The gray skies loomed over the crumbling city. Gunshots. Car horns. The horror of humanity. I pulled my coat collar up to fight the vile cold. In vain. I darted into a small cantina for a quick beer. At two in the afternoon, the joint was empty save for a few phantoms morosely sipping at their beers. It was quiet like a tomb. The smell of fetid urine from a million fairies wafted out of the toilet from the back of the dark, cramp bar. I sat at the counter and ordered a Sol.
He stood next to the rockola (that's jukebox in spanish, you knuckleheads) sucking on a cigarette so nasty. No one paid attention to him. Rentboy to be sure however none of these poor nacos could afford him. Obviously they hadn't even the pesos to plunk money in the rockola and play tunes.
The interminable silence ate away at me. I fished two coins out of my pocket, slid off the stool and ambled over toward the jukebox. Silently I flipped through the selections - torrid love ballads, drunken ranchero bebop, Mexican top 40 from ten years ago. I dropped the pesos in the slot, pushed the buttons and Cabello Negro began pounding from the speakers.
"What are you doing here?" The guy at the jukebox asked in English.
I looked at him. He remained leaning against the machine, hip hooked, in half shadows. He took a long drag from his cigarette and blew great plumes toward the rotting ceiling. Not bad looking.
"Getting out of the cold. Thought I'd stop for a beer."
"No." He said. "What are you doing here in Juarez?"
I smiled. Paused. "I've been asking myself that for..." I faltered. Why was I here? It struck me as such an utterly abstract question. There was no reason behind it. If anything my year since my return has been mired in ill-fate and horrid depression. Why can't I leave? Then again, where was I going to go? "I don't know." I finally answered. "I guess I just got lost."
"Buy me a beer?" He asked.
We sat at the bar. No one looked at us. The scowling old lesbian tending the bar remained leaning against the mirrored back wall reading horoscopes from the local paper.
"My name is Juan." He said bleakly.
"Of course it is." I stated. Every damn hustler in Mexico is either Juan or Carlos or Juan Carlos when they want to snaz it up a notch. I ordered a beer for the kid and he cautiously sipped at it. Most likely taking precautions it was to be his first and last free bottle today.
"What are you looking for?" He said staring at me with those eyes. No compassion, no spirit, not the hint of warmth or humanity. Outside he was youth incarnate, inside he was a used up corpse.
"That's a good question." I mumbled. In the fleeting instant my mind seethed. What was I looking for? All feeling was gone. All emotion extracted. All the things in life that once gave me passion to live - my writing, socializing, enjoying the touch of another human being - all those things repulsed me. How did this come about? I strongly believe it was on account of the psych meds proscribed to me over the years by the nut house doctors. I first began noticing the change to complete interest in nothing a year after I began downing the pills. The symptoms got worse. I slowly spiraled into a recluse. Avoiding all contact. Disassociating long-term friends at a whim. Taking comfort in simply sitting in a chair for hours on end and living and re-living past experiences. Evaluating on how I could of changed that or redid this. Memories running through my mind like a looped film. Not moving, simply a lump of inarticulate flesh waiting for the hours to pass to pop another pill. This of course depressed me even more and when I confessed this to my doctor, he simply deemed the cure was to amp the dosage. I then stopped taking them altogether. The withdrawals were horror, pure horror. Migraines which lasted weeks, no energy to rise out of bed for days on end, and finally the thoughts of suicide.The final solution to end this self inflicted hell. Attempted twice since the passing of the new year. One day...
"Do you want to take me home?" He asked breaking the long silence. It was stated so...mechanical.
"No." I said. "No, I do not."
"You like the women?"
"On the contrary, I despise women." I said. My voice dropped to a whisper, "Can't stand the smell."
"You like the boys?"
"What are you, then?"
"What am I?" I gazed into his face. Those dead, predatory eyes. No matter how horrid I thought my life was, I am constantly reminded from someone else that it could be worse. I saw it, I saw that shade in his face. That abyss I knew too well. The look of giving up. Just like me. "What are we?"
"What are we?" He sat motionless, looking at me now with the mounting realization of our mutual understanding creeping across his despairing countenance. He felt the same thing. The hatred and paranoia of the horrible world around him. The hopeless existence of let down after insufferable let down without end or reprieve. His eyes began to tear up.
I leaned into his face and said, "We are the dead."