Sunday, May 14, 2006

El Prostibulo

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It was definitely a down-market kind of place. Outside, the architecture had a frayed sort of Baja California mission-inspired elegance. Inside it was seedy. The felt was ripped on the pool table in the large entryway, and the beer they sold was cheap yet cold. I would not have realized it was a brothel as well, except for the look of alarm on the women's faces when I walked in. It was on a back street far from the tourist areas of Cabo San Lucas, far from "El Squid Roe," Cabo-Wabo, Carlos and Charlies, and all the places where newlyweds smoothed cocoa butter balm on their sunburns, and women soothed themselves with a cool papaya and shea butter masque while having their bodies abraded smooth with ginger and lime scented salt scrubs.

They were seeking life. I was not. I was seeking death - not my own, but the portable shreds and scraps that could infuse one's veins with life.

This was far from the upscale spas and clubs. It smelled vaguely of Clorox. I heard the scrape and swoosh of a broom on a tile floor, as I felt eyes bore through my heart. My knees felt rubbery, and my abdomen ached in sympathy with what I knew the majority of the women here would eventually have to endure, if they had not already.

"Can I help you?"

Give them faulty condoms. Make sure they become pregnant. Force them to terminate their pregnancies. Collect the stem cells. Collect the fetal tissue. Collect the placenta. Collect whatever you can of new life. Take that incipient life, that vital fluid. Bag it.

"I don't know. I am looking for my husband." I let my voice trail off, hoping it would be a technique that would be effective at disguising the fact that I was not altogether sure of myself. I wasn't sure if I wanted to go through with this.

Somewhere in Costa Rica, a tropical pit viper with a head the size of a small child's hand would coil itself tightly and buzz its "cascabeles;" the frantic shatter-buzz of its rattles a conditioned response to both danger and predatory urge.

She looked at me with a blend of compassion and ennui.

"I'm sorry," she said.

"Yes," I responded. The smell of spearmint. Gray-green flesh. Char was better. A soldier vomiting in the corner. The smell of blood. The smell of burned blood. The scream of a man burning alive.

The sound of the love of my life.

I started weeping, tears violent and unrelenting. My chest constricted. My breath came in ugly gasps and wheezes. My heart melted and remelted, reconstituting itself every time the grief surged anew.

She, of course, misunderstood my reaction. She attributed it to spousal infidelity. When I thought of that, I almost laughed, despite the profound disconcertedness of my own consciousness.

You never know how it will shake out, do you? Yeah, you have to laugh. Then fight the nausea. It's all about the future, pre-destiny or the way human knowledge is spliced, diced, and pushed into a preset ideology.

The blue mist came. There were images I preferred to push from my mind. It was best to never think of them. No one likes to think of one's memory as being damaged. Perhaps the damage was confined to the soul.

The pink gel held out a promise. Pink like the little cylindrical chunk of rubber on the end of a pencil. Erasing and healing errors, even the mortal ones.

"I'm not sure," I said to the woman wearing a tight cotton "wife-beater" t-shirt and a tight metallic gold skirt. Her high heels were reminiscent of the platform sandals of the 1970s. Her hoop earrings and gold chain had peace symbol charms. Overall, it was a vaguely retro hippie look, and it suited her. Incongruously, she wore a pink fake fur shoulder bag emblazoned with dice. It was cute in an oddly Japanese "harajuku" way.

"Si, senora," she said. Her eyes looked vaguely sad. Perhaps I was just projecting.

"Thank you," I said and walked slowly out the door.

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