Día de los Muertos: Chapter 3


The Border / November 1—11:00 P.M.

Tijuana is worse at night, sinister. Paloma Vasco liked the tawdry, salacious feel. Going back into Tijuana was like putting on crotchless panties. The sight of the foreign town across the bridge made her feel like doing nasty things, not giving a shit about anything. She was kind of a sexual vacuum cleaner and right now the motor was on. She was like a fat man looking forward to that next big meal. Her lover was in for a workout. She started walking more quickly just thinking about it. Tall and very young, a Latin Vargas girl, the lights on the skywalk caught her perfectly, how tall she was. Even under the shiny black raincoat, you saw she was all thighs and calves and that her ass would make men see stars and give up their wives. She didn’t need a push-up bra.

Vasco was in a hurry. She passed by U.S. Customs and started across the skywalk that led into Mexico. People’s faces coming the other way were distorted by the bright halogen lights that lit the bridge. There was a raucous, gritty feel to the crowd. Her black plastic raincoat reflected the light like a black mirror. She stood out taller than most of the men. There was a carnival atmosphere as if they were all going to a circus instead of a different country. Every face she passed, brown or white, was garish, compelling, illuminant, greasy-looking, its ethnicity magnified and slightly bent somehow, like faces in a fun house mirror. She loved crossing at night. She loved catching those locked-up looks she got from the men. She was very aware of her effect on them.

At the middle of the bridge, Indian women begged, dark little sirens, sloe-eyed and wretched. They caught Vasco by her coat, held her and begged for money, imploring. Vasco laughed and pulled away unafraid. There was a moment when her beautiful midriff was exposed. She threw a handful of change over her shoulder, the coins rolling under the feet of the crowd.

At the end of the bridge she descended the long series of steps. She was pushing past the slower pedestrians now, her knees exposed, pumping, moving quickly. Her boots made noise on the concrete stairs. The crowd and she entered the chiaroscuro of portals and ominous shadows and ugly smells as you come off the bridge. She could hear the sound of hundreds of footsteps. Then, just as suddenly, at the bottom, everything changed and she was thrust into Mexico. A fleet of waxy yellow taxis shone in the night light, scores of them, like metallic beetles. The first impression, the one the first-timers in the crowd never forgot, was that of a riveting chaos, as if the population of Mexico was still fleeing the conquest and had all taken taxis to the border. She headed for a taxi.

Vasco told the driver to take her to the Hotel Española. They pulled through the taxi stand, which was lit like daylight at midnight. The driver looked at her several times in the mirror; something about Vasco’s face told her story. Something about where she’d come from and what she’d been doing still clung to her. When you’d seen the things she had, you play them back on your face without meaning to. The taxi driver saw a rich Latin girl. Maybe it was the black cherry lipstick, or the almost savage quality in her green eyes. The driver looked up into the mirror and for a moment he thought the Malinche—a female evil spirit—had climbed into his cab.

“What’s going on?” she asked him in Spanish. Vasco was looking out at the crowds on the streets. There was a party atmosphere she hadn’t seen before in Tijuana. “¿Qué pasa?”

“Fiesta mañana,” the driver said. He looked at the girl again. Her dark, full lips, the black shiny raincoat catching all the lights as they drove down the Avenida Benito Juarez.

“Fiesta. Yeah?… Cool,” she said in English.

Vasco lit a cigarette. Her coat had come open. The taxi driver took the opportunity to stare at the girl’s exposed skin, the brown marble of her waist. She was wearing black stretch pants and a black workout halter top. There was something inside of her that was screaming. It was on her fresh face, the excitement that rages in some young women, the ones with too much sexual energy for their own good.

“What’s it about?” Vasco asked. She was Chilean and Mexico was foreign to her.

“Día de los Muertos,” the driver said.

“Day of the Dead,” she said in English.

“For many it’s good luck,” the driver added.

“And for the other bastards?” Vasco asked.


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