Passed through a Tijuana afternoon like a ghost, swirling Qi around my hips and smiling half-eyed at the local boys standing on bar-sidewalks with tequila coupons and two-for-ones. They try to lure us in, two chicks come down for prozac fix and cheap liquor in gray plastic bags. Nothing better to do than strut down sticky concrete in and out of their world in matter of seconds, flash minutes. The ever-slinky dollar signs in drag.
And the boys are cute with their strong, short postures and grins of determination - the happy-liquor grins under black eyes and wet curly hair, white t-shirts and easy English bait falling from their lips. We walk through, walk on and they hook on for a few quick steps, become our boyfriends, offer us good deals on beer, good buys on salty glasses in upstairs bars. Two lonely ladies like you - no, gracias. Yes, you come inside. No, someone else, I say.
Someone else, another lady who's not afraid to linger on those lips and stare in those clove-cinnamon eyes of yours. Who would let her hand sneak out from jacket sleeve and just graze your skin as she takes a coupon from your fist. She'd stay and give you flutters before you sleep. She'd kiss your dreams with a sugary smack - get something of you stuck to her lipstick pink. If she pulled you close your shoulders would press just tight against her breasts, your forehead would feel breath from her open mouth, the hot breath that would come if you actually got that close.
But we walk on, the arm?in?arm women of California with private agendas and very little Spanish between us.
On the other end of the street, near the round corner where taxi-cabs wait in line, the street vendor tries a new approach: "Hey, Pumpkin Pie," he says, and I repeat it loudly, filling my tongue with that surprise. Pumpkin Pie? - that's original. Now, twilight imminent with tangled hair and Tijuana stench in my nose, I break off from myself and walk back to that man, say the things my soul wrote when it heard his voice. The impossible physical conversation happens now and eternally.
I hear him say it and my soul turns: freeze frame. My hand moves out, magnets his fingers to my palm. Pumpkin Pie, I say. You like pumpkin pie? You like that kind of orange dessert? He says he does.
Then talk to me a little longer. Tell me how you like it - hot with cream or cold on a plate out of the fridge with a clean cold fork? Tell me how you like the texture, the honey, the taste of it after you've licked that plate clean. We sit on sidewalks. Shoulders touch but there's no eyelash latching; our eyes do not attach. Just touching with whole blind body and we talk nonsense, making love at the border, never getting all the way across.
I don't want to get across. I like the men, the young ones who work so hard and get so close. Not the molesting kind of closeness you get in other sleazy corners of the world, but the innocent kind of eye-touching that costs little. You are just a woman walking by and maybe you will, maybe you won't. Either way life goes on and, though the money'd be better if you said yes, my life wouldn't improve a bit. You'd just confuse my soul down here. So maybe it's okay you just keep walking.
I like the women who have low opinions of us and let it show with polite disdain. They take the money like it's money. They know the boys out on the street are just working; that's life on a buyer's street. Is it romantic - no. Is it sad - no. It just IS. It is its own country, separate from Mexico, separate from the States.
Some gringos walk around with nipples glowing under bare blonde chest hairs. They look dirty and stupid. The local kids in their black jeans and white t-shirts look clean. The napes of their necks would taste clean to a lazy tongue. Their hands would feel soft, as clean cotton sheets. Crew-cut gringo boys walk naked around them and get burns on their shoulders, turning red all day. Gringas flip their hair and pass on, not wasting time with an upward glance.
Unless it really is the salt they're after and the boom of the bar music. Maybe sometimes they actually stop. Maybe sometimes the dream snaps up its jalousie blinds and we all go inside night together.
About the author:
Laurie Burton is the author of Torpor: Though the Heart is Warm, a novel en route to publication. She received a creative writing fellowship from the Arizona Commission on the Arts and has published in The Mississippi Review, The Antigonish Review, Urban Desires and various English language magazines in Malaysia and Japan. Ms Burton currentlyresides in San Diego, California where she is pursuing a Masters Degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
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