فصل 17

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فصل 17

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Chapter seventeen

Across the Rio Grande

It was afternoon, and we were driving through Colorado - Dean, Stan, and I. Deans car was a 1937 Ford, and Stan was riding with his arm hanging over the broken door. He was talking happily when a bug bit him. A few minutes later, his arm began to hurt and get bigger.

We drove on, but Stan’s arm got worse.

“We’ll stop at the first hospital,” I said.

It was dark when we got to Colorado Springs. We passed Walsenburg, Trinidad and then we were in New Mexico. We stopped at a place to get hamburgers, and drove on through the night.

Then Dean was saying, “We’ll be in Texas in a few minutes, Sal, and won’t be out of it till this time tomorrow, and we won’t stop driving.”

We reached Amarillo in the morning, and all the way from Amarillo to Childress, Dean and I told Stan the stories of the books we had read. Then at Childress we turned south on to a smaller road to Paducah, Guthrie, and Abilene, Texas. Now Dean had to sleep and Stan and I sat in the front and drove. We stopped south of Abilene to eat on the highway, then went on toward Coleman and Brady, only occasionally passing a house near a thirsty river in the endless heat.

“Mexico’s a long way away,” said Dean sleepily, from the back seat, “so keep rolling, boys.”

I drove to Fredericksburg, where Marylou and I once held hands on a snowy morning in 1949. Where was she now?

Suddenly we were in thick heat at the bottom of a five-mile-long hill, and in front of us were the lights of old San Antonio. Dean came into the front to drive.

“Now, men, listen to me,” he said, driving into the town. “We will find a hospital for Stan’s arm, and you and I, Sal, will have a good look around these streets. You can see right into the front rooms of the houses, and look at all the pretty daughters sitting around with True Love magazines. Whooee! Come on!”

We left Stan at the hospital downtown, then Dean and I went off to look around San Antonio. The air was soft and sweet, and the town was dark and mysterious. Girls in white scarves appeared suddenly in the dark. We saw girls in front rooms, girls under the trees with boys, girls everywhere! Then we rushed back to the hospital where Stan was waiting. He had seen a nurse and said he felt much better, and we put our arms around him and told him everything we’d done.

We were ready for the last 150 miles. I slept in the back of the car till we stopped at a cafe in Laredo at two o’clock in the morning. It was very hot, and we could smell the Rio Grande river. We crossed the Mexican border at three o’clock in the morning and went into Nuevo Laredo. The Mexicans looked lazily at our luggage, then it was time to change our money. Mexicans watched us from under their wide hats in the night. Beyond were music and all-night restaurants with smoke pouring out of the door.

“Welcome to Mexico,” a Mexican official said. “Have good time. Watch your money. Watch your driving. Eat good. Don’t worry. Is not hard to enjoy yourself in Mexico.”

We parked the car and went down the Spanish street into the middle of the dull brown lights. Old men sat on chairs. Nobody actually looked at us, but everybody noticed everything we did. We bought three bottles of cold beer, some Mexican cigarettes, then laughed because our Mexican money could buy so much more than American money. We smiled at everyone. Behind us lay the whole of America, and everything Dean and I knew about life, and about life on the road.

We got back into the car and drove away with one last look at America across the Rio Grande bridge. Immediately we were in the desert and there wasn’t a light or car for fifty miles, and all the signs pointed to Mexico City.

“I’ve got to go there!” said Dean.

We arrived at Sabinas Hidalgo, across the desert, at seven o’clock in the morning, and slowed down to drive through it. A group of girls walked in front of us.

“Where you going, man?” one of them said.

I turned to Dean, amazed. “Did you hear that?”

We stopped for gas the other side of Sabinas Hidalgo, then drove off on the road to Monterrey. Soon we were climbing among cool airs, and could see the big town of Monterrey sending smoke to the blue skies above it. Entering Monterrey was like entering Detroit, among great long walls of factories. We talked about stopping to enjoy the excitements, but Dean wanted to get to Mexico City.

I drove across the hot, flat country till we got to the town of Gregoria. Dean and Stan were asleep in the back of the car. I stopped at a gas station near sunny Gregoria and a kid came across the street and tried to sell me some fruit. “You buy?” he said. “My name Victor.”

“No,” I said smiling, “I’ll buy a girl.” Back in San Antonio I had promised to get Dean a girl. It was a joke and a bet.

“OK, OK!” said Victor. “I get you girls.”

I woke Dean. “Wake up! We’ve got girls waiting for us!”

“What? Where?” He jumped up.

“This boy Victor is going to show us where.”

“You got any marijuana, kid?” asked Dean.

“Sure,” said Victor. “Come with me.”

Victor got into the car and we drove to his house the other side of town. A few men were sitting lazily outside.

“Who that?” asked Dean.

“Those my brothers,” said Victor. “My mother there too. My sister too. That my family. I’m married. I live downtown.” We waited in the car while Victor went to the house and said a few words to an old lady. Victor’s brothers smiled at us from under a tree. Later they came across with some marijuana, and we smoked it until it was time for the girls. Then the brothers went back under their tree and we went back into town.

Victor showed us the way to the girls. My head seemed to be going around and around (from the marijuana) and I had to rest it on the seat. I had to struggle to see Dean, and then I could see streams of gold pouring out of the sky and across the roof of the car! It was everywhere!

Later we stopped outside Victor’s house and he came across with his little baby. Behind him, too shy to come out of the house, was his little wife. After a minute or two, Victor took the child back to her, climbed back into the car, and we drove off again.

Victor took us to a house in a narrow street - and there were the girls. Some of them were lying on couches across the dance floor, others were drinking at the bar. Music played loudly, and we began dancing with the girls. People from the town watched us through the windows. Victor wanted a woman, but he was faithful to his wife.

I went with one of the girls to a small square room and we made love. Dean and Stan took girls into other rooms. The afternoon was long and cool. We wanted to stay there, but night was coming.

And we had to get to Mexico City.

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