This is Tijuana today. The streets have been paved and the streetlights are much brighter than when Phillip and I went there. Imagine what it was like 45 years ago when Phillip was beaten and robbed.
When I stepped into the street the city had transformed itself from when we had entered. It was now lit up in a sinister kind of way and only about a block down on the left was the brightest building of all calling itself The Palace. “How could anyplace in this hell hole call itself a palace,” I questioned. I looked at my watch. It was nearing 9:30 PM. Still early. I decided to check out this so called palace while I waited for Phillip to get over the romance he was having.
Inside the palace I was pleasantly surprised. Probably a thousand people or more were cheering athletes with long baskets strapped to their hands playing a game that reminded me of handball except the ball traveled at over 140 miles per hour according to the program when flung against the wall with huge momentum gained from the length of these baskets. To make it even more exciting the crowd was wagering on each event the same as wagering is done on horse racing in the United States. You could place a bet on any player to win, place or show.
Always ready to gamble I stepped up to the window and started putting my Navy paycheck on the line on the very next event . . . and for the following three events after that. The results were about the same as if I had stayed at the cantina. I lost about the same amount of money as I would have given Mable. The memory however was not going to include the smell of the dead dog and at least the thrill had lasted about an hour and a half which made me think about Phillip and wonder if his romance with Maria was finally over. I left the palace and made my way back to the cantina.
I stepped inside and a crowd of probably 20 people had now congregated inside, but Phillip was not to be seen. “Perhaps he is upstairs,” I thought. Maria was not in the crowd. Neither was Mable. I asked the bartender if he had seen Phillip. He could tell by my gestures what I was asking and pointed to door and said “Amigo”. Even with my limited understanding of Spanish I knew he was saying my friend had exited through the door. “Damnit Phillip”, I thought. “You wouldn’t go when I wanted you to go and now you have left on your own.”
I tried to put myself in Phillip’s shoes and decide if he was looking for me or had returned on his own to the base without me. It wasn’t even midnight yet so the latter seemed unlikely. I decided he was probably looking for me so I went back outside and started making my way down the street sticking my head inside each cantina I came to. The main dirt road was a few blocks long and I suppose they called it main street. After checking out at least 10 places equally as bad as the first place we had stopped I was at a loss what to do next. There were more cantinas on some back streets, but I wasn’t about to take off by myself onto a dark back street in this town at what was now nearing 1:00 AM. I didn’t think Phillip would either unless he was in the company of Maria and Mable . . . and then the thought hit me . . . that was a possibility. “Long, What have you gotten yourself into?”
I wasn’t worried about Maria, but if Mable had anything at all to do with this I suddenly felt Phillip could be in real danger. “Calm down, Webster,” I kept telling myself. “You are over reacting.”
I continued to walk around on the main street, staying in the middle of the street where I was plainly visible and hoping Phillip might see me. As I neared “dead dog” cantina again I asked the bartender if “See amigo?” and he shook his head “No”. I considered talking to one of the Mexican police who were to be seen here and there and i figured they might speak a little English, but then I thought, “What would I say to them?” And I wasn’t sure they were any more trust worthy than Mable. It was 2:00 AM and I thought “Phillip has to have gone back to the base without me.”
Confident I would find him when I got back to NTC I made my way down the dark dirt road we had walked up to get into to town earlier. It was daylight then. At two in the morning it was a lot worse than it was coming in. I was relieved to arrive at the border where they asked me if I was bringing anything back across. “No sir” and I was back on US soil.
Twenty minutes and I was getting out at the front gate of NTC, worried sick about Phillip, but also pissed at him because I had just had to lay out for the whole taxi fare. This month was going to be a long one. Over half my check was gone and only one day had passed since payday.
I showed my ID and entered the base and began walking to the dormitory. I thought how only hours ago we were walking the other direction thinking about all the fun we were getting ready to have. None of this would have happened if I hadn’t been such an immature kid on the way back from the submarine base two weeks ago. Phillip had never done anything I wouldn’t have done myself if given the same opportunities. I was just jealous and he was just trying to be a friend.
Then the thought hit me, “This wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t walked out on him again.” Inside my heart I was praying he would be in our room.
I soon arrived. I opened the door. Phillip wasn’t there.
- The Graduate was Hot! KOMA was King!
- In the Navy – We Want You as a New Recruit
- Basic Training – First Abandonment
- To the Girl Who Loved Me
- A Cantina in Mexico – Second Abandonment
- Vanished In Tijuana – Fear and Panic <- You are Here
- Phillip Needs Help – We Can’t Tell the Truth
- Thanksgiving Day – A Time for Healing
- The Captain’s Mast of Seaman Apprentice Webster
- Conclusion – Too Much Living to Do