Back in 2015, I spent a few days in a small hostel in Cali, Colombia. I had just played at Sancocho Fest in Tuluá and decided to take some time to relax, work on my Spanish, and play guitar. Every morning I would make myself a cup of coffee, fry a few eggs, and sit on the front stoop watching the locals go about their day while writing in my journal.
The morning I met the Totally NOT GAY Bro had started out just the same. I rolled out of bed and slogged my way to the communal kitchen. As I beelined for the coffeemaker, I bade good morning to a portly and disheveled man in his mid-thirties who was stirring some kind of bubbling concoction in a big pot on the stove.
“Morning,” he said, in a thick New Jersey accent. I began making my coffee. A fellow US citizen, wow, I thought—not too common in most parts of Colombia.
He broke the short silence. “Hey bro, if the cops come, I just want you to know … I am not … gay.”
I chuckled. “Uhhh … okay?”
“That dude in there, he tried to make out with me.”
“I was taking a nap on the couch bro, and he tried to fucking kiss me. Like—I’m not gay, dude.”
“I mean, who cares if you’re—”
“I was MARRIED, bro … so you know there’s no way I could be gay.”
My eyes bored a hole into the coffeemaker. Come on you son of a bitch, brew … BREW!
“Yea, that checks out I guess…” I said.
“If the cops come,” he said, “I need you to call the American embassy, okay? Tell them I’m an American citizen and I’m just here to teach English. Tell them I’m NOT GAY.”
“I mean I don’t care if you’re gay or not—but your insistence that you’re not is making me think you are.”
He shook his head in disgust. “No bro… I was married to my ex-wife for SIX … YEARS … BRO … call her. She will tell you, I’m not gay.”
“Nah I’m good. I believe you, dude.”
The drip of the coffee slowed. I abandoned my morning breakfast and decided to make a break for my room.
“Hey uhhh, good luck with this whole thing … whatever it is,” I said as I hightailed it out of the kitchen. What a weird dude.
I made it back to my room (I had opted for a private room since I was pretty flush with cash at the time) and started doing a little computer work while I let the caffeinated nectar of life permeate through my veins.
As the minutes turned into hours, my stomach began to twist and turn, begging for some kind of sustenance. I ate an apple I had in the room, but it didn’t hold me over for long. Surely he’s gone by now…
I peeked my head out. No sign of the not-gay-guido on the second-floor common room outside my door. I headed downstairs, past the woman working the front desk, and back into the kitchen.
There he was, still stirring his big cauldron of god-knows-what. Despite my fight-or-flight response commanding me to prance back to my room, I desperately needed food. We nodded at each other and I headed for the fridge. Silence for the first few moments, and then …
“Are you Jewish, bro?” he asked.
“Oh, so you’re Catholic then?”
“Those are my options?”
“That’s how you know I’m not gay.”
Oh for fuck’s sake.
“Dude, I don’t get it, what is the big deal here? I mean who cares?!” Colombia has fairly progressive equal-rights laws.
“I’m just telling you bro, you’re an American too—we have to look out for each other. If anything happens you have to call the embassy for me. Tell them, I’m an Am—”
“American citizen, you’re here to teach English, you’re totally not gay, yea I got it. Can I use this burner?” I pointed towards the stove.
“Yea of course bro … do you want some soup? It’s almost ready.”
I would have rather eaten a dead raccoon using another dead raccoon’s asshole as a bowl than eat whatever this guy was cooking.
“No thanks man, I’m making something.”
This same conversation continued in varying degrees as I cooked the eggs. As soon as they were ready I tossed them on a plate and got the hell out of Dodge, back up to my room. Forget this, I thought, I’m not even chancing it later, I’ll go out somewhere for food.
I ate my brunch, threw on some headphones and started playing guitar.
I don’t know how much time passed. Maybe an hour or so. The next thing I remember, I heard a loud crash. I took off the headphones and heard the sound of a glass object shattering.
I sat down the guitar and ran to the door to have a listen. I could hear shouting. It was him, because of course it would be him.
I opened up my door, unprepared for what I saw on the other side: There were about six Colombian police officers in full tactical gear. Several carried combat shotguns, and one had a German shepherd in an adorable bulletproof vest for dogs with jobs. Two of the officers were trying to console a frightened-looking Australian guy in one corner of the room. “I don’t know what he’s talking about, he’s crazy!” the man said.
More officers were standing with Jersey guy. I could not believe—given how these police officers looked as if they were ready to ride into fucking battle—that they weren’t really intervening much at this point other than verbally trying to calm them both down. A small crowd of other guests had left their rooms and wandered down the hall to see what was going on.
Jersey guy grabbed a decorative plate off of the wall next to him and flung it across the room. It just barely missed the Aussie and the spec ops cops and smashed against the wall. “I’M NOT GAY, I’M NOT FUCKING GAY!”
He grabbed another plate. SMASH!
“Tranquilo, tranquilo!” one of the officers was yelling.
Jersey guy was not going to tranquilo. “HE TRIED TO KISS ME!”
“Oh my god, why is he doing this?! I didn’t even go hear him!” the Aussie clearly had no idea what was happening.
Jersey guy reached for another plate, but apparently the policia had finally seen enough. WHAM!—shotgun butt to the temple. Jersey guy dropped like a sack of potatoes.
“Ohhhh shit!” someone behind me exclaimed.
The policemen calmly rolled him over and placed him in handcuffs. Then they proceeded to drag his dazed body towards the stairs, by the handcuffs.
His eyes were dancing around the room in separate directions, until one of them spotted me standing there and the other righted itself with it. “BRO! CALL THE EMBASSY! CALL THEM! CALL THE AMERICAN EMBASSY!”
Everyone turned to look at me. “Uhh, yea, I’m totally—that’s what I’m about to do, I’m gonna—I’m gonna go call the embassy. I got you dude” I lied.
They dragged him down the stairs. Thump, thump, thump.
Aussie guy sat on the couch and the officers left him there in his bewilderment.
I followed them down the stairs, because duh, I had to see what was going to happen, and was amazed that this one police officer was dragging Jersey guy’s fat ass along the floor with one hand calmly holding the handcuffs. They headed out the front door and rounded the corner towards the street as Jersey guy could be heard yelling—”CALL THE EMBASSY! CALL THEM! I’M NOT GAY!”
All the police officers left in a gaggle. Not one took a statement from any of us, not one asked if everything was okay. They just left. Four or five of us stood in the reception area, mouths open.
The older Colombian woman working the desk, who spoke zero English, broke the silence. She looked at me and swirled her finger around her temple—“Él es muyyy locoooo.”
I laughed. “Yes, muy fucking loco.”
I went back to my room, picked my guitar up, and put my headphones back on. I did not call the embassy. I didn’t see Jersey guy for the remainder of my stay. I asked the woman at the desk a few days later and she said they hadn’t even returned for his bags.
Sometimes I wonder where he’s at now, and just how gay his visit got in a Colombian jail.
To hear more stories from the road, check out my book Planes, Trains, & Broken Strings on Amazon!