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  • 1.

    I searched but I never found it.

    That summer, I lived with my aunt in Los Angeles, in a white stucco apartment building, near downtown, not far from Chinatown, the walls were onion thin, you could hear the upstairs neighbor coughing, late at night, a toilet flushing, footsteps on some shaggy carpet. Outside, there was often the clamor of a police siren, a helicopter chopping through the smog sky, a German shepherd barking behind some chain linked face, and the Santa Ana wind, rasping against the window.

    I was sixteen. And when you are that age, with the hormones cavorting through your veins, everything becomes rife with desire, poignant, pungent.

    Like this. The neighbor, with the moustache, a young latino, who always wore white tank-tops, his muscled arms, the color of cinnamon, fixing his dilapidated, red Chevy Nova, that time, he smiled, I felt this tremulous flutter, inside, melting, like some ingenue, even now, that moment remains imprinted upon my memory, the grease on his face, the palm trees, the brown-dirt lawns, where only dandelion grew, the sky had that hazy, cottony whiteness, and that lump in my throat, that stuttering, the animal hunger for the solace of skin. Touch.

    I took the bus. Back then, only poor, brown people took the bus. Los Angeles is an archipelago of neighborhoods, some are verdant with immaculate hedges, behind which are faux chateaus, fantasy haciendas, and art deco palaces, while others are arid, desolate, with the urban bloom of taquerias, pawn shops, bail bonds, Chinese takeouts, here, the neon blinks incessantly, the fluorescent light casts a green pallor on the weary faces that surrounded me on this bus, full of Latino laborers, maids, gardeners, returning from work.

    The bus hiccupped down the road, while I stared out of the window, the hard plastic seat, the heat from the sun, glares, through the window, I could see the sunset, rusty ruby red, I could feel my heart clenching, at dusk, especially, this loneliness inked inside of me like a secret tattoo.

    I wanted to find love. I tried sneaking into gay bars where the smoke seeped into my pores but the bartenders took one look at my jejune face and nodded towards the door.

    I wanted to find love. I cruised in a park where there were shaggy eucalyptus trees with blue-green leaves. But when a man approached me, with one hand grabbing at his crotch, I fled, running down the path, as if I was being stalked by a serial killer.

    And so I wandered through the city, from Downtown to Venice Beach, from Silverlake to Beverly Hills, from Hollywood to Japantown. I took the bus.

    I never found love.


    But I found sex.

    One day, I am waiting for the bus on a corner of Santa Monica Boulevard, not far from West Hollywood, when a man in a Rolls Royce stops in front of me.

    Do you want a ride, big guy?

    Without even a moment of hesitation, I hop inside the car. It smells new. I have never been inside such an expensive car.

    Where are you heading to?

    I tell him to take me to the corner of La Cienaga and Santa Monica Boulevard (the heart of the gay district).

    He looks old—meaning he must be in his forties (my father’s age at that time.) His hair is gray—like the bark of a eucalyptus.

    So what’s your story, big guy?

    I tell him. I am here for the summer visiting my aunt.

    Sure, sure. But let’s cut to the chase.

    I do not understand what he means.

    You can drop the act, big guy. Just tell me how much you want for a blow job.

    Later, I would learn that this stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard was known for its rent-boys.
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