Thursday, July 25, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Strangers In A Bar

I met him in Belize.  He was in his late 60s, but wiry and tough looking.  He had become a man that didn’t really have an age.  He was one of those guys.  He had been around awhile, knew a few things, and you wouldn’t fuck with him on a dare.  He seemed like a guy capable of immediate maximum violence, but age had softened that edge.  We talked while waiting for a bartender.  I bought him a drink. 

He was a master diver.  He showed me a weathered plastic ID card validating his claim.  We talked about diving.  I told him about the beginner’s dive I had done, and how excited I was about it.  He was enthusiastic.  I asked him about some of the craziest dives he had done.  He had been on over 5000.  He thought for a second and told me about a dive where he took his wife, a beginner at that point, where they had to dive through a wide cave so they could swim under schooling hammerhead sharks.  It was in some secret location that someone had to let you in on.  It wasn’t a spot for just anyone.  “You gotta make sure you don’t ascend too high though, cause the current will push you right into the middle of ‘em.”  I asked how big they were.  “Oh, the little ones are about 6 feet, and the real big ones are about 12-14 feet.  You don’t want to mess with them.  You gotta give them their space.”  His wife came over to tell me she had been terrified, but it had been worth it. 

She was from Los Angeles, or at least that’s what she told everyone.  She was one of those Southern California women because of constant plastic surgery; you couldn’t tell if she was 45 or 60.  She was thin, and had enough procedures done to her face that she didn’t look real anymore, almost like a Barbie.  Everyone looked at her, not so much because of her long striking hair and matching long legs, but rather because she didn’t look quite real.  It was as if a department store mannequin was walking around the bar.  It made everyone do a double take.

“Let’s get out of here.  We’ll go to AJ’s”.  We climbed on his golf cart, the primary form of transportation on the island.  His wife’s friend the masseuse was coming along.  Her boyfriend was playing in a reggae band at our destination.  I could tell the older guy didn’t like him very much.  It was a small place.  What are you going to do?  I asked how he wound up in Belize, and he said that they always liked it here and decided to move from LA full time a number of years back.  They had to watch their pennies to scratch out a life here.

We go to AJ’s.  It was a cement pad with a metal roof.  A 55-gallon drum was cut in half, and had been converted into a grill to roast chicken.  AJ was a Canadian expat that owned the bar.  The bar was little more than a shelf where he would pass out Belikin beers and shots of rum.  A few plastic tables were set out on the cement pad with the same ubiquitous plastic chairs you see anywhere.  I sat down at a table with the man.  The women went to the bar and listened to the “band”, the masseuse’s dreadlocked boyfriend singing and another guy playing keyboards to pre recorded drum tracks.

After a few Belikins, I asked again about how he wound up in Belize.  He used to do some work in the area, and would relax here.  He liked it.  He kept coming back.  He volunteered that his last ex-wife (there had been three) said he didn’t have an emotional center.  He didn’t know what that meant exactly, but told me that he understood why she left him.  “I have a lack of certain emotions I guess…”, he said while staring at his wife flirting at the bar.  “Now take her for instance.  We understand each other.  She has some needs, and I get that.  She feels like she has to fly back to LA every so often and see this guy for some things she needs.  I get that.  I don’t want to stop her happiness.  Understand?”  I nodded my head at the unexpected turn in conversation.  What choice did I have but to agree?  Was I going to clarify that his wife flew to LA to get fucked by some younger guy on a quarterly basis?  No way.

“I just always had an emotional detachment.  It’s why I was good at the work I did.”  What did you do?  “I did some government work.”  I pushed.  He had been in the Army.  He was a good shot.  One day two guys in black suits asked him if he would be interested in a job.  It seemed better than what he was doing so he agreed.  He spent the 60s and 70s shooting people from a great distance in Asia and then Central America.  He never really knew who they were.  They were just pictures in a folder. 

We talked for a while about Laos, Cambodia, and his old friends he had gone with through training.  There were 12.  Two KIA, three in psych wards, four suicides, one career guy, one missing, and him.  He said you were never closer with anyone than your partner.  They would be in a banana tree for days, looking at a guy through a scope, back at a picture, and back through the scope.  Was it him?  Was it?  Finally they would decide he was the target and blow out the back of that man’s skull at 900-1000 yards.  Afterwards all hell would break loose, and they would have to hide in the jungle until they could be extracted.  “It never really bothered me.  I figured if it wasn’t me, someone else was going to do it anyway.”  He looked off blankly in the distance.  The stories were crazy.  Horrible.  Interesting.  He didn’t care about them.  He wanted to tell me about the time in LA he and his wife had gone to a party at Beau Bridge’s house in a Dodge Viper.  That’s how you know the sniper shit was real.  Who is going to lie about Beau Bridges? 

We had another beer.  He was getting tired.  The masseuse was making a play to have a threesome.  No one was too interested.  It was her way of getting attention.  The band played “No Woman No Cry”.  It was terrible.  We finished the beers.  He drove us back.    Everyone said goodbye to one another.  It was a good night.  He drove down the dusty road, heading back to his place. 


At August 8, 2013 at 7:58:00 PM EDT , Blogger AZ said...



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