The park Teniente Guerrero spread out a full block around me. I sat on a bench munching on a mango raspa and checking the scene. Hasn’t changed much. More trees and more families occupy the park during the daylight hours, which I suppose is a positive aspect. In the center rests a large gazebo where local artists from painters to musicians exhibit their talents.
The gazebo is enclosed by iron-rod benches offering shade to the locals and a chance to talk with friends and people watch. To one side is the chess club were you will find the intellects and the not so intellects convening and pondering their next move. Ringing the outside of the park proper under towering palm trees is a sidewalk offering shoe shine booths and various snack carts. On the east side, workers loll on their day off, children play as their parents prepare lunch, vendors hawk various sundries; while in contrast on the west side…well, on the west side lies the hustlers and the predators who stalk them. All day and into the night. That was the side in which I camped. However, being the sole gringo in the park and on the undesirable side at that, I was surprisingly accosted by a fat and bitter faced cop on the mooch.
“What are you doing here?” He hissed in despondent tones. One hand on his piece, the other on his ample hip.
“Doing here?” I stated flatly. “I am resting. I found this park just walking around touring your lovely city and thought I’d have a sit and rest.”
“Resting?” He gazed at me with bloodshot eyes filled with manipulating hate. “We have had a problem with Americans coming to this park and taking pictures of children. Pedófilos. You are not one of them, senor?”
“I should say not!” I said defiantly. “There is no need for insults, senor.”
“Well, rest up and move along.” He sneered as he wobbled away to harass a sickly old queen who sat as immobile as statuary behind a pair of cheap sunglasses.
Fuck you, I thought toward the cop. The Tijuana of old is a dead museum. Impregnated with the viral infection of the United States and its pogrom of hate filled intrusive interference into a citizens every waking thought and action.
My mind began to drift onto nostalgic memories concerning this park. Especially the chain of friends and acquaintances who had met their end in it. Juan Carlos, hustler found face down in feces behind a row of bushes from an overdose, Saul who hung himself rather than dwindle away in pain from acute symptoms of HIV, Ignacio who was beaten to death in lieu of a dope deal gone sour, Enrique found stabbed to death behind the public bathrooms, lying face down in the mud, pockets turned inside out and shoes stolen…no one remembers them anymore. They had become forgotten phantoms in a long line of dead funneling towards the fiery mouth of Moloch.
I walked around the outer perimeter of the park. Passing a covered police paddy wagon, a voice barked out from the small, square slit in the side of the steel canopy of the back.
“Hey! Hey you, gringo!”
I stopped and squinted into the inky black hole.
“Help me get out of here!”
“Help you get out?” I smiled. “How? I can’t do that.”
“Fuck you, then!”
I fished my cigarette pack from my pocket, removed one, lit up.
“Fuck me?” I stated. “No, it is quite obvious which one of us is the fucked one.”
“Fuck you. Gimme a cigarette.” Two grimy, emaciated brown fingers with black soot under the nails probed out from the inky dark.
I expelled smoke at the hole. “No.” Walked away with the muffled sounds of obscenities in two languages being launched at me.
I stopped at a stall and ate some beef tacos with a manzanita fresca. Around me, kids laughed and played, balloon sellers and ice cream vendors egged them on under a obscenely bright blue Mexican sky. As the sun began to sink behind the horizon, the shoe stands snapped close and the sweets vendors closed their candy-colored parasols. I slinked to another bench to have a cigarette and wait, to wait and see if the park had changed significantly during the twilight hours.
So much change. So much tedious uninteresting consequences nowadays…
The overhead lamps of the streetlights snapped on (buzzing like an angry wasp on this clear night) and the Cruisers began their stylized ballet around the park. Within two hours of sundown, shadowy figures moved like somnambulist through the nocturnal fête of anonymous sex and abject degradation. Two bushes over behind me, I overheard whispers followed by slurping and heavy breathing, resulting in a single, drawn out grunt as the two parted ways never to touch nor speak again.
Illuminated under the amber spotlight of an overhead lamp, a lanky hustler in dirty pants and wrinkled summer shirt lounges across a bench like an awaiting puma. His slitted eyes slowly survey from a face frozen in macho lust. A brown hand languidly strokes a long and full erection bulging down the side of his immobile leg. A fat and ancient queen halts and offers him a cigarette. The hustler takes it, not looking at the beaming queen or even acknowledging his presence. The queen reaches down and casually brushes the hard cock with a perfumed and manicured hand. The long and engorged cock jumps up in approval. The two slink quietly into the darkness.
“Are you alone?” Husks a voice in Spanish from the shadows.
I glance over and out of the darkness ambles a short guy, but handsome. As he silently waits my reply, a warm wind rustles through the trees.
“Not as such, no.” I say.
“Can I sit with you?” He asks, face plain and without emotion or warmth.
Like a video jump-cut, he is next to me scrutinizing out into the shadowed darkness of the park. We sit quietly for a moment, listening to the faded music coming in on the same frequency.
“Do you have a cigarette?”
“Of course.” I hand him a Lucky. “What’s your name?”
“They call me vampiro. (Vampire) My friends here in the park…they call me vampiro.” He said, lighting up.
“Really? Vampiro? Is it because you suck?”
He didn’t respond to the stupid joke and quite frankly I kinda felt like shit saying it.
He sniffed and then looked at me with eyes all pupil. The lights glittered in those unblinking orbs. He was tweeking his ass off. He began moving in small, galvanized jerks gesticulating in that common meth junky movements. “I run this park, you know? Whatever I dictate, my people do.”
“Your people?” I ask, getting bored already.
“Si, my people. All the hustlers, jotos, y los viejo verdes. They obey my wishes.”
To answer his absolute sovereignty, a shriveled old thing shuffled past, stopped, and glanced at Vampiro. The old coot licked thin dry lips with a tiny white tongue. Their eyes met and the old man gestured with a nod for Vampiro to follow. The boy rose on command and walked with the ancient pervert into the dark, chattering endlessly of things both sexual and insane.
Surrounded by arcane rituals of perverse acts that would make a Baptist preacher squeal in glee, I rose and made my way back to my guestroom. I simply wasn’t feeling it. And with what has begun to become the norm, I really didn’t feel anything. Anything at all.