They stuck photocopies in the urinals again and again we covered them in our names. Sheets of paper advising what to do if you hook up with someone in the club: always use a condom, introduce your hook-up for the night to someone you know, tell people where you’re going to be. But the thing is, we don’t listen, we really do just think with our asses, scrawling our email addresses and phone numbers all over the pieces of paper along with our names and specifications: ‘I’ll suck you off’, ‘Hung’, ‘Goes all night’, ‘For bondage and threesomes’. They’re killing us. It’s no joke and the worst part is we enjoy falling as if we’re wounded little swallows with our tight trousers and our cold, shining eyes like disco balls in an empty nightclub. Last week, for instance, there was another murder in the papers. Someone hooked up with a guy, here in the Vaquero according to some people, though others say it was right in the Calle de Cuba, in front of the police car on patrol or the hotdog stand, and he was found stabbed to death a few blocks away near the Plaza Garibaldi. Horrible. Other people say it happened in the Marrakech Salón – the Marra – and that the victim was one of those art-school kids who think they’re so alternative because they drink guava-flavoured pulque in La Risa on Mesones and then head to the Marra or La Purisima or Bellas Hartas to dance electro-cumbias. That he made art using PowerPoint. That I’d slept with him. It’s not true: he was a sculptor and he rented a tiny room in an old building on the Calle República de Brasil where there was barely enough space for his sculptures – all of which were of cocks – and a microwave and a mattress. He was an artist on the mattress too. I don’t remember his name but I remember he had really good weed. Really good. Apparently it was him in the papers last week. His five minutes of fame. A photo of what turned out to be his last and, in spite of all the blood, his most brilliant performance, clearly influenced by the work of Teresa Margolles. But anyway, that weed he had was seriously good. I would have gone out with him just for that and the things he could do with his tongue. They say the guy who went off with him that night, the murderer, is right over there, the one with the beer in his hand and the little beard. But I don’t believe it. I think that guy with the beard is the ex of an ex of one of my friends. Well, not a friend exactly, but we were sleeping together for a while. And he’s so inoffensive and boring we suspect he’s probably straight. Because we’re not like that. We have a sixth sense that leads us into trouble, into sleeping with the son of the most homophobic and murderous politician around or at the very least hooking up with the blind beggar in the metro. I even think they’re wrong about the victim, that it wasn’t the tongue-and-PowerPoint artist but someone else, anyone else, like it was last month as well. That one had been in the Oasis, pistachio-green leather boots, checked shirt, stonewashed blue jeans so tight you could see everything: a little cowboy. He lost his sombrero dancing with a transvestite with muscles as hard as his own hard feelings. But everyone’s forgotten about him by now, he’s yesterday’s gossip. Or maybe not. Or maybe you need three people to get killed one after the other before they stick up more photocopied notices about staying safe that none of us read. Because, they remind us, HIV is always a danger, because discrimination is always a danger, because murderers come here, to the Calle República de Cuba, looking for us, crazy idiots that we are who’ll hook up with anyone. And what can we do? They whisper pretty things in our ears, grab us down there, two lopsided smiles, a beer – a lager, a pale ale – and then they slit our throat. The fag-killer was a regular in the 33 and the Oasis and nobody even realised. The thing is, all we cared about was dancing on the bar, stripping on the bar to win a bucket of beers courtesy of the barman, hooking up with the barman with the nice ass. Taking a photo with the barman with the nice ass and posting it on Facebook. But it never used to be like that. The oldest regulars in El Vaquero, the ones who are part of the furniture by now and equally destroyed, say that no, it never used to be like that. You never used to get homophobic crime. The bars weren’t as obvious as they are now. The Butter, for example, the one on the corner of Lázaro Cárdenas and Salto del Agua, was all painted grey and the only clue to what it contained was a butterfly on the doorbell. You rang and they let you in. They wouldn’t let just anyone in, though. First they’d make sure you were part of the scene. They said the scene back then, not gay. They looked for signs in your eyes, you made your gaze all deep and tender, halfway between Elizabeth Taylor and a wounded animal. It happened quickly, there were no people strutting around in the street saying darling this, darling that. You went in quick-smart so nobody saw. You put your make-up on and got changed inside. And then you changed back on the way out. Because any bastard might come after you, or worse, the police could catch you and blackmail you. Either you gave them some cash or they threw you in the cells for being a poof. Or they took your diary so they could call everyone in your family and say you’d like them to talk to you like a lady in future, darling this darling that, that you painted your face when you went out, that you liked sucking cock. That you had AIDS. Homophobia didn’t exist back then. The word hadn’t even been invented. There were only crimes of passion. Unless you were Juan Gabriel or a transvestite superstar like Francis García singing at the Blanquita theatre, your death would be reported in the entertainment section. Or along with all the other blood-spattered corpses in the sensationalist crime rags. The body of another nancy-boy stabbed to death, and from behind, what a treat, and there was never any doubt about the conclusion: his lover, who was almost certainly married, had killed him because he’d slept with someone else, the little slut. Because fags will be fags, devious and twisted like the black eyeliner that runs down our cheeks when we cry. So they never bothered investigating. That’s how they covered everything up. That’s how they killed us. They said we killed each other because we were gay and gays cheat and lie. It was our destiny and their titillating entertainment in the headlines the next day. Case closed. Nothing more to say. But now we’re part of the city’s ‘diverse’ fauna, protected and tolerated by the government like little animals at risk of extinction, arriving every night like baby dodos, hopping idiotically along the Calle de Cuba as soon as the organ-grinders have stowed their instruments and gone home to bed. En route to the Vaquero with checked shirt, snakeskin boots and moustache, the thick, lustrous moustache of a serious hunk; to the Marra in a bright-coloured T-shirt, over-the-top hair and sunglasses you’d be more likely to see on the beach or the cover of an 80s teen magazine. Retro-style or cyberdog. Or even better, even cooler, a jock, a metrojock, showing off muscular arms, plucked eyebrows and highlights. Tight white T-shirt, braces and trousers slipping down over your ass. We’re theirs for the taking, every weekend and on paydays it’s even worse. We might as well go out in wedding dresses, but the thing is, what else can we do, we’re bent, we’re buggers – we want to party. Because it’s not the free-for-all it used to be. Now everyone turns up with their mates. Or they’re after a sweaty-palmed boyfriend they can take to the cinema and all that. We come here to dance or get taken away by the next fag-killer. Because if you just want to fuck it’s easier to use Manhunt or bear.com (motherf…! Now all the fat men are bears and as sought-after as caviar, those goddamn hairy delicious princesses). But to fuck, plain fuck, in real life, the bathhouses are your only option. The Mina, by the Hidalgo metro. Or the Sol, by Guerrero. And what was the one behind the Teresa cinema? Oh, the pornos they used to show in the Teresa, good times… I remember one where everyone was a caveman, like the Flintstones only with eight-inch dicks. The women shouting and shouting, yabadabadoo and us hopping from one seat to the next. You’d spot someone by themselves and make your move but then they weren’t by themselves and instead had someone kneeling in who knows what space, merrily sucking away. I never saw the famous art deco façade. The only artistic thing I saw there was the performance of the woman who sold little bags of rancid popcorn in the corridor, as happy as if she were in the House of Disney cinema, the one that’s now the church of San Judas. But those days are gone. A lot of people died after getting infected. There was the Savoy cinema, too. But anyway, back then the best thing to do was hang around the ticket booth, acting like you couldn’t make up your mind whether to go in, like you were too embarrassed or you’d already seen this one or something. That way you’d hook up in no time with the next guy to arrive. That way you didn’t have to shell out for a ticket and maybe you just went straight to the Mina bathhouse instead. Because the Mina is the Mina. There are other baths nearby but I don’t remember which. And there’s a hotel along 5 de Mayo where it’s dirt cheap and you don’t even get keys, you just open the door. And you can’t lock it. I’ve never heard of anyone being killed on the way out. Not in the Alameda park either, where you only have to linger a few moments for someone to appear, and someone else after that. Though to be honest they’re always the same ones, and seriously old-school: past-it grandpas and rentboys. Then, once you’re there, the best thing is to go to the handicrafts market by Balderas and hook up with some tourists. Or try your luck in the Hidalgo metro. Although if you hook up with someone in the metro you’ll still end up in the Mina. All roads lead to the Mina. Or the Finisterre, on the Calle San Rafael, but that’s a bit further away. And you’ll need to come all the way back, too. Because you need to find your soulmate this payday Friday. Because you need to make sure the PowerPoint artist wasn’t actually killed. Because you need to ask him if he’d like to do it again or at least give you the number of his dealer. Because you need to write your phone number on the photocopied sheets of warnings, along with your email address and the fact you want to hook up, for whatever, because we’d rather be dead, rather be rejected, rather even be murdered than be bored.
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR
Annie McDermott translates fiction and poetry from Spanish and Portuguese, and is currently working on novels by the Uruguayan writer Mario Levrero for And Other Stories and Coffee House Press. Her translations of poems by Sergio Loo appeared in Alba Londres 06: Contemporary Mexican Poetry and The White Review.