The other wise pleasant day had turned ugly. As usual in the Great Southwest, especially during spring, dust storms can kick up at a moment’s notice. As I hurried to the International Bridge from running errands in El Paso, I noticed the great undulating, tan clouds rushing in from the North West. By time I had reached the bridge which spanned the Rio Grande and scampered halfway across, the winds gusted at such ferocity and the dirt in the air so think; I could not see the mountain range which lay on either sides of the border. Nothing but whipping tans and khaki colored dust and debris which stung the eyes and caked the lips and nose.
I had to stop and darted into Café 656 on Juárez Ave. and 16th de Septiembre to squeegee the gunk off my face and take in a nice cup of coffee. I had been sick with some sort of virus the previous week, yet as the sun turned everything a hazy tan outside the large plate window, I really wanted to go out.
I paid my bill and trudged through that ghastly maelstrom until I reached my flat. Nice. Just swept yesterday and there is a new film of dirt covering the red tiled floor. I swept bitterly and lay down for a spell. I was still feeling blue and sniffling from that cold. Fuck it. Took a shower (brown mud spirals down the drain) got dressed and headed out.
I did not want to go to Bar Olympico on account that the big, buff waiter had become a fucking booze hound and expects me to buy his ass beers all night while he works. Nope. No more. Bar Buen Tiempo? No, it has devolved into a boring den of shady queens - a gaggle of butt-ugly jotos who simply sit around and rag on each other. As I stumbled over the dusty, broken sidewalks jumping out of the way of dashing citizens, my mind began to wonder. Why am I here? Originally it was to re-kindle old friendships with several people I had left a few years prior. They are sight unseen. I had gone out of my way to look for them, but they have either moved to other parts of Mexico or perished in the raping of Juárez by the cartel.
Earlier that day, I had confided to a long suffering friend my intentions on jetting out of the desert for good. I had written about it, thought about it, but that was my first time ever saying it out loud. And my heart soared. As I heard my voice actually confessing out loud my intensions, it all seemed so right. I can make no excuses to stay. There is absolutely nothing here for me. I plan on going to Tucson awhile just to see what's what. I actually liked Tucson. But, we will see.
Anywayz...I found myself in front of Bar Calletias. A notorious dive on the outskirts of the main market and skid row. I know, I know, all of Juarez is a skid row, this area just more so.
I was let in a metal door by a grinning lesbian. She beamed in Spanish, "Come in! Come in! You are welcome!" The bar was full. On first entrance, it is like that cantina in Star Wars, a long bar on one side and small booths along the other wall. But, instead of an assortment of aliens and starpilots you get fat lesbians, junkie cholos, horrifying transvestites, and squirming rentboys. Meh, I thought, the beer is cheap.
I made my way down the counter and stood between a gay cowboy and a drag queen who resembled Fred Flintstone in drag. Ordering a chilled caguama Sol, I scanned the long dank room for a familiar face. Nothing. Where did they all go?
As sudden wave of alienation splashed over me. A complete feeling of being severed from the human condition. I made no eye contact with anyone as I sipped my beer. Heaven forbid I get wrapped up with the How Do You Like Mexico crowd. That doesn't bother me, but at that moment in time, I did want to drink, I simply didn't want to be bothered.
On the second bottle, I was approached by a scraggy little lad in baseball cap and worn jeans. Shaggy, black hair fell out from beneath the cap and cascaded down over much of his dark, Indian features. Short but skinny, he obviously was very poor and probably lived in a cardboard house in the barrio of Anapra. He was real cute, but already intoxicated. Others scowled at him in derision. I couldn't figure if it was his social standing or him just being drunk in public. He wasn't bothering anyone from what I could tell. I saw him as just another guy who wanted a night out and tried coping with his hardships like anyone else, through alcohol. I sighed. People can be such hypocritical shits.
As I stated, he approached me and slurred timidly if I was German. I smirked and said no, I was American. The following thirty minutes were the standard dialog of How Do You Like Mexico questions. He was adorable, even wavering drunk, so I had to comply. He confessed that he indeed lives in Anapra, that section of Juarez were the very poor and cast out dwell, with his family. Mother, sister, wife, and child. When he mentioned that he had a wife and child, I asked why was he in a gay bar?
"I just walked in off the street." He slurred. "I had no idea. But, men, women, it does not matter. I love everybody!"
He never asked, which was a plus, but I chose to drink with this guy, who said his name was Alfredo. He was twenty-two and worked parking cars in a parking lot. For almost nothing, he sustained off of the meager tips from washing the vehicles and guarding them against police who have a habit of stealing license plates and selling them. He stated that he wasn't queer and actually had never had sex with a man. Leering at me he smiled that tonight he might want to change that. I laughed and said calm down tiger or some stupid shit in a vain attempt to be coy. As the beer flowed, his slender, tough hands began to read my body like braille. In the mensroom, Alfredo somehow found himself next to me and we sized each other up. (He won, dammit!)
Back at the bar, Alfredo asked what I did for a living. I mumbled, "A writer."
"A writer?!" He snatches a napkin off the bar and pulls a pen from his pocket. "I don't believe you. Write something."
I smirked, grabbed the pen and scrawled out in English, "His eyes were stone. Sadness. Yet a spark rose from the ashes with a sudden burst of lust that was likely to drive a man mad. He eyed me as he ran his fingers gently back and forth across the stubble on his chin. His mouth was slightly open, his lips plump and soft, with a glint as though he had just ran his tongue across them. He wanted something. Actually, he wanted it all. And one day he would have it."
He glared at the scribbles and howled in Spanish, “I can’t read that!!” We both burst into laughter and more beer was ordered.
The crowning moment was when he began to kiss me at the bar. Onlookers looked on and drag queens cooed. It was a minor spectacle because I was the only fair-haired gringo in the joint and here I was slobbering with a person of a lower caste. I swear, from my personal experiences, Mexicans are so obnoxiously prejudice against their own kind. More than Americans.
Things were going good and pleasant until Alfredo threw up. Right there at the bar. A cascading flow of pinks and yellows splattered onto the cigarette butt littered tile. The vicious lesbian behind the bar ordered the young man out. Two thuggish cholos grabbed the lanky lad and tossed him out on the street. I followed them to the curb and picked Alfredo up out of the gutter, handing him his hat.
“I want to go home.” He said, wobbling.
“I’ll walk you to your bus stop.” I stated.
“This late? Not running. I need a cab.”
Thoughts of dragging this lad to my house and doing all sorts of nasty things flashed through my head. Literally using his anatomy as my own personal amusement park. But, I digress. I am not a monster. I agreed to find a taxi to take him back to Anapra. One surly fucker stated 100 pesos and before I had time to protest, Alfredo climbed into the back of the cab. I handed the smirking jerk of a driver a red peso note, waved goodbye to Alfredo and headed back home.
3:26am. I exhale a breath and look around at the still buildings where I see darkness and light. I bet most people are in bed right now sleeping or reading a book or novela while some people are on the phone, watching the television or maybe there’s a few in love couples laying beside each other carrying on a conversation while sleep beckons for them and the smile and voice of the other encourages them to continue to ignore the sleep.
I walk the long, lonely way. Nothing out on these dark streets. Not a soul. I feel the beat tide of depression consume me. I seriously do not know what to do...