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For All Nails #111B: You Can't Go Home Again

by Noel Maurer

San Ángel, Chiapas, USM FN1
14 August 1974

The secret to picking up a stripper is to not want to be there. The catch is that you can't fake it -- you really have to be the only unhappy man in a club full of happy ones.

Luckily for Sebastian Quezadas, he honestly had not wanted to be in Solid Gold that evening. The strange thing was that he hadn't realized that he didn't want to be in Solid Gold until he walked in the door. When Carlos had called him up and said, "Hey, Sebastian! Tonight's my birthday, and we got two options," he was all in favor of the strip club. Once he got in, however, he got suddenly pensive and wasn't clear why.

Gabo called over this lucious little number, a short dark-haired light-skinned woman whose white elasto FN2 dress was designed to be removed quickly. (And put back on, multiple times in short order. Amazing stuff, elasto.) Gabo was currently, uh, between jobs, and his wife was pregnant with their second child -- he wanted a lap dance. Badly. Strangely enough, though, between the pro forma flirting with Gabo and Carlos and Jim and the other guys around the table, the stripper wanted to talk to Sebastian. Which is how he found out she was from Hungary, had gone to Thailand to work for a friend but had found "dancing" more lucrative, then bounced to Argentina for school, but when she had trouble paying for it came to Mexico. Her name wasn't "Tiffany," it was Lucia, and she was actually studying pedagogy at the Polytechnic. Which was around the time that Gabo shoved his goateed face into Sebastian's and mumbled, in Spanish, "Hey, man, I paid for this chick!"

"No problem, Gabo. I'm just talking." Lucia rolled her eyes over in Gabo's direction and gave a little shrug towards Sebastian. He returned a half smile: this was a strip club, and what was he thinking getting into a conversation with a, uh, dancer? Screw it.

Sebastian got up and made his way to the bathroom. Of course, he eyed every single scantily clad woman -- well, not every single one, there were too many -- but he really had no interest in a lap dance. It was just too, well, tawdry. I mean, c'mon, you gotta pay for it! He was still feeling like a bit of a loser over the entire Ceci issue -- "Ahora es tiempo de que tu te dediques a lo tuyo y yo a lo mio," she'd written. Ugh. And then there was the new job in Palo Alto, right after another six-month reserve stretch. The job had him pensive. He didn't know if he could handle it. With great opportunities, comes great stress, his Uncle Ben had told him, and wasn't that right?

As he turned away from the urinal he thought, Oh fuck, I got some drops on my suit pants. Thank God it's black. He looked around the green bathroom, decorated with half-naked pictures of María del Rey in her heyday, and shrugged. I'm here, they're rich, why not enjoy it? FN3

He meandered back to the table, where a tall redhead looked up at him. Oh, crap, he thought, they didn't. Only they had. So he squeezed into the table, and the first words out of the redheaded stripper's mouth were, "You really don't want to be here, do you?"

And thus, by the end of the night, little Sebastian Quezadas had gotten two phone numbers. Tall Sonia was the interesting one. She claimed to be British, but the accent was clearly North American. She was tall and extraordinarily attractive, but the sexual banter was beyond forward, it was downright scary. She wanted to shave his what? The whole thing was too freaky. He called Lucia's hotel room on Thursday morning.

Tapextla, Chiapas, USM FN4
19 August 1974

You can't go home again. You can, however, go to Acapulco. Sadly, Lucia wanted to see his home. He was no longer a happy man.

The weekend had been great. Sebastian had called Lucia on Thursday, and that very day they'd gone to this cute little restaurant in the Hipodrome neighborhood. Sidewalk cafes and very self-consciously hip people walking around, ignoring the occasional abandoned building. Of course, the burnt-out hulks made the neighborhood even hipper. FN5

In fact, he'd felt sort of hip himself, as long as he could forget he'd only known about the place because his ex-girlfriend -- looking indecently good -- had taken him there the weekend before in one of those "catch up and put down" kind of lunches they periodically had because he was, well, a masochist.

Lucia had been impressed. Impressed enough to suggest that they spend the weekend together. Which is why they drove to Acapulco early Saturday morning. It had been a great trip. She was not at all like he would have expected a stripper to be -- she honestly seemed to be just doing it because it paid better than anything in Hungary, and was pretty much about the only thing she could do in Mexico. FN6 It turned out that Lucia wasn't a Hungarian, she was a Slovak -- and Sebastian saw himself earn major extra points for knowing what a Slovak was. He earned more extra points for pretending to dislike Germans. Well, actually, he didn't have to pretend: he'd met one German, once, and he didn't like him much. All he had to do was imagine that all Germans were like Jens and the rest came naturally.

They had fancy dinners, strolled on the beach, and screwed on the hotel balcony at night. Paradise, until she learned that he'd grown up a couple hundred miles west.

"You grew up near this place! It is so beautiful. We must go," she said.

He was in bed, smoking a cigarro and thinking about her marvelous curves. FN7 "No, you don't want to see where I grew up."

She sat upright, making no attempt to hide her lovely lovely breasts. "Why not, Sebastian? I want to know where you are from." She sounded wonderfully petulant. Much better than the "Shit, I gotta get to work!" that was Ceci's usual morning-after opener.

"Nah, trust me. It's just a shit little town in the middle of nowhere. Honestly, it's not worth the effort." He looked up at her, half-smile on his face.

"Shit town! No place could be shit town if produced you. We should go, Sebastian!" He tried to shut off this line of thought by reaching over and grabbing her, but she pushed him back. "No! Am not kidding, Sebastian. I want to see your town. I am serious!"

"I dunno."

She pouted. "But you say the President grew up near there! And so did you. I want to go!" She looked just too cute. How could he possibly say no? He didn't have to teach until Tuesday, anyway.

Which was how he found himself here in the hilly and dusty town of Tapextla. He hadn't been here for a decade, and driving in he remembered why. His mother had died two years ago, and his father had sold the farm and moved to México del Norte. FN8 With his father up north, there was certainly no reason to visit this place.

The outskirts looked just as he remembered, if a bit shabbier. Rapivends, vulk stations, run-down diners. The roads were well-paved, courtesy of Colonel Mercator, but the parking lots were not. And the houses were not in the greatest condition, the tropical weather having taken its toll. Most had at least three old lokes out front -- one of which usually looked like it had been cannibalized for parts. FN9

He drove to the center of town. After all, that was where he'd hung out as a teenager, drinking illegal beer and smoking cigarillos and talking about getting the hell out. Most of them did. FN10 The path out of Tapextla was well marked, and he wasn't referring to the giant yellow-on-blue road signs that indicated the way to the supercalzada. FN11 Hitch in the Army or Navy, followed by a free ride through college, and then any job anywhere away from here. No one who could help it stayed. And that probably explained what had happened to his old home.

Downtown looked much worse than he remembered. Half the storefronts were boarded up. The busiest building was the USHS clinic. FN12 The kids were still hanging out, but they seemed meaner. The lokes they were driving -- well, parking and leaning on -- were newer than the ones Sebastian remembered, but seemed scarier. They also had a penchant for lococicletas. FN13 Maybe it was the fact that most of them weren't wearing any shirts. Maybe it was the way they seemed to run the town square, as if they owned it. Maybe it was the way the kids revved the cicleta engines. Or maybe it was that they were all several shades darker than Sebastian.

In fact, everyone in the town was pretty dark-skinned. Much more so than he remembered. The Rainbow War never hit Tapextla, but he remembered the tension. Sebastian was clearly not a blanco himself, but these kids scared him.

Or maybe it was the charla music blasting from the portable radios that scared him. The music sounded as bad as the lococicletas, none of which seems to have working mufflers. FN14 The whole scene made him nervous.

It made Lucia nervous too. "I do not like those kids, Sebastian. They look mean."

"Yeah. Oh yeah." They drove around the little town square. The trees were alive, but the grass was dying, and there was nobody in the square except those ugly looking kids. Were they looking at the two of them in their four-door Martínez? "Seen enough, hon?"

A drunken man stumbled out of the liquor store, a bottle poking out of the bag. A federal Constabulary patrulla rolled through. The polies eyed the young men in the square, who stared back at them. Then one waved, and a poli waved back. Incongruous, thought Sebastian. FN15

"Yes, I have seen enough. I am nervous here."

Sebastian pulled the car onto one of the four broad streets heading away from the town square, back towards the supercalzada. They were silent in the car. To break the discomfort, Sebastian turned on the radio. "In an apparent suicide, an unidentified driver rammed a camioneta loaded with propane gas into a Beirut cafe frequented by German tourists this morning ..." That wasn't going to lighten things up any. Sebastian quickly turned the dial, running through some charla music and a very annoying commercial before finding a happy pop station. FN16

"I understand now why you did not want to visit here, Sebastian," said Lucia, as they left the outskirts of town, passing through the swop of one-stop shops and gas stations. "Was it like that when you were growing up?"

Sebastian grimaced. "It wasn't rich, but it wasn't that bad. It wasn't even that bad ten years ago." He shrugged. "Well, you can't go home again, but we can go back to Mexico City. The supercalzada's only a few miles along this carretera. Let's go." FN17 With that, he turned up the music, smiled at his woman, and gunned the engine. Within a few minutes, they began to talk again, about inane things, Sebastian's hometown quietly forgotten.

Forward to FAN #111C (16 August 1974): Call the Police There's a Madman Around.

Forward to Sebo Quezadas: Black September.

Return to For All Nails.