"Daddy, why is that man's head not on his body?"
My friend's son had just seen the front page of a tabloid newspaper in Mexico City. He was on his way to school, and one of the street vendors had waved it in front of the car window.
Eight-year-old kids shouldn't ask those sorts of questions, in my mind. But more and more, throughout Mexico, kids are being exposed to horrors unfathomable to most of us.
Then there are the dreams. A friend of a friend recently had her first narco-dream, as I call them.
I've talked to a few kids in Mexico about their dreams. In one kid's dream, he was slowly slicing through a man's neck with a saw. He recalled thinking, (in the dream), this is wrong, so wrong. This is sick. I must wake up, I must wake up, he thought.
He forced himself to wake up, in a cold sweat. He was only 11 years old.
On one occasion in Badiraguato, as I wrote in my book, I slept like a baby. As I nodded off to sleep, I kept thinking: Chapo knows I'm here. His people know. They've given their blessing. They won't kill me, there's no reason to. No reason for unwanted attention by kidnapping me. I drifted off to sleep.
I went into a deep sleep that night. I dreamed of running through the marijuana fields that lay behind me, out the window (pic above). I dreamed that I was running between the flames as the soldiers burned them down. I dreamed that I looked up and saw Chapo, standing on a hillside, looking down on the carnage, grimacing.
I woke up. The mosquitoes had bitten me to death, but I was very much alive. I wandered over to the military parade in the center of town. People had begun to gather. The soldiers weren't invited to their own parade; a few forlorn grunts stared over the wall of their barracks as locals walked past.
The parade began. The town's officials walked solemnly past the crowds; a group of local schoolkids followed, as did a brass band. No army. A few people whispered about Chapo. There was a rumour that he might make an appearance. A helicopter circled overhead – Gen. Noe Sandoval and his men had heard the rumour too, it appeared. Chapo didn't come.
I wandered over to the church, where a year before I had met a young boy whose parents helped maintain it.
The boy had led me to a crossing in the road, in front of the church.
"They killed a boy over there the other day," he said.