Heat and dust punched me in my face. Dodging groping hookers and grasping hands of dirty children, Cesar and I siphoned into a booth at a small café in Zona Norte. Zona Norte was a barrio consisting of row after row of crumbling, adobe buildings and sordid, ramshackled shacks resembling chicken houses. A dingy neighborhood located immediately south of the great iron wall which separated the haves from the have-nots.
We silently sipped ghastly instant Nescafé as my eye caught a young Mexican queer who wore a red and white striped polo shirt and tight blue jeans. He sat on a metal stool and was glancing at me from the counter running the length of the small café.
The fag smiled. Handsome until he smiled – the mouth was a forest of rotted, black and yellow teeth. I then recognized him. He worked the ancient, ex-pat vampires who roosted at the café tables all day in The Plaza, surrounding themselves with young boys in a vain attempt to impress the other ex-pats on how desirable they still were. Those types of hustlers were the purest of thieves. They patiently sat and waited and nodded and laughed until the time was right to squeeze every peso they could from those quivering pedophiles.
After the waitress slammed two plates of eggs and chorizo onto the greasy, formica table, I turned casually and stared out the window – dead, black flies lined the sill. There was a commotion outside across the one-way street. Two hoggish police cornered a young gangster - the scrawny thug faltered and began to fight back. The crowd gathered. A paramilitary truck roared up. The soldiers jumped out of the back of the vehicle, swarmed the thug and with clubs and boots and rifle butts, beat him to a pulp. They dragged his unconscious, blood-splattered torso to a paddy wagon and flung him in. Hookers and Amazonian transvestites scowled at the soldiers, muttering to themselves.
Cesar and I returned to our cold, tasteless breakfast.
I lit a cigarette and blew smoke up toward the high ceiling of the café - painted mint and dangling with grimy, dust bunnies. Outside lay the panorama of Tijuana, Mexico spread out in all its glory. A kaleidoscope of criss-crossing electrical wires laced the smoggy skyline of squat, dirty buildings. Honking, choking autos sluggishly roll over shimmering, pot-holed concrete, filthy prostitutes of both sexes parade and lean and stare catatonic under the bleak sun as terrified and belligerent tourists paw over their diseased wares with lascivious finality all to the beat of high decimal cha-cha mambo.
A ragged, elderly man - salt and pepper hair, silver, scruffy beard – sat in his own waste under a rusted, neon sign, stirring the putrid puddle of fetid substance on the sidewalk with a stick. Filthy children played and frolicked - laughing, dashing around obese tias and between the legs of hip-hop pushers vending insidious medicinals.
This life is too much, I thought.
I paid for the meal and we left. Cesar and I shook hands on the corner and parted. Never to see one another again.