Starting Out

4 Dec

I felt as though I had accomplished quite a lot, in putting the family and church issues behind us (Really! I believed that!) We proceeded with the wedding plans, which were rather austere, given that I quit my job in Mexico City and moved to Zacatecas. We had earlier decided to marry in Plateros, which is an ancient mission just a few kilometers from Fresnillo. It was strictly family and very close friends, and was very nice. We didn’t have the wherewithal to have a reception, but the family came through and gathered everyone at the house afterward, with a cake, music, food and copious amounts of rum. (Dad reluctantly gave away the bride, scowling the whole time, but chose not to show up at the house.) We had a lovely wedding, a very enjoyable time at the house, and then drove to Zacatecas to spend our honeymoon weekend locked in a hotel room. (That was fun, too!)

On Monday, Coco had to return to work, and I had to look for a job. We moved into a small (make that miniscule) one bedroom house that measured about 400 square feet, and began the process of learning more about each other.

One thing I learned about Coco immediately was that her upbringing had not included any kitchen time at all. I don’t think she could boil water without burning it. Fortunately, I had learned to cook a good bit over the years, and even enjoyed it, so I kept us alive, while teaching her the basics.

I also learned that two people can be very happy, with very little. It’s all in your attitude. Over the years, I’ve left lucrative, stable positions, to take off in a new direction, often leaving the country entirely. I’ve lived in eleven different countries, and in eleven different states in the U.S. I’ve had to go to unbelievable lengths to limit my résumé to two pages, per the recommended standard. Consequently, I’ve developed a confidence that keeps me calm in the face of unemployment or tough economic times. Things always work out, if you keep plugging away at them. Coco, however, was (and still is) more stability conscious, and became more dismayed every day at my lack of job offers in Zacatecas. Finally, I decided that we were going to have to change our tack, and I suggested that I make a couple of calls to friends in the States, get a job up there and bring in some income, while continuing my search for work south of the border. We discussed, and agreed that it was the thing to do, and I reached out to my network.

Within a week, I was invited to interview for the job of Facilities Manager for the Long Beach Airport, and I flew up and was offered the job. The money wasn’t great, but it was a hell of a lot more than I was making back in Zacatecas, so after returning home to discuss it with Coco, I accepted. The following week, I kissed my bride of one month goodbye, and boarded a bus for the two day trip to Long Beach, where I buried myself in my work, and satisfied myself with weekly phone calls to Zacatecas.

In August of 1989, just three months after our wedding, Coco decided that being separated by 3,000 miles (actually, she probably thought of it in terms of kilometers) was no way to build a marriage, and she informed me that she would be arriving the following Saturday. I picked her up at the airport, and we settled into the Crazy 8 Motel, until we could find a house.

I had stumbled across the Crazy 8, only because it was right around the corner from a bar that was managed by an acquaintance, Bill Rocher. Bill was one of those guys that you just knew was never going to amount to much, not because he had no brains, but because he had no ambition. But he was a genuinely nice guy, always willing to offer a helping hand to a friend, and never one to take advantage of someone. The bar actually belonged to Bill’s brother, but it was essentially a real estate investment, rather than an actual business interest. He had put no money into the place, and the emptiness on a Friday or Saturday night was the result. It really was a shame, because the place had a couple of pool tables, dart boards, a full kitchen, a large dance floor, and a lengthy bar. Ample parking completed the offering, but apparently, all this wasn’t enough to interest him in developing the business.

I often stopped by on my way home from work, before Coco joined me, and had even been to Bill’s house a couple of times. I could usually catch Bill at the bar early in the evening, when he came in to help his head bartender, Sue, set up.  Since I was renting a room in the home of my boss’s secretary, I was never in a great hurry to get “home”, and it was easier to eat out, than to use someone else’s kitchen. We would often order pizza, Mexican food or Chinese, delivered to the bar, since their industrial kitchen was long since shut down.

Usually, we would order enough for the three of us, and Sue would join us in a snack. She was finishing her studies at nursing school, and said she couldn’t be caught eating such unhealthy food around her fellow students, but she loved it. One such night, since we usually treated her to “dinner”, she decided to treat us to drinks.

She asked me if I had ever tried a Red Hot, and I hadn’t, so she promptly brought three over. A Red Hot is a jigger of cinnamon schnapps, with a dash of tabasco sauce on top, and you don’t sip it, you slam it. It goes down like candy, with just a little bit of hot at the end…feels like anything but liquor. Really tasty!

Shortly after we checked into the Crazy 8, I decided to take Coco over and introduce her to Bill and Sue. Unfortunately, Bill wasn’t in, and Sue said she didn’t expect him that weekend, as he had planned to go to the mountains. She asked if we’d like a drink, and I started to order my usual JD on the rocks, and I asked Coco if she’d like a Coke. You may recall me mentioning that Coco doesn’t drink.) She turned her nose up at the idea of a Coke, and Sue piped up, “How about a Red Hot?”

I don’t know why it seemed like a good idea at the time, but I’m pretty sure it did. “Hey, sure! That’s what she wants. You’ll like it, honey. It’s just cinnamon.”

Four for her, seven for me, and I left with Coco over my shoulder, tossing a chuckling ‘good night’ over my other shoulder to Sue.

I carried her around the corner, down the street, up the stairs, and into the room and deposited her as gently as I could on the bed. I took off her shoes, watch and earrings, and decided that she wasn’t going to wake up, so I climbed into the other bed, and went to sleep.

In the morning, I turned over, saw that she hadn’t moved an inch, and looked for the comforting rise and fall of her chest.

I detected none.

Well, NOW I was awake! I jumped up and checked her pulse. Normal. Thank God! Scared the Hell out of me there for a minute! I pulled an eyelid up and looked for signs of recognition.

Again, none.

Well, at least I knew she was still alive, even if comatose. I decided to make coffee and play this by ear.

I made a pot of coffee, took a shower, and watched two ½ hour TV programs. I sang two verses of Dixie, and most of The Devil Went Down to Georgia. I sat down roughly on her bed, jostling her nearly off the edge.


I took her hand and spoke into her ear. I patted her cheek, and ruffled her hair. I hollered “HEY!” at the top of my lungs.

Nothing. Boy, this gal really knows how to have a good time, I thought, as I whistled a poor rendition of InnaGaddaDaVida.

I decided I’d sneak down to the corner and pick up some donuts, so she’d have something there when she woke up. As I was easing the door open, she sat bolt upright, wide-eyed.

I should have thought of the donuts earlier!

That was the first, and the last time I ever saw Coco drink. A rare sip of my beer is enough to make her curl her lip.


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