WIP Wednesday: The Horse Latitudes

The excerpt for this edition of WIP Wednesday is the story I talked about back on Monday–the one that, at times, practically edges into prose-poetry. It’s a story that I’ve been waiting to write for a year, and it’s huge and thematically sprawling and will probably need a lot of tightening in the editing phase. But without saying too much, it’s about the exploitation of the natural world, about the ruthlessness of the past, and about a man involved in the drug trade in Colombia and the trajectory of his life. I have no idea yet if it’s any good. But I hope it is.

Here’s a bit of it:

“You need to eat.” Ignacio presses something hot into his hand–a tamale. Steam rises between his fingers. Ignacio spins around him, feet smooth and easy on cracked pavement–he moves like a dancer, like he was trained, like he was originally supposed to be before el comercio plucked up the thread of his life and wove it into itself.

Not that Sebastian isn’t grateful.

The tamale is hot, spiced, good, but he barely tastes it. His mind is on his work, picking at it like a troublesome knot. Drawn out by the cooler temperatures, people surge around him in the night street of Buenaventura, brightly colored cloth, sweat, too much cologne, faces precariously lit in the flicker of neon and arc sodium. The hoarse cry of vendors, like the screams of seagulls. They pass tin-roofed shops, goods displayed through sheets of plastic: tiny LED-flickering cell phones, racks of bootleg blu-ray with compressed jpeg covers, cheap knock-off clothes with factory-distressed hems, mounds of food. The street mercado–now all the streets are mercados, and this market touches all markets.

Even his market. And this is a problem. Because the rich norteamericanos are still buying la cocaína, but there are fewer and fewer of the rich norteamericanos these days, more and more of the poor ones. He has heard things, that los Estados Unidos is beginning to look more and more like home, with its burning trees and its chopper blades and its women screaming in the streets. Blood running into the cracks in the pavement. Meth is the drug now, domestically produced and very cheap, and something new from Russia called cocodrilo, something that eats away at you from the inside and rots the flesh off your bones. But so cheap, so much cheaper than la cocaína or la heroína, so they say that it makes you feel disgusting but you shoot your veins full of it anyway, until it kills you in a heap of your own decayed flesh. But so. Addicts. They circle the drain until at last something tips them down the hole. Such is the way of things.

But it makes his way more difficult, though he pushes through the street mercado crowd as though they weren’t even there, Ignacio dancing graceful at his side. Tonight, one meeting already has not worked in his favor, one deal already fallen through. He has kilos to move and no buyers. No one willing to organize a push north and across the border for all that cash in slippery norteamericano fingers.

Smoke and chopper blades. Women stand in doorways, bare-breasted, hips swaying to omnipresent music as they hold out their hands and beckon him in. They are beautiful in a coarse, tired way, beautiful in the way that shadows and neon make everyone beautiful, but Sebastian pulls Ignacio against him with fingers greasy from the tamale, frames his face with his hands and kisses him until Ignacio tugs at his beaded braids and laughs against his mouth. The women laugh too, cat-call. No one else notices them.

“We need to eat,” Sebastian murmurs, lips against the rings punched through Ignacio’s earlobe, making them clink together like tiny bells. But do we have to do it here?

* * *

He had been going to make it out. Off the plantation, out of Colombia, off to somewhere else. Somewhere from the TV in the foreman’s bungalow, flash and shine and sparkle. Chrome and polished granite, diamonds and white teeth. He had been sure. He had spun his own future from the stars over his head and the dreams inside it.

Now Sebastian can’t see the stars. And he’s long since learned that he can’t trust his dreams.

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