Granada is uninhabitably hot during the dry season. The fact that 90,000 people inhabit the city nonetheless is confounding to me. They also do it while wearing shirts—I’ve recently noticed that the only dudes going around bare-chested are cheles. So, in another one of my weak attempts to not appear like a culturally-insensitive tourist, I refused to remove my tank top in the 105-in-the-sun urban haze as I tramped with my 40-pound pack in the search for the GM hostel. I had scrawled directions on a Poste Rojo bookmark, but, as my energy and mental competence drained over the course of two hours, the simple directions became schizophrenically confusing. Or maybe the pen had played some sort of cruel joke on me, the bastard, writing differently than I had told it. No, that made no sense. It was my HAND, my HAND, that had done something other than what I had instructed it to do, and had written incorrect bullshit directions to fuck me up. Or maybe…nonono, THAT was it, my hand wasn’t foolin around, it wasn’t a fuckin JOKE, the perverted evil fuck was leading me into a trap of disastrous consequences and…
I was somehow standing directly in front of the GM hostel. I realized I had passed by it once, but quite possibly multiple times, probably thousands. All the doors…all the doors seemed to be locked, both the inner wooden ones and the outer steel security gates. I slammed desperately on anything with hinges like I was fleeing Nazi Storm Troopers until I saw movement inside and finally a white-skinned Latino gatekeeper cracked the inner door and slipped the left side of his face out.
“Uh, I’ve, I have…got a reservation?”
“Fvor tonight? Bekaus we’re not really open yet.”
“Yyyou do? Bekaus we’re not really open yet.”
“The reservation was made by…Jackie made it?“
“Oh yyyes! Jackie!”
“Jackie said you were coming! She won’t be here fvor a few hours, but, here, come in!“
I entered, stumbling over my dumb, dragging feet that kept sinking deep into the sucking floor on top of them being dumb and dragging and dropped my bag in the room with rubbery arms and immediately headed to the bathroom where I pissed neon-Gatorade concentrate. I hadn’t drank anything during the entire walk. The gatekeeper asked me if I wanted anything when I exited and I croaked “water” like a horse and he pulled some from the tap without moving his feet, his two too-long fingers just stretched across the room and flicked. I didn’t know if I could safely drink Nicaraguan water and figured I couldn’t but it looked so silvery-pure that I chugged it down.
I didn’t get sick from the water, but I certainly had been sick from a lack of it. As my head cleared, the gatekeeper became Manuel, the Mexican co-owner of GM, a charismatic fellow and friend of Jackie‘s. Jackie, who I had befriended while staying at her hostel in Costa, was staying for free at GM, which, even clear-headed, was not officially open for biz.
The black-bright solar orb started to beat Granada at dawn, and by 10, it was so hot that everything started to melt like wax. Sluices of coralpink shops sludged down the facades of mustardyellow cathedrals and drip-dropped onto the vast complex of marbled ruins behind the GM. The ruins were a forgotten hospital that had been looted until it crumbled, and its massive pillars now stood stark against the hot sky with nothing on top. The dark veins of the rock was the lichen taking over. Jackie and I sat on a pebbly wall one night and two men rose from the dark and approached us, their stride slow and hard. We were expecting squatters to hit us up for change or something much worse, but it was only two sun-wrinkled security guards, who testily told us that it was illegal to be here and also that we should be careful because the wall was about to collapse.
It was very odd for a place with so little infrastructure to secure a field of doorways to nothing. I was in San Juan Del Sur for a week without seeing a single cop. There were a few cops in Granada but the majority were Policia Tourista, police making sure cheles weren’t inconvenienced. The real cops were the Policia Nationale—large men with wrap-around shades who cruised around in matte-blue pick-ups, two in the seats, two hanging off the bed of the truck, leering. They were really the only thing that scared me in Granada. Cops in Central America were more likely to rob you than help you.
I saw one of the matte trucks transporting prisoners. The bed of the truck had been fitted with a steel cage that looked like it has been purchased discount from a Western zoo…two men squatted in the back in caps and street clothes, puffing on cigarettes.
As the black-bright orb hit its zenith, even the tourist areas started to stink like feces. Street-dogs are far more numerous than their owned counterparts in Nicaragua, skittishly sidling up to garbage heaps, hoping to not get smacked. They shit where they would, as did the goats that were herded through the streets and the small, brown horses that leaned produce to the market.
One night, me, Manuel, Jackie and John, the co-owner of GM, went out drinking on Granada’s main boulevard. The split roadway is lit with streetlamps all the way own to its terminus on the trash-littered shore of Lago Nicaragua, a body of water so large it has bull sharks.
After finishing our watery Tonas at Ceasar’s, we were setting up to go home when my stomach turned in hunger. There was a bar with its kitchen still open, so we sauntered farther down the boulevard where I ordered food to go. The menu was Western, and twenty minutes later I received a weak-looking fajita carne and some thin fries smothered in neon-yellow paste.
We had begun our walk back to the GM when I heard a yelp and two Nica kids aged about nine ran up behind me.
The Granadan cab I waved down already had a passenger seated in the back, but this was normal—-Nica cabs always packed in as many fares as possible. The lady was about my mother’s age and a sweetheart—she noticed that one of my backpack’s zippers was jammed open and helped me to free it without me having to ask for help.
When the zipper had been fixed and I looked back up, we were in a part of Granada I had never seen before. I had seen shacks and poverty up to this point in Nicaragua, but compared to this, what I had seen was middle-class. The road was two ruts that wove around and through leaning boxes of scrap tin that wouldn’t keep rain or rapists or packs of street-dogs out, but would certainly keep heat in. Everywhere there were large pools of brown liquid that smelt like sewage and people burned trash in their yard just to get rid of it and the smoking garbage-piles leaned and sank into the sewage. Everything natural had been polluted to death, so there was no plants, only packt dirt and loose dirt and the few lone trees were blackened skeletons. The Nica kids here didn’t wear shirts, but I looked again and realized that most of them didn’t have real pants either, so maybe they had one pair of clothes for school and one for church, but even this was an assumption.
The lady actually lived in an apartment complex in a nicer area. As she got out, I remember thinking that is was good she lived in a cleaner, more respectable place, then realized my word choice and hated on myself the whole back for it.
Maybe I had thought this because I figured the lady was kind, and wanted her to live in a nice area, and I shouldn’t hate on myself for what is ignorance at worse.
But the point is, these are my own neurosis and are White-Boy problems and I should realize this.
The two Nica boys circled around my back and met in front of me, blocking my path. They then simultaneously began asking me for my food while trying to grab it from my hands.
The kids were smiling as they pawed at the container.
“Look, you can have some…un piquito…”
I popped open the top container, but one of the kids slapped it back closed and continued to try to work it out of my hands.
I was at a moral loss. I wanted to help out these assholes. This was MY food, not theirs’, these poor devils. They were better dressed than I was. They were smirking. They were only children. I hissed at them like street dogs-I tried to pop open the containers to let them grab some fries-I hissed again.
This probably lasted only about 20 seconds. John then sensed my trouble and looped back and spoke something in Spanish to the children that made them scamper off.
When I arrived back at GM, I shoved the tasteless grease down my throat and fell into darkness for the night.
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