It was an hour after sunrise in Park Ingerente Guerrero. The ftt-ftt-ftt of sprinklers momentarily shut off and the grass glistened from early morning dew. The sky was an overcast gray common to early summer months in Tijuana, which carried with it the lingering chill from a brisk night. Glimmering palm trees – their trunks painted white - swayed slowly in a slight breeze.
The old queer lit a cigarette. A faro – spitting the flecks of tobacco from a moistened mouth. He stood on the corner - the sidewalk damp from the lifting fog - pulling his beige sweater tighter around a potato-shaped frame. He casually waited to see if any of the young rentboys were still around. Many did stay up all night and eventually filter toward the park in search of a free breakfast from kindly gentlemen such as himself and perhaps some quick cash for a room to sleep in lieu an all-night romp of disreputable debauchery.
With rheumy eyes, the old queer scanned the vast park. No one. No one worth his attention, for that matter. He took another drag off his cigarette and glanced over to a crazed, ancient Chinaman selecting a greasy slice of half-eaten bologna out of a cascading garbage can; washing it off with a discarded bottle of water.
The Chinaman cackled to himself, mumbled something in a squeaking pitch, and began to nibble. The old queer looked wearily away. Blew smoke out into the brisk air. Off in the distance, a dog barked.
The park was occupied with about thirteen, ratty immigrantes - darkly clad phantoms, their grimy collars turned up to ward off the night's chill, slouched over on the cold, metal benches, snoring loudly. The misty, early morning air was a light blue with overcast dew, the sharp tang of stale urine wafted past him.
The old queer curiously peeked back as he witnessed the scrawny Chinaman rummage through something behind a bush - watched as the demented hobo hooted and shoved objects into the pockets of his bulging, tattered jacket, shiny over the grime. The Chinaman’s head popped up like an animal sensing danger, quickly looked around, and then scrambled off into the post-dawn mist.
The old queer casually, curiously ambled over to where the Chinaman was previously hunched behind dirty bushes. He stopped in his tracks, a gasp of disgust jerked out of his throat, hissing through stained dentures.
A body of a twenty-two year old man lay akimbo in the slimy muck under the shade of a dusty bush. His pockets turned inside out - the white cloth of the front pant pockets poked up like obscene tongues. Both shoes missing; one foot had a dirty, white sock, the other bare. The young man’s lank, shiny, black hair cascaded into a pool of sprinkler mud, urine and old, dog feces. His thick, chapped lips were bluish-white, the look of astonished horror frozen on his inert, handsome face - scattered near his torso was a syringe, trash, a few old condoms. His attractive and masculine face, the color of a brown paper bag was mottled with splotches of blue, discolored white around the open, grimacing mouth. His dirty shirt was unbuttoned, revealing a lifeless tattooed torso.
The old queer flashbulbed the image of the youth’s face into his brain, a look of shocked, unmitigated horror frozen on that young, cold face. He recognized the boy: a popular hustler who prowled Plaza Santa Cecilia hooking the drunk old men and bloated American tourists who frequented the bars and cafés.
The old queer pursed his lips in disgust. Oh, dear! What did you see the moment before you died, sweetie? Whatever did you see?
The old queer glanced toward a pay phone on the corner – a fleeting thought of calling the police.
He faltered, then casually strolled toward the Plaza, decided to score for a boy, instead. He was certain the rentboys would be working the breakfast crowd at the cafés. Possibly young Cesar would be there. Cesar always knew how to make a drab day turn exciting…
rest in peace Juan Carlos, tijuana 1992