PREVIOUSLY: Part 1
Karl’s room was small and only had a twin size bed. I had a table with chairs in mine, so I’d leave my door open as an invitation for him to stop by. He usually would, always with a bottle of beer in his hand. We had a cleaning service but because of his crushing hangovers he’d keep telling the maid “mañana.” It wouldn’t take long for the pizza boxes, dirty clothes, beer bottles, and trash bags with used condoms inside them to pile up next to his bed. His room smelled like anus.
Downstairs was a fridge of booze with a log sheet to mark each bottle we took. Karl’s box was completely full of hash marks. Every other day he jokingly accused me of charging beers to his account. We did some backwards analysis and calculated that he drank about eight bottles a day, which was less than another gringo staying down the hall who killed a 12-pack every day of the cheapest beer that was sold in the supermarket.
“Did you see the American guy bring another girl?” I asked.
“No I didn’t see her. How many girls is that now?”
“I think that’s four in as many days. They’re pretty beastly though—I mean I know you’d bang them but I got standards.” I paused for a second to allow him to react to my insult, but he didn’t. “I asked him how he was meeting them and he told me they were from a previous trip. I dug some more and he told me his strategy: meet girls during the day.”
“At the mall?”
“No on the street. He says he simply goes up to girls and asks them if they want to have lunch with him. He said, ‘None of these poor girls turn down a free meal. And it only costs you a few dollars. Then you bring them back to your place and they open their legs.’ But he says the girls are so poor that he has to give them taxi fare back home.”
“Oh yeah the barrio girls don’t have any money. Most didn’t finish secondary school and now they just walk around centro, or they get their nails done.”
“Where did you meet your girlfriend?”
“On the internet. I’m shy I don’t like walking up to girls.”
“Your girl is cute though. Today I was on that site you told me about for an hour and only found five girls who weren’t monsters.”
“Yeah it takes time, but that’s the same site I met her on. We’ve been going out for a year now. You know I was married to a Colombian before right?”
“No you didn’t tell me.”
“A few years ago I got married but it didn’t work out. We married right here in Medellín but divorced in Sweden. It lasted two years.”
“You think you’re going to marry this girl?”
“Oh I don’t know. I want to start a business here with her. Or maybe take her back to Sweden. She’s a good
“What are you doing now for money?” I asked.
“I have these robots which know how to beat the house long enough to get the sign-up bonus, so I find people to run the robots for me. I pay them a cut of the winnings. Business used to be good but it has slowed down.”
“How much were you making?”
“Oh back then when it was good—$300 a day.”
“Damn!” I did the mental calculation in my head—almost ten grand a month.
“Ooph it was crazy. Me and my partner would fly around to Mexico, Las Vegas, Barcelona, just blowing money. I had a penthouse here in Poblado on the top floor of a building. It was huge with a bar and a hot tub. I was paying 2.5 million pesos and month for it and then I was going out and spending another 200,000 pesos a night. I would buy bottles and pour it into people’s cups. Girls would notice and ask me to dance and we’d do pick-me-ups.”
“Cocaine. For the penthouse I bought a grocery bag of cocaine and dumped it on the bar. It was a huge mountain of coke.” He rested his hands on the table shoulder-width apart and moved them up to shape an imaginary pile. “It was like in the movie Scarface and I’d have people over and they’d put their nose in the pile and start sniffing. But I don’t have that kind of money now.”
“What happened to all the money?”
“I blew it all. I haven’t saved anything. Never in my life have I saved.”
“Sounds kind of romantic,” I said. “I’m too reasonable to do something like that.”
“Do you do coke?”
“No I’ve never done it.”
“Oh I got to get you to do it. It really picks you up.”
“Once in while I smoke weed.”
“Dude the weed here is so cheap. You can get a joint for maybe 9,000 pesos, the size of a thick cigar. It will last you for days and it’s the strong shit, but I don’t like weed it makes me sick. Next time I call my drug dealer I’ll get you one. I haven’t talked to him in a while.”
I asked him if he was trying to go out later and he said he’d think about it. A club called Babylon was having ladies night. Girls get in free and guys pay 30,000 pesos for all they can drink. Another one of my gringo friends went the week before and picked up a cutie, saying when he walked in he was approached almost immediately and didn’t have to do any work for the rest of the night.
A few hours later Karl came in my room dressed up in dark jeans, an ironed collared shirt and a fitted blue blazer. Every Scandinavian guy I’ve met has had style. We hopped in a cab soon after and on the way there he saw a Mercedes S-series ahead of us on the right.
“Rapido, rapido, quiero hablar con ese carro,” he told the taxi driver.
In the car was a portly man with three girls. Karl said some things in Spanish that I couldn’t understand.
“Who was that?” I asked.
“He owns the Poblado apartment I rented. He’s the biggest player in Medellín. Always has half a dozen girlfriends.”
“So he has money?”
“Of course dummy. Didn’t you see his car? Girls are lining up to get fucked by him. His father is rich, owns land throughout the country. He was thinking of importing a Ferrari here, but thought that may make him a kidnapping target. He could afford it though. I remember one time he gave me his business card and sent me into the grocery store to give it to this beautiful barrio girl. You know those girls who give out samples in the stores? They make shit, maybe 10,000 pesos a day. Her parents wet their pants that the richest guy in Medellín wanted to take out their daughter. It’s like winning the lottery.”
“He took her out on a date, but he said she had a scar on her chin that he didn’t like. When she was little she had a cat that scratched her.”
We got to the club and sat down on cheap wooden chairs next to the bar, which was so wide you had to yell at the top of your lungs for the bartender to hear you.
“I’m so tired I shouldn’t have taken those sleeping pills earlier. I need a pick-me-up.” He was drunk. He drank five beers before we left and a quarter of bottle of rum. The bartender had just handed us another bottle, the same brand that caused us to puke the other night.
After a drink I followed Karl outside to watch him smoke a cigarette. While he was on the phone trying to convince the guy with the Mercedes to come to Babylon, a guy approached me selling chicle (gum). There’s a million guys selling chicle on the streets in Colombia because Colombians chew the most gum per capita in the world, or so I’m told. I declined and then he said, “Que tal cocaina?”
“No pero tal vez mi amigo quiera.”
He wanted patiently for Karl to get off the phone and then started his pitch. Karl was interested. While leaning back against an old Datsun he bargained the chicle guy down to 15,000 pesos for a big hit.
“Where are you going to do it?” I asked.
“In the bathroom.”
“But the counter is dirty.”
“I’ll just use my keys.”
He went into the bathroom to do his drugs and when he didn’t come out ten minutes later I thought maybe he had passed out. I walked in to see if everything was okay and heard him talking on the phone in Spanish, probably to his girlfriend. He stayed in that stall for almost an hour.
I couldn’t do better than an ugly girl who approached me when we initially walked in. Girls wouldn’t even give me a chance to say my line. To get their attention I’d tap them on the shoulder as they were walking by, but they kept going. It turns out they’re not as easy as American girls to stop. I’d have to walk up to them. With Karl camping out in the bathroom it felt like I was at the club alone. There was another girl who liked me but she was morbidly obese, stuffing her mouth with birthday cake.
Karl eventually came out of the bathroom and I noticed the coke didn’t pick him up at all—he was worse off and his eyes were half closed. Then he did the thing where he started approaching guys. I told him I was leaving but he ignored me. I tried again ten minutes later with the same result. I left him there and took a cab back to the house.
The next afternoon I was worried that he didn’t make it home and that I’d be partially responsible for his death. I imagined having to make an official statement to the Embassy of Sweden, but he eventually strolled into my room with a beer in his hand. He asked me how much money I had spent the night before.
“30,000 pesos for the cover and 15,000 for taxis,” I said.
“So how the fuck did I spend 100,000 pesos?”
“I thought you only paid 15,000 pesos for the pick-me-up.”
“Ah it was the chicle guy! He tricked me and took my money!”
“That probably explains why he disappeared after you bought the coke.”
“That fucker tricked me. What happened later in the night?”
“Not much, but you started talking to guys at the end.”
He laughed. “Yeah that’s a bad habit of mine.”
CONTINUED: Part 3