My stint south of the border had taught me the fact that nothing was free. Nothing. Not even friendship. Everyone had a price or more correctly, “I don’t care what or how much you have; at least give me something.” Gets to be a bore and a strain on the old ego.
One morning, I strolled to Café Central, stopping at the Plaza in front of the Cathedral for a smoke and people watch. I was about to continue to Café Central for breakfast, when my friend Javier approached me.
We chitchatted about things; work, money, going out, when I invited him for breakfast. After a good meal of huevos rancheros and a taza de café, we walked over to my pad and took no time in getting down and dirty.
Several positions later, Javier and I took an afternoon siesta. Because, a good morning of humping can take the wind outta ya, know what I mean?
Woke up around noon, showered and said our good-byes. Not before Javier hit me up for some dough. All I had on me was sixty pesos and I was chagrined when Javier asked for more.
“You don’t have cien?”
“C’mon, Jav - don’t be like that.” I said.
I escorted him to the door, I mean really.
Later, I was standing out front of the Cathedral enjoying the sun and a fresca. A performance artist dressed as a cowboy and covered in silver paint was doing the old, robot routine, drawing quite a crowd, when a young, handsome guy stood next to me and began a conversation on the matter.
I glanced him over, not bad.
Above the racket, he confided, “I’m looking for my wife. I’ve been waiting for a couple of hours. I know she is going to be here with her new boyfriend.”
I thought this angle was quite droll and laughed it off. Eventually, money was brought up, on his part.
“Seriously, that bitch is draining me of all my cash. All she does is spend, spend, spend…I’m so fucking broke!”
I continued to watch the show, not looking at him, said flatly, “That’s too bad.”
We stood a moment in silence, then he chirped, “Well, I’m going into the Cathedral, Mass is going to start.”
With that, he was gone. Moments later, said mooch came out of the church and continued on how sad he was over his ailing mother.
“Shit. I need fifty dollars. My grandmother is so sick, you know?”
I asked, “Don’t you work?”
“Si!” He smiled. “I am a waiter at the Old Juarez Market.”
“That place is always crawling with rich, American tourists.” I pointed out. “Your tips must be very good.”
That shut him up for a bit. He then mumbled something about going to the International Bridge to get some money from a friend. I wished him luck.
At that moment, Oscar walked up and said "Hola."
“Where are you going?” I asked, smiling.
He pointed at the Cathedral’s entrance, “A la iglesia.” (To church)
Oscar shook hands and entered the church for Mass.
The previous guy, who I finally got his name as Antonio, started up on how he needed to get his son some new clothes.
I thought, C’mon! If you need some cash, come out with it and cut the corny stories of woe!
Seeing this was going nowhere, Antonio asked, “What are you doing later tonight?”
I said, “Drinking with some friends.”
“Oh, I don’t know the name of the bar…I just know how to get there.”
He smiled coyly and asked, “It’s a gay bar, right?”
I looked at him with mocked shock, “What? Gay bar? No…it’s…okay, yeah; it’s a fucking queer joint. You have good eyes – though, I pegged you, too, when you began talking to me.”
“I’m not queer, dude.” He smiled.
Of course - the old ‘I’ll blow you, I’ll fuck you, but I won’t kiss you, because I’m not queer’ line.
With that, he mumbled, “Look, man - I’ll meet you tonight at eight o’clock to party with you and your friends.”
“Sure.” I mumbled.
We shook hands and Antonio took off for the International Bridge for his rendezvous with the mysterious, fifty-dollar friend.
I sat on the Cathedral steps smoking a Lucky and watching the eye candy pass and that’s when Oscar approached me.
“Is everything okay between you and God?” I joked.
“I don’t have a problem with God. I think God has a problem with me.” Oscar smiled. “Let’s go to your house…did you get any new porn movies?”
I laughed, “Damn, boy! You just came outta church and you wanna watch porn?” Pause. “Let’s go.”
“Vamanos.” Oscar agreed.
At my pad, as the porn played, I gave Oscar some head on a cock that was so hard a cat couldn’t scratch it.
After that, I was hit up for one hundred pesos. Sigh, again, couldn’t we have sex just because it’s fun and not cheapen it into a financial negotiation? I mean, Oscar had a good job with a roof repair company (or so he claimed), why did he need money? Paid the little fucker anyway and separated at the front door. Him mentioning going to his house.
I prepared a light lunch in the kitchen and sat watching Mexican novellas. That became boring real quick.
Back in front of the Cathedral, the sun was sinking over the dusty mountains and I sat waiting for my friends to go have cocktails.
Lo and behold, there was Oscar sitting on a concrete bench eating an ice cream - obviously peddling that ass. He didn’t expect to see me so soon and seemed a bit agitated on speaking with me.
I explained sincerely, “Look, Oscar - no need to tell me some cockamamie story just to get out of my house. You are an adult and free to do what you like.”
He silently nodded.
I continued, “Hey, you hungry? I am. Let’s go get some tacos.” I grinned. “C’mon, ya little shit.”
In which after I flipped the bill, he hit me up for twenty pesos more. Egads. I just went home, watched some television.
I sat and thought. I did not know why I cared so much for that little creep - but, I did. It brought me down thinking that all I must be to him is free money.
A couple of hours later, I found myself at a dive I liked very much, Caletilla - a small cantina in a rough neighborhood. The joint consisted of a bar that ran the length of the oblong room. With a jukebox in the back by the foul restrooms, the purple-painted cantina could hold only about forty people. However, on crowded nights, it became so packed, the fags spilt out onto the crumbling sidewalk.
Not thirty seconds in the door, I was hit up for a beer by the local ‘Can you buy me anything’ mooch.
The first was a young man with a very athletic build – the types fairies coo over. Tall and handsome, he introduced himself as Alejandro. He wore a white tank-top with California Easy embroidered across the chest. He had on khaki summer shorts and wore flip-flops. One of those damn hustlers that preyed on Americans.
He slid next to me at the bar holding an empty glass, “Hey! Guero, how you doing?”
“Not bad. Yourself?” I poured the yellow liquid into my glass, squeezed in a lemon, sprinkled salt.
Alejandro tipped his empty glass at my bottle, "Hey! You mind if I can have some beer?”
However, four caguamas later, and getting a pretty good buzz on, Alejandro’s cheery demeanor changed sour when I decided to cut his free beer off.
“That’s it, man.” I tottered. “I’m tapped out. You want to buy the next round?”
“What do mean, you’re tapped out? Buy another beer for me.” He said.
I lit a cigarette, watching the bloated lesbian as she tended the bar and then turned to Alejandro, “I mean, c’mon, man…don’t be a fucking mooch. Buy, one - I’ve been flippin’ the bill all afternoon.”
“You know what, gringo - fuck you.” He left in a huff.
I watched him storm out and ordered another beer.
The sun gone, I stood outside the bar smoking a cigarette under the sheltering moon and waited for a few of my friends to hopefully stagger by.
The motley pedestrians stumbled past - shifty thieves, clomping transvestites, hookers sagging in spandex, smelly tramps, mange covered dogs.
Music of all types blasted out of the rows of neon flashing cantinas and dance halls. The smell of seared meat and rotting garbage mingled with belching bus fumes.
As I finished my cigarette, Erik and tall Isidro staggered up out of the haze.
Smiling, I said, “It’s about time! I was about to go home.”
“Callete, puta!” Isidro barked. “Get your ass back inside and let’s drink!”
Entering the bar again, and after Isidro bought a round, a cute shorty came up and started on the mooch.
“I wonder if you can do me a favor?” He meekly asked.
I wisecracked, “Uh-oh. Those are dangerous words, handsome.”
“I’m thirsty and I’d like a beer.”
“Well, gee” I began, as I pointed at the bar with bottle in hand, “There’s a whole bar in front of you…why don’t you just order one.”
“That’s the thing.” He smiled. “I haven’t any money.”
“Why would you come to a bar without any money? You are assuming a lot there, kiddo.”
“I understand.” He said, acting a little wounded. “Could you buy me a beer?”
With that, I got onto a bitch roll: “Look, I have been buying people beer for two days straight now. As a matter of fact, I have been living in your country for almost ten years and once, just once, I’d like the tables turned and someone to buy me a drink…just once.” I accented this, holding a finger up to his blank, docile face. “But, that doesn’t look like it’s gonna happen, does it? Nope - because as we all well know, Americans are so fucking rich - we got money blowing outta our asses and can buy any and everything, right? I mean, the way you mooches approach me fifty times a day, you’d think I got millions of dollars in the bank. Yeah, I’m so fucking rich…that’s why I live in a Mexican slum and not in a swanky penthouse Stateside.”
“So, can I have a beer?”
“Fuck off! Go bum someone else…or is it only Americans you bother with your financial woes?”
It must have hit home, because when I turned from my friends, the little fucker was drinking with an old, tired American queen.
My buzz gone, I bid my friends goodnight and left.
Squeezing my way past groping hookers and stumbling drunks, I stopped for a hamburger at a corner stand.
Under garish neon, I sat on a stool in front of the stand, chomping on my burger, when a scrawny, lizard-like cholo slithered up behind me and put his hand on my back, smiling, “Hey, guero, could you buy me one hamburger?”
“No!” I stomped home.
A nation of mooches. All that it is.