He stumbles out of the bar onto the main drag. Well, not stumbles really, staggers, then swans a little. It's all a joke, the way he plays it on everybody in the whole world. Bumping into dopes trying to get away with stuff he's so familiar with he sees it in his sleep. How they stand the monotony is a total fucking mystery; their lives, not crackling with electricity and drama twenty-four seven. Not even close to his.
A hell of a day it's been. He got drunk hours ago, but then he can go forever. Way he sees it, he's smarter drunk than most people are sober. Years of practice and dedication, liver like a Kraft Cheese processing plant turning out the same stuff every day and with such monotony, it thinks that's all there is to run on. It's not even surprised anymore. An occasional tightening of a screw here, stripped bolt replaced there. It adjusts, keeps going like an engine throwing oil every which way.
After drunk comes belligerent, like always until something shifts. When they ignore him, it makes him mean. Or not mean exactly, more like a kid with ADD. Any attention is better than nothing.
On the street, sun too bright. Too fucking bright. What time is it, he wonders. If he started at 12, then... 2? Is it 2? And already back on the street. There's a lady looking for the same kind of Talavera soup bowls she got down here last time. Man, he'd like to fuck her. Tight ass, all that money, all that cashmere sweater, but thinks she's too good for the likes of him. He'd show her who's too good, who the fucking jefe is. Funny word, jefe. Mexican's a good language for drunks. Wait, where'd Cashmere Sweater go? Lost in the crowd. She'd know she'd been fucked when he was done with her. For days she'd know. Might even think of telling someone how it all went down, which is why he's not going near it. Some women, they figure out what being fucked actually means and they don't much like it.
Whores are better, lots. No emotion. He bangs 'em, pushes 'em around a little because, goddamn, he's so drunk he can barely feel a thing. Whores? He gives 'em an extra twenty, they forget about it. Oh, he doesn't want to hurt anyone, not like some sick asshole. He just wants to feel something, anything. Is that too much to ask?
And damned if he's not at the threshold of another bar. Senor Frogs. He hates the fucking place, but any port in a storm.
The bartender gives him that look, that greasy Mexican look saying he's a pinche drunk gringo or worse, maybe that same pinche gringo that was in here a few weeks back. On the one hand, he could refuse to serve him, though they hardly ever do that. When he's drunk they know he throws the dinero around. Makes everyone happy. Later? Who cares about later. Anything could happen later.
Sitting down he flexes a little, elbows leaning into a puddle on the bartop. Shoulders wide, face square and handsome. Some weird fucking twist of fate there. Person like him should look like hell warmed over. Must be a painting somewhere, aging like hell in his place.
A girl down the bar likes it. Can't take her eyes off him, but then she's drunk too. Maybe as drunk as he is. Or, and this is a real possibility, faking it. Too young and pretty to be anything but a "B" girl, the kind that hang around dishing out hope like squares of chocolate brownies on a plate from an old lady in the supermarket. But he's drunk so he keeps going. Buying drinks all 'round, conjuring a party like a magician conjuring doves and flowers from thin air.
Mojo working, and drunk or sober it's a formidable mojo. Another thing he can't figure and secretly, though he never tells anybody, he wonders what kind of twisted joke the gods are playing, wonders when the punch line's finally coming around.
"You like me?" She's shoved her way through the crowd massed at the rumor of the Gringo buying drinks. The girl's words, half statement half request, ring in his ear and the spandex shorts crawling up her ass, clutching her pussy like saran wrap, brush against his thigh. For rent or for free, either way he's game, and after three more shots of tequilla, he's getting nothing else but bored. Wanting more, wanting something besides. She's got eyes the size of saucers, lips born for cocksucking, hair too big but soft; and he thinks of his fingers tangled, the way it will feel, the way it smells afterwards. Hairspray, mousse, whatever dimestore perfume migrates through the sweat up strands from her neck. What is she? Twenty, twenty-one tops. He's forty-something and hitting this. Costs money? Who cares? Not him. He can't remember the last time he actually gave a fuck. That's what he tells himself. He gives a fuck, he's got something to lose; and nobody can take anything from him.
It's what he's telling everyone, but the group's shrinking as his words run together like epoxy, getting worse all the time. He pretends it's them that are stupid, deaf, maybe both. Somewhere down deep, he knows it's not true.
The bartender nods his way, like "way to go Gringo." Or it could be at her, and that alerts him a little, like a fly bite on a place he can't reach. He ignores it.
Sun again, too bright, making it impossible to see and he staggers into a day tripper, who calls him a drunken asshole.
He thinks about those days at home, when it wasn't like this. The way the sun took the edge off, searing him to his very soul, reducing him to something not unlike a person. In the sun, working in the yard, on the big property, moving; action unstoppable, and they all figured he was busy, too terribly important; it's why he never stopped to talk. Nobody imagined the truth. Nobody imagined much of anything, which kept him going all those years.
But deal with tomorrow's problems tomorrow. Her arm's locked in his and though she pretends he's in the lead, these are streets he doesn't recognize and people he's never seen before. In the hotel room she says she wants a hundred.
"For a blow job?" Shit, he could have gotten a crack whore for twenty. Skank factor would be higher, pimply ass, pasty drug-worn face. That and if they're jonesing bad they do a shitty job. Lots of work with a crack whore, too much goading, hands renting an anonymous head until it starts to gag and balk. What the hell, they're fucking crack whores after all. Used to much rougher treatment than anything he dishes out. And once he's come, he can go out drinking some more. Enough time will have passed he can just about manage it, usually. That's how he rolls.
"Not just," only it comes out "yust," along with a crack pipe. Glass tube brown and well used. He's up for it; it'll stall the stupor, put some snap back into things. Out the slats of disheveled mini-blinds he can see the sun lower in the sky, thinks about where it's going, whether he'll miss it or just catch it when it comes round again. He puts the pipe to his mouth, sucks as she holds a flame from a cheap plastic Bic. Tastes like cheap shit.
She got her mouth on him. Up and down, his hands clamped around bangled ears and his head lolls back not in ecstacy exactly, but lost, just plain lost, staggering towards a rainbow colored someplace, someplace cool and blind that goes on forever into the night. He finishes and brings her up to nuzzle her neck, tonguing the bangle hanging from her ear. He's just worked the hook off, tasting metal, feeling the coolness of it on his tongue when she pulls away and leaves him. He opens his eyes and she's going through his pockets. Has her hand on his last two-hundred.
It looks like three of them, come crashing through the door, though it could be six or twelve. They let him get his pants and undershirt back on, but nothing else. The wooden cross he bought earlier on the street isn't worth stealing, just more Mexican shit, and he's left it on as a hedge. Like God is a radio station van that, miraculously and against all odds, finally might recognize his bumper sticker.
It's hard to walk, handcuffed and drunk. Almost impossible cuffed behind his back, and even the cops twig after less than a block, that cuffed that way he won't be able to work the automated teller machine.
But something is bothering him, something like earlier at the bar when he met the pretty girl. He can't get hold of it but it's there, alright. Was he at this same ATM today, or the last time he was here? 'Cause if it's this time, he's maxed out.
"Pinche pendejo," one cop mutters. He's run his card through three times, the machine refusing to fork over a nickel.
And the gravity of it hits like a cast iron skillet upside the head. Unless the whore's going to share the three hundred she's already got, they'll be pissed off, maybe put him in jail just for spite.
The girl shows, rubbing her jaw. Men so drunk take a long time to come. Hell, maybe she actually earned the three hundred. That's what she's thinking. She curses him in Spanish for her lost earring and it comes to him that someday, some random x-ray is going to find a hundred of the fucking things, swallowed for no other reason than a monkey's in the zoo. He likes the feel of it going down.
She takes off the earring she's still got, shrugging her shoulders in something half pity, half resignation. "No preocupe. I take care of them. They turn you loose when they get off work."
"You live like this every day?" She's putting on lipsick now, admiring herself in a compact mirror, then pulling up her tube top. Little black cuffs high on her arms though whether they're attached to the rest of the shirt, who knows. Very sexy.
"Can't afford it every day."
She rolls her eyes and walks off. Spiked heels missing every crack in the cobbles like she's walked this same path a hundred times. When they've all gone, he laughs 'till he feels like puking, which would be bad, sitting next to it, smelling it for hours until the cops come back. If they remember.
Mexico. Fucking Mexico. He loves it mostly except for nights like this. He hears the roar of the ocean below, hurling itself against shallow cement dumped fifty years back by exhausted constructionistas overdue for siesta. The he's up and stretching, dragging the iron bench towards the seawall. As he pukes onto the rocks below, he closes one eye and can see it in the light of the mercury vapor lamp, a single cheapshit bangle earring, glittering like a beer tab, bye and bye, washed away and gone.