In a Ranchero bar in Tijuana, I watched as a slender, petite boy in his late teens was being pulled into a room by his hair, screaming. My Mexican friends told me not to worry about it.
Upstairs in our private room. we chose our men and boys and mine sat on my lap and fed me. He had to be 17 or 18 and he was trying to be coy. I’d chosen the guy I’d seen being pulled into the room by his hair.
The rentboys had lined up in front of the four of us, sprawled out on the U shaped sofa, and I’d been told to choose first. The boys and men stood there looking bored. I knew they were used to this, but the idea of ‘choosing’ a guy was alien to me. I chose my ‘date’ because his eyes were red from crying.
I sang Born in the USA because it was one of the only songs in English I knew well enough, but mostly I just sat there drinking Carta Blanca in big glasses filled with ice. I sat and listened to the others sing sad love songs in a language I couldn’t understand and I smoked Lucky Strike cigarettes.
Afterwards my friends encouraged me to take the kid back to the hotel, but I said no, and he began crying again. I gave him two hundred pesos and he stopped crying and was happy again.
Back at the hotel, I tried masturbating in the shower, but nothing happened. All I could think about was that kid being pulled into that room and the way his eyes lit up when I put the money in his hand.
There was an American bar in the Red Light District of Zona Norte and I went there to watch the American football games and drink myself stupid in the company of overweight, old white men. In a lot of ways it was like being home, except I could smoke inside, and all the girl hookers were Central or South American.
On some of those nights, I called my brother because I knew he was watching the game too. But I was always too drunk and when I woke in the morning I always had text messages asking me if I was okay and telling me to come home.
You’re scaring me, one of these read.
One night I ended up on the roof of the Rex Hotel, alone. I just sat there looking out at the city, depressed, thinking about what a mistake it was to come here. My boyfriend and I had come here before he was my partner for seven years, when we were still just friends, but I remembered it so clearly.
I’d wanted to visit the Rex because I knew Charles Bukowski had lived there for a time, but my partner didn’t know who Charles Bukowski was. He liked the view though. At night the city looked gorgeous from up here and we took pictures of ourselves, the city behind us.
I knew I was going to spend the rest of my life with that guy.
I was wrong, I guess.