I came to laying on my side on a concrete bench. My head was at such an extreme angle and my neck so stiffened that I knew raising it would be painful, if not impossible; I opted to roll over onto my stomach and slowly push myself up into a sitting position while leaving my head, more or less, in its listing attitude. This too was no easy feat, accomplished by grunting, groaning effort. Laughter, accompanied by a lewdly malicious voice, attracted my attention from the other end of the cell. Two locals were sitting there watching me. He spoke again, the fat one with the leer in his voice and eyes, in a colloquial Spanish that I didn’t understand. I said nothing.

Looking down I noticed my pockets had been turned inside out; my shoes were gone. I did not yet know how I arrived there; I sensed a partially formed, vague memory lurking just below the surface of consciousness. I tried retracing my steps mentally: the girl in the bar, dancing, being led onto the beach, rolling around in the sand. So far so good; then she’s screaming at me; I was beseeching her to be quiet, asking in broken Spanish what was wrong: trying to ask

¿Cuál es la materia?

and just managing to stammer-shout, qual estimer! qual estimer! At the same time thinking her hysteria seemed odd, acted. I recall the impulse: Get awayget away from her. Several missing frames later and I’m struggling up an incline in the deep, loose Baja sand; wheezing, stagger-running, covering as much distance from side to side as forward but making progress back toward the plaza, and the hotel. Memory submerged, and only briefly resurfaced to reveal a glimpse of being herded into the back of a Mexican police car by baton blows, kicks, and epithets.

I was now staring at the wall across from me; it was covered in a profusion of graffiti, mostly vulgarities in Spanish. I realized I had been staring at a word. It shimmied and danced as a pair that separated, nearly aligned, and separated again repeatedly as I fought my double vision. I tried closing one stinging eye; I couldn’t, like a very young child who can’t yet wink. So I placed a hand, trembling slightly as if a small electric current was running through it, over one eye.
Slowly the word came into focus. No, I thought, no possible way. But there it was. Faint and weathered by countless years, crudely etched in jagged lines; I could just make out:
UNTETHERED

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