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Pablo

This story is entirely true . I wouldn’t make up something like this, and I pity people that do.

My therapist tapped her pen impatiently. This wasn’t going anywhere. Like all of the women in my life, it was time for her to be cold and direct; no more bullshit. Her tone became blunt and professional as she rattled down her list.

“You say you often look over your shoulder.”
“Yeah, I’m from Miami.”
“You say that as if it means something.”
“It does. I’m careful, you know.”
“You said before that you were never the victim of violence yourself.”
“No, but I look out for things.”
“Do you ever imagine that violence is about to happen?”
“No, I’m not paranoid, if that’s what you mean.”
“Do you ever run up stairs or sit with your back to the wall?”
“Sure, all the time. Why, is that a problem?”
“How do you feel about it?”
“I dunno. I don’t feel anything.”
“I get the feeling there’s something you aren’t telling me.”
“No, not really. I mean, a lot of things went down.”
“What things?”
“People … you know. People do stupid stuff.”
“How do you feel when you think about this?”
“I … I really don’t feel anything.”
“I think you have all the symptoms of Post Tramatic Stress Disorder.”
“Me? I’m a white boy from the suburbs.”
“Before you were from Miami.”
“The suburbs of Miami. You know.”
“I think you have a story to tell me.”
“I have a lot of stories to tell.”
“Tell me one.”
“Well … there’s one that, I dunno, I guess I’ve never told anyone before …”

“I was driving home from my girlfriend Robin’s house late in the day. At least I think that’s what I was doing, I don’t know how I got over where I remember this happening. I think it was in October or November of 1982, I can’t remember. Anyways, I think it was on 124th Street just before I came to the light at 77th Avenue. I could see there was disco up ahead, two cop cars with their red and blue lights flashing. I slowed my VW Beetle “Max” because I had no idea what was going down.

As I got closer, the first thing that I saw was that the lights were bouncing off of everything. The whole moment was red and blue light, coming from every direction. There was a magical stillness in the air as this light hung in it, sparkling not in a warning of danger that a cop car disco should suggest. This light had a presence of its own, and it was inviting. I had to see what had happened.

I drove slowly up to where the one car was parked across the street, but I could still see what had happened. There was a white car at the light naked without its glass and scarred with grey bullet holes. The reflection came from glass, tiny shards scattered everywhere on the street and in the yards and possibly still hanging in the air. The cops were still arriving; this moment was still fresh.

After I understood the quality of the air and the shattered hulk of a car, only then could I focus on what really went down. I first noticed the driver’s side, where an ooze of blood had painted the side of the door. Sometimes I remember the driver’s arm sticking out the side, sometimes it was only the thick, dark top of his head. The slow motion of the cops let me know that there weren’t any survivors. I knew what happened.

This was another battle in the Drug War, an epic turf battle played out in Miami at this time. The Medellin Cartel, headed by Pablo Escobar, was executing members of the rival gang from Cali. Their weapon of choice was the Ingraham Mac-10, a semi-automatic pistol that can be purchased legally without trouble. When the back of the sear or locking mechanism is filed down, however, it quickly converts to a fully automatic machine gun. The difference is that it doesn’t stop when you let go of the trigger – it keeps firing until you run out of ammo. This is called “Point and Squirt”, and the victims of such an attack have been “Hosed”. You pull up behind someone at a stoplight, hose them, and leave the guns behind to show the cops you don’t care; that’s a straight up Medellin execution.

As if recalling a memory not yet made, I gradually became able to see the details of the scene clearly. That’s when I could focus on the scene near the side of the road. The passenger in this doomed car had, for some reason, gotten out and left the door hanging limp and open. He made it to the back of the vehicle and lay there face down in his own blood.

There are gallons of blood bottled up inside a human, and once gunned down with 20-30 9mm rounds it all spilled out. It wasn’t until I understood what happened that I could see it, however. Once it hit the hot pavement, it changed in both color and form. It took on a bright pink color, made all the more vivid in the sparkling disco light. It also started to bubble and foam as if it were nothing more than bubble gum draining all over the street. A man’s whole being had been spilled and yet it looked nothing more than surreal. There was nothing there to make sense of, even less so as I understood what I was looking at.

Why was this man out there? Why did he leave the car? Did he try to surrender? Was this a last desperate attempt to escape? I will never know. All I can tell you is that when his life was wrenched from his body and dumped onto 124th St it changed into something far removed from the desperation that brought it there. It was inert and almost cheerful, as if to mock the fact that he ever existed.

I remember reading in the paper that the victims were both Colombian. The rest of the details escaped me because the cold black and white of the Herald made about as much sense as the bubble gum pink. At some point, I started to remember his name as “Pablo” for reasons I can’t be sure of. Perhaps that was his name, but I think that I started to imagine that it was Pablo Escobar himself face down the bubble gum while the disco party played. That would have been a kind of justice if the one who ordered the executions had been there. But he wasn’t.

I made my way to the right, where the cops were directing me. This all took place in a few seconds, just a few frames of my memory. It happened as though this was my own life flashing in front of my own eyes. It was over, but I had only started to try to make sense of it. In fact, I never have.”

My therapist looked at me as though I was the bravest person she had ever seen. All it took for that look was to drive past a fairly routine drug execution and somehow decide to finally tell someone about it 21 years later. It doesn’t seem like much to me. Then again, I somehow neglected to tell this story all that time.

I had my own small ways of remembering it, though. When I bought a Mustang with a V8 and a horrible temperament, I was wondering what I’d name it; I named all my cars. In a parking lot one day I gunned the magnificent engine and the back end came loose, fishtailing me around like a carnival ride. I came to rest, rather gently, on a guard rail, and a quick inspection showed that the only damage was a small amount of paint missing on the passenger side rear. Realizing that this car could kill me, I drove off knowing that it would be named “Pablo”, gently dinged where Pablo rendered his gore.

If anyone ever asked, however, I told them it was after the mercurial saxophonist in Hesse’s “Steppenwolf”. There’s always cover for a story you don’t want to tell. You have to believe me on this because I have a lot of stories I really don’t want to tell.

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