit. The feeling passed and I immediately hiccupped up, stumbled to the bus and plopped my greasy ass down on one of the seats towards the back. After a few minutes passed my roommates/co-workers came clamoring onto the bus yelling and shouting and basically delirious from drink. Quinton immediately passed out. "I though you could hold your alcohol Charles." One of my roommates/co-workers joked, leaning over the seat in front of me smiling mischievously. "I guess not tonight." I croaked.

            The bumping and jostling of the bus started a long, murderous chain of events that didn't end until a day later. I remember snapping upright and puking out the bus window all the contents of that evenings' dinner, which wasn't fully digested, so I felt like I was eating in reverse. When I got home I laid down and tossed and turned on my bed, feeling miserable. I jolted up a total of eight times, from eleven pm to around eight in the morning to projectile vomit, shit out liquid force or do both simultaneously.  Before I came out to Honduras the nurse at the clinic where I received my immunization warned me kindly that I would definitely get sick out here.

 

"I don't get sick." I had said triumphantly.

 

"Well you will," she had said, "Trust me, you will. And it won't be fun…"

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