Border X-ing (Part I)
It was about midnight, maybe one, I don't know. All I remember was that I was asleep when the phone rang. It was Norm, this guy who recently befriended me at the grocery store we both worked at. He was kind of annoying and dorky, but still someone I didn't mind hanging out with once in a while. A sidekick, a "Yes-man", you know the type. Anyway, his point for interrupting my dreams was to see if I would be interested in a roadtrip with him and his friends because "dude, I was like checking the schedule at work and I noticed that like neither of us are on for two days."
"Where are we going?"
" Mexico dude! We're going to fucking Mexico ! So like are you goin' or what?" he asked. He was practically screaming in my ears, not at all trying to contain his excitement, poor impulse control in that boy, he could have been goofed up on speed, you know what I mean.
I had lived in Texas for almost six years and had never been to Mexico before, so I said what the hell, got up from my bed and threw on the same clothes that I just took off only a few hours ago. A pair of big black pleated pants, a large ripped black t-shirt with a faded picture of a skull on the front, my father's hand-me-down combat boots, a chain for my wrist and another around my neck. To complete the look, I splashed some water on my face and ran some into my hair, bent over so my hair hung down, then spayed the fuck out of it with hairspray while blow-drying it into the tall shape that I liked. When I stood up, my hair was standing almost six inches in every direction. I picked up my earrings and worked them into their respective, partially infected and poorly pierced, holes. This was my uniform. I was a punk.
I didn't pack anything. I wasn't really sure what people bring to Mexico anyway and I hadn't gone on too many roadtrips, come to think of it I had never gone on one. Somehow I had the foresight to grab my stash of ecstasy pills, about six or seven in a little bag, and shove them in my pocket. I probably just brought them out of habit, like reaching for the wallet and keys; it was just part of my routine. Besides, Norm was a good customer and his friends would probably want some too.
About an hour or so later, Norm showed up at my place. He was hyper and his eyes were bloodshot. I could describe his appearance as a typical punk, skinny and malnourished with skin so pale it looked transparent, bleached blonde spiked hair, really bad skin, tight jeans and a leather jacket customized with studs and paint. He definitely had the look down, but I doubted his punk sincerity. He struck me as the kind of guy that got into the scene so he could get laid, even though I've never seen him with a chick or heard him mention one since we met. Because of this, he was what we called a poser or a wanna-be, but still he was my Yes-man and that night he was driving.
I considered writing a note for my parents but I couldn't find a pen, so I just left and walked out to the car parked in the street in front of my house. It was an old model something, a seventies-era big boat of an American car with a few dents, rust holes and one fender that didn't match. It was also stuffed to near capacity with punks, each one of them sporting a different hairstyle and colors. I didn't know any of them and later found out they were Norm's friends from school.
It took about three seconds for Norm to go through the introductions, but the only name I remembered was Rudy the driver. I remembered him because he seemed to be the only one that knew anything about where we were going and what we were going to do there. His full name was Rudolfo, and he seemed to be very proud of his Mexican heritage, holding it over our gringo heads and acting like our cultural liaison to the exotic land on the other side of the river. There were three others besides me, him and Norm, and none of them gave me any reason to commit them to memory, just a group of punk wanna-be's, you know. When they weren't talking noise about the last Misfits or Cramps CDs, they mostly just slept and kept to themselves.
We hit the road with about five hours of driving ahead of us. For holding six passengers and not being a minivan, Rudy's car had tons of room. I was comfortably sitting in the seat behind him, Norm sat in the middle of the backseat and the others filled the passenger side of the car. Things were going smoothly so I decided to rest my head against the window and catch up on some much needed sleep.
I woke up feeling the car bounce up and down underneath my head. Looking up I realized that everyone else was wide awake and Rudy was struggling to maintain control as the car wove back and forth across four lanes of an empty highway. "What the fuck?" I shouted.
"Flat tire, dude. It just blew out," Norm told me.
"So pull the fuck over then!" I told Rudy.
"I'm trying, man, the fucking wheel isn't responding." He yelled at my image in the rearview mirror. We were speeding, probably going about eighty or so on interstate 35, and he lost control of the car.
"Man, just slam on the fucking brakes! There's nobody around. Just stop this damn thing!" someone said.
One thing about me is that I tend to remain really calm in extreme situations, this was true even back then. While the others were getting all panicky and shouting at each other, I just looked out window as the car continued to shake and rock across the highway. I could tell we were slowing down a little, but Rudy's brakes weren't that good and I could hear them grinding under our feet. There were a few semis coming toward us on the other side of the highway, but luckily our side was dead empty. We finally slowed down to a manageable speed and Rudy steered the car, flapping tire rubber and all, onto the shoulder lane of an overpass.
As I looked down at the highway beneath us, all I could hear was "fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!" Rudy just kept repeating this chant to himself over and over as if in angry meditation, breaking it up once in a while with a "God damn!" or "shit!" The guy was about to explode. "Dude, it's no big deal. Let's just put on the spare and get the hell out of here." I told him.
"Man, I don't have a fucking spare!"
"What the fuck kind of car doesn't come with a spare in the trunk? All cars have spare tires!" I said as I popped open the trunk and started digging under all the shit piled in there. He was right, we didn't have one. Oh we had a trunk full of trash and shit, but no spare tire. Fucking irresponsible, stupid punks.
"Well, we're fucked. I'm going back to sleep until you guys figure this shit out." I said. I think Norm and a couple of the others joined me in the car. Rudy followed and took his seat at the wheel.
"Man, I think we passed a gas station about ten miles back. Maybe they sell spares." He said to himself.
"How many gas stations do you know that sell tires? Even if they do and are open in the middle of the night, are they gonna carry it back here for you? You need to call a tow truck. Where are we anyway?" I asked.
"Somewhere in San Antonio ."
I had a few friends that lived in San Antonio and I thought that I could call them if I needed to, but I figured I'd let Rudy and the boys try and dig us out of this one first. Besides, it had to be almost three, maybe four in the morning and I was content to sleep a few hours in the car anyway.
I don't know how long I was out, but I woke up to the sound of someone banging against the window with a flashlight. I looked up and saw a man in uniform, bent over to get a better look at everyone in the car and pointing a flashlight directly at Rudy's dead asleep body sitting in front of me. After I passed out, those idiots didn't do shit but crawl back into the car and sleep. I kicked the back of his seat and shook him by the shoulders to wake him. The others remained passed out cold.
"Dude, wake up. There's someone outside to talk to you." I told him.
Originally I was thinking that the man outside was a cop or something, pulling over to check on us, but it actually turned out to be one of San Antonio's courtesy patrols. Apparently the city had a fleet of trucks that patrol the highways looking for idiots like us and providing assistance. I never heard of such a thing before, but I was real glad he was there. He helped us jack up the car (it turned out that Rudy didn't have a jack either) and removed the flat tire. Then using a patch kit in his truck, he fixed us up and inflated it for us right there on the spot. Very cool. I think he charged us a little, but I can't remember how much because Rudy took care of it. We hopped back in the car as the sun came up over our left shoulders and forced us to ignore our bodies' need for rest and stay awake.
I was glad to be back on the road again, after spending about six hours in the car we still had about three and a half hours left on our five-hour roadtrip. It was cool overnight, but we were still in Texas and the car had begun to take on the plentiful odors of the unwashed sextuplet it was carrying. It reeked. The open windows and the fresh air they provided were a welcome diversion as we drove through San Antonio and headed south.
I didn't know anything about crossing the border or what to expect once we got there, but I had seen a few movies. As we drove through the south Texas dessert, I thought about the images I had of carloads of teen-aged American white boys driving down to Mexico in search of cheap tequila, Spanish Fly, firecrackers and hookers. With the exception of Rudy, we were all pasty white and I'm guessing most of us were under legal drinking age in the states so I figured at the very least we'd hit some bars, score some drugs and somehow pick up a few chicks; all without speaking the language. The only thing was that in all those movies, the party always turned bad. The Americans get too obnoxious, piss off the locals and either end up being chased back across the border or sitting in a Mexican jail cell. Then I started thinking about the bag of ecstasy in my pocket and figured it would probably be a good idea to distribute them before meeting a Mexican customs agent.
Turned out I didn't have as much as I thought I did, and I ended up giving everyone in the car a tab without saving one for myself. It didn't matter. I mean, ecstasy was great but basically it works to enhance physical stimulations, that's why you always see ravers giving each other backrubs on the stuff. Somehow, under the hot early morning sun in a car full of stinky posers on our way to Mexico , it seemed like a good idea to fly this one sober. At least until we got across the river.