The neighbors…the neighbors had become downright obnoxious. I actually went out of my way to be pleasant with these people, and yet the culture clash and machismo attitudes of these thoughtless proletariats began to wear wear my patience this. Who am I kidding, they all got on my fucking last nerve. The ranchero music blasted daily at maximum volume, the gaggle of screaming kids, the adults communicating with one another by screaming from one end of the block to another. It was hopeless, I couldn't concentrate when I wanted to write. Too bad, I actually did like that apartment.
So, I pondered…thought and thought…debated and debated on what to do to the point I couldn’t sleep and attained a debilitating migraine from the ordeal. I planned on leaving Juarez and flying over to Tijuana to reside in a beachfront cottage and wile away my days. However, the truth of the matter is, I am getting tired of pulling up my tent and relocating by the seat of my pants. Setting out on an adventure only for it to blow up in my face. On a whim and mostly from a stroke of luck, I located a pleasant little apartment by Parque Benito Juarez and did the old switcheroo in the still of a frosty night.
For the same rent, it is a far more modern apartment tended by a pleasant landlady. It is fully furnished and secure and quiet. (As of this writing) Two days of normality in these gringos eyes pass as I settle into my new digs. The guard dog barks each time I exit the patio and hit that shattered concrete sidewalk lined with blues and yellows and greens of adobe gated properties. The wafting aroma of freshly baked breads emit from the corner panaderia. Ancient buses fart black soot into the bright blue sky as the beautiful Indian lad pushes a cart of dried fruits down Insurgentes Blvd. Cross a vast, grubby park spotted with dusty palm trees infected with rentboys and the toothless old vampires who hunt them. A towering statue erected of former el presidente Benito Juarez scowls down on them in frustrated contempt.
“Look, Kelvin, you’re not that attractive, your personality is sulky and the only reason people associate with you at all is in lieu of your ten inch penis.”
He turns arrogantly away and flicks ashes from his borrowed cigarette. The ashes float away on a chilled breeze and disappear much like his hopes and aspirations.
I saunter down the newly constructed Plaza 16th de Septiembre – nostalgic memories of how once this was once a cobblestone lined street clogged with kamikaze taxis and choking buses emitting enough soot to clog your pores, by God – and I sit on a concrete bench and smoke and watch a band of grungy, teenage hippies wail out old Beatle tunes and other 60’s shtick that has been run into the ground. The sun is setting behind the cathedral in a fiery blast of oranges and yellows as the long shadows of winter cause me to pull my jacket tighter. But it does not stop the merriment of this night. The people still congregate. They still laugh and chat and sing and love. Under incandescent lamps, street vendors of sweet cakes, balloons, and sundries do their stylized ballet through the meandering throng. Unknown music bebops from several store facades and cantina doorways. A pack of cops stroll by wearing black body armor and sporting machine guns slung over their shoulders. One smiles at me and asks is all well?
Yes, at the moment, all is well…
Night falls and I make my way to Café 656. A downright fiesta is in full swing – a band of geriatrics wail out rock-n-roll oldies in both English and Spanish as the bohemian crowd sip aperitifs and claps along. I say hello to the owner Coco and find a seat in a shadowy corner, order a coffee and enjoy the music.
Past the gyrating crowd, I peer out the large pane-glass window and I ponder: Why not? Why not settle here and live out my days? Never mind the derogatory remarks from the faggish/macho aduana every time I cross the border of I shouldn’t be living here. “Your country doesn’t want Mexicans living in your country, we don’t want you living here.” Never mind the evil and danger which lurks in the crumbling shadows of bombed out, vacant buildings left over from the Cartel Wars. Never mind the poverty and dirt and insipid filth. It’s cheap and everything I require is plentiful. On the whole, the people are nice and respectful. It sustains my muse to write and though the city has changed drastically from the first time I arrived decades ago from a wild and woolly anything goes border town to a somewhat progressive district, it has grown on me.
My thoughts are interrupted by the smiling and waving from a passing friend. Enrique stands outside the cafe glaring at me and motions me to join him. I had not seen this cutey in years. I go outside and we shake hands. Brief patter of what-ever-happened-to-so-and-so.
“I was about to go back home.” I beam. “I’m glad I ran into you, Ricky.”
He slowly states in his newly acquired if broken English, “But, it’s still early. Mind if I join you for a coffee?”
“Well, in that case, I think I will stay.”