Our basketball team, based out of Lawrence, Kansas, where Carlos and I both lived, was coached by a 73-year-old named Jules, perhaps the only Mexican in world history christened with this eccentric name. Each tournament he paid the entry fees, supplied jerseys, and acted as the grandfatherly voice of reason on the bench. But with Wichita a good 140 miles beyond his 20-mile travel radius, Jules decided to stay put in his La-Z-Boy while Carlos and I set off in pursuit of a trophy. But there was an unforeseen hiccup; just days before the event, Jules informed us that the rest of our Mexican teammates wouldn’t be joining us, as they opted instead to play in a softball tournament that weekend — their decision based solely on the keg of beer they were authorized to keep in the dugout.
But Jules didn’t seem at all rattled by this unexpected development, and why would he? If the dagger tattooed on his forearm was any indication, he had surely conquered far graver predicaments during his seven decades on planet Earth. Over the phone, he was rather nonchalant about his stated goal to raid a few students from nearby Haskell Indian Nations University. But after a day of scouting pick-up basketball games on Haskell’s playground (and looking like an old perv in the process), Jules was only able to convince one Indian to join our team, a kid he habitually referred to as the little chief. Obviously, that still left us two players short of a respectable roster, but I left it to Jules to salvage this sinking vessel. Besides, I was just along for the ride, so I wasn’t responsible for cleaning up this mess.
Word had it that the little chief originated in the sleepy outpost of Gallup, New Mexico, a town you would never mistake for anyone’s target landing spot in life. This held true for the little chief, whose modest ambitions lured him to Haskell University. While my alma mater, the University of Kansas, dominates the higher education scene in Lawrence, the much smaller Haskell University stands tall as a scholarly mecca in its own right. Indians from far and wide flock to the tuition-free institution thirsting for knowledge and opportunity. But their motivations aren’t always so virtuous, as a substantial number of the able-bodied straight cisgender heteronormative male students thirst for something, well, more thirst-quenching — something found in large quantities in a variety of flavors in every college town. Yes, I’m of course referring to the bounty of lovely coeds, specifically the sorority girls. You would think Haskell’s recruitment strategy would focus exclusively on highlighting the ocular pleasures provided by the University of Kansas girls who saunter about town, vistas unheard of on the reservation. It would seem to be a more effective recruitment method than the status quo of ensuring passing marks for any kid whose grand-daddy happened to be a full-blooded Yaqui Indian.
We arrived at the Wichita Marriott Hotel at 8 a.m., where Jules had arranged our rendezvous with the so-called little chief. After reaching him on his cell phone, he cordially invited us up to the 9th floor to share a peace pipe. Before hanging up, he disclosed that an extra surprise awaited us upstairs, which made me a little uncomfortable at the time, considering I’d never met this kid. Who knew what sort of perverted revelations he had in store for us? Was he an adherent to the Furry lifestyle, finding sexual arousal by dressing as a cuddly animal? We were about to find out. So I prepared myself for the worst possible scenario, being ambushed by a giant sex-crazed bunny, which is why I made a mental note to enter the room last, a strategy that would aid my quick escape if the little chief had any kinky tricks up his sleeve.
Departing the elevator on the 9th floor, we were funneled to our destination by the rap music exploding from room 915. After pounding on the door, we were acknowledged by a thick cloud of marijuana smoke that billowed into our faces. Apparently this peace pipe he hyped over the phone couldn’t wait a measly five minutes for his esteemed guests. When the smoke finally dissipated, there stood before us a snaggletoothed Cherokee from the Sooner State. This wasn’t the little chief we anticipated; this one was tall and imposing, but his name was a total disappointment. I was expecting Brown Bear or Soaring Eagle or at least a name befitting a first-born male, but what we got instead was Trevor. Trevor shoved us into the room for our expected surprise, but luckily there were no deviant Furries lying in wait. The extra surprise, it turned out, were the four guys in the room, which was a relief because it meant we would be fielding a roster of six.
Inside, we found the little chief seated criss-cross applesauce on the floor with a fifth of Johnnie Walker strangled between his thighs. A couple physical characteristics immediately stood out — his jaundiced skin and peculiar eyes; they were invariably squinty, as if the sun had challenged him to a staring contest. This combination of symptoms, particularly his yellow tinge, could’ve been the byproduct of numerous ailments, including early stage liver failure. But he seemed a tad young for that, so I concluded his appearance must have resulted from a completely different set of circumstances. My suspicion was that his mother had somehow been coerced into copulating with an Oriental tourist who was passing through Gallup in the early 1980’s. This chance encounter would lead to the little chief’s uncanny features, first observed when he spilled out onto the bathroom tile nine months later. The shame of the unplanned birth would lead her to deposit the bastard on the doorstep of the local Bureau of Indian Affairs before departing for Phoenix’s west valley, where she would forge a new life (sans cranky infant of course) as a real estate agent in the booming metropolis. But this is pure speculation on my part and shouldn’t be taken as gospel. Besides, one must consider the odds of a visitor from the People’s Republic of China ending up in a down-and-out dump like Gallup. So in hindsight, the little chief probably just had a rotten liver.
Putting my concerns for his cirrhosis on hold, I moved on to meet the last of our teammates — two brothers. You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but it wasn’t a stretch to say these brothers could’ve passed for recent prison escapees from up the road in Leavenworth. They were sprawled on the beds, buried in baggy clothes and Timberland boots. After a couple overly-complicated handshakes, they began boasting about their “world famous” hometown. The Big Apple? Paris, France? Greater Tokyo? Not exactly. It so happened they hailed from “the most dangerous muthafuckin’ spot north of the Rio Grande”, as they so eloquently explained. They were of course referring to East St. Louis, Illinois, which in 2003 still held the charming title as The Biggest Little Shithole in the World.
If memory serves correct, I recall reading an investigative report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about the city’s troubles. The piece detailed the municipality’s shortcomings in trying to construct a city gateway, a welcome sign which would mirror Reno, Nevada’s famous neon-lit archway. The East St. Louis slogan would be spelled out in a dazzling array of lights, warning disoriented tourists that they were on the wrong side of the Mississippi River, and they should turn back before it was too late. The 20-foot tall archway wouldn’t be as breathtaking as the 630-foot tall Gateway Arch on the western horizon, but it would span the width of Martin Luther King Drive, where traffic engineering consultants recorded a daily average of twenty-seven illegal U-turns performed by cars with out of state tags. Sadly, plans for the archway were scrapped when city leaders deemed a roundabout at that location to be a more pragmatic use of funds. The MLK Drive Improvement Project, as the proposed roundabout would come to be known, would be bankrolled with $100k from a city slush fund, along with a matching grant of $100k in unmarked cash from a local philanthropist, known on the streets as King Mookie. As you might have guessed, the roundabout never materialized, as the outgoing mayor shifted the funds toward a fleet of Cadillacs to be used in parades and other rare civic pride events. And as a result, disoriented tourists can still be found performing roughly twenty-seven illegal U-turns on MLK Drive each and every day.
By now, any American with a sufficient enough IQ to have never been herded onto the short bus can infer that these brothers lounging before me were not, in fact, Mexican or anything resembling a Mexican. The elder brother was 31 and named Maurice, but said everyone called him Smokey, which made sense given that 90% of the marijuana smoke filling the room appeared to have originated in his lungs. The younger brother, the more boisterous of the two, was 28 and introduced himself as Donnie, “but everyone knows me as Glock 45 — or Glock for short”. He bragged that “nobody is better with a pistol than me” — as if this bit of info was supposed to make us feel at ease. I doubted his outlandish claim regarding his marksmanship, but wasn’t about to get into a debate with someone nicknamed Glock 45, especially after noticing the actual Glock 45 peeking out of his jean shorts.
I’ve never been one to assume the worst in others, but I had no choice but to conclude that both brothers were criminals, at least in a general sense of the word. My opinion was bolstered with the revelation that the trunk of their pimped-out ‘88 Cutlass Calais was stocked full of stolen apparel, most of it from legendary fashion icons like Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, Karl Kani, and Russell Simmons. Later in the day they would try to pawn off this merchandise with yet more outlandish claims that the clothes were “purchased legitly from a J.C. Penney wholesaler”. I admit, I did eventually cave to their sales pitch, forking over $20 for a shirt they touted as one of the more highly-coveted garments in their collection. I hastily agreed to the transaction after Glock brandished his gun and waved it near my face. He maintained he was simply using it to shoo away the “bitch-ass flies” buzzing around outside, but I have my doubts. In the end I came away with a severe bout of buyer’s remorse. Truthfully, it was the baby blue FUBU jersey I was lusting after, but since I’d always been woke and avoided cultural appropriation, I instead settled for an orange Rocawear shirt. The brothers were correct, however, as it did prove to be a highly-coveted garment, but only to the dust bunnies who ravaged it for the next year on the floor of my closet.
Obviously, an audit of Smokey and Glock’s internal GPS systems wasn’t necessary to determine they obeyed one too many detour signs on their meandering tour of life. In no way am I a condescending prick, but when you’re over a decade removed from 12th grade and find yourself 450 miles from home while getting stoned to prep for an amateur athletic event for which you aren’t even technically eligible, then you might need to reassess your priorities in life. But before I went too far down this road of condemnation, I realized a more sensitive perspective may be in order. After all, the brothers were each a P.O.C., which for the better part of forever was an acronym widely known to mean one of two things: Point of Contact or Piece of Crap, depending on the context of the situation (the stars aligned if your Point of Contact was a real Piece of Crap). But it has earned a new interpretation in recent years, now meaning Person of Color, not to be confused with the much maligned Colored Person, which we can all agree is a highly offensive arrangement of words.
Just like the brothers, I too was a card-carrying P.O.C., which meant we were marginalized entities, or those who are said to live on the margins of society in a sort of imaginary slum. But not every P.O.C. is created equal, meaning some have more color than others, and thus are more marginalized than others. The brothers, with their concentrated melanin and poverty-stricken upbringing, were so marginalized that they were barred from joining me in the margins of society’s metaphorical notebook, where I kept company with raunchy doodles and other mindless fare, far from where America’s upper crust read Shakespearean sonnets down the middle of the page while walled off from the filthy margins.
The brothers, along with pockets of the post-industrial Rust Belt from which they sprouted, had been erased from the margins by a Knowledge Economy which had no use for them. Considering these circumstances, it’s a wonder anyone in their situation could transform themselves into non-marginalized entities. The obstacles are many, including single-mother households, out-of-wedlock childbirth, the idiotic War on Drugs, gang-banging (a direct result of the War on Drugs), NAFTA, deindustrialization, skyrocketing healthcare costs, insufficient public transit, crumbling infrastructure, urban sprawl, the advertising industry, a lack of financial literacy, poor food choices, victim mentality, and just good old fashioned laziness. Not even a 1-on-1 consultation with Tony Robbins could rescue Smokey and Glock from these conditions.
Although heartbreaking, I found solace in their one saving grace. If my eyes weren’t deceiving me, I could conclude with a high degree of certainty that neither Smokey, nor Glock, identified as gender nonconforming. If they had, it would have meant dire prospects for the already prospectless brothers, plunging them from zero prospects into negative prospect territory. Why such severe consequences, you may wonder? Because according to gender studies wonks, no cohort is more marginalized than the Gender Nonconformists of America. But make no mistake, these aren’t your daddy’s nonconformists. These neo-nonconformists aren’t ditching class to smoke, cuss, and line their crush’s neck with hickeys. No sir, they’re trading in those juvenile pursuits for what some view as a quest for the ages. They’re giving the proverbial middle finger to biology herself and her outdated two-gender nonsense. And their crisis of identity shouldn’t be misconstrued as a fleeting moment of curiosity, much like little Junior playing dress-up after discovering his mother’s lingerie drawer. Rather, the fearless devotees of this movement are in it for the long haul.
This federation of nonconformists is comprised of a number of closely-aligned factions, including the Agenders, Androgynes, Demigenders, Femmes, Gender Fluids, Gender Neutrals (good luck getting them to pick between Chinese and Mexican for dinner!), Gender Vagues, Gender Voids (prohibited in Alaska and Hawaii), Hijras (India’s answer to the Thai Ladyboy), Nonbinaries (the physics enthusiasts who invented Quantum Gender Theory and hold membership in the Particles for Justice society), Polygenders, Pangenders (girlish boys who refuse to grow up), Transfeminines, Transgenders, TransJenners (former macho-men who trade in their cross-trainers for a stunning pair of stilettos), Transsexuals (found in large numbers on PornHub), Transvestites (a once robust group that’s been absorbed into the Transgenders, the more politically powerful bloc), and last but certainly not least, the X-Genders, who have an appreciation for flannel shirts, Doc Martens, and Grunge music. These are merely off the top of my head and don’t come close to encompassing all 116 sub-categories within the gender nonconforming community, but it’s a good primer if you’re interested in further exploring the topic.
Society often puzzles over the origins of this gender confusion. Was it the hormones in the dairy, or perhaps the pesticides spawned by the Green Revolution? It was possible these chemical compounds, after taking up residence in our bloodstreams, unintentionally flipped the switch on a mischievous gender nonconforming gene — or genie, which had been lying dormant in our species for — oh, I don’t know, a quarter of a million years? But then the pesticide theory wouldn’t explain the movement’s early adopters, such as Billy the Kid, whose exploits as a transvestite prostitute never quite eclipsed his reputation as a bank-robbing gunslinger — or famed Kansas aviatrix Amelia Earhart, whose masculine essence aligned with her maniacal obsession to traverse the globe by air (I expect to get lots of push-back here from the lobotomized losers at the Flat Earth Society). These two gender nonconforming trailblazers’ diets were free of GMOs and other harmful additives. So what gives? The culprit, it appears, is reincarnation, as our modern day nonconformists are simply tapping into their past lives as the opposite sex. That’s the most likely explanation when considering the 00.6% of the population who claims to be afflicted with this dysphoria. However, some psychologists have posited that a substantial share of these self-described gender nonconformists are just narcissistic attention whores, but that’s a very problematic stance to take and one I vehemently condemn.
* * *
I’d like to refocus your attention once again on room 915 at the Marriott Hotel, where our first order of business was underway — the sharing of the peace pipe, or more accurately, a Swisher Sweet cigar that had been stripped of its tobacco and replaced with marijuana. In urban parlance, this modified smoking device is known as a blunt. But while everyone else savored their turn with the blunt, I was awash in dread, hoping someone would flush it down the toilet, a scenario as likely to occur as finding out the hyper-marginalized brothers graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School. In other words, this blunt wasn’t going anywhere.
My eagerness for its annihilation may sound bizarre, but I wasn’t particularly thrilled about smoking marijuana, given that our game was tipping off in less than an hour. I’d smoked at least a handful of times prior to this point, but every one of these occasions found me firmly molded to a couch cushion while coated in puppy chow dust. Being held hostage by incessant laughter while stuffing my face with treats didn’t require any athleticism or hand-eye coordination. It didn’t even require the use of my lower extremities. Our impending basketball game, however, would demand all of these faculties, a thought which nearly sent me into a panic attack.
As the blunt worked its way toward me, I made a point of not disclosing my anxiety — nor my B-average university credentials — to our new teammates, for fear that my tough guy persona would be exposed as totally fraudulent, which it was. So when Carlos passed me the blunt, I played it cool and sucked down a huge toke, keeping it buried in my lungs for a good ten seconds while pretending this was an intrinsic part of my morning routine. BAD FUCKING IDEA. This highly potent strain of weed was straight out of a 1950’s anti-marijuana propaganda film. Less than a minute later I was fully incapacitated, and the timing couldn’t have been worse, as everyone was now ready to head to the rec center for our game. Luckily, Carlos was kind enough to ferry me down the hallway and into the elevator where I finally regained the use of my legs.
On the ride down, these crooks came clean about how they ended up on our team. As I suspected, the little chief was to blame. He had promised Jules he would find a couple Mexican look-alikes from Haskell, but for reasons unknown, he decided to go rogue, inviting his deadbeat friend from Oklahoma — that would be Trevor. Trevor then extended an invite to Smokey and Glock, who were either unaware this was a Mexican tournament or simply dismissed the notion that their presence (and racial impurities) might not be appreciated by the event’s organizers. I of course didn’t mind them participating, since I’ve never been the type who sees color, but not everyone is as open-minded and progressive as me. You may be wondering, just like me, how an Indian from Oklahoma knew a couple brothers from East St. Louis in the first place. It’s a question I never asked, although an educated guess placed all three as low-level associates in the same narcotics distribution ring.
Back in my car and nearly comatose, I miraculously transported Carlos and the little chief across town to the rec center where our rag-tag team was set to tip off against perennial doormat, Oklahoma City Select. Contrary to what their name suggested, it was evident there was no selective criteria applied in assembling their roster, as they appeared high and shamefully out of shape. Three minutes before the game, half their team was devouring a fresh batch of breakfast burritos in the rec center kitchen while the others missed badly on a round of half court hook shots. Their teal-colored uniforms were perhaps the only justification for their presence in this tournament, but it was their matching Air Jordan 11 sneakers which dazzled onlookers as they strutted onto the court for the opening tip, still wheezing from their pregame activities in the kitchen.
Needless to say, these selectable ones were no more intimidating than a platter of greasy sopapillas, yet I still campaigned for my rightful place as the sixth man in our rotation. It wasn’t a calculated strategy, but a simple recognition of my struggle to keep my 5’10” frame perpendicular to the floor. I decided I would sleep off my intoxication on the bench, while praying the starting five had Lance Armstrong-caliber stamina. Surely by the second half I could string together a few dribbles — maybe even bank in a three. But my grand plans were dashed a mere two minutes into the game when Trevor angrily demanded a breather. He was heaving and very red-faced — well, more so than usual anyway. As I ignored his cries for mercy, Carlos attempted to drag me onto the court, assuring me I still belonged out there, regardless of whether I was stoned off my ass. He became nostalgic, reminding me of the time a local newspaper hyped me up as “the best three-point shooter in Kansas” before my senior season in high school, which was a blatant lie when it was published and only made my season-long shooting slump that much more humiliating. It was true enough, however, that I was one of the premier free-throw shooters in the region and would have garnered Division 1 interest had I come of age when slow white boys still dominated the game — say, sometime during the Truman administration.
In the end I decided to shuffle into the game, mainly to assist with retrieving Trevor from midcourt where he was experiencing violent convulsions while vomiting up the three screwdrivers he had for breakfast. After dragging him to the bench, I quickly found my presence on the court to be irrelevant. It turned out that Smokey and Glock, although unable to pass for Mexicans, had no problem passing for AND1 Streetballers. Their 360 dunks, NBA-range threes, and fluency in American shit-talking made quick work of Oklahoma City Select. Final score: 97–9. That afternoon’s next two games brought similar success, which meant we wrapped up a spot in Sunday’s title game. The brothers’ pregame blunts and above-the-rim acrobatics finally gave substance to our team name — the High Flyers. Adopting their brashness and flair was hard to resist. Even my average point total for the day, a paltry 2.3 per game, didn’t hinder the confident bounce in my step, as I felt I could lift into the clouds at any moment.
* * *
No longer having use for my hand-eye coordination, I was eager to partake in the joint Carlos had packed in his lunch cooler, which also contained Capri Suns and an additional couple grams of weed just in case we needed it. As we sparked the joint in the rec center parking lot, OKC Select’s most fashionable player was skipping by when his flared nostrils detected the aroma. He promptly beelined it for our joint like a bloodhound prancing toward a headless cartel victim in the Sonoran desert. With glee in his eyes, he informed us that he too was a fan of “the good”, which I assumed to be a slang term for marijuana. After Carlos offered him a hit, he proceeded to slobber all over it while distracting us with flattery.
“Awesome game, carnal!…
Y’all both had forty points, right?!…
Your Nike Air Force Ones are sooooooo fly!…
You guys remind me of Ricky Martin. Qué guapo!…
I bet the ladies love your pimp juice!…
You’re not gay, right? Or are you? Not that I care, I’m just curious…
Are you curious about me at all? No homo! Haha, just kiddin’!”
I found his homophobic slurs to be quite distasteful, to say the least. He obviously didn’t know I was an ally of the LGBTQ community and that I had a dear friend who was partial to the lifestyle, particularly after she ingested several shots of tequila. On the rare occasion that she refrained from indulging her lesbian impulses, it was only due to her irrational fear that her deceased grandmother might be eavesdropping on her — at a noisy nightclub at 1 a.m., no less! A truly enlightened grandmother, if she were still up at that ungodly hour, would be proud that her granddaughter was discarding patriarchal expectations while taking ownership of her sexual agency. What could be more rewarding than looking down from Heaven to watch her granddaughter pursue the life that she herself merely flirted with ages and ages ago, back in the good old days of 1946 when she was an unblemished debutante playing a game of under-the-table footsie with the sultry divorcée at her Friday evening supper club?
Anyway, while exploiting our vanity, this joker siphoned half the joint through his bronchial tubes. It was only after his homophobic remarks that we awoke to his tactics and snagged the joint from his dainty hands. We bolted from the scene, but he would prove hard to shake, as he made a second surprise appearance at a nearby filling station. I was pumping gas when he crept up behind me and whispered his admiration for our “fine-ass weed”. He then shifted to discussing his plans for the night, which centered around a visit to Old Town, Wichita’s best attempt at a nightlife scene. Apparently every Mexican in this tournament would be converging on the bar district, hoping against all odds that it would accommodate the competing agendas we had planned for our genitalia. Were there enough White Trash Tammy Lynns to fulfill our needs? In a proud, working class town like Wichita, no doubt there was. But would they all venture out from their mobile home estates to provide each of us with companionship? Highly unlikely. So in preparation for the limited options, I decided I would hang close to the Smokey and Glock, if only to subconsciously convey to the ladies that I too was well-endowed like the brothers. Not that I had solid proof that they carried big bats to the plate, but I figured it was a sound assumption.
Unfortunately I had to postpone my blueprints for getting laid, as I’d grown weary of Mr. OKC Select’s conniving small talk. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when he wondered aloud where we might find a male-only go-go dancing bar in metro Wichita. He didn’t even give me time to respond before demanding to see the joint I was hiding in my shorts. No wonder he had been so handsy on defense during the game; obviously he was frisking me for weed. So I began plotting my escape. When Carlos returned with Twizzlers and Swisher Sweet cigars, I waited until all his limbs were inside the vehicle before exclaiming, “Holy fucking shit!”, while pointing off in the distance at a phantom Boeing 747 nose-diving into a nearby Catholic church, which happened to be packed to the gills for a First Holy Communion Mass in celebration of 60+ joyful second-graders. The boy took the bait, demonstrating his most fabulous Brian Boitana impersonation by twirling around and scanning the horizon for the bogus happenings. With his back turned, I lunged into the car and sped away. Luckily the few Twizzlers sucked from Carlos’s hand out the sunroof appeared to be the only casualties from the sudden change in g-forces.
I blew through at least three red lights and didn’t stop until we arrived safe and sound at the Howard Johnson hotel, where our reservation awaited. The room would provide the basic necessities for the night — a couple semen-stained beds, a bar of gently used soap, and a scattering of dust-covered bush clippings behind the toilet which had found the maid’s blind spot for several months. The claim to fame for this particular HoJo was its absurd proximity to the airport runway, situated as close as FAA regulations would permit. But for $24.95/night, it was a steal, even when accounting for the 3.2 magnitude earthquakes spawned by the airliners thundering overhead. In fact, we welcomed the tremors, which were an unheard of phenomena in this part of the country. Like a grouchy old spouse, the tornado was old hat around here (just ask the residents of Andover), so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the earthquake was the real object of our desire — the one that made our hearts flutter and our palms sweat. You could bet any native Kansan who denied wanting to experience a significant seismic event at least once in their life, was a liar and not to be trusted. But as fate would have it, our collective yearning for this forbidden fruit was fulfilled in the mid-aughts when the fracking industry set up shop in the region. For better or worse, its destructive externalities turned the once rare earthquake into a weekly nuisance along the state’s southern border. So the moral of the story, kids, is be careful which natural disasters you wish for — they might just come true!
After arriving at the HoJo, I was relieved I no longer had to contend with that thieving parasite from Oklahoma City, but as I exited the car I discovered our getaway wasn’t so clean. No, his severed arms weren’t dangling from the rear bumper. Instead, I found the gas nozzle had somehow hitched a ride with us without either of us noticing. Being the environmental steward that I am, I took it upon myself to dispose of the nozzle in the most responsible manner possible. So I marched toward the algae-plagued hotel swimming pool, figuring it was the optimal hiding place for the evidence. Unfortunately, we came upon a half dozen mulatto children splashing around in the stagnant waters while their expectant mother sunbathed topless nearby. She didn’t appear the least bit concerned with their antics, nor the high likelihood that lethal brain-eating amoebas could be swimming up their nasal passages. She was busy alternating her thin lips between a Newport cigarette and Coors Light tallboy while her breasts simmered under the sun’s relentless gaze. As someone who despises body-shaming, especially when it comes to the female body, I of course had no complaints with her flat chest and the small baby bump poking skyward. I’m more of a leg man anyway, which appeared to be her most compelling assets from afar. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before she was using them to communicate her interest, rubbing baby oil from hip to toe, before sliding her hand between her glistening thighs. But being the antithesis of a creep, I ignored her desperate pleas for attention and reared back to toss the gas nozzle into the deep end of the pool, which of course was devoid of children. Thankfully, Carlos, who still had his wits about him, grabbed my arm and urged me to pursue a less confrontational option. So we made our way to the rear of the hotel, where I flung the nozzle over a fence onto airport property. As it crashed onto the pavement, I felt a weight lifted from my shoulders. Bygones are bygones, I reminded myself as I stumbled back into the hotel, so let them be.
* * *
Our beloved fireball crept below the horizon as we oscillated down the freeway toward the Marriott Hotel, where room 915 would reveal her final surprise. While I battled the steering wheel for control of our fate, Carlos twisted the dial on the stereo, amplifying Pimps, a 1993 ballad by Memphis rap duo Eightball & MJG. The journey across town allowed our tummies to recover from the extra large blunt we smoked and the even larger dogshit pizza we regrettably inhaled as a result. Getting it delivered to our room had proven to be a tall order, considering my vegetative state. Carlos showered, leaving me to thumb through the phone book in search of pizza. But grappling with paranoia and an inability to focus, it took me at least three minutes to determine whether the letter ‘P’ did in fact follow ‘O’ in the alphabet, a fact not evident even to the soberest of minds. After phoning a local pizzeria, the hardest part came when they challenged me to choose my toppings. My current state of mind wasn’t suited for the barrage of possibilities, so I kept it simple — pepperoni. I wasn’t in the mood to fulfill Carlos’s complex request for extra cheese, sausage, pineapple, or whatever the fuck he hollered out from the shower. So he would just have to eat the goddamned pepperoni and deal with whatever discontent ensued, including diarrhea — a consequence of shoving the slices of undercooked dough down our throats before realizing they were slices of undercooked dough.
With our digestive tracts on the mend, we floated into room 915 at the Marriott, where we were greeted by an extra face. There was something oddly familiar about her seductive grin, slender legs, and baby bump, but it was her signature Coors Light tallboy in hand that confirmed her identity as the HoJo girl who had been leering at us. I thought I must be hallucinating, but if not, then where were her kids? Presumably still festering in that giant Petri dish. The ease with which she mingled made it clear from the jump that she too was a member of this team of drug mules with whom we were consorting, which meant the DEA would surely be kicking down the door at any moment. I figured we better get a move on to Old Town if we planned on eluding the Feds, but nobody seemed in a hurry. In fact, Smokey was serving up Hennessy as Snoop Doggy Dogg’s Lodi Dodi set the mood from the boombox. The sharing of the cocktails seemed like the perfect time to congratulate my teammates on the day’s hard-fought victories, so I raised my cup and proposed a toast to “team basketball”, which for some reason garnered a round of gut-busting laughs, even from Miss HoJo. Embarrassed, I attempted to hide my face at the bottom of my cup. But that only added insult to injury, as their liqueur of choice did no favors for my stomach — although chugging it probably wasn’t a smart decision in hindsight.
It wasn’t long before the alcohol lowered my inhibitions for the first time that day, allowing me to strike up a conversation with Miss HoJo, who disclosed that she was 27 — before adding that 27 was the new 17. She mentioned she was in town from Dallas, which I assumed meant she was the southern leg of the drug-running relay team. She perked up after I feigned concern for her children and asked about their whereabouts, but she assured me they were plenty old enough to babysit themselves and that she‘d trust them until they gave her a reason not to. I guess she was one of those free-range parents, which was refreshing to hear. I told her as much, lauding her for her radical approach to motherhood and for not falling into the trap of helicopter parenting like all the other middle class stiffs out there. She giggled and thanked me for the kind words, briefly touching my knee in a manner that one might interpret as a sign of sexual interest. She playfully asked if I was looking for a date, but I told her upfront I didn’t have much time for dating since I was so consumed with my undergraduate studies. She asked what undergraduate meant, and I explained it was just a fancy word for college.
I grew tired of the small talk, so I figured I’d cut to the chase and ask her name. Turns out, Donna was her name. She certainly looked like a Donna, with her sandy hair, blue eyes, and mousy features. Judging by her flirtatious nature and the fact she’d been knocked up six times by now, I assumed at least one of us was getting laid tonight — maybe two if she was ovulating. So leveraging my boyish charm, I inquired about where she stood in her menstrual cycle. To my shock, she responded by slapping me in the face and insisting that “pregnant women don’t get their period, you fucking dumb-ass!” Then she stormed off into Glock’s waiting arms, sobbing into his wife-beater while he rolled his eyes over her shoulder, his way of reassuring me this wasn’t the first time she had become hysterical over an innocent question. Through her tears, she muttered something into his chest about how she was “tired of you guys using me to make money!”, whatever that meant. Maybe she had grown weary of driving from Dallas with a trunk full of cocaine — especially with a bunch of noisy kids in the backseat. I’d be totally annoyed too!
I watched longingly as Donna and Glock’s warm embrace gave way to a steamy make-out session, culminating with Glock grabbing her by the vagina — a shocking development considering our presence in the room. It was the last thing I remembered until waking up in the bathtub in a cold sweat. I wasn’t sure how long I’d been there — it could’ve been hours. I immediately ran my hand over my abdomen and lower back, making sure I hadn’t been robbed of my most vital organs. Everything checked out, but I still felt like a puddle of vomit and realized the ship had sailed on going to Old Town, along with it my chances at getting laid. It was a sobering realization, to be honest.
But my pity party was short-lived, interrupted by the sweet vocals of none other than R. Kelly. I thought it odd to hear his voice, as the brothers had been blasting nothing but gangster rap all day. Perhaps they were looking to wind down the evening with a more tenderhearted selection of music. Their song of choice was Ignition (Remix), the hit single from the R&B singer’s recently released album Chocolate Factory. It occurred to me that the song had been on repeat for several iterations, not surprising given its catchy nature — perhaps the catchiest tune I’d heard all year. As it transitioned to the second verse, it was accompanied by a chorus of moans, but these weren’t Mr. Kelly’s sensual grunts; it was something entirely different — something bordering on obscene.
I staggered from the tub, crawling on my hands and knees to investigate. Cracking open the bathroom door, the first thing I saw were Glock’s Timberland boots rocking back and forth near the foot of the bed. To be completely transparent, I’d been consumed with envy every time I laid eyes on the boots. There was something aesthetically pleasing about the sharp contrast between the beige boot and Glock’s dark skin, something I knew wouldn’t translate so well to my own leg. But with a crisp pair of dark-washed denim shorts — and after a decent summer tan, I might just be able to pull off the look.
From the boots, my eyes ran up his legs to behold what might’ve been the most disturbing sight of the weekend. Glock was naked (other than the boots), sweating profusely, and thrusting away on Donna’s pasty derriere. All the while, a naked Smokey was sitting on the bed in front of her, having vaginal intercourse with her as she straddled him — all three organizing themselves into a hedonistic seesaw with Donna as the fulcrum. I’m not sure they could’ve picked a more suitable soundtrack for this spellbinding occasion, as Donna resembled a helpless pastry being double-stuffed with mousse on a chocolate factory assembly line. When I finally picked my jaw off the floor, I quietly retreated to the bathroom where I played dead for the remainder of the night. Moments after re-establishing myself in the tub, I heard the brothers howl out in unison, “Oh Donna! — Ohh Donna! — Ohhh Donna! — Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh Donna!” And then silence.
Over the next few minutes, all three came and went to relieve themselves inches from my face, but the occasional urine bubble bouncing from the toilet onto my cheek couldn’t distract me from my anxious thoughts. You see, I was worried Donna had been caught up in what we would now define as a #MeToo moment. I didn’t relinquish this theory until a decade later when I viewed Lars von Trier’s film noir masterpiece, Nymphomaniac. With the help of this film, I finally understood that Donna wasn’t a passive victim, but an eager participant in a ménage à trois — à la Charlotte Gainsbourg in her electrifying role as the film’s insatiable protagonist. Donna’s night in room 915 drew comparisons to one scene in particular, when Charlotte’s character, Joe, enacts a nearly identical threesome with two men who possessed an uncanny resemblance to Smokey and Glock. Nymphomaniac (the director’s cut) is a must-see for art house film snobs and sexually frustrated soccer moms alike, but if you’re on the fence about it due to a lack of A-list star power, worry not. You’ll be pleased to know the picture is buttressed by the always hilarious Christian Slater, best known for his Oscar-worthy performance as pirate radio disc jockey Happy Harry Hard-On in 1990’s cult classic Pump Up the Volume. Not to be outdone, Shia LaBeouf brings his unrivaled acting chops to the film, pushing his artistic boundaries by portraying a white man, curiously enough, named Jerome. That Nymphomaniac didn’t even garner a best picture nomination is a real travesty, reminiscent of the Academy’s egregious snubbing of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing.
So it seems nothing could prevent Donna from unleashing her passion, not even the bundle of joy blossoming in her womb. I still think of that poor fetus to this day, wondering if being vacuumed from its mother’s uterus directly into a trash bin might’ve been preferable to the punishment it withstood that night, as it was poked, prodded, and jostled about with Donna in a sweaty sex sandwich book-ended by the long-cocked brothers. Visualize bologna and mayo squished between soggy slices of pumpernickel bread, and I bet you’ll never eat that again!
* * *
I made it back to the Howard Johnson around dawn, where I found Carlos fast asleep. He would later provide a recap of his Old Town adventures where he and the Indians spent their night mingling with not one, but seven Tammy Lynns, who showed their Wichita hospitality by paying for their drinks all night. Just great, I thought, just fucking great. How very blessed they were to have been met with such fortuitous circumstances. I really was happy for them, but I didn’t want to hear anymore of these goddamned details, because I’d made a concerted effort at that precise moment to stop living in the past and start focusing on future goals, particularly our main goal for the weekend — winning the 2003 Wichita Chicano Classic, which as previously stated, championed a policy of diversity and inclusion — what many would consider admirable objectives. But as they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, a lesson we were about to learn firsthand.
It should be noted that these tournaments left 99% of the disciplinary decisions in the hands of the lone referee on duty, who was usually more interested in the complimentary post-game burritos than calling a flawless game. But there was one responsibility, what I refer to as the Racial Eye Test, which was handled solely by the tournament’s chairman. He was the racial gatekeeper, so to speak, who had full authority to disqualify any player on the spot if a player fell into both of the following categories: