My current stretch south of the border had taught me the long known fact that nothing was free. Nothing. Not even friendship. Everyone has a price or more correctly, “I don’t care what or how much you have; at least give me something.” Gets to be a bore and a strain on the old self-esteem.
Around 7:30am, I strolled to Café Praga, stopping at the Plaza in front of the Cathedral for a smoke and people watch. As I was about to continue for breakfast, my friend Javier approached me out of the throng of passerby. We chitchatted on trivial subjects; work, money, going out. I invited him to join me for breakfast. After a good meal of huevos rancheros con un taza de café, we walked over to my pad and wasted no time in getting down and dirty.
Several positions later, Javier and I took an afternoon siesta. Because, a good morning of humping can take the wind outta ya, know what I mean?
Woke up around 2pm, showered and bid our good-byes. Not before Javier hit me up for some dough. All I had on me was sixty pesos and was annoyed when Javier asked for more.
“You don’t have cien?”
“C’mon, Jav - don’t be like that.” I said.
I escorted him to the door, I mean really.
Later, I found myself standing out front of the Cathedral enjoying the sun and a fresca. A performance artist dressed as a cowboy and covered in silver paint was doing a robot routine, drawing quite a crowd, when a young, handsome guy stood next to me and began a conversation on the matter.
I glanced him over, not bad.
Above the racket, he confided, “I’m looking for my wife. Been waiting for a couple of hours. I know she is going to be here with her new boyfriend.”
I thought this angle was quite droll and laughed it off. Eventually, money was brought up on his part.
“Seriously, that bitch is draining me of all my cash. All she does is spend, spend, spend…I’m so fucking broke!”
I continued to watch the show, not looking at him, said flatly, “That’s too bad.”
We stood a moment in silence, then he chirped, “Well, I’m going into the Cathedral. Mass is going to start.”
With that, he was gone. Moments later, said mooch came out of the church and continued on how sad he was over his ailing grandmother.
“Shit. I need fifty dollars. My grandmother is so sick, you know?”
I asked, “Don’t you work?”
“Si!” He smiled. “I am a waiter at the Hotel Cesar on Revolucion.”
“That place is crawling with rich, American tourists.” I pointed out. “You must make a shit ton in tips.”
That shut him up for a bit. He then mumbled something about going to the International Bridge to get money from a friend. I wished him luck.
At that moment, Oscar walked up and said "Hola."
“Where are you going?” I asked, smiling.
He pointed at the Cathedral’s entrance, “La iglesia.” (To church)
Oscar shook hands and entered the church for Mass.
The previous guy, who I finally got his name as Antonio, started up on how he needed to get his son some new clothes.
I thought, C’mon! If you need some cash, out with it and cut the corny stories of woe!
Seeing this was going nowhere, Antonio asked, “What are you doing later tonight?”
I mumbled, “Drinking with friends.”
“Oh, I don’t know the name of the bar…I just know how to get there.”
He coyly smiled and asked, “It’s a gay bar, right?”
I looked at him with mocked shock, “What? Gay bar? Pfft! No…it’s…okay, yeah; it’s a fucking queer joint. I guess you got me – though I pegged you, too, when you first began talking to me.”
“I’m not queer, dude.” He smiled.
Of course - the old ‘I’ll blow you, I’ll fuck you, but I won’t kiss you, because I’m not queer’ line.
With that, he mumbled, “Look, man - I’ll meet you tonight at eight o’clock to party with you and your friends.”
We shook hands and Antonio took off for the International Border for his rendezvous with the mysterious, fifty-dollar friend.
I sat on the Cathedral steps smoking a Lucky and watching the people when Oscar approached me.
“Is everything okay between you and God?” I joked.
“I don’t have a problem with God. I think God has a problem with me.” Oscar smiled. “Let’s go to your house…did you get any new porno movies?”
I laughed, “Damn! You just came outta church and you wanna watch porn?” Pause. “Let’s go.”
“Vamanos.” Oscar agreed.
At my pad, as the porn on my laptop played, I gave Oscar some head on a cock so hard a cat couldn’t scratch it.
After that, I was hit up for one hundred pesos. Sigh, again, couldn’t we have sex just because it’s fun and not cheapen it into a financial negotiation? I mean, Oscar had a good job with a roof repair company (or so he claimed), why did he need money? Paid the little fucker anyway and we separated at the front door. Him mentioning going to his house.
I prepared a light lunch in the kitchen and sat watching Mexican novellas as I ate.
A couple of hours later, I found myself at a dive I liked very much - a small cantina in a rough neighborhood. The joint consisted of a bar which ran the length of the oblong room. Offering a bulky jukebox in the back next to the entrance of the foul restrooms, the purple-painted cantina could hold only about forty people. However, on crowded nights, it became so packed, the fags spilt out onto the crumbling sidewalk.
Not thirty seconds in the door, I was hit up for a beer by the local ‘Can you buy me anything’ mooch.
The first was a young man with a very athletic build – the types fairies coo over. Tall and handsome, he introduced himself as Alejandro. He wore a white tank-top with California Easy embroidered across the chest. He had on khaki summer shorts and wore flip-flops. Obviously one of those damn hustlers who preyed on Americans.
He slid next to me at the bar holding an empty glass, “Hey! Guero, how you doing?”
“Not bad. Yourself?” I poured the yellow liquid into my glass, squeezed in a lemon, sprinkled salt.
Alejandro tipped his empty glass at my bottle, "Hey! You mind if I can have some beer?”
Four caguamas later, and getting a pretty good buzz on, Alejandro’s cheery demeanor went south the moment I decided to cut his free beer off.
“That’s it, man.” I tottered. “I’m tapped out. You want to buy the next round?”
“What do mean you’re tapped out? Buy another beer for me.” He snarled.
I lit a cigarette, glanced at the bloated lesbian who tended the bar, and then turned to Alejandro, “C’mon, man…don’t be a fucking mooch. Buy, one - I’ve been flippin’ the bill all afternoon.”
“You know what, gringo - fuck you.”
I watched him storm out of the cantina. I ordered another beer. Then another.
With the sun gone, I stood outside the bar smoking a cigarette under the sheltering moon, waiting with the misguided hope a friend possibly stagger by.
Motley pedestrians stumbled past - shifty thieves, clomping transvestites, hookers sagging in tainted spandex, smelly tramps, mange infested dogs. Music of all types blasted out of the rows of neon flashing cantinas and dance halls. The smell of seared meat and rotting garbage mingled with belching bus fumes and untreated sewage.
Bored and alone, I finished my cigarette and returned into the bar. As soon as I plopped onto a stool and ordered another beer, a cute shorty came up and started on the mooch.
“I wonder if you can do me a favor?” He meekly asked.
I wisecracked, “Uh-oh. Those are dangerous words, handsome.”
“I’m thirsty and I’d like a beer.”
“Well, gee” I began, as I pointed at the bar counter with bottle in hand, “There’s a whole bar in front of you…why don’t you simply order one.”
“That’s the thing.” He smiled. “I haven’t any money.”
“Why would you come to a bar without any money? You are assuming a lot there, kiddo.”
“I understand.” He said, acting a little wounded. “Could you buy me a beer?”
With that, finally frustrated, an intoxicated tirade spilled out: “Look, man, I been buying people beer for two days straight now. Matter of fact, I have been living in your country for over fifteen years and once, just once, I’d like the tables turned and someone to buy me a drink…just once.” I accented this, holding a finger up to his blank, docile face. “But, doesn’t look like it’s gonna happen anytime soon, does it? Nope - 'cause as we all well know, Americans are so fucking rich - we got money blowing outta our asses and can buy any and everything, right? I mean, the way you mooches approach me fifty goddamn times a day, you’d think I got millions of dollars in the bank. Yeah...fucking rich…that’s why I live in a Mexican slum and not in a swanky penthouse Stateside.”
“So, can I have a beer?”
“Fuck off! Go bum someone else…or is it only Americans you bother with your financial woes?”
It must had hit home, because a few moments later, the little fucker was drinking with an old, tired American queen.
My buzz gone, I simply left.
Squeezing my way past groping hookers and stumbling drunks, I stopped for a hamburger at a corner stand.
Under garish neon, I sat on a stool in front of the stand, chomping on my burger, when a scrawny, lizard-like cholo slithered up behind me and put his hand on my back, smiling, “Hey, guero, could you buy me one hamburger?”
This was too tiresome and I drifted home - lost without purpose or meaning.
I lay in my bed, naked, on top of the covers smoking a cigarette, watching a black cockroach scale the faded, baby-blue wall of my room, feelers waving - national sponsored program in Spanish mumbled from the radio about catching crabs from prostitutes - and I thought, I need to quit this shit.