Going the Distance

Contributor: George Sparling

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Smoking black hashish with Mary as we sit on a foam mattress upon plywood held up with cement blocks in a one-room shack at the edge of a hacienda, bathroom in an adjacent white concrete building. I saved money from my American job and then quit. I fled bosses, alcoholic DTs, a woman who may or may not have told cops I raped her, collection agencies, jail time for two bad checks, my infant son taken away by my ex-wife, hiding from loan sharks I owed money.

1968: the army massacred students in the Tlateloco housing project in Mexico City. Mary and I know some of the students but not what happened to them. Who knows the fate of our bones or how many times we’ll be buried.

Shit, I was high. Mary stares at my reflection in the window, hashish made from female flowers of cannabis plants, females stronger than males. I stare at her glassy image too. Mary says, “Take a look at yourself,” and I took my hands off her breasts.

Have I got uglier since we first met? She deflects my potential to verbally or physically attack her, and says, “I know a drummer in San Antonio, let’s hitch there, it’s over 800 miles, here’s the last of my Dexedrine.” I put up no resistance.

We each swallow two tablets and finally make it to a main highway headed north. The truck driver evicts his partner from the cab and he must hang on to exposed cargo. Shaky life being odd man out. Mary chatted a bit in Spanish, the driver pleased to have a nice-looking gringo so near and sometimes he touched her thigh after shifting gears. He pulls over and we get out, the helper climbs up and assumes his rightful place.

Nearer the border, I try conversation but she turns her back. Mary will not have sex with me across the road in well-concealed foliage; we could, and she knows it and looks peeved, her face serious. What’s a reflection mean?

Mary’s stern face, her eyebrows bent low over bright green eyes, her smooth arms hug me out of comradeship, and she spits a thick wad of mango into the dirt and says, “Not ripe.” Fatigued, I want to quit and sleep by the side of the road, hoping some peasants will feed me when I awake and take care of me forever.

Yet it isn’t that bad hitching, especially when we talk about the students and revolution. Mary reads headlines at a nearby newspaper stand and tries to learn more about the students.

“Sometimes I think those students should give up,” she says, “Don’t you ever get that feeling?”

“I don’t think real revolutionaries ever give up. Do you?”

“They should save their lives if they know they’ll lose.”

She gives me $50 so when we cross the border, agents will not consider me a bum.

Neal Cassidy, close friend of Kerouac’s, died on Mexican railroad tracks earlier this year. We talk about the psychedelic bus’s name “Further,” what it means, and how Cassidy threw a 4-pound hammer in the air ad infinitum, catching the handle every time, and Mary tells me her drummer boyfriend had dark skin beneath hollowed out eyes like Neal. A small herd of goats crosses the street with a bearded goatherd.

I see her as she walks fifty feet ahead, standing on a road in position for a ride to the border, while I lag behind watching her black hair blow around her head, and remember sitting in a dark theater and saw Kim Novak in the movie about “The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders” on our first date, my first time with a young Italian woman, how I stroked her hair, its black, lustrous strands in affectionate darkness.

I nicknamed her Moll but she never came up one for me.

Three rides later, we were so near the border that we walk across a bridge at Nuevo Laredo, then into Laredo and at customs border guards separate us, Mary led away and I enter a room with five uniformed guards and show them my passport. They strip search me. For drugs? For guns? For intimidation? For political suspicion? Cannabis aroma? I grab my balls, and one checks my rectum with a flashlight, jokes about my girlfriend, Did I sleep with her? Mary tells me they did the same with her, but brave enough to curse the guard when her rough gloved fingers were abusive.

We wander around the U.S. side, uncertain of the unaccustomed noise. We finally make it to San Antonio, and Mary phones her friend who picks us up. He has an apartment and looks at me as suspiciously as the guards had, and he and Mary talk about old friends, what happened to them. Had they intercourse or just talked, I didn’t care. I flop on thick coats, using a few shirts as a pillow. They stood in the next room as drummer talked about making it someday. “You gotta keep the band together, otherwise the band breaks up faster than one night of quickie sex.”

Later, around noon, Mary tells me she’s not going back, she wants to stay in San Antonio with drummer. Mary gives me another $50 and we hug, bonk fists like revolutionaries do. Too tired and winded for my 26-year-old body, I’m vulnerable and afraid I’ll get busted. Suddenly, it’s like a four-pound hammer hitting my head---we no longer are a couple.

I hitch back to the shack, smoke hashish on the mattress, and see my double stare back at me in the windowpane. After more hits, I see Mary’s face, but it slowly dissolves.

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