Sky was that bright Mexican blue and the air was simmering humid. Mario and I dodged into a filthy alley littered with broken beer bottles, syringes, and shit. Small and barefoot children played with a gray, mangy mongrel.
We cut into a two-story hotel lobby at the dead end of a blind alley. Passing through rotted French doors, a fat chilango sat behind the reception desk watching the flickering screen of a small, portable television with an antennae that was crooked and that ended in tattered wads of aluminum foil.
The receptionist didn’t move - head swerved toward us with the look of a masturbating idiot as Mario approached the counter.
They exchanged greetings and the slobbish man mumbled something unintelligible to Mario.
Mario looked at me and nodded into the hotel proper, “C’mon, guero.”
Passing through the dusty lobby, hung with old Spanish movie posters torn and riddled with graffiti, we walked into the middle of the hotel’s open courtyard. The building was old - must had been built in the forties or fifties. Warped, wood railings encircled the second floor, white paint curled and pealing. Loud cacophony of noises from Banda music to crying babies permeated the stale, hot air.
Mario and I strode over to a first floor room. The door opened as we approached; an old woman emerged.
“Aye, Mario, it is good to see you again.” She cackled, arms outstretched.
Mario gave her a quick embrace, “Hola, Esperanza - is Abel around?”
She flashed him a stern look then called over her shoulder in Spanish, “Abel! You have visitors.”
The frumpy hag stood stern and cold, grimaced at me with droopy eyelids. Old ratty, orange wig sat askew her prunish head, arched eyebrows which looked as if they were drawn on by a magic marker.
“This is my friend. He lives here in TJ.” Mario said, solemnly.
The old woman smiled like a predatory animal, exposing long and yellow, false teeth. She extended her hand, “Bienvenidos, guero.”
“Hi.” Was all I could say.
The sun hurt my eyes and I was tired - I hadn’t slept in six days.
A voice quacked out from the back something to the effect that Mario should go there. I stood in the doorway as Mario disappeared into the murk of the room.
My eyes adjusted to the gloom. There was an overstuffed bed with ragged green cover, clothes and knick-knacks seemed to be piled everywhere. In a corner, sat candles and a small alter to Guadalupe. A great deal of items were packed in large trash bags and brown paper sacks.
The old woman flopped in a creaky, wooden chair - it creaked loudly as she settled into her Spanish novelas. She completely ignored me - the hatred and distrust from her towards me, emitted like television waves.
“I’ll be out here smoking a cigarette.” I muttered.
Old hag said nothing, fixed on the television set.
I lit a cigarette and looked around. The cobblestone yard was cracked with pools of dirty incandescent water, rusted refrigerators, mop buckets filled with garbage - the air smelled of feces and urine.
“Hey!” Yelled a voice from the second floor in English.
I ignored it.
“Hey, white boy! What the fuck you doin’ here?!” Hollered the voice.
I looked up to see a skinny, young Mexican guy leaning over the balcony of the second floor. Emaciated frame in worn, white tank top t-shirt and dirty khakis with an oversized, black baseball jacket. In his dark eyes there raged white, hot hatred.
“What the fuck you doin’ here?!” He screeched again, as he made his way along the railing to the stairs, keeping those ferocious eyes fixed on me. “Get the fuck outta here! Go back to your fucking country!”
“Yeah, I’m gonna do that just cause you told me to!” I yelled back, not flinching - returning his harsh glare.
“What?!” His face contorted in hate. “What?! What the fuck you say, motherfucker?!”
He quickened his decent - reaching into his tattered, stained jacket. My heart raced - this asshole either possessed a gun or a knife and had every intention of using it.
“I’m gonna kick your fucking ass, cracker!” He bellowed.
I stood, clenching my fists, and retorted, “I’m right here, naco - I’m waitin’!”
As his first step left the stairs and onto the cobblestone, Mario popped out of the hotel room and stood there. My assailant stopped in his tracks.
A tense pause, then Mario said to me as he glared at the other guy, “Get inside. Abel wants to talk to you.”
Mario led me past the unaffected old woman and into a back room. The pink colored walls were stained and flaking, a queen sized bed took up most of the room. The small area consisted of an end table and a dark brown dresser - a naked bulb hung from a black cable that jut out of the yellow ceiling.
Sitting on the bed was a young Mexican with a shaved head, white tank top and stained khakis. This was Abel. On the dresser was an open compact mirror with three lines of crystal that lay across it.
Abel stood up, “Heard Rudy outside, man - don’t worry ‘bout him. That tweeker is just the watchdog, nothing more.”
I croaked yeah or it’s okay or some stupid comment.
Abel stepped over to the dresser and fingered the compact mirror. “Mario says you wanna buy some crystal? How much?”
“A dime.” I said.
Abel paused, glanced at Mario, then me.
The young cholo went into his pusher spiel, “Well, I don’t have to tell you, this is some good shit - best shit yer gonna find anywheres. I don’t sell it to just anybody, you know. Just friends. Since you are amigos with Mario, I can cut you a good deal.” He pulled out a twenty peso note from his pants pocket and rolled it into a tube - pointing it at me. “You wanna try some?”
“I’d be happy to.” I grinned.
I took the rolled note and stepped up next to the dresser. The crystals were shiny and pure - looked like ground glass. I placed one end of the note to my nostril and vacuumed up a line. Habitually throwing my head back, snorting up the residue. Within seconds, that tingly feeling shot up through my upper spine. I handed the note back to Abel.
“Nah.” He protested, palms out. “Let Mario go next.”
As Mario snuffed, Abel smiled at me, “Yeaaah. Some good shit, huh?”
Mario passed me the rolled note.
Abel continued, “My boy Mario gets all his shit from me.” He reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a dime bag - handing it to me. I slapped the hundred peso note into his hand.
Abel smiled his con smile, spoke to me slow and sweet like I was a retard, “Right…right. Now, I need you only to buy from me, got it? If you need any more - just get a hold of Mario and he’ll bring you over here. Don’t come by yourself - these pendejos that live here will kill your white ass.”
I finished the line, cleaning up the residue on the compact mirror with my finger and brushed it into my gums, “Hell yeah. This is some good shit. You got yourself a new client, man.”
Mario started to the door, “We done? Yeah? Orale. Let’s go.”
We both said laterz and walked through the other room to the exit. The old lady pleasantly said farewell to Mario - didn’t say shit to me. Outside, the asshole on the second floor glared silently as we left.
“Okay - now just keep your eyes peeled for cops when we leave.” Mario warned.
Mario decided he wanted some tacos and then some coke and in that order.
Through dark, cobblestone streets of the Old Market - whores, fat and nasty, stood and waited forever, sucking on a silver tooth. Black phantoms lurked in the alleys between closed shops - reek of stale urine and vomit - housed the quivering junky.
We stopped for chicken tacos, slop on a plate, downed two glass-bottled Pepsi’s - then jetted over to Coahuila Alley - furtive glances from pimps as we dodged buses that belched air so dirty, it clogged your pores.
Up to Burrito Row. Angelic Beto was working the stall - his fine ass smiled and greeted us. Mario and I made small chit-chat.
The three doormen of the titty bar across the street - Mambo Room - caught glimpse of my gringo ass and began their hustle:
“Hey buddy - no cover!”
“Over here! Big pussy!”
“Nice lady! Nice lady! Pussy women!”
I waved them on with a poker face, cause I meant business and they sulked away only to pounce on three other American assholes.
Heated conversation between Beto and Mario en Español that ended with Mario handing Beto some crumpled pesos, which were placed under the till - a small white packet of wax paper was slapped in Mario’s hand and we walked out the door - both saying, “Gracias!”
“Orale.” Said back.
We cut across Revolucion Avenue, past loud and drunk college turistas in hip-hop garb, past taxi drivers on the hustle under the glaring, ugly neon of teeny bopper discos that catered to the San Diego University crowd.
Down a dead-end street paved in beer bottle caps to Hotel Bombin - Mario’s rented room, a 100 peso a night trap, paid the haggish lady behind the grill, up the white-tiled stairwell, unlocked the deadbolt.
He took the strip of aluminum foil and folded a crease down the middle. Pinched a few small rocks out of the Chinese rice paper - sprinkled the crystal substance onto the crease.
With sweaty, brown hands trembling as if it were his last, Mario lit the bottom of the foil strip with his lighter. He jury rigged a straw from an empty ink pen tube - placed in mouth, grimaced downward, eyes intent - the heat melted the small crystalline rocks into a liquid of Mercury like jelly. The thick gray smoke - smell of burnt metal - snaked up into the pen - deep inhale to charred lungs. Mario tilted the strip with care, let the heavy metal fluid run down the course of the strip – greedily sucked at the fumes as he went. His face lit up like a pinball machine with esoteric results.
“Orale.” He exhaled - passing the strip to me.
I sat poised on the edge of the rickety, brown chair and followed his lead. The meth entered my lungs - like a 240 volt circuit the rush sped up my spine through the back brain and tingled my forehead. Laid back and listened down into myself.
Outside, in the early afternoon Mexican street, cars honked and kids shouted in play. The avocado painted room in which we sat was sparsely furnished - smell of dust, soiled socks, and dried semen.
Tongue clicked against grinding teeth, my mouth tasted of aluminum - I exhaled and wondered how much of this shit we had done. I was covered in a fine film of sweat - fingers twitched and twiddled uncontrollably as I passed back the strip to Mario - my eyes bouncing around like the Cookie Monsters.
He sat across from me - black, straight hair hung limp over those amber eyes, thin face, and his slight but muscular copper frame was shirtless from the heat. Ten minutes passed us in silence.
“He cuts it himself.” He said and, yes, Abel did a good job.
The piece that I had scored was a good size and got it half price on account that Abel liked him. I knew the deal - get us hooked and we will be loyal customers.
It’s working, I smiled to myself.
The worst porn in the world flickered on his small television set as Mario rocked back and forth, eyes diluted and red, transfixed on the outdated imagery of some bouffanted skank getting pounded in the butt by an equally gelled and blow-dried stud.
I blearily glanced out the window – brilliant, blue sky cascaded down on a dusty city, graffiti covered buildings slowly crumbled into garbage, cars screamed, and ranchero tunes blared all in crystal clear focus - we both sat there in silence save for the wackawacka wairn nairn music from the 80’s porn. Mario slid a thin hand down his ravaged face.
We did another hit. Then another. And, then some more.
Mario phased out into Tweekerland and I went and lay down. Hyperventilating on the bed - I heard fucking sounds (The sounds of fucking, you understand) inside the walls, I always do. Take all this dick, bitch! Bed against the opposite wall - thumpthumpthumpthump. My teeth ground and my tongue clicked as I twitched like a short circuited robot on the bed; clothes clung to my wet body like a used condom.
I thought, So this is what it has come to.
Later, we lay side by side and shared a joint. Mario took it from his mouth and placed it between my lips.
Hours slowly passed as a mariachi band played ghostlike down a dark street, I stared up at the ceiling fan that whirled slowly - 5:20am. Mario silently snoozed next to me. The alarm went off.
There was nothing better - nothing in the world - than waking up in the warm arms of a handsome man on a cold morning. Mario turned up at me, slow and sleepy, like a turtle - buenas dias - smiles, rubbed sleep out of his eyes with my thumb, gently.
Together, we hit the shower with the tiles still cold and the full moon bright and stars twinkling. Downed a cup of instant coffee and out the door. We parted ways on the corner littered with trash, as a mangy dog nuzzled through yesterday’s garbage, died a day later from stale, rotten meat.
I walked briskly, huddled in my black leather jacket with cigarette hanging and puffing through adobe and brick haciendas – fat, young whores, purposeful carriers of diseases - lurked in shadowy doorways selling their wares. Dirty latex stretched over bruises and pimples.
“Tsk...tsk...wanna fuck me baby.”
I walked on, ignoring the filthy bitches.
Pigeons swarmed high above the green gymnasium where Mario and I witnessed the midget Lucha Libre the week before, funniest shit I ever had to sit still for, I tell ya.
Walking through Zona Norte that early, you witnessed the junkies in full scope, Dear Reader. Everything in focus - sharp and clear as if after a spring rain. I jolted into a café and sat with a cup of coffee and two slices of toast. In my pocket was a baggie almost full - I smiled while sipping my coffee, in the assurance I would devour the entire contents of said baggie before heading back to work that evening.