I’ve decided to share my latest book (The All-Important, Well-Fed, Giant White Man) with my followers here, free of charge, one chapter at a time. So… Where were we on this read-along… Oh, yes…
Chapter 22: Taking a Baseball Bat to… Myself
What Petersen had said to me as we passed the garbage pile was still nibbling away at my insides as I sat wedged between him and twelve other Mexicans in the back of a combi some two weeks later. Combi was what the Chilangos called the Volkswagen vans that acted as unofficial taxis in the big city. The fare was cheap thanks to their broad willingness to forgo any and all personal space. The most people I’d ever seen crammed into the back of one was 18.
The woman straight across from me was holding two chickens on her lap. She had tied ropes around their necks like little leashes. I’d seen plenty of dog meat for sale, it would only make sense that these chickens were family pets.
The smell of hard and constant booze poured off the man next to me who was looking straight forward with glossed and bloodshot eyes. I couldn’t tell if he was awake, asleep, or dead. Maybe a combination of all three.
None of these people had bathed in days, maybe weeks. Maybe years. A small girl sat on her father’s lap staring at me with her giant black eyes. She’d probably never seen a 6’4” giant white man with blonde hair and blue eyes before. Most Mexicans stared at me.
Still, as much as I hated being a missionary, and as much as I didn’t believe in what I was doing as a Mormon missionary, I was really beginning to like Mexico City.
To some degree it was exciting, knowing that I was flirting with death in everything I did down there. One wrong turn and I would get shot, stabbed, or eaten by those damned wild dogs. One sip of the wrong water or bite of underprepared food, and I’d be shitting my own organs out.
As I fought to stay awake in the combi, my mind drifted again to those kids rummaging through the garbage. As much as I hated hearing it, what Petersen had said to me was a crucial wake-up call. He was right. I was turning into a prick.
My companion poked me in the shoulder. At some point I had drifted off. “Our stop’s coming up.” He yelled for the driver to pull-over, passed him thirty pesos, and we finagled our way through the other passengers until we were more or less pushed out the door. We had probably hoofed it at least 16 miles on foot that day already. Another half mile and we’d be home for the evening.
From seemingly nowhere, an intense stabbing pain shot from my hip down into my leg. What the crap was that? I took another step. The same debilitating pain shot down my leg again. “Petersen, stop. Something’s wrong. I can’t walk,” I said.
I attempted a few more steps and found myself completely handicapped and unable to continue.
Two weeks later I stepped off of a plane in California. When my hip went bad I was thrilled. I mean, I was certain it was my ticket home. Instead they transferred me to Riverside where I’d be given the use of a car to continue God’s work. The orthopedic surgeon in Mexico assured everyone involved that less walking would most likely make the problem go away. Unfortunately, he was right, and in little time at all, the pain in my hip went away completely.
For the next five months, I tried to make it as a missionary. I really did.
I tried to have a good attitude. I tried not to hate it. I tried to actually believe what I was preaching door to door. Each day I told people that if they would simply read a few chapters of my church’s scripture, and then pray to know whether or not it was true, they’d receive an answer that it most definitely was. Each day, I myself read several chapters of scripture and prayed about it, but never got any such answer. Ever. You’re lying to these people. You shouldn’t be here. You don’t belong out here, I often thought.
But I couldn’t go home. Missionaries who went home early and without a damn good reason were considered weak. They were quitters. Their morals and their worthiness was questioned. My family would ostracize me. My community would coldshoulder me. No Mormon girl would ever want me. I was completely certain of all those things.
But… you’re lying to people. You’re promising something that you can’t even make happen for yourself…