Stumbled out of my apartment into the God awful bright sun. The color drained from my face replaced now with the ever-attractive beads of constant sweat, the lifelessness within my eyes masked the headache that tore through every thought.
Here was the nausea, the irritation, the itching, the biting and tearing at every little moment of every little minute of every little hour of every little day. The pain of the beast that struggled through its final death was greater, compared to the pain that brought it to life.
How many days had I been without sleep - I lost count. I broke my recluse and for some damned reason, walked downtown to a restaurant because I was fiending for a fruit salad and nobody could make a fruit salad like they did at Café Norteño.
So, as I was saying, I stumbled down Revo and over to Plaza Santa Cecilia. The place was crowded - the café tables full of the expat boylovers and the rentboys who preyed on them. Cooing and cackling, ripping each other to shreds with gay double entendre, squealing and cooing at every passing crotch - the image frozen in a flashbulb of stasis.
I flopped down in a chair at a table by the yellow tiled wall - waiters dashed by with supersonic speeds, the café a symphony of patter and clinking dishes and utensils almost muted by the obligatory ranchero music that blared from the jukebox. I sat, jerking and sweating; ignoring the curious glares of distrust from the other patrons. I had no shame.
I didn’t notice when one of the waiters approached my table. It was Raphael, a handsome young man built like a bulldog. I had known him casually since I first arrived in Tijuana. Under the tattooed, tough physique, I had found him to be a very gentle and soft spoken person. He stood there a moment, gave me a curious look as I swayed, knocking silverware onto the floor.
He wiped the plastic, red checkered table-cloth with a dirty, smelly rag, “What is wrong with you, guero?”
Perspiration poured off my face, my mouth was dry, and my teeth ground loudly.
“Nothing!” I spat. My eyes ping-ponged around the room. “Gimme a fruit salad, will ya? No papaya. Horribly allergic to papaya.”
He made a quirky face of concern, leaned to the side, staring at me, “You are on something, I think.”
The cars outside breathed my name as they whooshed by.
With a paranoid start, I veered toward the door, certain that shadowy phantoms were entering, then I swung back in my seat and looked up at Raphael, “No - no, man - I’m just a little tired.” I wiped the sweat off my forehead and rubbed my hands on my dirty jeans, leaving a moist mark. “Damn! Sure is hot today, huh?” I chuckled in a futile attempt to change the subject - my mind spun in and out of focus.
Raphael slowly shook his head in shame, “Vato, you need to cut that shit out. You look horrible. Your face - it looks so sick.”
I watched as he walked into the kitchen to place the order. My mind began to reel - the loathing, the humiliation at what I had become. I started spiraling deeper down into despair.
Someone sat at my table. I looked up to see a hustler that I knew named Diego. A doe-eyed waif of sixteen, Diego was a seasoned veteran at prowling the old, white Americans that trolled the plaza. Covering his scrawny pale frame, he wore a dingy white t-shirt and dirty, blue jean shorts - long hairless legs were a mass of scabs and open sores.
“Mind if I sit with you?” He asked.
I liked Diego, he was always genuinely courteous.
Other rentboys - especially the ones who prowled the Plaza, never asked - they simply did. I recalled many a time on how I would be sitting in a café and one of those fuckers would brazenly plop down in front of me, not saying a word, ordered something, and then expected me to pay.
On a couple of occasions - before I could make a protest - they would invite a sulking friend. Of course, then the smooth talking and coy sexual innuendos would issue forth and melt away any discontent. Obviously, it worked on the other stupid and sexually frustrated expats - however, I would usually tell them to beat it or just stand up, pay my bill, and split.
Diego was different; he exhibited at least a little respect.
He sat looking at me as I jerked and quivered opposite him.
“Yeah. Sure. Why not.” I mumbled.
“You look like you’re having a good time.” Diego smiled.
Hanging my head, I sighed, “I can’t stand it anymore, Diego. I want to leave. I want to stop. All my friends have turned on me - my job is iffy. I can’t afford to live in the States. It’s too expensive. I’m at my wits end, man. I don’t know what to do.”
As Raphael arrived and sat a soda on my table, Diego ordered a fresca and said, “In two weeks, I am going to Ciudad Juárez. Do you know where that is?”
I shook my head no.
“It’s on the other side of El Paso, Texas. You like living in Mexico - why don’t you move there and get away from all this madness?”
Diego took a sip of his drink, big brown eyes scanned my face, he continued, “I mean, what is there here for you? For me, for that matter? I am going back home and live with my mother. In Juárez at least, I can start all over again and not do the things that I do here. You can go and start all over again, guero.”
I pondered the suggestion, weighed that outcome if it outcome. I rubbed my raw nose with a dirty finger, shiny over the dirt, “Yeah…yeah. Why not?”
Raphael served our order. He stood there glancing at Diego with contempt and then looked at me, “I used to live in El Paso. It is a small town - but nice. The change would do you good.”
For a few minutes, Diego and I sat there and said nothing. Yet, we both shared the same thoughts. The contempt and hatred of our current state of affairs. I picked at my salad - swirling the fork in the mess of honey and cottage cheese.
I nodded, looking up to meet Diego’s gaze, “I’ll leave tomorrow after work. I’m goin’!”