Well we did take Jose-Luís out to the West Peak Inn for our little "...or else" talk. Lalo figured it was remote enough that he couldn't walk out on us, which was true. If you don't have a boat (or a helicopter!), you can't get there from here. It was also a safe bet that we wouldn't be interrupted, and could talk in peace.
Now, it is not fair to characterize Jose-Luís as a semi-coherent, strung-out crack addict who can’t go more than a few minutes without a “fix” any more than I am falling-down-drunk alcoholic. In fact, he functions perfectly normally during the day without any kind of intoxicant. He is usually a pleasure to be and have around.
It’s just that he likes to party at night. And he becomes a different person. Once he gets started he has absolutely no self-control. Rent money? Food money? Power bill money? He’d spend them all in a single night. If we pay him on Friday, his money is gone by Monday. This happens every week. (Maybe we should start paying our guys on Monday instead of Friday! Hmmm.) Addicted is addicted. I like to drink, but I don’t steal to support my Rum and Coke habit.
Lalo acted as a go-between/interpreter since Jose-Luís speaks virtually no English.
I wanted Lalo to make sure that Jose-Luís understood that this bail-out came with strings; he had to do his part. We had expectations. There would be no second-chance – this was it. We would help him this time, but he had to help himself. And by that we meant staying away from those destructive “friends” with whom he was inclined to engage in bad behavior. Lalo said that he’d be keeping his eye on him. (And believe me, nothing happens in Bonacca Town without Lalo knowing about it. If someone drops a dish, Lalo knows before it hits the floor.) We did stress that if Jose-Luís did not change his ways, he would lose his wife and kids, his place to live. Not “could” or “might”…but would lose those things.
Those were the stakes. Now, the big question: Is that stuff important to him? I honestly believe that to some people it is not. They are so self-absorbed and self-involved that they actually, deep-down cannot and do not care about anyone else, even their own offspring. Unfortunately, sometimes these people marry and have children.
As we talked, I looked in Jose-Luís’ tear-filled eyes, trying to determine if he was genuinely sincere in his nervous apologies and anxious promises, or just telling us what we wanted to hear. I’ve been down this road before and I’ve been lied to by the best. It has made me jaded, suspicious and somewhat callous. People lie, it’s that simple. People will do whatever they have to do to extricate themselves from this particular situation here, this jam-up right now. They’ll worry about tomorrow when it gets here. Things have always worked out for them in the past. There’ll be another Lalo and Robert and Mr. Bob who’ll bail them out.
So I really don’t know. All I do know is that I’m no accurate judge of people. I cannot predict what Jose-Luís will do this weekend when faced with the same friends and temptations as he was last weekend and the weekend before that and all the weekends before that. Will he sit at home with his wife and toddler children, just enjoying their company and reveling in the fact that he has a wonderful family? Will he go to bed early Saturday night and get up early Sunday morning to take the family to church? Or will the “fun” of running the streets with his friends be so attractive and compelling that he’ll go out “just for one beer” and end up staying out all night? I know what you’re thinking. I’m thinking it too.
I hate being a pessimist with stuff like this. Normally I like to think positively, and I do believe in the power of prayer. So who can tell? I do know how addictive cocaine (especially crack) can be. I know how hard it is for some people to quit. There are no formal treatment or “rehab” programs of any kind here. But even if there were, it would be incredibly difficult for him. This guy is teetering on the edge, one foot out in the air and the other on a banana peel. A feather’s touch could push him into the abyss. It’ll be interesting to see if we can pull him back to safety.
Back at the dock at the end of the day, Jose-Luís got out of the boat to leave. “¡Es importante que recuerde que sobre hablamos!” I said, which was my pigeon-Spanish way of saying “Remember what we talked about.” “Sí, sí,” he said.
I certainly hope he does. We’ll know soon enough.