(page 10 of 13)
Blanca nods in agreement, as does the little Chihuahua, who licks at Blanca’s ear as though he is whispering something dark and secretive to her.
I’m reminded how much I hate secrets coming from the squinty mouth of small annoying animal.
That night, Nestor allows me to stay in Rosalinda. He spends the night someplace else, inside a different Rosalinda, perhaps. In the morning he drops me to the city’s main plaza. “Remember to watch your back at all times,” is his final advice. He honks his horn and a neon sign flashes across his bumper: Jesus is Lord … Death or Glory.
In the plaza I ask a woman selling candles where the border is. She lifts a small finger toward a cluster of objects in the distance. She calls it “a great scar of land, where towers rise like angry mastiffs and walls shield the eyes of the frightened rich from the sight of the desperately poor.”
I say nothing in reply. I’m shy with strangers, a shyness often mistaken for a frail heart. I finally blurt out my name, “Benny, Benny Maldonado.” She tells me her name is Cathy and that she is a Marxist teacher of Spanish Literature who sells flowers and candles on her days off.
“And this your day off,” I ask.
“I have none,” she admits. I tell her I’m going to the other side and ask if she knows anyone who can get me across. She says to wait with the group of people sitting on the other side of the plaza.
“They are going tonight. Pay whoever they pay and they will take you across.”
I thank her and she gives me a candle with a slip of paper that reads, “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”
I wait with others for night to fall. Some ugly girl with beautiful hands gives me flyer announcing that Jon’s Karaoke Bar has 2 for1 Strippers, nipple-flavored Tequila shots and a special midnight appearance by the luchador, Mysteri Infiniti.
The rest of the day is filled with boredom and heat. I have dog shit on my shoes which I’ve been trying to scrape off for hours. Litio, returns, looking deprived. His vital energies depleted, Lito’s breathing is like that of baby’s and the dusty afternoon has eaten into his skin, exposing bone and a network of elderly veins and arteries.
“Benny, lust has finally left my heart. The women of Calle Nino’s have grown fatter and darker. They hear their babies cry from behind curtains. All their pimps have died of heartache, cirrhosis and their own unlimited greed. It is impossible to get a fair price under such conditions. And what insults me most is that the prettiest women on the street turn out to be men who dare to laugh at my con…condition.” I notice for the first time that Litio is wearing a brand new Charro shirt, with expensive looking jeans, bad-ass boots and a hand stitched brown leather belt that says---Viejo Pendejo.
“You like my boots, pure horned lizard. Did you know they shoot blood from their eyes when threatened.”
“Not the boots, since when do boots have eyes? The lizards.”
Litio continues to smile but I can sense distance growing. After the rain, the sky becomes just a scribble of clouds made from the drawing of some disturbed child. We walk toward a store to buy supplies. On the way several people including a heavy-set woman with moles scattered all over her face offer to sell us identity documents. As we get closer I realize that her moles are really dark scabs and that there are bruises patterned throughout her chest and arms.
“They got this all wrong, the pendejos.” My grandfather furiously gums at the three good teeth left inside his head. He is reading a torn piece of newspaper with the word ‘Assassins’ prominent. Pictures of men, as forgotten as the villages they abandoned, are beneath the headline. “These men had nothing to do with the death of Luis Colosio. It goes to the very top. Those stingy oligarchs Carlos Slim and the Suras didn’t want this man elected. They want to continue to bleed us dry. Hah, but we have fooled them, haven’t we, Benny? There is no more blood left to take. And what do you take then, when there is no more blood?” After completing his tirade, Litio uses the newspaper to squeeze a tremendous amount of snot from his nose.
The Other Side continues...