Among the crumbling masonry and sagging, wooden roofs, garbage and feces and urine simmered in one hundred degree weather. Short, bloated hookers tottered on frayed, cracked pumps silently eyeing darting con men and pushers of fine, illegal substances, as bored police patrols languidly rode on noiseless bicycles like barracuda hunting prey.
I lit a cigarette and cut past burrito row - smells of rancid fat, rotten salsas, burnt meats - past the fat naco that chewed on a toothpick, he apathetically checking out the intense gringo strutting without fear or hesitation through mean, dusty streets, up to a hamburger restaurant just around the corner.
The small hamburger joint teetered on the cliff of a canal that brimmed with stagnant water - garbage and yellow turds floated dreamily in the gawdamn bright Juarez sunlight.
There were no customers as I entered the cafe, a row of six mix-matched tables and chairs scattered on red-tiled floor. On one wall was an immense, amateurish mural depicting a demented, nostalgic memory of Michoacan - or damn near it. The jukebox wailed ranchero music as the smells from the kitchen battled with the ever-lingering stink from the canal.
Hector strode out from back all handsome and shit and gave me the glad hand.
"Glad you made it!" He smiled and I assured him I hadn't let him down, yet. He stated that he wanted to get a room at the Hotel Rex across the street, coyly giving me a lascivious wink. I said sure as a small family entered the cafe and took a table.
I sat, too, at my own table in the back corner, and ordered the specialty of the house - a gigantic hamburger with all the trimmings and a Pepsi for just a buck.
I thought it was cute as I sat there, the way Hector would asked me for advice on how to wait on the family properly - Hector had recently acquired the job and wanted to impress, I guess. As the family sat and ate, I chomped on my own burger - swatting flies as Hector counted out his till for the day. His replacement arrived and off we jetted across to Hotel Rex.
Elbowing our way through clomping hookers that blocked the entrance, we paid the fat stinkbomb behind the reception grate the one hundred pesos for a room - he winking at me with his one good eye, obviously thinking we fags or something and going to use the room as our own personal passion pit. I mean, really! The nerve!
Hector and I shot up the wooden stairs to the second floor - my Knight telling me to "Wait a minute" as he steps to a green door and quickly raps with his knuckles.
The door is opened by a scrawny kid with a wild mane of hair and skin a pallor of someone who hadn't seen the sun in years. The young junky stares at me blankly and in mute hostility - his eyes all twinkly and shit, but invites Hector inside as I must wait in the hall like some commoner.
A minute passes and Hector walks out and we retire to our room on the third floor. Jingle of key, open thin wood door to a ratty room of old, dark wood. Sagging bed, foul smelling linens, and the walls covered in graffiti. We both take no time in laying out three lines of coke onto the bureau that is pock-marked with hundreds of cigarette burns.
Snoooooort! Snnnniff! Woooop!!
We both cut out into the streets on a mission, by God - first place we hit was the Bar El Durado. Dark joint, cute bartender. Hector explains that I am interested in renting an apartment.
"Of course, senor." The bartender smiles, wiping the counter in front of me with a dirty rag. "Chuey!!"
Chuey slinks out of the darkness - a bent, shriveled old thing in black pants, dirty, white shirt, and bow tie. He slicks his black hair back on his shiny, bulbous head with one hand as he gestures to a spiral staircase with another, "If you'd follow me."
Up the spiral staircase to a long, musty hall lined on both sides with a row of doors. We are in a whore house.
"Where's the apartment?" I ask.
He opens the last door in the hall. It is simply a large bed covered in red, silkish blankets with black tassels. The room smelled of clorox and cunt. An end table with equally queer lamp and above the bed, a huge poster of the Virgin of Guadalupe with a scowl that wouldn't quit. There was no bathroom, no kitchen.
"A nice room. Only $200 a month, senor." The creep hisses.
A fucking room in a whore house? Are you kidding me? I can picture myself attempting to write or read or enjoy television with the sound of hookers fucking all around me.
"I'm going to check out one more place and then I'll let you know." I smiled.
Out on the street, I scold Hector about this selection. He shrugs and we move on.
Next to the Bar El Paso was a gated door that led down a dank hall to hidden apartments. I peered in, but all I could see were rusted gas tanks and dented trash cans.
Across the street, young hustler see's my lily-white skin - pops a boner - and comes running at us. "Hey! Hey! Gotta cigarette, meester?!"
"You know how we can get in here?" I ask, pulling out a smoke and handing it to him. "I want to talk to the landlady."
"I live here. " He says.
"Good!" I grin. "You can open the gate for us, then!"
"I don't have my key."
"Well, how the fuck do you expect to get into your apartment?" I say.
"You Americans" He shakes his head. "Always theenking you so smart."
The hottie puts his face up to the bars of the gate and yells into the darkness, "Bigote!!! Bigote!!!!!"
I stood there, glancing over at Hector, confused at why this kid was yelling 'moustache' in Spanish. Well, so much for us smart Americans, as this old fucker with the biggest Pancho Villa moustache in all of Latin America comes shuffling out of the gloom. Bigote.
Unlocking the gate, Bigote and the hustler exchange words and Hector and I am escorted into the back. Not bad - patio surrounded by five or six adobe-style apartments. Unfortunately, the landlady was nary to be seen as as luck would have it, Bigote explains she has been missing for a few weeks. I inquire on the rent and they both state $80 a month. I peek my head into Bigote's trap and a good sized room with bathroom and adjacent kitchen. Bigote gives me the landlady's cell-number and Hector and I high-tail it out of there.
Hector and I returned to the hotel, did a couple of lines, sucked each other off, did another line after that - Hector had been badgering me to move back across the border to Mexico for some time. I seriously really want to - damn the death toll. We all die, right? Who wants to live forever? I've met nothing but self-important assholes in El Paso (No big shock, there - it's El Paso, people - the shittiest city with the shittiest citizens in the world - been proven right time and time again since 1997!) Afterwards, I returned stateside in the knowledge that soon I will be again living in Juarez...