Pedro woke when the sounds of Sloane and Sondra next door overcame the wall. The sounds of sex can be nice and soothing or they can be wild and profligate, but these sounds were neither. It sounded like Sloane was yelling at either me or Pedro through that wall. I felt sorry for Sondra.

"Take it like this, you fucking cow!
Don't even think about telling me . . .
you don't want it . . . like this!"
His face must have been right up against the wall. I could only imagine what sort of contortion Sondra was in for him to be getting his job done and be that close to the wall. Poor girl. She was a victim. Sloane was an evil bastard, hopped up on coke each and every blessed day. And now my only chance at something real was waking up to hear this savage, just a few feet away, terrorizing a girl who only wanted the real stuff in life.

"Ah, my friend. Are you OK this morning? I might have gotten a bit excepcional last night," Pedro said, on one elbow, pretending not to even hear was going on right behind his head.

"Yes," I said, "no damage done, except to my heart, mi corazón. It's been corralled."


Those few days down in Illampu with Sloane had changed me in a way that I could not have anticipated. I thought I had been the whipping boy long enough in life to disallow the prospect of being further humiliated; but Sloane proved me wrong. The things he made me do took me to the apex of despond and when he was done, I broke through the wall of self-pity and had an actual epiphany. My first and last. But it was el ápice.

Sloane had me bent over a wicker chair, my wrists tied to my ankles, and he was trying to hit a vein in my scrotum with a dose of cocaine that would have surely killed my had he not veered off and shot half the load directly into my ball sack. After he tossed the syringe into the wall, making a perfect bullseye into the forehead of a cheap velvet painting of the virgin Mary, it came to me as in a dream or a vision. I had hit bottom as he was probing mine with a stick of summer sausage. When the metal clasp on the sausage hit a blood vessel, the torrents of bloody filth washed over Sloane, and I felt as if I was ascending to a better place. I felt no pain; only joy. I knew I would go to America, no longer as a visitor, but as a future citizen, and I would find a way to bring my true love there where we could live a life without creatures who defile and degrade us in order to please their tormented souls.

"You crapulent whore!" Sloane yelled as he cut the ropes loose and dragged me by one ankle to the Hum Vee. "If you fucking die on me out here, I will let the fire ants eat your filthy fat ass!"


When I got out of the hospital, I kissed the sweet nurses good-by. I told them of my plans to relocate, and one very sweet young girl, Melinda, gave me a bauble she wore around her neck. "My grandmother always wanted to go to San Francisco. Would you take this with you? It was hers, and it may please her in Heaven to know that something of hers made it to the city of her dreams."


Pedro smiled that way only he could as he said, "It sounds as if Sloane may be hurting nuestro amigo pequeño over there."

I wished he had said it with some sort of remorse; but it was in a lighthearted vein. The sound of it washed over me and I realized that nothing was going to be right. It would always be the dogs, tearing apart the weak and helpless.

I turned to the only person I had ever loved and said, "I thank you for the night. I thank you for the visit. Now I think you should go."

Pedro's eyes turned dark and I could see the beast inside him, just like I'd seen it in everyone else I'd ever trusted: "Go? You're asking me to go? You ridiculous fat clown. I would have married you to get into this country. I would have pretended to enjoy your short, stubby little fingers prodding me and your whiny, girlish manners. I would have done this to stay here in America. But I will leave now, and you can listen to the way the real world works through your cheap walls. You make me want to puke."


I have kept my honor. I know who I am. I am not a whore. I will live a life worth living. The bejeweled trinkets and baubles of my past shall fall away and I'll no longer be ashamed.