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>The Wrestling Match & Prostitutes

July 4, 2010


Two outings Mom probably would not have let me go on. If she had known, that is.

The Wrestling Match

SNAPSHOT: That’s my Grandma Desch (Dad’s Mom), wearing one of her floral print housedresses. She’s on her feet, the tipped-over chair behind her, shaking her fist. Her face shows outrage.
“¡Vamos a la lucha libre!” It was Perico’s suggestion, as were most of the things the four of us did.
I’d never been to a wrestling match, although I had watched them on TV, usually when my Grandma Desch came to visit us in Sherman Oaks. She demanded only one thing on her visits: The TV on Tuesday evening to watch first, Liberace, then wrestling. She’d pull up a chair in front of the TV, turn on Liberace and gush over his boyish good looks, his outrageous clothes, his flourishes and flamboyance. “Isn’t he just a dear!” she’d exclaim, “and look how soft his hands must be! And s-o-o-o-o handsome! Oh, my!”
 After Liberace she’d change channels to the wrestling match. Gorgeous George, a wrestler with enough hair for any two men and as well known in his time as Liberace for flamboyance, was her favorite. Match-by-match she’d become increasingly agitated, particularly as the “bad guy” resorted to dirty tricks and the “good guy” was losing.
“Did you see that?!! You can’t do that!” she’d yell at the TV, jumping to her feet and shaking her fist, knocking over the chair she’d been sitting on. She’d pick it up and sit down for a few minutes until the next dirty trick forced her to her feet and the chair went flying. Watching Grandma Desch was more entertaining then watching the match.
Now I was going to a live match and I was excited. It was to begin at seven in the evening in an outdoor arena in one of the poorer sections of Guadalajara. Ramon and I met Alejo and Perico at their house at five and hopped on a first-class city bus (seats rather than benches) in Colonia Chapalita and paid our fare of 35 centavos (about three cents). There were no designated bus stops, no benches, and certainly no shelters. You want to ride a bus, you stand on the corner and flag the bus down.
After a few minutes, the bus lumbered into view and we flagged it. Instead of stopping, the driver merely slowed to a crawl and opened the door. We lined up and, one at a time, grabbed the hand-hold and swung ourselves aboard. It always came to a complete stop for girls, women and older people.
We got our tickets and took our seats. It was important to have your bus ticket in your possession. Inspectors regularly boarded the buses and demanded to see everyone’s ticket. No ticket, you’re put off at the next corner. And none too gently. Even though there was only one door on the bus, when there was a large crowd of people wanting to get on it was possible to sneak by the driver.
Requiring a ticket also curbed collusion between the bus driver and his friends who wanted to ride free. Sometimes the bus was so packed with passengers, seated and standing, that no one else could get on. Even so, the driver would continue to make stops and soon there would be a knot of people hanging out the door, unable to get close enough to pay.
We watched the streets named for generals, politicians, saints, revolutionary heroes, Mexican cities and important dates (we lived on one – 12 de Diciembre, celebrating the Virgin of Guadalupe) slide by the windows. We rode that same route to school and we’d long since memorized them.
We got off in a part of town unfamiliar to me and boarded a second-class
city bus to get to the arena. Unlike first-class buses, this one had benches around the inside perimeter, leaving a large space in the middle for sacks, boxes, animals, you-name-it, just like the bus I had ridden with Enrique. Second-class buses with their human and animal cargoes far outnumbered first-class buses in this part of Guadalajara, just as barefoot children outnumbered those with shoes. The fare was 20 centavos.
SNAPSHOT: The crowd of people streaming down the street includes few women and no girls. Most of the boys and men in the throng are clearly working-class. You can see it in weathered faces and calloused hands, the worn straw hats, the huaraches and nondescript pants and shirts.
The bus picked its way through narrow cobblestone streets, a route seemingly more improvised than planned. As we got closer to the arena, the throng thickened. Lucha libre always drew large crowds. The bus stopped and the four of us, along with a dozen or so other men and boys, swung off in quick succession.
An eight-foot adobe wall surrounded the arena and we could see wooden bleachers rising above it. “They’ll be searching everyone for weapons,” Perico told us, “so if you have a knife you’d better conceal it. Otherwise they’ll confiscate both your knife and your ticket.” He took out his own four-inch switchblade (boy was I impressed!) and dropped it in his boot, rolling the cuff of his pants down over the top. All I had was a small pocketknife suitable for cleaning my fingernails. I dropped it into one of my black high-top Keds. It didn’t carry quite the same swagger. And it hurt to walk.
I’m trying to remember any of the actual wrestling that took place that evening and I can’t. What I have instead is an auditory memory. Everyone in the crowd is echando la viga, hurling profanities and obscenities, at the wrestlers, at the ushers, at the vendors, at each other. Not wanting to be left out, I decide to join in the fun, but in English, rather than Spanish. Match after match I sit there echando my own native vigas. Nor am I shy about it: I’m at top volume all evening, egged on by my Mexican companions who themselves try out a few choice English phrases they hear me use.
Were there any other Americans there? Again, my memory fails me, but I find it hard to believe that there could be. What American would come to an open-air wrestling match in the poorest part of town, so far off the beaten track? Nonetheless, I keep seeing an older American couple sitting nearby, grimacing every time I swear. But, like a floater, one of those small specks in your visual field, my memory of them is always moving, just out of fixed visual range.
On another occasion, a Perico-led outing led us to a brothel for my first experience with sex (with another person anyway). We’d been talking about it for a long time; all we lacked was the money. And the nerve. None of us had any idea how much it would cost but Perico insisted we damn well better have enough.
This is an imagined photo.
SNAPSHOT: A dingy room, dimly lit. Some poor guy’s being forcefully held belly-down on a disheveled bed by two hulks who could’ve stepped right out of Grandma Desch’s wrestling matches. The man on the bed is spread-eagled and naked from the waist down, his pants and shorts having been stripped off. A woman, naked from the waist up kneels between his legs, bent over so she’s almost lying on top of the man. I know what’s happening, though I can’t see it.
“Hey! Do you know what happens if you can’t pay?” Perico’s face was grim. “I’ll tell you what happens because they did it to my cousin. They call in a couple of big guys who hold you face down on the bed. One of the putas pulls off your pants and your shorts. Then she sticks a tit up your ass! Then they throw you out without your pants. Hurts like hell!”

I gulped. (The level of sophistication at age fourteen isn’t very high.) For the next few weeks, every time I wanted to buy a candy bar or a Coke or a taco the image of me spread-eagled on some dirty bed with a tit up my ass caused me to put the money back in my pocket: I was damned well going to have enough money.
Finally, when we were sure we had more than enough, we settled on the following Friday evening for our excursion.
When the time arrived I told Mom I was going over to Perico’s. I knew she wouldn’t ask any questions; she was pleased that I had good Mexican friends, and never questioned my activities with Perico, Alejo and Ramon. I’ve no idea what the other guys told their families. Maybe that they were going to my house and their families were pleased that their boys had a good American friend.
This time it took three buses to get from our part of town to the red-light district. And it was, literally, just that. Those few doorways on either side of the maze of cobblestone streets that didn’t have a red light overhead were either bars or dimly lit entrances to small, cheap hotels with rooms to rent by the hour.
We arrived early evening as trade was just beginning to pick up. Passengers swung off still-moving buses, cabbies dropped off their fares and men and boys, seen dimly in the red light shadows, were making their way through narrow entryways into the various houses.
Women and girls stood in doorways or leaned out of windows, smiling, enticing, teasing, and beckoning with lots of cleavage and thigh. I tried not to stare but I couldn’t help myself. I was both fascinated and repulsed. Some of the women looked old enough to be my grandmother. I couldn’t imagine sex with one of them, any more than I could with my grandmother. Others were much younger but I also noticed missing teeth, unkempt hair, dirty clothes as well as the occasional black eye or dark bruise. Some had glassy stares and fixed smiles, shallow and unconvincing.
The four of us stood on the corner, not sure what to do next, or, at least, I wasn’t. “What the hell am I doing here? What have I gotten myself into?” ran through my head. Sure, I’d read about sex. Mom had talked to me about sex. I’d definitely tried sex for one. But this? This was something totally different and I had no idea what to expect or what to do. I looked around at Ramon and Alejo and Perico, wondering what they were wondering. Finally Perico said, “Vamonos,” and the imperial wave of his hand led us on.
He pointed to the red light nearest the corner where we got off the bus and headed for it, not waiting to see if we follow. Just before entering I checked my wallet one more time. I could almost feel that tit up my ass.
An unshaven, mean-looking, sweaty giant of a man sat just inside the door. He gave us the once over through narrow, slitted eyes, like a cook eyeing an iffy piece of meat, and then waved us on in. The floor was hard-packed dirt and the bare light bulbs hanging from the ceiling bounced their meager beams of yellow light off dirty white walls. Two radios competed fiercely for earspace, one playing mariachi selections, the other musica nortena, northern border music, typically an accordion, sax, guitar and tuba or bass. There were girls and women of various ages and in various stages of dress (or undress). Ditto for the boys and men.
We walked along a narrow corridor huddled in a tight little group, not sure what to do next or where to go. A bar materialized as we turned down another narrow hall but none of us drank so it didn’t seem like a good place to stop. We moved forward, slowly, nervously, peeking into the little cubicles, avoiding the looks of the smiling prostitutes we passed. Finally, the madam came up and took us in hand. Accustomed to dealing with naifs such as us, she quickly set each of us up with a girl, told them to treat us well and collected our money. We all breathed a collective sigh of relief.
SNAPSHOT: The girl may or may not be young. She’s slightly overweight, has short black hair and a pock-marked face. She’s lying on the rumpled bed, her sagging breasts flopped to one side, her panties pulled down to her knees. She looks really pissed.
The girl chosen for me is somewhere between seventeen and thirty, short and plump. Not what I would have chosen but I wasn’t about to complain. It’s not like this is a restaurant where you can send back the food if you don’t like it. She introduces herself. “My name is Dora,” she says, “what’s yours?” She smiles and I notice missing teeth. I crack two octaves high when I tell her, “David.” She rolls her eyes.
“Well, c’mon,” she says, with an exasperated sigh and leads me into a little room with just a bed, a chair and a rickety armoire. She quickly begins to undress, throwing her clothes over the back of the chair. Immobile, watching her, my heart is pounding and there’s a roar in my ears.
“Well,” she says, her voice coated with impatience, “what are you waiting for? I haven’t got all night – take your clothes off!”
This is it. I’m long past the point of no return and I start to undress, wondering where to put my clothes. She snatches my shirt from my hand and throws it on the bed. She’s naked except for her panties and a small part of my brain is wondering how she got undressed so quickly. Another small part answers: practice.
Dora lies down on the bed and watches while I continue to undress. One of my unvoiced fears is allayed when I look down and see that I am, indeed, ready. Then, like jumping into the water all at once, I’m on top of her, banging away so quickly she doesn’t have a chance to remove her panties. By the time I realize my mistake it’s too late and I’ve come and her panties are sticky and messy. She’s pissed and I’m mortified.
“Now look what you’ve gone and done, pendejo!” she spits at me. “What the hell’s the matter with you?”
 Pendejo isn’t exactly a term of endearment. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” is all I can manage as I quickly throw my clothes on, not bothering to button, zip, or tie. I’m out of there.
The four of us meet outside a little later. “How was it?” we all ask. “Great!” we all answer.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 8, 2010 6:25 pm

    >I haven't been commenting much lately, but have indeed been following your continuing saga of life. This particular episode contains two real kernels of short stories, and is well-written. You might like to try to expand these by some fictionalization (is that a real word?) because I think you could do some really good stuff with it.Neuwitz Katz

  2. July 9, 2010 3:19 pm

    >Good suggestion, I've been thinking about writing some more short stories.

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