BY MATT WHELAN

There is a certain human propensity, particularly---- prevalent among the male populace, for the careful curation of a personal and precious collection of adventure stories.

These stories (much like a healthy accumulation of scars) we believe, serve a range of important functions. They impress women. That much is absolutely certain. They also help us bond with our male friends, and, we know, they leave all who hear them in outright awe of our worldly guile and general grit.

Keepers of these compendiums are forever in want of new additions, and one coveted episode might certainly involve a brush with the bad side of the Mexican law.

So, I suppose I might have been pleased by what was about to happen, and I might well have been. I might have soaked it up, bathed in it, had I not been so very scared.

.??????? .??????? .

I was doing about 100 kilometers an hour, which is the speed limit on Highway 307, the long, dry stretch of road that runs between the towns of Felipe Carrillo Puerto and Pedro Antonio Santos on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. My girlfriend was snoozing beside me, her legs up on the dash. It was hot, in the mid-to-high 30s. The windows were down, and a fervent Ranchera ballad was cranked on the rental’s stereo.

There are a lot of big signs along this stretch of road. A lot of rules to obey. “No Manaje Cansado”, reads one. Don’t drive tired. “Reductor de Elicidad”, requests another. Slow down. “No Rebasar Con Raya”. Don’t cross the line.

A lot of them simply say “Obedezca las Se?ales”. Obey the signs. Don’t break the rules. And I hadn’t. Not a single one of them.

So I didn’t understand, at least at first, why we were being pulled over.

And it wasn’t immediately obvious that this man was a real policeman. He looked more like someone dressed up like a policeman. The motorbike he rode was tiny, as was he, and he was wearing these huge teal-green reflective shades, which made his eyes look massive under a cheap plastic helmet. His clothes looked more like they came off the hangers at a charity shop around Halloween than anything you might wear to fight crime. He looked like a plastic praying mantis, or a toy cop you might have had as a kid. But the gun was real, and so was our growing problem.

He climbed off his bike and approached the passenger-side window, where my girlfriend was sitting, which I thought was a bit strange, before leaning right into the vehicle and insisting that we all shake hands and share our names, which was definitely very strange.

Hola, me llama Antonio!” he said, grinning widely to reveal teeth badly browned by chewing tobacco. All except the front two, which appeared to be made of solid gold.

He turned to spit a dirty wad of wet leaf onto the hot pavement, and as he did, the well-worn hilt of his unclipped gun grazed the window lip, pushing my girlfriend’s arm back into vehicle. My heart started to climb out of my chest.

He leaned in again.

No es tu problema,” he said to my girlfriend, grinning that disgusting grin.
Es su problema.” he said, still smiling, but broader now, and pointing at me.
“Fair enough,” I said, behind a very thin fa?ade of cool.
Su licencia por favor,” he said.
I handed it over.

He flipped it back and forth, examining each side, then put it in the palm of his hand, and tossed it up and down a couple of times, as though he were trying to gauge its weight, like he was trying to figure out how much it might be worth. And that,?as it turned out, is exactly what he was trying to do.

He pulled out a little notebook, scribbled something onto it, then showed it to me.
‘$4000’ it read.
I think I knew what was happening, but couldn’t believe it was happening.
“What’s happening?” I said, to no one in particular.
“We’re being robbed by a policeman,” said my girlfriend, in that familiar tone she’s come to employ every time she has to explain to me the painfully obvious.
“Oh,” I said, looking again at the notebook.
‘$4000’.

Now, I didn’t know whether these figures represented American dollars or Mexican pesos, but I did know, that either way, there were too many zeros.

“No… no…” was all I could muster.
The gold teeth, the gun, the green shades, they were all elevating the internal panic.
I’m sure he could see that I was afraid.

“Ok, ok,” he said, laughing and nodding like this was all a friendly joke, like we were taking wagers on whether or not those front teeth of his were really made of solid gold, or whether or not I was going to make it out of this alive.

He scribbled again in his little notebook, and handed it back to me, chewing and smiling and resting his hand again on his gun.
‘$3500’ it read.

I could feel something rising up inside of me. I think it must have been my delicate, first-world sensibilities getting rattled by the notion that I was now haggling for my own property with a person whose proper place it was to protect the law.

And yeah, for sure, I didn’t want to lose the money.

“Fuck this!” I shouted, suddenly, without knowing I was going to say anything at all. “We didn’t do anything wrong. Just take us to the station.”

At this point, this strange little man, who for the entirety of this bizarre and frightening episode had not a single word of English spoken or understood, seemed to comprehend quite clearly and instantly now, that this might not be the easy little shakedown he had in mind.

And just like that, he tossed my license back into the car, and hopped back on his little machine, and sped away, green glasses, gun, golden grin and all.

And soon, I drove away too, shaken but intact, and with a new story for my own personal, precious compendium.

人有一種癖好——精心收集珍貴的個人冒險經歷,而這種癖好在男性當中尤其普遍。

我們相信這些經歷(就好像愈合的傷疤)有很多作用。首先,它們可以打動女性,這是肯定的,同時也能拉近我們與男性朋友的距離。而且,我們都知道,所有聽到這些經歷的人肯定都會敬畏那種世俗的狡黠和堅毅。

擁有傳奇經歷的人永遠都在為它尋找新的篇章,而一個令人夢寐以求的插曲也當然可能涉及墨西哥法律的陰暗面。

所以,我原本該為將發生的事感到高興,我想,而且我很可能會這樣。我可能沈浸其中,盡情享受,如果彼時我沒有那麼害怕的話。

.??????? .??????? .

當時我正在以307號高速公路的限速——每小時100公裏的速度行駛,這條長長的幹瘠道路連通墨西哥尤卡坦半島的兩個小鎮——Felipe Carrillo Puerto 和 Pedro Antonio Santos。女朋友在我旁邊打盹,腳翹在儀表盤上。天氣很熱,氣溫在35℃–40℃之間。車窗被搖下來,租來的立體聲音箱裏響起了狂熱的Ranchera民謠。

沿著這條路的兩側有很多巨大的標識,寫著各種交通規則。其中一條寫著,“No Manaje Cansado”——不要疲勞駕駛;另一條說,“Reductor de Elicidad”——慢一點;“No Rebasar Con Raya”——不要越線。

很多牌子上只寫著 “Obedezca las Se?ales”——遵守標識,不要違反規定。而我沒有違反,一條都沒有。

所以我很困惑,至少在一開始是這樣,為什麼我們會被攔下來。

而且攔下我們的人第一眼看上去並不像是真的警察,反而更像故意打扮成警察樣子的人。他騎的摩托車很小,和他的人一樣。巨大的綠色反光太陽鏡讓他的眼睛在廉價的塑料頭盔下看起來很大,至於他的穿著,與其說是為了打擊犯罪而穿的,倒不如說是從萬聖節前後的一家慈善商店的衣架上扒下來的。他看起來像一只塑料螳螂,或者你小時候可能玩過的那種玩具警察。但他的槍不是假的,他和我們之間不斷升級的矛盾也不是假的。

這個警察跨下摩托車,走近我女朋友那一側的車窗——我感覺有點奇怪;接著他直接走來並堅持和我們握手,問我們的名字——我感覺這實在很奇怪。

“你好,我叫 Antonio!”他笑著說到,露出被煙草染成棕色的牙齒,除兩顆門牙外的所有牙齒好像都是純金的。

他轉過身,把一團臟濕的葉子吐到高溫的人行道上。隨著這個動作,那把未扣好的槍的磨損的刀柄擦過車窗邊緣,把女朋友的手臂推回車裏。我的心跳到了嗓子眼。

他再次靠近。
“不是你的問題,”他對我的女朋友說,咧嘴笑得很惡心。
“是你的問題。”他說,仍然微笑著,但嘴咧得更大,並指著我。
“說得對,”我說,表面故作鎮靜。
“請出示你的證件,”他說。

我遞了過去。

他來回翻動我的證件,檢查了每一頁,還把它放在手中掂了掂,就好像要掂量它的重量,來估算它值多少錢。而後來的事實證明,這正是他想要做的事。

他掏出一個小筆記本,在上面寫了些東西,然後遞給我。
上面寫著“4000元”。

我明白了這是怎麼一回事,但感情上仍難以接受。
“現在是什麼情況?”我問到,沒有特別對著任何一個人。
“我們被一名警察搶劫了,”女朋友用一種我熟悉的語氣說到,每當她向我解釋這類痛苦又顯而易見的事情時,就會用那種語氣。
“哦,”我說,再看看筆記本。
“4000元”。

現在,我不知道這些數字是代表美元還是墨西哥比索,但可以肯定的是:無論是哪種貨幣,這都有太多的零了。
“不……不行……”我只能鼓起勇氣。
金牙,槍,綠色墨鏡,它們都加劇了我的恐慌。
我相信他能看出我的害怕。
“好吧,好吧,”他說,笑著點頭,就像這一切只是個友善的笑話,就像我們正在打賭他的門牙是否真的由純金制成,或者我是否能活著解決這件事。

他又一次在小筆記本上潦草地塗寫,再把它遞給我,嚼著煙草,微笑著,並且再次用手握住他的槍。
上面寫著:3500元。

我能感覺到身體裏有什麼正在醞釀。我想這一定是我精致的、第一世界的感情因為我現在正在和一個理應守護法律的人討價還價來保護我的財產而感到慌亂。
是的,當然,我不想失去這些錢。
“操!”我突然喊道,不知道要說什麼。 “我們沒有做錯任何事。帶我們去警察局。“
就在此刻,這個奇怪的矮個子男人,在整個奇異而可怕的插曲裏沒有說過或聽懂過任何一個英語單詞,現在似乎立即清晰地理解了我的意思,明白了這可能不是他預想的簡單的小敲詐。

就這樣,他把我的駕照扔回車裏,跳回他的小摩托車上,然後加速離開,帶著他的綠色的墨鏡、槍、金色的笑容和一切。

很快,我也開走了,震驚但完好無損,順便為我個人的珍貴經歷收藏添了新的一章。


Matt Whelan is a freelance writer and photographer. To see more of his work, visit: www.mattwhelan.ca

Matt Whelan是一位自由作家與攝影師,點擊 www.mattwhelan.ca 查看他的更多作品。