When you are approaching the US-Mexico border you can tell by the dramatic cultural changes from street to street. The houses go from earthy shades to flashy neon colors, late model cars transform into battered pickup trucks, and the chain restaurants are replaced by snack cart vendors and food trucks with handwritten spanish only signs promising some two day old organ meat swimming in a spicy broth.
But even the busy background is going totally unnoticed by me, because all I can think of is how I am going to get past the checkpoint without being identified, robbed, or shot. And to settle my nerves a bit I decided to sit in a nearby dive bar and drink a bit, eat a ham on rye, and visit the rest room before staggering into the daylight and staring south across the border toward my salvation. The beer was good and cold, but if you ever get a chance to pass on using a public toilet near the border, jump on it. I got into the car and got in line to cross the border.
I don't know if it was the heat beating down on my non air-conditioned car, or the squeeze of the booze that was making the sweat drip down my forehead and into my eyes, but I was getting anxious. And after what seemed like hours of sitting stationary surrounded by ten lanes of parked cars I locked eyes with a ballsy little shit of a kid who had his face plastered to the rear window of his mother's suburban. He was making stupid faces and motioning the universal gesture for jacking off. I watched it for a few minutes before I lost it and just grabbed Vanessa's bag off the seat next to me and got out of the car. In a stupor I just turned and walked past the endless line of American tourists and Mexican nationals that were waiting for their turn to be counted and filed through the line like cattle, and made my way back to American terra-firma. The car sat with the driver's door open, engine running, and I never looked back.
Standing on the porch of a restaurant and drinking deeply from a fresh bottle of whiskey (which I had to pay a ridiculous amount for) I could see the chaos I had made. The border crossing was visible from here, now with cars facing all different directions and honking like a motherfucker. I could see my car sitting there, with a tow truck trapped among the protesting mass of automobiles, no one able to make an inch of progress now that they had deviated from their neatly organized rows and found themselves entangled in a hellish gridlock. It was most entertaining, and held my attention for several minutes before the conversation of the three men sitting at a table nearby caught my ear. One of them was visibly shook, but the other two were laughing. "Why are you so worried? The US guards don't fucking care if you swim the river over to the mexican side! And the Mexican guards are so fucking lazy that they wouldn't waste their time chasing you down. But for getting back, you're gonna need some help..."
I hadn't been swimming since I was a kid. Shit, I haven't even taken a bath for at least a decade! But I liked my odds a lot better than trying to explain myself to the authorities with my freedom on the line. So I walked back out of the restaurant and walked into the first shithole that looked like it might be a motel.