[A writing project in gestation…]
“Man builds on the ruins of his former selves. When we are reduced to nothingness, we come alive again. To season one’s destiny with the dust of one’s folly, that is the trick.” – Henry Miller
If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re a rapist or a murderer. Then again, you might just be a drunk checking in for the night. Most likely though, you’re the guy with the blank stare who shoves the food under the bars twice a day. In any event, you probably won’t understand a fucking word of this.
Jesús pointed to the fourth-from-the-last word with a smile. He worked at a KFC in South Carolina for two years, long enough to spot the eff bomb even when concealed within the gerund form of the verb. He handed me the roll of toilet paper and bid me adios. He was off to meet someone who maybe knew someone who knew about a job out on the oilrigs. The roll of papel higiénico was just as he had described it a few days earlier. Black ink. Covered from the first sheet to the hollow tube with English. “Bathroom graffiti” was my first thought when I heard about it. Apparently his nephew, who lives in a tiny coastal town, found the roll months ago in an abandoned, forest-hidden building while he was foraging for scrap metal. It had become quite the little conversation piece. When word spread that Jesús was putting up a couple of Americans, the roll made its way to our little pueblo for official verification and translation. One square in, and the hairs were standing up on the back of my neck. What we were all expecting, I suspect, was a few moments of hilarity while I asked my wife how to translate the blowjob solicitations and racist diatribes that would surely dominate the narrative. In truth, silly as it sounds, one square in I felt as if I had just been given a map leading to buried treasure, or an ancient scroll that foretold my destiny. So it was with heightened anticipation that I ran my fingers around the roll until I found the edge again. Sitting in a white plastic chair with my feet up on a white plastic table, the whole strange story unspooled before my eyes.
Or at least it was one chapter of the whole strange story. Perhaps the rest was scratched into tree bark, or written in the sand on a secluded part of the beach. More likely, the rest of the story was written on other rolls that were either lost, destroyed, or—I shudder to think—used. My best guess is that it’s a work of creative fiction, perhaps written as a lark by someone on vacation, or by a graduate student, or the spouse of a graduate student (like myself). Students have been coming down here for years to study the Mayan artifacts, and I can’t be the first gringo to come down here with a notebook and the intention to write. The toilet paper thing is a nice twist though. I certainly don’t think the thing is an actual cry for help, that someone really woke up in a prison cell with a head injury, not knowing what they did or how they got there. I mean, amnesia? Come on now. You’ll see when I have time to transcribe the rest of it. It’s probably a short story, either incomplete or abandoned. As fiction it is, in truth, pretty unremarkable. But the fact that a roll of toilet paper covered in English handwriting has somehow found its way into my hands? Now that’s pretty remarkable. Extraordinary, really. I haven’t been in the pueblo two full weeks and already I have something extraordinary to post to my travel blog. Just what I was hoping for.
I’m also hoping that these nine months will be more than just a break from having to go to work every day; more than a chance to catch up on some reading, writing and guitar playing; more than an opportunity to learn Spanish and experience Mexican culture. Those things are enough to make it all worthwhile, but still, I’m hoping for something else, something big, something totally awesome that will change everything. The Scroll of Charmin, regardless of its origin or authenticity, is, by its mere existence, pretty fucking awesome. I can’t think of a better way to begin this trip.