I was traveling with a girlfriend in the south of France and we went down to Barcelona for a few days. I met a guy named Craig and he and I decided to go on to Africa while my friend went back to France. We crossed the Strait on a ferry and ended up in Ceuta, Spanish Morocco, at the northern tip of the African continent. (the red dot on the photo below) Spain still controls this city and has since 1580.
Craig was a smoker. I was not. He bought cigarettes over food and when I complained he told me cigarettes took the hunger away. And presto-chango I became a smoker. Thank God I quit, 12 years later.
Because Craig and I had little funds between us, we spent a few nights at youth hostels and then decided to sleep on the beach with a lot of the other tourists. I had a big leather bag that I’d bought in Paris. It had our passports, the top of my bikini, some silver jewelry I’d picked up in Spain and most of our money in it. The first night on the beach I had carefully dug a hollowed out space in the sand, laid the bag in it, covered it with a sweater and used it as my pillow. Craig and I went to sleep and the next thing I knew I was jostled awake. It took me a few seconds to realize the purse was gone.
Beach thieves are really smart. They wait until you’re moving in or out of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, the dream state, which is the deepest part of sleep. You know when you’re in a dream and there’s a car coming and you can’t move out of the way? It’s called Sleep Paralysis and it’s when the body is disconnected from the brain, leaving the body paralyzed. It occurs when you go in or out of REM and somehow these beach thieves know exactly when it happens. They lifted my head and stole the bag from under the sweater while my body remained immobilized. This also sometimes happens to me during sex. But I digress.
Craig and I went to the police and they put us on the first morning ferry back to Spain. And then we had to get to Seville, since that was the nearest consulate. We were in deep shit. With no papers, how were we going to get back into the U.S.? All I could think about was that I was the one in my family who always got into trouble and I was certainly going to hear about this for years to come. But I was also the only one in my family who had an interesting life since the rest of them were all chicken shits. Don't be a chicken shit with your life. You'll have nothing to talk about when you're in an old folks home drooling creamed corn down your bib.We arrived in Seville in the middle of the night and the consul was alone in this huge mansion that served as the consulate. If there were servants or a staff, we didn’t see them. The consul helped us get in touch with our parents. I have mercifully blocked out what my father said to me but I’m sure there were swear words involved.
“We can get you new papers, but you'll have to stay here a day or two until your backgrounds have been cleared to travel,” the consul said as he pulled out a joint, lit it and passed it to Craig.
The three of us took a few hits and within fifteen minutes I felt really sick. The kind of sick where you know something is really, really wrong. I went to the bathroom and emptied every part of my intestine. All 39 miles of it. I was gone for so long that Craig came looking for me.
“What are you doing in there?” he asked.
“Making breakfast, what do you think I’m doing?”
“Is there anything I can do?”
“You’re high. That’s all.”
“It won’t stop coming out, I think I might die of evacuation of the bowel.”
“Yeah... again? Just high. And that’s not a disease.”
“You don’t know.”
A few days later Craig and I parted company at the Madrid airport. I flew into Dulles International in Washington D.C. and as I waited in the customs line, the kid in front of me asked if I was old enough to bring liquor into the country. I said that I was and he passed me a sealed box of Courvoisier. He cleared customs and then I cleared and when I looked up, two armed guards took my arms and told me to follow them.
I was led to a small room and interrogated for about an hour. Why was I smuggling drugs for the American boy? How did I know there wasn’t heroin in the sealed box? Why did I have a hand-carved ivory hash pipe on me? Yeah, that last one was tricky.
Both the kid and I were released at the same time. Customs had made many calls. My Dad was a Colonel in the Army AND worked for the U.S. Government. Oops. The kid was in the top of his class at West Point. Oops squared.
I stayed at my Dad’s house for a while and for the first few months his phone was tapped. I would talk to my friends and we could hear the little click that went off every minute without fail. After a while I started making fun of it and saying that the feds had stopped me for smuggling drugs and how dumb they were and oh yes, I COULD HEAR THE TAPPING.
End of tapping. And chat.