The Medellín Diaries (Part 5 of 5)


A few weeks went by when Karl booked a ticket back to Sweden. He wanted a good-paying job for a few months so that he could return and properly marry his girlfriend. He told me it would be “easy” for him to get a job on an oil rig in Norway, but I had my doubts since he had no oil rig experience. In fact he had no professional experience at all, unless you counted his internet scamming and operation of a bar that got shut down by the Greek authorities.

“Did you call Miguel for the weed?” I asked.

“Oh yeah I forgot. How many bags do you want?”

“Two. That should last me for the rest of my time here.”

“You still have a shitload from the first bag. Are you sure you need two?”

“It’s only $5 a bag. I might as well.” It crossed my mind that I’d have a lot of excess to get rid by the time I was ready to leave the country.

“Hey have you been to a casino yet?”

“Not yet,” I said.

“You know I forgot to tell you that casinos are pretty good for meeting girls. There was this American guy I knew that would only pick up girls in the casinos. I mean you go there and there’s a dozen beautiful girls just standing around, and if you’re a gringo who isn’t disgusting you’ll do well. All the other people who go there are deadbeats.”

“I’m kind of off gambling though. I always lose.”

“You really don’t need to gamble. Just play some slots and drink and talk to them. He got a lot of girls from that, and you have to think about why those girls are hired—for their looks. Let’s go now, you’re not doing anything.”

“Okay but I still have to cook dinner. That’s going to take about an hour.”

“Fuck you I’ll get you an empanada. But first let me do a pick-me-up.”

He was already pretty drunk from drinking beer and rum all day, but after he inhaled half a gram of coke he livened up real fast. He was swaying but surprisingly lucid.

We walked into the casino and there were a dozen girls in their tight outfits staring at us, looking bored out of their minds. There was more staff than gamblers.

We sat down at a $2.50 blackjack table with three other Colombians and cashed in $30 each. The blackjack action was far from world-class. A gentleman sitting next to Karl split everything, including 6’s when the dealer was showing a face card. The girl sitting next to him would stay on 12 when the dealer showed an ace. The third person would wait for the dealer to announce her count total before making a move. They kept losing and cashing in more money, at a rate of over $50 an hour. I wondered how people so stupid could have so much money to blow.

Karl and I were the only ones at the table who understood English. I was able to safely mouth off.

Let’s see what this idiot is going to do now.

What the fuck he’s messing up the deck!

Karl lost his $30 immediately, not winning a single hand. It was especially ironic since his job is to game online casinos. I hung in there and kept the drinks coming so he wouldn’t leave. We had some laughs in between moments when I refused to take his advice on how much to increase my bets, even though in the end it would have won me more money. Sometimes Karl annoyed me with his constant inebriation and potential to get my killed, but he was an addicting guy to have around and I knew I was going to miss him when he left.

When it was time to go home (I broke even), he told me he wanted to do some more coke. “You won’t be able to sleep if you do more,” I said.

“Oh it’s okay I have some Ambien.”

The next night was his second-to-last in Colombia. He invited his girlfriend and her family to the gringo mansion for a goodbye dinner. I came back from an impulsive visit to the casino after losing $50 at both blackjack and poker, the latter of which was especially embarrassing since I played in a table tournament and busted out on the first hand dealt. Inside the house I saw balloons and streamers decorating the living room. I took a meek peek inside. A large, half-eaten chocolate cake was on the coffee table with dirty plates surrounding it, and Daddy Yankee was playing at low volume on the portable stereo. Everyone stopped talking to look at me. I introduced myself to Karl’s girlfriend, her parents, her sister, her uncle, her two cousins, her sister’s boyfriend, her sister’s boyfriend’s sister, and a little 2-year-old who was chasing a balloon on the floor. They were friendly but stiff, as if something was wrong. Karl was not in the room.

I walked towards the kitchen to put away some avocados I bought on the street and saw Karl slumping against the wall in the hallway with his head gyrating back and forth. A bottle of beer was in his hand and he was mumbling something I couldn’t understand. True to form, Karl got completely trashed in front of his girlfriend’s parents.

The mother approached me in the kitchen and in a soft voice asked that I take care of him, but there was really nothing I could do. When some guys get drunk they simply can’t hear anything remotely connected to reason or logic, and Karl was way past that stage. The girlfriend’s family gradually left, whispering things to each other with concerned looks on their faces, and no one but the little toddler wore a smile. I felt bad for Karl’s girlfriend, who I doubt has ever been more ashamed in her life.

Every five minutes after that I heard a big crash when Karl fell on the floor in his bedroom. He’d howl my name and tell me to get dressed so we could go to a strip club. “Come on fucker I’ll buy you an empanada,” he repeatedly yelled. “I just need to do a pick-me-up and I’ll be fine. I’m fucking calling Miguel right now.” I closed my door and ignored him. It didn’t take very long for everything to become quiet.

The next day he came into my room groaning in pain. He looked old and beaten.

“I think you have a drinking problem,” I said. “The only time you should not get drunk is in front of your girlfriend’s parents, but you got the drunkest I’ve ever seen you.”

“No it’s these new pills I’m taking. They make me drunk really fast. I’m not used to them.”

“You’re blaming one addiction on the other! It’s just an excuse! Look I don’t care, but your girl has to have a heart of fucking gold after what you did last night.”

“Hah yeah she’s great.”

“Though honestly I’m getting used to your drug problems. Hey speaking of drugs did you call Miguel? I still would like those two bags of weed.”

“Look at you, you drug addict!”

“Please, once or three times a week is not an addiction.”

That night I was on my way out for a date with a cute girl I met at a local university. Karl walked me to the front door where his girlfriend was already waiting behind the gate. She was going to spend one last night with him before he left the country. It was only one day after the dinner party debacle and she was visibly angry, greeting him with the word borracho (drunkard).

“Well at least he’s not drunk right now,” I said, with a cheesy smile.

“Yes but he needs to change,” she said.

“Well maybe a little, but who doesn’t? He’s a great man and I’m lucky to know him.” I squeezed his shoulder like he was my best friend in the world (at that moment he was), and said goodbye. It was the last time I saw him.

The next day a 53-year-old American man with bad arthritis took Karl’s room after the maid decontaminated it with potent chemicals. He immediately asked me how to score some weed and pussy.

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