He looked like a pedophile. Ashen gray in colorless shirt and pants. White hair, paunch, and squinting, shifty eyes. That predatory stare at your person that always ended at your crotch.
I walked into the office as he stood by the register, munching on a sandwich. The room reeked of garlic and raw onion.
“Howzit goin’, Bill?” I asked.
I couldn’t care less for the old fucks mood - truth was, I couldn’t stand him. I’m sure he felt the same about me.
He grunted something to the fact that he was okay and returned staring blankly out the box office window into the blackness, slowly chewing like a cow with anthrax.
I sat in the old, blue easy-chair and quietly watched porn until the forty-five minutes was up and ended his shift. Bill mechanically went over his notes - he had a paranoid habit of jotting long lists of trivial notes to pass off onto me every night at the beginning of my shift. I stood and listened with bored apathy.
After ten minutes of that shit, Bill grabbed his backpack and shuffled out the door to go where ever Bill goes at night.
I sat at the box office window on the rickety stool for a solid hour before I grabbed my notebook. I jotted down thoughts interrupted by perverts and junkies paying to enter the theater.
I thought about my insidious life - a morbidly, depressing, solitary life that I had fallen into. Ever since my move to Tijuana from Los Angeles, it had been one romantic let down after the next. All crashing and burning from paranoid actions of my own design.
Too be sure, I have had my run of romantic relationships - however, I had always found some way of screwing them up. And the drugs didn’t help. Sure, they gave me that thrill, they filled that void - but, I always came back to the same point of originality. Depressed and alone.
And yet, at the moment of contact - the exact moment when some fool finally opened up to me - I became vicious and brutal. An arrogant monster, twisted in contempt and hatred. Was it because I had built up an impenetrable, emotional wall that had shielded me from that heart-shattering separation that I ran from in Los Angeles? The old ‘I’ll hurt you before you hurt me’ routine? Or that I wanted everyone that revealed the slightest interest in my well-being to feel the same vacuous pain that I was burdened with?
I lit a cigarette and stared out the window.
Fuck it, I thought. Leave that shit for the psychoanalysts.
I got up, locked the office and headed to the bathroom.
Passing through dirty, velvet curtains, I entered the main theater and marched towards the short hall just to the right of the large screen. Passing the coughing, slurping, yawning, farting - I heard an old man gasp through a toothless mouth, “Itha cumin’!”
Quickly, I turned the corner behind the screen into a well-lit hall with red walls. A candy machine hummed as I noticed, leaning up against the side, was little Mario - glass pipe up to mouth and blowtorch lighter blasting away.
He mocked surprise at seeing me, blowing huge plumes of gray smoke into the dank air.
“Hey, white boy! How’s things?”
“Mario.” I barely nodded.
“You look all sad.” He grimaced as he handed the pipe over to me. “Here, man - something to get this night going.”
I took the pipe - still warm, and placed it to my mouth.
I stopped, eyeing him, “How much you got, Mario? I don’t wanna bogart your shit.”
“Ah, dude.” Mario said, as he flicked the lighter in front of me. “It’s just dope.”
Three hits later between the two of us and I didn’t even have to piss anymore. Mario followed me back to the office and sat in the recliner. I took the stool.
Mario pointed at my open notebook next to him, “Watcha writing?”
I sighed, “Crap.”
Reaching into the folds of his black, denim jacket, Mario stated, “Well, when you’re a famous writer - remember me.”
Why does every one say that to me? I cannot - actually do not - want to associate with any of these characters if and when I am a successful writer. And no junk for me! Lounging on some veranda in a silk suit, sipping a martini, being tended by some dark skinned, exotic youth while I read my reviews in literary journals. Yep, I’ll show them all!
But, that was the fantasy of a near future - now was now. And now, Mario was pinching more meth into his pipe. He held it to his mouth, took a big hit and passed it to me.
Thirty minutes later; we were spun. Twitching, shaking, sweaty messes. Mario sat hunched over in the chair - his dark eyes transfix on the monitor that displayed a blond bimbo that yanked beads out of her butt by two sweaty Mexicans.
Mario leaned back and with the concession door wide open, unzipped his black jeans and pulled out his erection. And completely erect - never had I ever seen this junkies junk that hard before.
“Damn,” He quacked through trembling lips, “This makin’ me hornier’n shit.” His sparkling eyes darted at me. “You wanna?”
I hung the BACK IN 10 MINUTES sign on the concession door and closed it. Kneeling in front of Mario, I slobbered up and down on his long, dark penis until, with pointing of toes and quickness of breath; he squirted his semen into my mouth. I leaned over and - splat! - spit a wad of semen, saliva, and blood into the wastepaper basket.
I stood up and silently returned to the box office window. Mario zipped up his pants, fumbled with the front button - I looked at him, feeling so cold and void.
Mario jumped up, “Whelp, I’m going back into the theater. Here.” He placed a tiny plastic bag in my wet hand. “This should keep you for a while. Laterz.”
I said thanks and later back as the short Mexican darted out of the office and into the theater.
At that moment, the phone rang. Picking up the receiver, I heard the distinctive, labored breathing of obesity and knew exactly who it was before anyone answered.
“Is everything well?” The basso voice lisped.
It was Bob - the owner of the theater. He would occasionally call at odd hours throughout the night to make sure I was still there and not robbing him. He stated that openly a few times.
Bob also called in lieu of his missing boyfriend. He and his lover - a potbellied, mustachioed queen named Keith - ran the theater with such totalitarian authority as only haughty fags could. Keith was prone to leave him and go on drinking binges for days - or just hole up in some bathhouse screwing his blues away. It was one of the missing Keith calls.
“Yeah, Bob - how’s everything on your end?”
There was a pause, static, then the wheeze of someone that was suffocating under their own weight, “I want you to tell me - and remember, choose your words wisely…”
Choose my words wisely? What the fuck does that mean?, I thought. Fuck this fat bastard - why does he have to annoy me with his woes concerning his infidel boyfriend.
There was another deep gasp for air on the other end, “Have you seen Keith? Is he there?”
Shit! I don’t know, much less care where that potbellied fucker was spreading his gonorrhea - let me get back to my dope!
“No, Bob - I’m sorry. I haven’t seen him since yesterday when he was here with you.”
Long pause - I heard wheezing. I waited, examining the grime under my fingernails.
“If he does decide to come by,” Bob rumbled, “Call me, let me know.”
I looked at the wall clock - 2:38am. “Sure thing.”
Click. Ugh - I hung up the phone as two, drunken Navy men approached the box office window.
One was a tall, thin Filipino - his eyes glazed and red from hitting the bars.
His short friend, a tattooed blonde - put his lips up to the hole in the window and slurred, “How much to get in, cowboy?”
I told them, took the admission, and buzzed them in. I sat in the recliner and watched the porn drone on and on. I grabbed the now tattered strip of aluminum foil, and the meth that Mario had given me, and lit up.
Points in the room came into sharp focus. For the next hour, I dodged around the room meticulously inspecting every crack, every fleck of dust that lay about. Plopping back in the chair, I smoked more.
“Hey!” Called a voice from the box office window. “Hey!”
It was a short, shriveled junky - face sunken and unkempt. His scraggly beard partially hid the mass of festering acne on his neck. I noticed in those sparking eyes, he was lit up.
“How much, man?”
“Aw shit, dude - I ain’t got six dollars.” He whined dramatically.
I thought of my own nightly supply and stated, “Right. You gimme a bump and I’ll let you in.”
He started with the stupidity routine, “Bump? Watchu mean by that, man?”
We stared at each other for a moment, he saw the raw sparks of tweek bursting in my eyes.
The junkie’s face lit up with the flashbulb of addiction, “Yeah? Yeah! Awright.”
I buzzed him in and he came around to the concession door. “You ain’t no cop, right?”
“A cop working graveyard at a porno theater? You are suffering from paranoid delusions, man.”
He reached down and dug into the crotch of his stained, corduroy pants, “Fuck - can’t be too sure. How long can I stay?”
“Till six o’clock when I close for clean-up. And, if you’re nice - I may let you stay so you can kick it all day tomorrow.” I said, watching him pull out a fat baggie of white powder.
He started that junky swaying con, “Well, don’t you worry, homie - I’m gonna hook you up.”
And, indeed he did.
As he disappeared behind the musty, velvet curtains into the theater, I held the small, plastic baggie that he had given me between thumb and forefinger. It was a fatty.
Without hesitation, I snatched my tattered aluminum strip and went to work - inhaled that sweet, metallic vapor through the melting straw. My lips began to burn - I smoked so much, so fast - but, I didn’t care. My eyes stung and my breath quickened as I flopped into the easy chair.
Then, the damn phone rang. It was Bob, again. Same question - same answer. Through chattering, grinding teeth, I again assured him if Keith showed up, I would call. He hung up.
I sat trembling back into that overstuffed blue recliner - transfixed, immobilized on the image of a black woman that loudly slobbered all up and down some bald stud’s cock. Then, to my left - taptaptap.
Looking up, it was the Filipino Navy officer. He swayed - eyes shifted from me to the porn on the monitor.
“Hey, man. Is there any strip clubs around here?”
I twitched, “Nope - not open this late.”
“Really? Shit - what time is it?”
I didn’t answer - just swung my arm up and pointed at the wall clock. He stood there, leaning over the counter on his elbows, mouth ajar and staring at the porn flickering. A full minute passed.
He snapped back into focus, pulled a small bottle of whiskey out of his pant pocket, took a gulp.
He breathed liquor and stale peanuts into the office, “Wanna sip?”
“Sure.” I said, coyly.
He handed me the bottle - the liquid burnt going down my gullet, warmed my stomach. He stood staring at the video on the monitor - fazing in and out.
I simply wanted to get back to my dope. I darted my eyes up to him - not bad. Tall, thin, thick black hair, full lips, bloodshot eyes. He stood there, slack-jawed, pouty mouth hung open, shiny and moist.
Drunkenly, he blurted out, “Damn we need some bitches here - I want a blow job.”
“Well - it’s real late, no one here but me. Sorry.”
There was a long, uncomfortable pause as we silently stared at the porn on the monitor.
“Damn, I need some head.”
Mechanically, I stated, “Drop your boxers and I’ll do it if you want it that bad, shipmate.”
“What?!” He stuttered.
“Your last chance.” I droned.
“Shit. Don’t hafta ask me twice.”, he entered the office - closing the concession door behind him.
He glared at me with the look of a guilty boy about to do something bad. The shorts came down and I gave him the bestest of the mostest. Shooting his cum - he gave me the old Don’t Tell Anybody Speech before he darted back into the theater.
Don’t worry, kid - I won’t tell anyone.