He recognized her immediately as she walked into the room, framed for a few seconds by the traditional knickknacks that were considered decor by the long-time owners of the much-loved Mexican restaurant.
She spotted him and with a wave of hand blessed the Virgins, Martyrs, Saints and Elvi that were layered in the maze of faded turquoise walls and mango door-frames. He thought she looked the same, older and wiser perhaps but still a magnificent woman.
“Gloria,” he said standing up to kiss each cheek. “I’m so glad you could get here.”
“Hola, Vicente, you look marvelous for an old coot. I was so surprised to hear from you after all these years, plus having you here in person is so wonderful.”
“Oh my, has it been that long? It seems like yesterday. You look fabulous. I see that life has treated you well.”
“Yes, I was counting the years since I last saw you in person when you swooshed into town to tell me that you had decided to move to the Baja for good.”
He motioned the waitress over. “Do you still enjoy Margareta’s Glori? If so we’ll have two Margaritas blended, no salt and with your top of the line Tequila, por favor.” The sullen, heavily tattooed server said nothing but brought the drinks to them promptly.
“Tell me, Vicente, what brings you back up north. I follow your occasional tweets. How is the hotel business? I’m sure the resort is a huge success.”
She sat looking at his lined face tanned deep copper from too many sun-lit days, thinking about those days before he met his wife Maria-Tuliza who passed a few years back. Thinking back to those days when the two of them first went down to Baja in that ancient VW bus made her emotions rise to the surface. She felt vulnerable and raw.
“Remember when we first cruised down the coast? We were such innocents on a barely paved road.”
“It was before the gringos gentrified that wild place and people like me capitalized on that freedom.” Vicinte’s eyes closed and a smile arose from his thin lips. “Yes, well that is the main reasons I came up here. My memory of you and my past life was jolted by an incident that happened recently. That and the fact that I am, now don’t be alarmed, but I am sick, Gloria. I have to get my affairs in order and an old coot like me has a lot of loose ends.”
Gloria felt tears starting but aging up was the same for all of the Boomers. Parents died one after the other; your children’s children were going to be ready to have children soon. This was the reality they all faced.
“What do you have Vicente? Something exotic I hope nothing ordinary like cancer or heart failure?”
“Oh Glori, it’s a long story without a trick ending. I’ll tell you later. First I wanted you to know that an old friend of ours wanted me to get in touch with you.”
“Oh My God! Let me guess. Was it a man? Did he have golden brown skin? Did he ask about Gloria or did he say his wife?”
“Well, obviously you know just who was asking.”
She leaned back in her chair a smiling at the old memory. She closed her eyes. “I can see him now, well not as he probably is now but how he was when we all met. Do you remember that club?”
“Yeah, we just talked about that a week ago down in Cabo.”
“In this huge world how did you manage to run into Mr. Tonio Naciento Torres?”
“Just by chance, at my resort. He’s been living outside PV for years. It must have been fate that somehow we recognized each other. He looked great, very fit, bald now and still wearing those square sunglasses perched on his nose. Very tough looking harder than before like he’d been through a hell of a life.”
“I’ve got to tell you a little story, something about me that you don’t know.”
“I think this calls for another drink. Verdad?”
The server noticed his look. Vicente ordered two more margaritas and a plate of nachos while Gloria found the bathroom. Settling back in her seat taking a long sip of the fresh drink, she began her tale.
“Vicente, we have known each other for the best part of our lives and even though we haven’t hung out for many years there is one part of my life you know nothing about.”
“Wow, Glori. I am surprised. I thought we had talked about everything over the years maybe not in person but… I’ll shut up and let you tell it.”
“When we were together there was a big reason that I broke up with you.”
The memories of those days long ago came flooding back to Vicente, the first trip down the Baja, the many nights at that run down club where they spent so much youth and time drinking and drugging in the dark, recovering sanity on sunny afternoons on hot sand.
“We met Tonio there, remember?”
He could almost smell the sultriness of Club Nuevo, the sourness of cheap Tequila, the sharp drain of cocaine in his throat.
“Tonio would come into the club with his posse.”
The image of the gang was etched in his memory, the first officers leading the formation, his Capo first, to his left the enforcer and to the right the tall dark-skinned woman. Tonio protected in the middle with two more toughs backing him up.
“Remember he would swoop into the club and then arrange everyone’s place at the tables set aside for him. Tonio, of course, always sat facing the door flanked by his protectors, welcoming those who came in to ask favors or pay him what he was owed or just to entertain him.”
He could still see the flashing eyes of the prettiest waitresses who would take turns each week, available for his use, anticipating the enormous tip he would leave.
“When he saw that we were regulars and also cokeheads he demanded that we sit at his table as his guests. We really got caught in his web, drinking the best, snorting the finest, dancing and singing every week for months.”
It was after almost a year of this outlaw life that somehow he decided to make drastic changes in his life. He was so cruel to Glori. They had epic arguments that bordered on violence. He told her he was leaving. He told her she was ruining his life. He gave her a one-way ticket back to Seattle.
“You were so mean to me at the end. I was thinking you were having the time of your life with me. I was sure we would be together forever and then, BOOM. I was cut loose. Tonio had plans to move to Mexico and quietly, secretly asked me to join him. Towards the end of spring before our breakup, Tonio and I had an affaire. We really found a connection during those halcyon days. There was such intensity in his eyes. I felt desired, protected by his power.”
“And I didn’t suspect a thing. I had no idea Glori. I became so possessed by my desire to capitalize on the country. I had a vision of being the richest landowner on the Peninsula.”
“I took your offered trip back here but only to pack my things. I turned right around and flew down to Mexico. Tonio met me and set me up in his new compound. It was quite beautiful surrounded by Bougainvillea, overlooking the ocean. I had a maid, a cook and a driver with a brand new bulletproof Mercedes.
I had all the trappings of a well-kept mistress but I was lonely. He was always away doing “Business” for weeks at a time. I never knew if he was going to be gunned down by rival gangs or thrown in prison.”
“How long were you there? I have so many questions? Did you get any of my letters, the ones begging you to come back, that I was wrong, that I was sorry for the way I treated you.”
“I stayed for a little over five years. I mean I really loved his strangeness. We did get married in Mexico but I was never sure it was legal. A man came to the house a month after I moved in and performed a beautiful ceremony. Tonio put a ring on my finger, kissed me in front of his gang and staff and from then on always introduced me as his wife.”
“Damn, I don’t know what to say. He told me that a lot had happened to him since those Baja days. What is really funny is I think he is still a drug dealer. He came to my hotel nightclub in the same style as the old days flanked by his generals, not the same ones of course but the same style. Once we got re-acquainted he asked about you.”
“Tell me Vicente, are you still in touch with my wife, your ex-girlfriend, Glori? Please, if you hear from her tell her I still love her.”
Glori smiled,” Cool, he did say his wife. He remembered.”
That’ll Teach You
Jordy. How can you trust a person named Jordy? I don’t understand why my sister was even attracted to him much less think of marrying Jordy AKA Jordan Sparks. The thing I hated the most about him wasn’t just his stupid nickname, Jordy, it was his pathetic abuse of my sisters innocence and gullibility.
She met him at her BFF’s bachelorette party in Vegas last summer.
“Albert darling, can you believe it. I met the man I’m going to marry.”
“Hold on sis.” I said, “You just met this joker and he wants to marry you already? Are you nuts?” I was almost screaming into the phone. Judy started sobbing on the other end.
“Jesus, I’m sorry sis, I didn’t mean to make you cry. It’s just not a good sign when someone you hardly know wants to get married right away. That’s a typical move for a stone cold narcissist. I thought you took psychology 101 in college.”
The thing is this, Judy, being my only sister has always been a lonely girl and very shy. I feel that I have to protect her especially since our mother’s death. Mom was so careful with the both of us. We were just kids when our dad died. We became her responsibility. When she died she left us very well off, a legacy of her father and his father before him.
Sure, you could say I was over-protective of Judy but I loved my little sister. We’ve always been close, barely a year apart. All of my pleading had no effect. I couldn’t stop her.
“Al, just wait until you meet Jordy. You two are so much alike. I just know you two will be best friends. I just know it.”
But when I met Jordy I hated him at first sight. You’ve heard about love at first sight, well this was the total opposite. There was something pedestrian in his manner. The way he walked towards me his thick blunt hand extended.
Everything about him was blunt; those thick khaki clad legs, short thick feet in hiking boots for Christ’s sake, a blue denim shirt topped off by a ridiculous outback type of hat. He shook my hand pumping away effusively and after a god-awful “Bro” chest bump, he swept off those tinted aviator glasses and prattled, “So glad to meet you, Albert, I’ve heard so much about you.”
Judy looked happy. In fact, it was the first time I’d seen her laughing and smiling since, well, since way before Mom died. Judy spent years taking care of mom. She’d drive her to doctor’s appointments, to physical therapy, wheeling her up the avenue to do shopping or have tea with her old lady friends. She did this without too much complaint at least not to me. She hardly went out even with friends, keeping house doing the cooking, laundry and cleaning.
Together, they indulged movies from the video store and wearing out Redbox rentals but by the time of the phenomenon known as Netflix came along our mom had died. That was how they lived for years. I felt guilty having a lived life of my own and I was thankful that Judy sacrificed her life to take care of mom. And now there was this Jordy.
He moved right into her apartment. They had his life shipped in from California. It was not a light load. He was here to stay. Cars, a huge pick-up truck, a couple of motorcycles, cheap furniture and what must have been a month’s worth of matching khaki pants and blue denim shirts. What I didn’t see moving in was a very substantial booze and drug habit.
At first he just seemed to drink—a lot. I know I drink but I didn’t drink like he did. Judy tried to keep up with him but my once sheltered angel of mercy was in danger of sliding into a cheap floozy, right before my eyes.
They had a favorite bar that they frequented just a couple of blocks away from the apartment.
“Al, we aren’t hurting anyone. We never drive and drink. It’s just so much fun.” Judy explained this new life story to me when I happened to drop by one afternoon. I couldn’t deny her having fun after so much she had given to mom.
“Oh, and Jordy says you should call first before you come over. You know, we might be cuddling and not want to be disturbed, OK.” And she kissed me away.
I tried calling a couple of times but no one would answer the phone-ever. The voice message was turned off and there was no way to reach Judy by email. That is until one night I got a call from Judy.
“Al, Al, I don’t know what’s happening. Jordy left this afternoon and he hasn’t been back. This has never happened before and I don’t know what to do.”
“Shhh, don’t cry now. Tell me what happened.”
“Well, we, I mean I was asleep and heard the front door slam. No first the phone rang. He got up, went out of the room and then he was gone. I waited and waited. I got so freaked out so I took a couple more Zanax…”
“When did you start taking those?”
“Oh for a while now. Jordy thought I could use some and Dr. Adams gave me a prescription for my nerves. And also some Percocet’s for the pain I have in my back.”
“I didn’t know you had a pain condition. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Oh wait, hold on, I hear the door. I’d better hang up. Jordy, Jordy is that you?”
I heard him in the distance. “Judy what the fuck, Get up. Let’s go get some cash. Who are you talki…”?
He called me right back “Listen Al, You goddamn faggot. Don’t call here again ya hear me.”
I was about to say. “Hell Jordy I didn’t call Judy called me.” I was pissed. Who the hell did he think he was calling me names? This was a wake up call and my first indication that something was terribly wrong.
I was able to convince our bank to show me Judy’s withdrawals. I was stunned. In the six months since Jordy’s arrival sixty thousand dollars had been taken out in cash. I had to do something and do something quick. I didn’t want to hurt Judy but this predator had to be stopped.
And I knew just how to do it. My plan took a couple of weeks to set up. He never knew what hit him. I was able to capture him after setting him up with an old dope dealer friend of mine who easily found out what kind of drugs Jordy was spending the money on. I realize that it sounds very melodramatic but when you have money like I do you can afford the drama.
One of my newly formed gang, well paid by me, had buddied up to him in the bar. “We” slipped a couple of roofies in his beer and hustled him outside on the pretense of selling him some really good Peruvian cocaine. He fell hook, line and sinker. It was brilliant. The cocaine was heroin. He went out like a light, not enough to kill him, mind you, just put him into a druggie coma.
We put him in the back seat of the SUV. I drove all night stopping after eight hours for a couple of hours sleep. The last few hours would be off road. I knew the way although it had been a few years since I’d been to the old cabin.
He was still asleep when I arrived. It was a beautiful place high in the North Idaho Mountains. I left him with a couple of week’s supply of water and food. There was plenty of firewood, blankets and warm clothing.
By the time he sobers up and figures that if he wants to leave he’ll have to walk out he’ll learn that playing dirty with my little family can be dangerous to assholes like him. I did leave him a note. “Jordy, when you do decide to walk out, be sure to watch out for Bears.”