Friday, August 10, 2012

People Walked By in Silence

I walked around in a cold, wet twilight through the streets of Tijuana. I was in Zona Norte to score for dope - cold, dirty, depressing - this was the far north area, beyond the neon arabesques of whore houses and discos - where crumbling, adobes faded into sordid shanties that resembled chicken shacks littered in piles of dusty garbage.
I passed tattered dwarfs, filthy catatonic people with boneless flippers for arms, silent specters with cleft-lips and horrible skin diseases. They looked like the end result of atomic radiation. No one smiled, no one spoke. People walked by in silence, their faces wrapped in dingy, gray scarves against the night air.
Passed the watchful taco vendor into a filthy alleyway strewn with garbage and dog feces - little kids ran and played about. Up to the huge, blue windowless wall - two stories of solid brick.
Down at street level was a hole about half a foot wide, chiseled into the concrete. I furtively glanced to my left and right – noticing a Mexican in rags that rummaged through a giant pile of trash against the opposite dusty building - our eyes met and that contact confirmed that we both shared the same addiction.
I reached into my pants pocket and pulled out a fifty peso note as a huge, brown, hairy arm poked out of the hole and snatched up my money.
I lit a cigarette - down at the end of the alley, two cops patrolled by on bicycles. The grease stained taco vendor cut and chopped onions with a loud clop-clop! - while he kept his eye fixed on me. A black, mangy dog lumbered down the dusty street covered in sores - eyes caked in puss, tongue lolling out with saliva that splattered onto the pavement.
The dark brown, meaty paw extended again from the hole in the wall and dropped a small, square-folded, wax paper into my needy hand and then disappeared back into the hole’s blackness.
“Thank you, Thing.” I whispered as I hurriedly walked down to the corner.
Past the wall of grabbing hookers of both sexes smiling behind stained teeth, past the hawkers of porn and decadence, past the cholos inquiring if I needed anything, past the deformities with their questing, filthy hands outstretched forever - up to the corner of 2nd and Revo.
I stood on that corner with a vast view of The City - fingering the dope in my pocket, smoking a cigarette with the other hand. Two, open-backed police paddy wagons hurtled by. The back beds of the trucks held about five prisoners each - all looked forlorn and dirty and beat - as they careened past, all heads hung down in shame or fatigue.
As the second cruiser shot by, kicking up swirling plumes of dust, one of the prisoners in back looked up and our eyes met. It was Mario! His bottom lip bloated and purple, eyes blackened, forehead caked with blood.
When he saw me, he smiled - his battered face faded into the distance as the paddy wagon rapidly continued to the police substation.
Guero!” He yelled out before he was too far away down the street to yell anything else - those silver-capped teeth glared out from that ravaged face.
He saw me grin and curtly nod my head. I stood there a moment, the convoy lost far away in haze and traffic. Moments after the two wagons were well out of view, I stood in bitter sadness at the sight of Mario. It was an inevitable omen. I turned and walked back to my apartment.
All the way there, I kept rolling the words around in my head, I have to stop…I have to stop this! I can’t go out like that…I have to quit!
I told myself I was going to quit, right after I finished what I had just scored.

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