The hissing of the rain continued. I glanced out the box office window - like a walking pile of wet rags, a stooped, homeless man soggily pushed a shopping cart filled with his dreams down the wet, gray sidewalk. Yellow streetlamps lit the blue, plastic tarp that covered the upper part of his bulky form that glistened in the half dark.
Grabbed my notebook and jotted down notes. The high that wracked my body was winding down and I began to feel literary - I seemed to be following a fractured nightmare.
I stared at my dog-eared copy of a book by Charles Bukowski and I sighed. The more I read his work and the works of Kerouac, Burroughs, Orwell, Hemingway, Herbert Selby - the worse my writing seemed, because I saw those writers as my superiors. They could take a few choice words and make a beautiful flower.
I saw myself as a writer writing unpublishable horrors. I smiled, knowing full well that I would be living in shit and degradation until my dying day - found slumped in a chair, face ashen gray with age as I clutched my final work. How maudlin.
Thirty years later, they would be scrutinizing and analyzing my works at Harvard and Yale - a pigeon dung covered bronze statue of my ravaged ass outside the literary building. Life was funny that way, I reckoned.
Thoughts flashed across my fucked up mind in a kaleidoscope of images - I didn’t scribble in my little, uniformed, capital letters about blonde heroes careening across the solar system battling intelligent octopi and warrior insects - I began to write about my loneliness. On how, I continued to obsess over the wreck of a past four-year relationship. O! How the world then, my world, was brighter and more comprehensive. I meditated on the life shattering pain of that separation.
I remembered the day after he and I had broken up; I stood beat and forlorn in a swanky bar on Santa Monica Boulevard back in Los Angeles - a circle of caring, simpering colleagues held glasses of various liquors, the sun bright outside and green palm trees slowly rustled in a gentle wind.
The bar was not that crowded - Rage it was called - homosexual clones stood posed around us in their uniform of white tank tops, jeans, and black work boots, all looking sad and lost and desperate with that gleam of detesting hatred that no matter what amount of alcohol consumed could hide. The common gay attitude face.
A short fairy whom I had known for some time, glanced at me earnestly, “So, whacha gonna do now? I realize how much this must pain you.”
Pain me? Ah, that pain I felt raging inside as I stood in Rage surrounded by a gaggle of faggots who I wanted nothing more than to see incinerated in a blast of atomic destruction. The pain! It felt so insidious! During four years, I had a reason to get up in the morning, to shower, to eat, to work, to live and love and all those sweet, candy-colored memories and emotions that went along with it. Now, there was a hole - a dark, dark void in my chest that was so fucking ugly to feel and sense and smell.
I took a sip of my rum and coke and sighed at my little friend, “I’m going to take a weekend vacation - I’m going to Tijuana, I guess. Cool off - think things over.”
Internally, I wanted to die - why else, what else was there to live for? Anyone who has had their heart broken and are prone to over dramatic responses of certain situations could understand my motive.
I concluded, at the time, there was no reason for me to go on. I thought of suicide on several occasions - the drudge of jumping through life’s rut with all its hate and anger and paranoia and never ending let downs - all seemed pointless. It felt fruitless to continue to placate the two-faced condescending queens of West Hollywood or perhaps it was just the shame of looking into their eyes and knowing full well they were laughing internally, “Haha - you got dumped!”
On a spiritual level, I believed that suicide was not the answer - personally, and I wouldn’t have it any other way - God, if he was up there, would forgive all things except suicide. At least, that was what I remembered from Sunday School. Why exchange one Hell for another? That belief stayed my hand.
So, in secret, I realized I had to attempt the insidious act precariously and I had chose to go to the most dangerous city I knew and that being Tijuana, Mexico. I had visited the city only twice prior in my life and knew next to nothing of that locale save the whispered horror stories from beaten and long-winded acquaintances who journeyed there on occasion.
I held the fantasy that I would go down there, wave fistful of dollars around in several dismal bars, and at the crack of a foggy dawn, the police would find me face down in a shit strewn alley with no pants - my life pumped out of me. Thus, ending the gnawing hurt in my heart over that insidious separation.
Unlike Lot’s wife, I didn’t look back. I packed the few clothes that would fit in my small duffel bag and purchased a cheap Mexican bus line to the Tijuana border. I lived in a crappy room above a whorehouse for the first six months doing ghastly things.
That weekend of self reflection stretched into years of insidious suffering. The guilt, the depression, the pain that I felt enveloped my soul and consumed my world.
Once settled in Tijuana, I soon was to become acquainted with Plaza Santa Cecilia. The Plaza was the meeting place, the central nervous system of gay Tijuana. A stretch of pedestrian concrete running diagonally from Revolution to Constitution Avenue and Second Street topped off by a silver slash across the sky; the Millennium Arch - a bane to many locals.
There, you would find sidewalk cafes with their open tables and the old American queers who sat entertaining up to four or five boys at a time. Those decaying fags giggled and shrieked and rolled their eyes at each other in vain attempts to impress their American colleagues at how popular they could still be with younger men. The boys sat and smiled and laughed at the right times, waiting to rob those festering, old vampires of every penny they had.
The hustlers of Plaza Santa Cecilia were in a category all to themselves - I had never seen their equal for persistence and all around obnoxiousness.
They were, without fail, attracted to the uncoordinated movements of the American in a strange land - the least show of not knowing precisely where you were going, and they would run at you from their lurking places in the side bars and cafes.
“Want nice chico, meester?”
“See bull fight? Donkey Show?”
“Nice boy? Show you good time?”
“You like beeg one, meester?”
The cruising fags sat, lounging in the shade and they would coo and screech, flipping wrists and rolling eyes, tearing each other apart with catty, gay double entendre.
There was a parade of hustlers to choose from. All circled the Plaza with the attitude of aroused Tomcats.
In the Plaza, was the notorious cantina Bar Ranchero - one of several gay locales that ringed the square. It was well known for its seediness and blatant, cruising homosexuals and rough hustlers. A hotbed of American pedophiles and drug addicts.
The interior of the bar was a low-ceiling room. On one side, a long counter tended by two, tough lesbians. On the other side of the cantina were old, rickety, metal chairs and tables where sex and drugs were bought with indifference. There was a jukebox that played the same tunes over and over again. And in the middle, the main floor where hustlers and queens stood and posed, gazing out with probing, calculating lust.
The restroom was a virtual carnival in which drugs flowed as easily as the piss. Oral sex was openly common.
There was a little dance floor that catered to strippers and tired drag shows – and, one could dance on it if one felt inclined.
Since I was soon to become a fixture at this dive, I became friends with many of the hustlers that frequented the cantina. Of course, they being hopped up on meth to stay awake 24/7 to woo their various clients, it was through them that I received my first major taste of speed.
Though I was partying and living in such liberation, such as I had never encountered in Los Angeles, I still carried that black cloud over my head concerning the break up in Hollywood.
I began consuming methamphetamines at first, because it seemed to alleviate the pain a bit. Then, those once in a while sniffs in toilet stalls at bars eventually led into a full blown addiction. All I cared about was my writing and my dope.
I kept a detailed journal and wrote about my experiences living in the whore district with painful accuracy. I never meant to publish any of that tripe - I always considered it a letter. A letter of desperate woe to send to the ex-lover who destroyed my heart. See what you did? See what you put me through? I am living this mad, insane, bitterly sad existence and it is all your fault! And yet, as time passed - I didn’t care anymore.
Life is funny like that. One day, you are drudging through the worst emotional trauma of your life - a week later, who gives a fuck, right?
But, that was then…
In the office, I paused; sat the notebook down - waves of depression washed over me. I picked up the crinkly, aluminum strip. Nothing. The little plastic bag licked dry. I sighed and walked to the concession window, hanging the BACK IN TEN MINUTES sign on the door as I closed it.
I decided to confront my frump with a little release. In the dark theater, the air was thick with ammonia, dried semen, and the grunts and moans of unbridled lust.
The patrons consisted of five lost boys, four cruising queens, three old farts, two quivering junkies, one black hobo, and a partridge in a pair tree. C’mon, people, sing it with me!
On screen, an Asian cooch was getting banged in the back seat of a convertible as they drove down the freeway. Porno was scratching the bottom of the barrel if it had to succumb to such cheap thrills.
Speaking of cheap thrills – I sat in the back row like a good fag, when a short Mexican guy next to me whipped out a glass pipe and with a small blow torch, began smoking crack without reservations.
As I sat and listened to the crackle and pop of the drug mixed with the shrieking of the she-bitch onscreen, I smelled the aroma of said crack and the tingle of tired, old cells began to activate.
The little Mexican - I had seen him several times before, sat with his unattractive, dark-brown face shimmering in a fine layer of perspiration.
He handed over the pipe, “Hey, man - want some?”
“Nah.” I croaked. “I don’t do that shit anymore.”
“Don’t do it anymore?” He asked mechanically. “What do you do now?”
“I write. (Cough) I’m a writer.”
“Really?” He took another obscene drag. “What do you write?”
I smiled, “Garbage.”
Ah, fuck it, I thought. I looked over to him, reaching, “May I?”
“Sure, man...it’s only dope.”
Click - fffft - wheeeeeee!!!!
Small, white sparks exploded behind my eyes - my body felt that 240 watt current.
“Damn.” I quivered.
“Yup.” The Mexican smacked his thick lips. “Sure fire way to wipe away them blues.”
After a few more hits, I was a clicking, teeth grinding, jittery mess. The Mexican poofed away in an incandescent cloud.
Shrouded in tattered clothes, Fagin looking hobo character entered and plopped next to me, smelling like last week’s sewage.
“Hey, buddy.” He wheezed halitosis into my face. “You wanna get high?”
“No.” I sneered. “Drugs are for losers.”
I crossed my legs all lady-like and snorted in disdain. Fagin vibrated out of focus a shivering, teeth grinding wreck and I was left alone with some little Yoda-looking coot ogling and grinning, jiggling change in pocket.
Side note: In all my years as a homo in the service, why is it that in these porno joints there were always, and I mean always, some fucking Elder who would stand for hours on end smacking gum and jiggling change in their polyester pant pockets? Why?
Time to move on. Whacked it a few as the movie continued to heat up and the older queens did their dance around me and I ignored the lot of them. They were not worthy.
That was until a slick, college-type fruit sprung up from the front rows. However, I saw he was sniffing and bounced around the theater like a ping-pong ball.
Am I the only one here not a wing-nut?
He walked back to the hall leading to the toilet as old perverts raised their heads like animals sensing danger. New Meat. The Exodus to the mensroom ensued; leaving me alone.
I repaired to the loo to wash off my hands - old, bitter fairies paraded in a stylized ballet of random, broken lust amid sounds of pissing and farting - smell of bleach, semen, and shit lingered in that foul, stained room.
Sitting back in the theater proper, I looked around and the fun fest was in full swing - heads bobbed in crotches of willing patrons as the desperate and depraved paraded through the aisles.
An attractive Emo kid that I had noticed before slithered next to me and performed the most mind blowing blow job on me I have had in many a moon - afterwards the bitch wanted to get intimate and cuddle - told him to scattah.
I sat and watched the show around me and not paying much attention to what was up on screen - puffing on a cigarette in a row of crackheads - my immediate vicinity was a literal London fog of carcinogens.
My shift was almost over and it was nearing time to close up and clean the filthy joint out. I returned to the office and counted out the register. Tallying the stock and marking down the inventory in the books.
At the stroke of 6am, I switched the video off and flicked on the main lights - the sounds of anguished grunts and sighs of desperation from the theaters patrons.
I grabbed the microphone connected to a speaker system and blurted in the most faux professional voice, “Attention, theater goers! It is 6am and the theater is now closed. If you wish to return - please come back at 7:30 after the theater has been cleaned. Tickets can be bought either at the concession window or at the box office. Thank you.” The speakers whined silent.
The exodus of perverts and junkies - a nightly ritual - streamed out of the theater. I stood at the box office window and with a placating grin on my face, watched them shuffle out.
Stopping at the window, swaggered old Carl. An African American that still dressed in funky beige pimp 1970’s clothes – multipatterned, silk-shirt, flared slacks, white, patent-leather shoes, and a snap brimmed mesh hat. His face was a ravaged map of creases and scars, dust and grease in the cracks. Eyes squinting and voluminous lips in a continual grimace.
He stood and drooped to one side at the box office window, drawled, “Look, my man - gimme one of dem tickets fo’ 7:30 and I’ll hook you up wit some fine ass shit.”
“Really?” I asked. “Whacha got, Carl?”
His eyes rolled around in his skull, he slid an ashy hand across crusted, dry lips, “Mmmm, yeah. I got dis shit fo ya, white boy. Good shit.”
He pulled a small, pink baggie from the folds of his shirt.
I took it and handed him a ticket, “Thanks, Carl.”
I looked at the chunky pink/white powder in the bag.
He examined the ticket, “Wit dis I can come back, right? No problems?”
“Yep. Just give that ticket to the dude that relieves me.”
He turned toward the street, stopped and snapped his fingers in thought, “Right - right. Now that some strong shit - don’t do it all at once, ‘k?”
I shrugged with hands open and smiled, “C’mon - I’m a big boy, Carl.”
“Shiiiiiit….” He chuckled and walked out into the predawn mist.
I locked up and headed to the storage closet - grabbed the mop and bucket. I stood a moment and gazed onto the lit theater - with its rows of stained chairs, wooden floor littered with cigarette butts.
Now, I am going to tell it to you and I’m going to tell it to you country simple: There is nothing more grotesque and demeaning than cleaning a porno theater after 24 hours of use by a legion of cooing perverts and filthy junkies.
After shooing everyone out - and of course there was always some flop snuggled into a chair snoring and no manner of poking, screaming, or dousing with water was going to stir him.
The trick was to simply hoist him up and drag him out - moreover, he awakened, kicking and screaming and that’s when you had to get tough with the old fucker.
Shadowy memory of holding the door open and pushing the old bum out - whack! - he bounced off the door frame and with another push, went rolling into the street - cursing and face red with rage.
Donning industrial-rubber gloves and with broom in hand, I got to work. Sweeping between the isles - used condoms, wadded tissue, watches, underclothes, glass pipes, syringes, dope. And, always money.
On a good night, I could score up to one hundred dollars in loose bills. Drunks were always spilling money from their pockets in fumbling fits of passion - more for me, I reckon.
I slopped water into that hideous bucket and mopped away all the saliva, mucus, and semen - onto the mensroom, which had developed into a biological horror. I used the bleach abundantly, searing my eyes and nostrils - took time to spray down the sink, urinal, and toilet with lots of Lysol - Hell, I even coated down the glory hole in the graffitied scrawled toilet wall.
More often than not, I hired one of the regular crackheads that would clean just to stay in, not having the extra six dollars for readmission. These junkies would jump at the chance because of the money and dope they found lying around under the seats.
However, that morning I was feeling it - flying on a crank buzz that wouldn’t quit. In a tweeking fit of energy, I scrubbed that theater spotless.
Even though Bob usually inspected the theater - I still left one seat caked in vomit and urine, I do have my limits.
After I vacuumed the carpet in the halls, I returned to the office to reopen the theater and waited for my shift to end.
An hour passed and my relief arrived, a scrawny white kid with a scraggly, black goatee named David - he was a musician in a floundering garage band and a student that attended writing classes at the Community College. He was also ass deep in a heroin addiction.
I recalled a few weeks before as I sat in the office, one of Bob’s little beetle looking friends came to the concession window not only to buy a candy bar, but also to vomit out his gossip he had accumulated on David that I was sure caused the creepy little fucker gastronomic problems holding in all day.
The short, rotund pervert confided in hushed tones that when he came to the concession window earlier during David’s shift, the young man was slumped on the nod in the office chair, hunched over with tongue hanging out, right hand clutching a syringe.
I was certain Bob had heard about this - but, since David was handsome in that Calvin Kline junky model way, Bob had turned a blind eye to it.
David was not bad as far as people went - timid, reserved, hopelessly heterosexual - and every morning I met him, he loved to relate the horror stories of his previous day’s work shift.
“You know that old man with the bag - the red canvass shopping bag?” He started as soon as he entered the office.
“Yeah? The one that looks like Allen Funt?” I asked, mixing a cup of instant coffee.
The man in question was a daily regular and one of Bob’s eyes and ears. I always wondered who would come to a porno theater every day. There are different types of addiction, I guess.
“Yup, that’s him.” David said as he placed his book bag on the blue recliner. “People were saying that he would troll around the theater - y’know looking for dick - and when someone would refuse his advances, he would stand up dramatically, turn, and fart on them - walking away.”
I smirked, because I’d seen it happen.
David took a sheet of paper towel off the role and taped it up across the monitor showing the porn on the theater screen.
I looked over at him as he adjusted the sheet of paper, “Heh, you always do that.
He stood up, hands on hips, surveyed the monitor to make sure no filth filtered through, “That shit can rot your brains and can cause impotency, man!”
Who am I to judge?
I passed off any pertinent information, said my goodbyes, and walked out into the shimmering dawn.
The streets were still wet from the previous night’s downpour - but now, the sky was a brilliant blue and the orange sun came screaming over the horizon. The sidewalks were empty as I trudged up to a station to jump a trolley back to the border.
As I stood and waited at the stop, a young transvestite on a beach cruiser bike silently peddled by in the still dawn. Black dress, blue wig, black horn rimmed glasses, red garter belt outside the dress, and old style, black, high-top sneakers. I hummed the Witch’s theme from The Wizard of Oz as she whisked by.