A Letter from Exile
After referring to the Minister of Security via print, electronic media, and subway walls as a "shit-eating slug," a "parasitical rapist," and an "ass wart on the principles of humanism," I was forced to flee the country. Make no mistake: an exile is far different from an expatriate. Expatriates don't have their accounts frozen, nor do they make travel arrangements through an underground railroad of cocaine dealers and hoodoo palmists. Escaping Galveston was bad enough, but arriving in Chiapas just in time for the bread riots cinched it. I pawned my watch and belt, while my wife Gail sold her underwear to a pervert for a bus ticket beyond. We arrived in our new country similar to how we left the old one: in the thick of the greasy night with only the sweat-plastered shirts on our backs.
Gail, a painter, and I have tried to make the best of it. We compare malarial hallucinations, how often we infuriate the stall-owners in the bazaar by paying for a 4-centime sack of beans with a 7,000 kroner note, and how many times we sob without reason. Not understanding a word spoken to us, we respond as best we can, by adding "you fuck" to every sentence of ours. As in, "Do you know what time it is, you fuck?" or "Has the train come yet, you fuck?" or "Is that gun loaded, you fuck?" The locals may not comprehend the exact nature of our joke, but nevertheless, they seem to get the gist. This is perhaps the cause of a half-grown caiman in our outhouse and why our wheelbarrow was stolen.
Our elderly neighbors, the Lederschnapps, have eased the adjustment somewhat by vilifying us whenever they can. It's just like home. Gail and I are both extracted of Jewish loins, and the Lederschnapps have strong feelings about such extractions. Former functionaries of the Nazi party, they enjoy hooting at my wife from their kitchen window so she can see they've left the oven door open. We get revenge by playing old Lou Reed records at top volume all night long, even though strange roaches with red crosses on their shells emerge from under the sink whenever Lou sings. Gail calls the insects Crusaders, and her paintings of them, done in rancid fruit juice, sell in the bazaar for about the price of a stamp. Our friends get quite a few letters from us, and then from the Minister of Security. We'd hoped these friends would be able to visit but the closest drug warlord was adamant that another landing strip not be carved amidst his banana plantations and drying sheds.
I myself earn a pauper's wage writing articles for the local English-language paper, The Nostrodatum. It is run by degenerates and read by pharmaceutical scouts looking for anti-depressant ingredients among the jungle vines. The scouts swill bottled beer at the embassy dance hall, complaining to the pubescent coat check girl that they can't find a decent tailor anywhere. She quietly removes their sweaty palms from her ass, then tells her brother the barman which one to mug after the dance. When the pharmaceutical guys gripe about the lack of readily processed painkillers, I tell them, "Open your eyes- does it look like there's a cure for sorrow in this country?" My articles, under the byline "All Things are Portents," tend to focus on rail schedules, which platform never to stand on—the #3, because hungry rat colonies emerge every time the local rumbles past—and my latest hallucinations, which I describe in a manner befitting John the Divine or Grace Slick. The Nostrodatum can be found in the lobby of any underage, sex-tourist bordello.
Despite the supposed romance of our circumstances, life is quite boring. We attend town meetings with the rest of the peasants, pleading for arable land and fresh-water irrigation ditches, and like everyone else we avert our eyes when the pint-sized Generalissimo and his Praetorian henchmen strut past. During siestas, Gail and I play poker for water purification tablets. We're both running low, so orange Fanta is generally our beverage of necessity. Things did perk up when a plague of poisonous centipedes invaded our walls. Gail woke me in a panic, babbling that the centipedes were looking at her. I investigated and she was right: they were staring. We slew the horned monsters with blasts of black market aerosol deodorant. Aside from that, we sleep, screw, and scrub the yellow star off the door after the Lederschnapps have left a nocturnal calling card.
Seeking inspiration, Gail and I read the classics of exile and imprisonment: Ovid, Cervantes, Boethius, Malory, Kesey. So far as I can understand, everything changes, mutates, is spun through a movie of heavenly heights and infernal depths, and finally ceases at the flailing hands of a lady of the windmill. Whatever comfort there is in this, we take. Next door, the Lederschnapps celebrate Oktoberfest despite the screaming monkeys in the bush. They bellow the "Horst Wessel" and goose-step through the moonlight, we counter with "Dirty Boulevard." The Crusaders dance. When I look at where the wheelbarrow used to be, the hallucinations take over.
I am a knight of the realm, tilting at top-hatted ministers. They pour rabidly from beneath the platform, then spin upside down over and over again until I throw up. The malarial seizure gives me inspiration. My next column will be about the corrupt village jefe who sells broken jeeps and infected rice to the missionaries. The pharmaceutical guys will eat it up, the jefe will not. There's nothing left to steal anymore, and besides, martyrdom can only raise the value of Gail's paintings. With me gone missing or dead, she can go home again, and that's all that matters. There, she'll be able to send letters to everyone we've ever known, each beginning with my last words: "All things are portents, you fucks." One way or another they'll get the gist of it, even if this crusader never did.