Ningún Santuario Pt. 6
The day on the mountain had rattled me. Unable to differentiate between what had been reality or hallucination, I plunged into the perpetual numbness of binge drinking every night for the next week. My dark imagination kicked into overdrive and I started seeing him everywhere I went. Not direct encounters, mind you, just brief peripheral apprehensions – in a supermarket aisle, at a corner table in a café, walking slowly down the opposite sidewalk as I pulled out of my apartment complex – always beyond my field of vision by the time I tried to get a closer look.
The following Saturday, I drove Grace, Jose and a woman I had just started seeing named Marisa to Jemez Springs for a picnic at the red rocks. We bought a cheap bottle of wine at the convenience store across Route 4 from the picnic area and ate lunch in the shadow of the dark russet sandstone hills.
After a day of hiking and taking periodic dips in the hot springs that buttressed the forest trails, we decided to end the day with drinks at the charmingly anachronistic Los Ojos Saloon. Although the Old West theme of the lone watering hole in the Village of Jemez was obviously meant to attract tourists with its kitschy vibe, most of the patrons inside were hard drinking locals whose weathered appearance and folksy speech only added to its aura of authenticity.
We settled in at a corner booth and ordered a round from the leathery skinned waitress with a prosthetic leg who seemed to be stirring the libidos of the flatteringly lecherous drunks at the bar. Feigning mild offense at their vulgar propositions and catcalls, she fetched our order from the bartender with a self-satisfied smile.
By now, my speech was becoming a bit slurred and the increasing intensity of my repetitive soliloquies was starting to make Marisa uncomfortable. Of course, I was oblivious to the fact that my drunken theatrics were having this effect on her but Grace told me of it later in a subtle attempt to make me realize that my potential compatibility with Marisa was questionable at best.
At around 10:00, we paid our tab and walked back to the car. Adjusting my seat belt, I spotted a figure emerging from a row of bushes behind the building. The man limped towards the entrance and just before he disappeared into the saloon, I noticed that a green corduroy cap was perched atop his head. With a sudden sense of urgency, I pulled out of the parking lot onto Route 4 and after a short pass through the Village onto the unlit blacktop of the surrounding Pueblo, the unmistakable flashers of a police cruiser filled my rear view mirror with an ominous light show. Pulling over to the shoulder, we nervously awaited the towering Tribal Police officer who approached my window after spending several minutes in his car running my plates and calling in the stop.
“License, registration and insurance, please.”
I fumbled through my glove box for the documents and handed them to the officer.
“Have you been drinking tonight, Sir?”
A deflated atmosphere filled the interior of my car as we all realized that the night was far from over.
Following the arrow on a construction paper sign affixed to the wall just inside the church doors, I walked hesitantly into the small classroom and sat down on one of the folding chairs arranged in a circle in the center of the room. The smell of over strong coffee assaulted my nostrils. After the preliminary readings and announcements were finished, all eyes turned to me as I shifted anxiously in my seat. I took a deep breath.
“Hi. My name is Andy and I’m an alcoholic.”