Jim Marquez. Photo by Rick Mendoza.

WAITING

by Jim Marquez

The silence of it all is the thing that first gets you. So fucking quiet at 2:37am on a Thursday or Friday or Saturday morning in Downtown Los Angeles.

The men wait at a corner, huddled in twos and threes and fours, the truly adventurous man waits alone. Dressed in white T-shirts with oil-stains, jeans, and trucking caps. Some are drunk, red eyes glisten under dull street lights; they waver in place, trying to remain upright, while others are wide awake, jittery, hands shoved in pockets, rocking back and forth on their heels, taking quick glances at their buddies, wordlessly asking each other in Spanish if they should leave or make their move.

It’s cold out this night, unusual for this time of year, but that does not deter them; they gather here on this corner and wait for the taxi dancers to come streaming out of their place of business on this and every other night and I know this because I’m the only drunk that bothers to look at them rather than push past as the amateurs do when they stumble out of a bar in their own groups of 17-30 deep, sloppy and loud and obnoxious, catching the ears of all the pigs that increasingly patrol the downtown streets now.

I’ve been to whorehouses and strip clubs and swingers clubs all over the world, but, I have never seen the inside of a taxi hall. Talk about old school. Buy tickets, pick a girl, actually slow dance, be close, pretend you’ve taken her out on a real, old fashioned date, then, if the friction is right, or not, retire to a back sofa, in the dark, and hope for a hand job or, for the truly adventurous woman, a blow job.

So I’ve been told.

But after is when the real money is made. When the real action takes place. And it’s all for the asking, apparently.

The women gather under the awning of their building. Wrapped in bad coats, holding big purses, teetering in cheap platform sandals, whispering in Spanish to each other about this guy or that guy that is standing across from them on the sidewalk. They don’t smile. They don’t wave or encourage. But they do await the first moves.

Christ, it’s like being at a junior high school dance.

From what I’ve witnessed before, it takes these men-lonely and plain looking, scared, skin dark from being in the sun or pale from being stuck in factories, hands rough, the men that work for our city when nobody else has the balls to-just a few words: ‘How much?’ & ‘Where?’ The reply is usually ‘$50’ & ‘My place’ or ‘A room’.

Simple enough. But sometimes a negotiation takes place, and more words are needed. Dammit, I wish I knew more Spanish. Not all the women are looking to be escorted though. Some are legitimately waiting for their husbands or their boyfriends or their brothers or their fathers to come pick them up after work. They know what kind of people hangout afterwards; they know what kind of men wait late at night on this corner in Downtown L.A.

Some women band together and grab a mini-bus taxi to come and take them away. Some have cars and scamper in pairs to a parking lot and dart off before anybody can ask them the questions. Those women are left alone. The ones that primp and preen and stand apart from the others… well, then.

This is done while the cops blow by chasing after amateurs swerving in their earth-killing SUVs. Never is a glance wasted on the flashing lights of a black & white. It’s ok. No problem.

The women see me standing there, smiling, erection visible despite the tight jeans, or maybe because of them, and they wait for me too to make my move.

Excerpt printed courtesy of the author.

Jim Marquez (www.myspace.com/jimmarquez) will be reading at the “Joe Bravo Museum of Tortilla Art” opening reception at the Mexican Cultural Insitute, on Saturday, July 12th, at 8pm. For more information go to www.myspace.com/mexicanculturalinstitute.

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