The issue of Pug’s pregnancy became a partner issue that many teenagers share with looking for work which involved the never-ending quest for any job situation which would help us maintain ourselves. Although I was still partially employed and still living the student/bachelor life, hanging out now and then on the corner of 11th Street in front of a bar feeding the jukebox, things obviously had to change. I was still making new friends, which had never been a problem in Colon. The city had become a wonderland for me.
The area that I most visited was where one could meet up with a colorful array of people including the police, prostitutes and people who frequented the gambling houses, including the horseracing aficionados late at night. But my experience, up until then, had not included using the local Chinese one-night stand hotels nearby to experience how it would be laying with some local girl or with prostitutes. I was a true neophyte at this. I had to admit, however, that among the many whores I would see parading around those back streets of Colon, there were some that were quite beautiful. My turn would come one day, however, when I would have to find a place for China and me to spend the night together and plan our next move since having been thrown out of her grandmother’s house.
When we were settled down and could converse somewhat, China came up with the idea of going to Bocas. So, I decided to go along with her suggestion and made up my mind to go explore Bocas with her.
I promptly confided in my boss Simeon at the car wash that I had decided to leave for Bocas and needed some work to have money enough to cover my stay before I could land a job. I remained naïve about how much money I would need to cover expenses for two persons. Simeon, for a change, was upbeat about it and said, “Funny you would ask now Juni, because for the next week or two we are going to have plenty of work to do.” Without realizing that my special detailing treatment of expensive new automobiles belonging to the younger G.I’s who were stationed in the surrounding bases as far as Panama City had caught on, my hopes were buoyant.
I then realized that I would need to make a special trip to Panama City to visit the Civil Registry or, what they call today, El Tribunal Electoral, to request a copy of my birth certificate. One’s birth certificate was required in lieu of a cédula in order for me to be able to travel anywhere in the republic. The matter began to occupy my thoughts so much that it suddenly dawned on me that I had never seen a copy of my own birth certificate.
It was then that I thought about my mother and I made a special trip to see her, the woman I had vowed not to see, visit or ever live with ever again. I arrived at my mother’s apartment and was pretty straightforward. “Rosa I need my birth certificate to make the trip to Bocas to seek work!” I asked her. She promptly answered “I can help you with that!” and rushed off to the back room of her apartment. She soon reappeared with the document that recorded my birth which I would see for the first time in my life that afternoon one day in the year of 1955.
This trip to Bocas, as I said, had been Pug’s idea, for I knew nothing about the place or how to get there and what the requirements were. She took over and found out what boat we would take the Sunday evening it would leave. Simeon had paid me a handsome amount and I was glad that, for once, he had been fair with me. So, I donned my sunday best and we walked down to the Muelle Fiscal. I stood by allowing Pug to do all the arranging for the trip.
That night at the dock she pointed out the boat that we would be traveling on and she would frequently say to me, “Hold on I will be back!” rushing off somewhere. She went on like this for a while, popping up and leaving until, at last, she came back and said, “Let’s get on board, the boat is about leave!”
Needless to say, I was apprehensive as I stood on board and watched the boat leave port about 9 PM that night with no one else on board, it seemed, but Pug, me and the cook who was stoking a rustic fogón, a portable coal-burning stove. My Bocas adventure had just begun.
This story continues.