A while ago, when I was a much wilder and uncivilized version of the gentleman scholar that I am today, I found myself stranded in Lima, Peru for two weeks. I’m not particularly sure how or why, because Lima is not by any measure a particularly interesting or beautiful city, but hey, there it is.
I found myself a hostel in one of the nicer parts of town. Breakfast was included in the price and the hostel had a rooftop patio and clean sheets. The breakfast was fresh fruit, fresh juice and freshly baked bread served with jam and butter. The rooftop patio had a view of the street. There were potted plants that kept it cool, awnings for shade, couches and speakers that played smoothly streaming reggae music off the Internet 24 hours a day. Oh yeah, baby.
The owner and I became good friends. He was a big, 20-something bearded fellow with long, curly black hair and a goofy grin. He had set up the hostel a few years earlier with money loaned from his grandfather, a successful Peruvian industrialist. His friends had nicknamed him “El Mono,” or “The Monkey.” El Mono spent his days smoking reefer, drinking beer and scheming on all the college girls who came through his hostel. We got along just fine.
Yeah, The Monkey and I had ourselves a pretty good time. We’d spend the day blowing dope, drinking cheap Peruvian beer and barbecuing on the roof with all the cute blonde girls from the Midwest who had never been out of the country before. He’d play the tall, dark, broken-English-speaking foreigner card and I’d play the worldly — yet aged only 18 years — adventurer card. Charming.
Then the sun would fall. The college girls would usually end up asleep in bed around 2 a.m., either loved-out or danced-out or just plain tuckered-out. But we were just warming up, fueled by a dangerous combination of youth and joie de vivre. That and the soft, slightly pink, unbelievably pure cocaine that was just about everywhere.
There’s something to be said for racing around city streets drunker than Caligula from club to club to party in a souped-up ‘94 Fiat with half a six pack in your lap and two more in the back seat, tossing empty cans out the window, blasting Tupac and Biggie Smalls, only stopping at red lights to use the car keys to do a bump, $100 American in bribes sticking out of your front pocket, just in case the police pull you over for speeding and swerving and just generally being a menace. Occasionally, it’s nice to go to bed a free man.
Soon enough, though, it was time to leave Lima and fly to Santiago. I’d met a curvy Chilean girl backpacking in the jungle a few weeks earlier and she’d invited me to spend some time with her in Chile. Keeping cute girls waiting is just not my style.
Yeah, it was time to go. So there I am waiting in the security line in the airport, hungover in a bad way and about three people back in line, when a faint memory penetrated my foggy brain. Instantly, my hangover was gone. See, what I had forgotten in my drunken stupor was the little makeshift paper envelope containing the two grams of uncut Peruvian that was sitting in the pocket of the pants I’d been wearing two nights before, neatly packed into my carry-on bag. Oh shit.
Oh shit is right. Now I’d imagine how I felt right at that moment is just about how all those graduating seniors feel right about now. Those emotions, the excitement of the next step, the elation of past victories and accomplishments, combined with the sobering terror of the future — that’s what it might feel like to graduate.
These past four years — they’ve been good ones. There’s been laid-back chilling. There’s been debauchery. Friends were made. Sex was had. Hard work was done. Complicated scholastic thinking got thought. Chemists chem-ed, mathematicians math-ed and enough cheap beer was drunk to last a lifetime. But, it’s time to leave. The curvy Chilean lure of the future beckons and damn if it ain’t enticing. It’s scary, though. The airport security guards of life might not let you on the plane you were planning on taking. You might be underprepared for the trip. Hell, you may have even slipped up and mispacked the carry-on bag of life. Either way, it doesn’t really matter.
Ultimately, there’s only one thing to do. Take a deep breath, place those balls gently on the wall, send your bag on down the x-ray machine and step through that metal detector. Good luck.
Daily Nexus drinking columnist Chris Benham suspiciously did not include whether they found his cocaine or not.