‘…to be a Gringo in Mexico. No better euthanasia…’ (Ambrose Bierce, 1913)

I’d had enough.

I was staying at a hostel called the Amphibian, sleeping on a C-shaped
mattress with fleas, and done listening to a Canadian backpacker berate this
neighborhood of tattoos hiding track marks.

The Canadian was on a half-paid junket for an alternative travel magazine
and didn’t give a fuck that Joe DiMaggio was a North Beach resident and that
Mr. Coffee and Marilyn Monroe unsettled the world right here on the steps of
the Italian Cathedral.

“Fuck Joe Dimaggio and that platinum fat-ass princess he married can fuck
off too…”

I handed back his pint of Wild Turkey and said, “you shouldn’t say that
about Joe and Norma Jean.” He licked a cold sore. I wasn’t worth hitting. I
had dead eyes and a cheap guitar with flat strings. “I thought you said you
were from Vancouver.”

“I said I hate Vancouver.”

“I don’t remember that,” he said and finished the whiskey.


Outside on Broadway, taxi drivers dropped off an assortment of suits,
soldiers and students in the foggy neon. Barkers prowled the doorways of
strip clubs and snarled invites and discounts and free looks at the finest
girls in the city.

I’d spent thousands the past few nights looking, and spending money that
wasn’t mine. As I approached Columbus, I heard a voice yell out, “This way,
Kerouac.” A satyr with sunglasses and big white teeth held a door open and I
walked into garish light and pulsing music. A pink-haired waif with big tits
gyrated against a metal pole on a stage the size of a village altar.

Facing the stage was a mini-grandstand where sassy girls pestered three
regulars with bored looks. I climbed up and sat down and before I could take
my hands out of my overcoat a slightly used brunette slid in next to me.
“Hi, I’m Bolinda.” She was probably 25 but the business had pitted her face
and enlarged her pierced nostrils. “Eddie,” I said, and she touched my hand
and stroked the inside of my wrist. “That girl dancing—you think she’s
pretty?” The waif had an enormous mouth and glassy eyes and resembled my
little sister in Bellingham. “She’s okay,” I said.

“What about you, you okay?” The Asian DJ signaled Bolinda and she said,
“Hey, promise me you won’t leave. I’m up…” She pressed her lips into my ear.
“I like you, Eddie.” A drum-driven song segued into the same beat and the
waif picked up her clothes and exited the stage. Bolinda sashayed up in her
pumps and tiny clingy dress as the DJ rattled off a string of lewd
adjectives about her.

For the next ten minutes, she showed why the slightly used attract clients
and keep management pimps at a distance. She was like a gymnastic circus
slut. The floor, the pole, and the air were all imaginary faces she rubbed
her scent on. Midway through, I approached the stage with a fist of
five-dollar bills and Bolinda secreted smiles and smells that momentarily
blacked out my troubles. I fed her about sixty bucks and she broke a sweat
picking up the bills with her butt cheeks.

When her set ended, she latched on to my arm and steered me into a dim back
room sectioned into two pleasure zones. She escorted me to an operating
table with several high stools around it. She said some clients like to
watch up close while the girls pleasured themselves with oil and toys.
“These guys have a lot of bank,” she said, kissing me on the cheek. “Come
on, I saved us a room.”

The room was part of a row of closet-sized spaces with beaded entrances and
monitored by a hoarse male voice standing in the darkness somewhere. Weak
light illuminated a speaker, hooks to hang clothes, and a stained futon I
sat on, while Bolinda muttered to the man in the dark. When she entered, her
perfumed sweat diluted the smell of sperm and spoors. She sat on my lap.
“You can’t touch out there but back here there’s no rules, unless you’re a
cop…are you?” I shook my head. “Our D.A. said she wasn’t going to invest
money in busting dancers but you never know what cops want when their shift
is over.” She paused. “You have pretty eyes.” I tapped her knee and she
said, “It doesn’t cost anything if you have something specific to say.”

“None that I can think of right now.” A shadow passed by outside and
Bolinda said, “I’m working.” She sighed. “Sorry.”

“Will he get mad if we keep talking?”

“Don’t worry about it. Has nothing to do with us. He lost money on the Super
Bowl and now he’s trying to make it up by being an asshole.” I ran my hand
over her arm. “Can I ask you to put your clothes back on?”

“You don’t like me…”

“No, no, it’s just that I like what you were wearing…”She got off my lap,
put on her thong and skimpy dress. “Better?”

“I didn’t mean…”

“I know,” she said, straddling me. “You can’t hurt my feelings.”

“I wouldn’t want to.” She rubbed my temples. “I know. I could tell when you
walked in you’d been running out.” She rubbed her lips across mine and I
thought of Mexico again and how I was going down there to drink myself to
death. I picked a fishing village in a farming valley that was only a few
hours north of a lagoon that gray whales migrated to from Alaska. I had
five thousand dollars in cash I’d stolen from a Canadian dealer working the
Chinatown district of Vancouver. I beat him up pretty bad but not enough for
me to stop looking over my shoulder. I opened my eyes.

A hand slapped at the beaded curtain and Bolinda backed off my crotch. “Fuck
that punk.” I grabbed her wrist and I could feel her pulse and it excited
me. “How much?”

“Twenty dollars for three minutes.” I sat her back down. “How much is
yours?” She said the girls work off a three hundred dollar stage fee before
they start making any money and I was her first customer. I located a
crumpled fifty in my back pocket and gave it to her. “Can I pick the song?”
She gently pressed the mole on my cheek, got up and stuck her hand through
the curtain. The song began with the chorus and before Bolinda could shuck
her dress another chorus-starting punk song thrashed in the room.

And it didn’t matter I was getting short-changed or that Bolinda tainted the
dancing with apologies for the management. I didn’t even care that her
skirmish with the shadow might be staged and they would later blow kisses at
each other.

I had Mexico to get to and another Canadian to beat up.

© 2007 Underground Voices