One morning I ran into The Mick at a bike repair shop on the west side of Avenida Caracas. They usually have bikes ready within an hour so we waited. After The Mick dropped his bike off, he struck a match to light a joint fatter than his nose hanging from his lips all the way down past his chin. We walked down the block.
At the corner The Mick told me two cops on a motorcycle saw me hitting the joint. We saw them double back so we ducked around the corner. I stashed the joint on a window ledge about as high as my head. The cops turned the corner and ordered us against the wall. The pat-down was a haphazard endeavor; they weren’t looking for weapons so much as going through the motions.
One cop, Fuerza Mestiza, walked back to the corner looking for the joint. The other cop, Chubby Cheeks, questioned us. Neither could’ve been more than 21 years old. Judging from how he carried himself, Chubby Cheeks’ mom still cooks his meals, does his laundry, and makes his bed. He had baby fat on his neck and round, pink cheeks.
When Fuerza Mestiza couldn’t find the joint, Chubby Cheeks asked us for it, implying he’d let us go if we gave it up. I walked down the block and pointed out the window to Fuerza Mestiza, who dropped it on the ground and stomped it with his boots, smearing marijuana all over the pavement. I remember thinking it’d definitely get cleaned up by some junkie that evening, as long as it didn’t rain.
Fuerza Mestiza told us they were going to take us to indigente jail overnight. They’d just implied they’d let us go if we gave up the weed, but now they were taking us in.
The Mick has bribed Colombian police dozens of times. I knew this ordeal wouldn’t amount to jail, but I was nervous. Fuerza Mestiza played his part well by calling somebody on his walkie-talkie and waiting for a response. He kept looking down the street, as if looking for the car that would haul us off.
I was supposed to fly to St. Louis in the morning and hadn’t packed my bags. There was no way I could spend the evening in indigente jail and make my flight. I was nervous. “Don’t you worry a bullocks about these two,” The Mick told me, and then to Chubby Cheeks in his strong English accent, “Yo sé como está.” I know how it is.
“¿Sabe como está?” Chubby Cheeks repeated with an ear-to-ear grin, dreaming of the expensive lunch and extra dessert he’d just hustled by closing this sale. He smiled so bright his fat rosy cheeks got dimples. He told us to walk around the corner while Fuerza Mestiza started the motorcycle. The Mick feigned his briefcase up so nobody saw him slip Chubby Cheeks a 20,000 peso note. Chubby Cheeks left us with a closing statement: “En las casas está bien. Pero en las calles, no.” You can get high in your houses, but not in the streets.
The Mick lit another joint. No bullshit, he lit a second joint on the same block.
Bribery is actually a good system. Such a petty infraction shouldn’t take up court or correctional resources if the perpetrators can pay a penalty immediately. Anybody getting stoned on the street who can’t afford to pay off these cops should spend the night in indigente jail, for the public interest of Bogota.
UPDATE: The Mick’s memoir is published. See madouttamehead.com.
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