I stood drunk outside the bar - a squat, red-brick dive across from the downtown Greyhound station, where I watched travelers spitting, sitting, waiting on benches for the monstrous buses which belched black smoke up into the hazy air.
I was so close to the streets, the passing buses that chugged by almost knocked me down. The sun had just dropped below the horizon and the navy sky still retained a florescent, orange glow on the horizon.
I had a good buzz after downing three quick mugs of beer and stood spitting great, brown gobs of chewed tobacco out into the traffic. Occasionally, I wouldn’t quite make it and the slimy matter would sling-shot back on a string of saliva and splatter my coat. I’m so classy.
I squinted down the colorless street and noticed my old friend Patrick stumbling towards me. As soon as his eyes focused on who I was, Pat bound and leapt towards me like a giggling school boy. Much handshaking and backslapping and whatever-happened-to-so-and-so’s ensued.
I had known Pat from the men’s shelter. Pat had a little boy look to a face gone rugged from too much drink and manual labor in harsh climates. Pat wore a blue-denim jacket with a racing emblem on the back, blue jeans, sneakers, baseball cap - the standard hobo attire. Pat was still handsome, but his black goatee had specks of gray in it, as did his short cropped hair. There was pain in those green eyes from a long life of hard labor and even harder disappointments. He was of Mexican descent, yet born and raised in Kansas. And like much of the residence of this Texas desert town, drifted down to El Paso on an insidious current of bad luck and bring downs. He was a loser simply trying to make it by.
Just like me, I thought.
Pat stated in a thick country Kansas drawl, “Man, I just gotten jumped by three fuckers and my back is hurtin’ somthin’ fierce!”
“You got jumped?” I asked, hawking another blob of chew into the street. “How?”
“I was over in the park when these three kids - well, not kids, young adults, ya know - came walkin’ by. I asked ‘em for some change to get a drink. They all of a sudden became belligerent an’ shit and started punchin’ and kickin’ me. I ain’t young as I used to be, ya know - and when I fell, one of them fucker’s started kicking me in the back. Hard! Then, they ran away.”
“Holy shit.” I stated in mocked concern. I thumbed towards the door of the bar, “Wanna drink?”
Pat’s face lit up, “Hell, yeah!”
We entered the low, red-bricked building and sat at the counter populated by the dredged and forlorn regulars - all sullen, silent alcoholics. I ordered two huge mugs of draft from the squat Mexican woman bartending.
Hunched over, Pat slurped his drink. He let out a relieved sigh, then said, “Hey, get this, a coupla days back, me and my girl were holed up in a hotel livin’, drinkin’, arguing’, whatever - like so many fuck ups. I tell ya, boy - that chick is a wild cat! We started arguin’, right? You know, over money and stupid shit like that and I hadda slap her.”
I looked at him, “You slapped her?”
“Yeah! To shut her up!” Pat raised a palm in protest, “I know what yer thinkin’, but that girl got the better end of it. She came at me screamin’ and clawin’ - I couldn’t keep her offa me!” He took a gulp and chuckled. “That crazy girl kicked my ass, man.”
I rolled my eyes mockingly.
Pat continued, “We were causin’ such a racket, the hotel must’ve called the police, right? My girl – she was drunk off her mind – and beat up a cop.”
“She beat up a cop?” I repeated. “That couldn’t have ended well.”
“Damn straight!” Pat took another gulp, “She was swarmed by the other cops, as fuckin’ pigs do, and they clubbed and beat the shit out of her and tossed her in the back of a squad car, screamin’ and kickin’. I was hauled off, too - by associated proximity. So, they threw me in the back of the squad car - we both didn’t give a fuck about the situation. Shit, we even started makin’ out in the back seat on the way to the precinct. Cops in the front yellin’ at us to knock that crap off.”
“No shit?” I said.
“Yeah. I was released after 24hrs in the drunk tank, but I think she’s gonna be locked up a little bit longer.”
“Wow, that’s some crazy shit.” I stated, gulping another throat full of beer.
The alcohol began to take effect as Pat went all gooey and cooed, “I luv er, man - she’s muh life.”
I ordered more cheap beer and we drank in contemplative silence.
Suddenly, a hulking Mexican in a Stetson entered the bar. He walked up to the counter and ordered a beer. He glared at us and asked Pat in Spanish, “Oye, quires echarte un billarcito?”
The tall, pot-bellied bulk in a white, silk shirt emblazoned with two gold scorpions on each chest was drunk and tottered arrogantly as he waited for an answer, stroking his drooping, shiny black moustache.
Pat looked up at him and stated, “I don’t speak Spanish, friend.”
The Mexican gestured outward with his hands in mock disbelief, spat gruffly, “You Mexicano, no?”
“What the fuck that got to do with it? I was born here in the States.”
He thumped Pat on the chest with the back of an open palm, “I’m from Chihuahua, cabron! I’m Mexican!”
“Well, whoop-de-fuckin’ doo fer you! I’m from Kansas!” Pat shot back.
“And I’m from Los Angeles!” I smiled with a little wave that went ignored.
I shot a brief glance at Pat which stated if that macho fucker started anything, I’d have Pat’s back.
The Mexican glared, “Play pool, cabron.”
Pat looked at me, then back at the Mexican. “Okay, yeah - I’ll play you a game.”
The night crawled as I silently sat at the bar drinking and watched Pat whip the Mexican’s ass in billiards. Each time Pat sunk a ball, the drunken macho would thump his chest, swaying with bottle in hand and grunt, “I’m from Chihuahua, cabron.”
“No need to get all belligerent and shit – it’s just a game.” Pat would utter. It was obvious Pat was becoming annoyed with the stupid, macho bullshit.
When the game finally ended, the Mexican wanted to play more, but Pat declined. The hulk drunkenly glared for a moment and then stomped out of the bar.
Pat wobbled over to the bar and slumped onto the stool. He closed his eyes. They remained closed. The bartender walked over briskly, tapping onto the warped wood of the counter.
“Hey! You no sleep here! Wake up!” She spat, grabbing the half-filled mug in front of Pat. “No mas for your friend.”
I nodded solemnly.
Pat’s eyes popped open; he sat up, ran a small, calloused hand over his drooping face, “Sorry, ma’am. Sorry.”
I drank my beer and stared at the purple neon sign which burned on the mirrored wall in front of me. It was that quiet, lonely time which occurs in all the bars all around the world. The jukebox was silent; the other drunks sat, slowly sinking into their mugs.
I began to feel depressed. The warmth of the beer enclosed me, my head swerved, my eyes blurred. I glanced over towards Pat slumped in his stool on the nod. Again, the bartender approached with a bitter scowl on her face.
She looked at Gabriel, said, “You both go. I no want cops here. I no want your friend sleeping here. Go.”
With numb fingers, I swigged down the remaining beer in my mug and grabbed Pat off of his stool. Arms around each other, we stumbled into the night.
Out on the curb, Pat stirred, “Fuckin’ cunt!” He casually leaned over the curb and puked up a stream of warm beer onto the pavement. He stood, wobbling, propping himself up on me. “I got nowhere to go.” Pat mumbled as we stood on the side walk outside the bar.
I sighed and said, “Come on.”
“Where we goin’?” Pat asked as he spat flecks of vomit out of his mouth.
I was tottering myself, “You can crash at my place, Pat. I live only a few blocks away. But, across the bridge in Juarez.”
“You live in Juárez?”
“Yeah. I don’t know why either.” I said, grabbing his arm when it appeared as if Pat was about to fall.
Without warning, beer-scented tears began to roll down my crimson cheeks. My chest heaved as a wave of emotion enveloped my body. I pinched the bridge of my nose as I tottered.
“I don’t know what I am doing, man. I mean - and I haven’t told a living soul, so you better keep this shit to yourself…” I breathed.
Pat grunted something which sounded positive.
“What the fuck am I doing back in Mexico? I feel so lost. Without goal or direction. I have been feeling really depressed lately and see the only avenue plausible is suicide. You know, I really want to die, Pat. I have live a thousand lifetimes and nothing gives me pleasure or excitement anymore. Nothing. That word, when I think of my predicament, keeps swimming around in a massive inky void in my head. I’ve gotten to the point where everything: Eating, drinking, art, writing, socializing, sex…all things that used to thrill me do nothing. I even have this guy in Juarez who I have been seeing. He’s really nice and positive and understanding about my needs, but I enjoy the time alone more than it is with him…”
“He an ugly bitch?” Pat slurred, cross-eyed and head swerving up toward the stars.
“Nah. He’s actually quite attractive. It’s not him…it’s me. And, that’s the fucked up part. I don’t know.”
Pat stood up straight, sighed. His bleary eyes unfocused beyond me towards the passing traffic. “I gotta go.”
“What?” I said. “Hey, man, I’m spilling my heart here.”
“I gotta go to the city jail and visit Jen. I hafta find a way of gettin’ our shit outta the hotel room.” Pat took an unsteady step and scowled, “Damn, why do women gotta bring along so much shit? I gotta back pack - that’s it. She’s got like five huge bags.”
With that, Pat stumbled out into the city night leaving Your Reporter to wobble himself home alone - back to an uncertain future...