Author: Guede Mazaka
It's daylight, and Sands wants to go home. If the concept even stretches around his fucked-up life anymore.
And no, there are no goddamned bananas involved. There's just tequila, and lime, and salt burning the cut on his tongue where he bit down too quick on the end of his sentence. It's stinging and scorching and about too much for his pounding skull to handle. He thinks about hang-overs, and hung men, poor babes lost permanently to the woody rope, and he scrabbles for his gun.
Music-lover's taken it, lest Sands' wake-up call spoil the morning song. Fucker.
And then he realizes they're still in the bar.
Desahogar [to relieve from pain]
God knows nothing, El's decided. If He did, then He would've struck down El a long, long time ago. But lo and behold, El is still standing. And now that the euphoria of adrenaline, of rescue, of actually doing something and having it come out the way he wanted it to, has worn off, he's just a little pissed.
Not enough to get drunk. But enough to think about it. To think about tipping back his head and opening his mouth and swallowing the despair of Mexico until he's too full and he ruptures like the woman in the last bar he passed. Three towns back. No doctor. She bled herself white, and then the little curled toes peeped from between her rigid-blenched legs, and the small dark silent man holding her had screamed till the sky should've split.
El is dragging. He knows he is. He's got the muscles and the music and the metal, but none of the spirit. He wonders if maybe that can be bottled, gold and acid and intoxicate.
El, Sands decides, is completely fucked.
His step's got the limp heaviness of the drained, the desolate, the fucking mind-gone zombie, and yet he stops when Sands grabs his ankle. He actually stops. Doesn't haul Sands along, doesn't kick. He…
…gives Sands a hand up. Shitfucker's got calluses like riverstones, smooth and hard and punishing.
"Where the fuck's my gun?" Sands wobbles a little, but stays upright. He's proud of that. He's not proud that he's proud of that, but that is an entirely different therapy session. If he, well, had a therapist.
If he did, he'd shoot the psycho-babble preacher in the left nut. And then in the head.
He's stumbling up the steps of what smells like another bar, and he wonders if El will buy his drink here, too.
Deslucir [to tarnish]
Before the church comes the tavern, some old priest told El. Men under the grindstones of the world need joy first, then salvation.
So now El wonders what they need after that. Is there anything?
Is there a reason to why he's tugging Sands along with him, on this almost-barcrawl that's skating him further and further to the deep black pits of Fideo's pupils? It's dark in there, it's sucking and crushing and frightening even when El starts to think he's afraid of nothing. Especially when El thinks he's afraid of nothing. But he calls the man friend anyway, because he feels closer to that gaze than anything yet that he's seen.
Well, he did feel that.
Two hours back: Sands bottoms-up on the seventh and scatters bottles like glass rain, his head knocking and jerking and knocking again for a total of three times before it settles. His sunglasses fall off.
Sands' feet come back to him after one bottle of ass-piss beer, and he's stalking out the door because if he's going to get stupefied he's fucking going to do it properly.
The fact that he's holding onto El's sleeve-chains as he does it is incidental. A crutch is needed. A crutch idiotically or fatalistically or whatever-fucking-ly offers itself up. Said crutch will be snapped and splintered and stomped into the shit as soon as Sands doesn't need it.
Says he. Chiclet grins in his mind-not the weird little one that disappeared three days after, debtless and light as fucking Gene Kelly, but the Boy. The squeaky hawkers of everything from gum to pimping-tips who populate every fucking corner of this country, who look cute as puppies and then bare broken yellowing blood-mutt teeth when they're counting their money.
Sands tries to grin back, but he's forgotten how. He reaches for the cane he speared through his so-called doctor's throat and left there like a marker of his passing, he clutches at his sunglasses that are crooked and slipping, he grabs for the cell phone that he smashed just this-no, last morning.
"What are you doing?" says El, and Sands' throat clutches in on nothing.
They sort of slump in between bars, because Sands is laughing. Or choking. It's hard to tell.
"You're lead, you know," he tells El. "Gray. Dense as hell. Not shiny, not bright, not pretty. Just solid and shield and anchor and all the boring necessary shit in the world."
His sunglasses start to fall away, and he can't stop them because one hand is tangled in El's arm and the other is still holding a bottle of whiskey he snatched up from the last bar. It's dark in there, brilliant dark that cuts through El's sight like a dagger from Carolina's belt. It's its own victory, eating everything up in its raw smoldering black.
It's just like the feeling in El's chest, the spots before his eyes when he wakes up in the morning, the strain that skews his music and makes the people around him stare whispers.
Sands is lying, obviously. He remembers El, back from the days of sight-sounds like a sorry mash of daytime soaps and Bible, don't it-and he knows the man is not dull. Gray only in the sense that nobody can claim his goddamn twin steels and quick-fire glower and handfuls of death. He'd filled that little pissant bar with the great pibil with shadow and dark light.
El's voice is blue-black, and it's leaving stains all over Sands. What happened? Who did this? What did this? Are they dead?
Should've put the fourth one first. Yeah, they're dead, sweet-talker. Sorry, but I got to that one before you did.
Like revenge is a contest. Not really. It's nothing but red, if you think about it. And Sands has, and he has, and he's felt it dragging down his face and pressing softly to his mouth and falling down to knees before him. No forgiveness there.
He's holding onto it, he suddenly realizes. And as he does, he tries-fucking God, he tries-to hold onto it. To not lose it. Not in front of godfucking goddamn El.
The confession's not coming, because there is no confession. That's for people that regret, and Sands doesn't. El believes. He believes what he sees, and he can't see anything of guilt or shame or repentance in all the different emotions that are scratching over the other man's face.
Empty sockets, El realizes now, are not black. They are red, they are gold, they are brown of earth and gray of grave and deep, deep in the back, they are blue. And it's all another illusion, throwing shade over shade until the color black seems to pop out when really, it's not even there.
He thinks they should be filled with tears, but he has none left. And if he did, he wouldn't give them to Sands, because the man wouldn't know what to do with them. Instead, he lifts the bottle of whiskey from the other man's hand and drinks.
For a moment, Sands thinks he's drinking. Because it is his fucking whiskey and his fucking pity-party and his fucking break-down. But no, that scorching heat down his throat is only air, just air, from the great wide-open spaces of misfortune and misery.
"You owe me," El rebukes when Sands tries to retrieve the bottle. And Sands can hear that what El means is not just the drink from…how many bars ago? Where are they, anyway?
Where is he? Well, first where was he: stumbling and adrift and mucking about without a plan to be his rake. No eyes, no money, no contacts-no service. Sorry, sir, but we'll be happy to serve you when you're on slightly steadier ground.
He bets that where El's standing, the ground is bedrock. Is foundation of the seven seas and four corners and fuck that. Jackass probably walks on water in his spare time.
Sands takes a step toward El. Feels himself sink, though hell, that's familiar. And then feels his body rise, feels things firm and hold and keep him up.
El's got Sands against his chest, clenching fingers into his shoulders as if they're standing on the edge of a thousand-foot drop and El's the one on land. He ignores that, tipping the bottle up and up and up and draining it till he's sucking air again.
His head swims, and with it swims faces past and present. Red and green and white-life and rot and flash. When you think you're dying, it's not your life that passes over your eyes. It's the rest of reality, going about its day, eating and sleeping and working and fucking without a care to the way your blood is clotting the dust, feeding the hungry soil.
He thinks he'd like another drink. He thinks he'd like another life. He's not getting either, he knows.
There's nothing now, Sands understands. Nothing below, nothing above, nothing on any side. Nothing except himself.
And what do you fucking know, himself includes El. Because if nothing exists, then neither do any pre-existing definitions, and Sands can say anything means anything he wants it to.
Mariachi's got his gun, got his drink-doesn't have his girl, and that's the only thing that keeps Sands from turning into a maudlin country song. Good, because he hates country with a passion. He'll wear the boots and the tacky clothes and the hat, but he ain't going with the music.
El's humming, the weirdo skullfuck. Humming as he pulls Sands up stairs across planks over stools, and El is so fucking lucky that Sands is just a little too short for the stools to hit him that low. Maybe Sands will steal his gun back and shove it down El's throat.
After the man finishes buying Sands' drinks.
A painting's stroking across the wall, all twisted angles and howling lines. El mumbles about it to Sands while the other man sucks down shot after shot, and eventually Sands comes up with something.
No, it's war, El wants to say. But then Sands lifts those holes to El, and El sees that Sands already knows that. So he stays quiet. He listens. And when Sands falls off the stool this time, into the spill of sunset-bloody light, El catches him before he hits the floor.
He doesn't give back the sunglasses. Or the pistol. But he does wait for the man to wake up again.