It was a Friday night in Mexico City. I had been living in the Distrito Federal, or simply DF, for a year, getting by with several teaching jobs throughout the city. To get to each one I spent over 20 hours using all forms of public transit: the metro, peseros, taxis, the metrobus, the regular buses. If it had wheels, I was fighting the hordes to get on it so I could get to work, and that week I had worked overtime. Demons were crawling under my skin. Tonight I had to dance them out. There was no controlling it, I either danced the electric rage out of my bones or I would spontaneously combust; my muscles didn’t give me a choice. I cast my bait and texted all of my gay friends. One would surely bite. Orlando: no, he was busy. Howard: sorry, out of town. Mark: no response. Finally, a text from Starkey: hell yeah.
Two hours later, I was exiting the metro with a cheap flask of Jimador tequila in my purse. I hurried my pace through the dark streets of Centro Histórico, not the optimal setting for a petite young woman. Even worse, I had taken out the big guns that night; I was wearing my blue baby doll dress with my hair done up pompadour-style, face armored with fierce cat-eye makeup. I looked good. I navigated myself along the granite walls of the district’s colonial Spanish buildings. The cobblestone pavement had been made damp and precarious by the evening’s rolling showers.
The whole neighborhood was deplete of greenery except for Parque Central Alameda. Adjacent to the park stood the recently renovated Palacio de Bellas Artes, a breathtaking art nouveau opera house capped with three domes colored like reverse tequila sunrises. During the day the front square effervesces with food stands and trinket hawkers. Children chase each other through swarms of shoppers. Bohos sit cozily on the grass taking in the sun and emo delinquents hunch up against the pillars with their cigarettes looking bored. The only people out at that hour, though, were the occasional group of meandering partygoers and solo men cruising for other game contenders for a casual hookup. Peering in that direction of town, I could spy the lone Torre Latinoamericana with its spindly antenna sticking up, threatening to pop the sky. The tower once toted the proud title of Mexico’s tallest building, a considerable architectural feat as it was constructed on an unstable seismic zone. It simply looked anachronistic to me now, stuck in a futuristic past, belonging more to The Jetsons’s Orbit City than to modern DF.
When I arrived at the apartment I found Starkey not at all ready to leave still in his basketball shorts and t-shirt. Typical, I thought. Starkey evaporated into his room after introducing me to his new booga roommate, so I suspected an ulterior motive for his delay. Waiting for the Princess to get ready, I shared an atrocious shot of tequila with his roommate and we chatted about how he, a German, had come to be in DF. By the time he put his hand on mine and told me how cute I was, I was ready to go.
Right on cue, Starkey stormed out with a crisis, “Guys, this is urgent! Okay. Hat or no hat?”
We hit the strip of gay clubs in Centro Histórico, just north of Bellas Artes a few blocks away from Plaza Garibaldi. Our first routine stop was Marrakech, which is without fail jam-packed like a beautiful mosh pit, maybe even as bad as the metro during rush hour. However, instead of savage youths or the bored masses, you’re bumping elbows with scores of stunning young men, essentially an anybody-who’s-anybody type of scene. We hustled our way in to find boys in their tighty-whiteys undulating on the bar. We did our mandatory lap, I almost got in a fight with a guy who pawed at my ass, and we blew kisses to our pal Orlando. After, we hopped to another club across the street where we studied the leather-clad man strippers air pumping to electronic beats. We ordered a few drinks and when our favorite hit spilled from the speakers, it was dancing time.
Watching my friend Starkey dance is like watching a unicorn prance through cloud puffs of cotton candy. He’s a sight to admire. Having grown up in North Carolina, he specializes in J-setting: a cooler, more cheerleader-y vogue with lots of big arm movements and pauses, and of course some sassy swishes of the hip. You’ve gotten a taste of J-setting if you’ve seen Beyonce’s Single Ladies video. What really gets me are the ferosh faces he flashes with every move. He has this great toothy grin, alternating different expressions. Fantastic. With enough booze in us and a steady stream of pop hits, Starkey and I will bring the house down, him swinging his arms around every which way, me all sexy hip swerves and waist. A tepid crowd will suddenly transform into a bedlam of dancing raging all around us. There’s nothing better. Only once we’re drenched in sweat is it time to hit our next spot, Plaza Garibaldi.
Plaza Garibaldi is insane. Imagine a huge courtyard full of mariachis competing to troll out ballads for swaying groups of partiers and hugging sweethearts. They’re decked out in charro suits: tight, compact pants with embroidered serpentine flourishes up and down the sides, black coats, white shirts, and bright handkerchief bowties pouring out of their taut vests. People stream in and out of clubs on the prowl to Plaza Garibaldi, ready for the meat market. There are drinking stations with cheap liquor, micheladas and mixers, venders of chiclets and lighters, men selling roses, and a guy who will electrocute you for twenty pesos as some kind of love test called toques toques. If you can hold onto the electric rods attached to the machine belted to his chest the longest, the more in love you are?
Starkey and I began to make our rounds scoping the sexy vaqueros. But this night it was a no-go. No cute cowboys to harass. Plaza Garibaldi was on a downswing with droves of people slowly emptying out, leaving behind a lot of trash. We were wading in it.
Not known to filter himself, Starkey exclaimed, “This is fucking disgusting!” A group of passing ambulators rubber-necked us with looks of anger.
“I think they thought you were talking about them, Starkey.”
“Well then they’re just fucking stupid. Let them try something.” We stopped and mad-dogged them back, but nothing. Unamused, we continued surveying charro breeches.
And then bam; Starkey flew forward, catching himself just before he ate it face first into the pavement. We both spun around to find an angry little dude from the group before. This was bad because Starkey was MAD and Starkey isn’t small. I didn’t know what the kid was thinking.
“Oh, fuck no. he did not just push me from behind,” Starkey rolled up sleeves ready to pounce. Taking in the gravity of the situation, I pulled Starkey back, jumped in between the two, and pushed the kid.
“No estaba hablando de ti, pendejo,” I screamed in his face. Within microseconds, looks of confusion, understanding, and regret registered across his dumb face. He had misunderstood. Starkey wasn’t talking about him. He got it. I kept Starkey back as the kid trudged away.
Irritated, we got out of there to head home, but I remembered there was one last stop to make.
We ended up at in front of a concealed stairway of a rundown building not too far down from the main drag. There was one single rainbow flag hanging limp near the entrance. This was the spot. We ascended into the darkness toward music. Behind a heavy velvet curtain was my favorite trashy bar. We made our way to our seats zigzagging between tables full of people, through the plumes of cigarette smoke heavy in the air, and around the raised dance floor in the middle of the club. We glided by a table of heavily painted-on Amazon diva women with men hovering around like flies.
“Guapas, guapas, guapas,” I snapped my fingers as I passed. I had seen them around at other bars before. They smiled back and gave me a little wave of reciprocated recognition.
Music blared from speakers in the corners. I dug this bar for the the music, classic cumbia, and salsa staples: La Sonora Dinamita’s Que Nadie Sepa Mi Sufrir, Elvis Crespo’s Suavamente, Celia Cruz’s La Vida es un Carnaval, Margarita la Diosa de la Cumbia’s Escándalo, Los Ángeles Azules’s Cómo Te Puedo Olvidar. I had a few dances left in me.
The best thing about dancing in DF is that you don’t have to wait but a second to get asked to the dance floor. A good male lead is everything. He’s not too jerky. He doesn’t get too wrapped up in his own machismo and kicks. He leads you slowly, taps your hips, your back, your arm, and your waist ever so gently to signal the direction of the next move, the next turn. And with the right partner, it’s magical.
That night I had found my guy, bald-headed with glasses, dressing sharp. He was spinning me all over the floor. At one point he even spun me off the edge on accident. I crashed onto a table with my dress flying up and my panties showing for everyone to see. A cacophony of laughter and whistles roared up all around me. I gathered myself blushing like a ripe tomato. I laughed it off though and gave them another quick flash of my lacy behind and continued dancing.
Even Starkey joined in at a certain point. The Latin ladies were getting a kick out of his clumsy steps. Salsa wasn’t his forte yet. He got by with flashes of his big smile and a deviously raised eyebrow. Finally down for the count after a series of songs, Starkey and I collapsed into our chairs and clinked our next round of beers together contented.
Then there was an abrupt music change. The tempo slowed. The sound of strings filled the air. The lights darkened. There she was standing in the spotlight. She lifted her microphone to her mouth and began to sing. The crowd erupted in excitement and everybody in the joint sang along. She was a queen, a beauty with broad arms, long blonde hair, perfectly executed makeup that accentuated the contour of her cheekbones, and lots of turquoise eye shadow. Her cobalt blue sequined gown came straight out of a beauty pageant. I recalled the sexy Amazonian trans women I had seen at the front.
Those ladies were the singer’s posse, I realized. They sat cheering her on, throwing flowers as she floated across the floor with arms out and intermittent expressions of anguish, seduction, and torment swaying back and forth. At the dramatic climax in the song, she shook her head in defiance and shot her arm up pointing at the ceiling and bring her hand down into a fist, and then hold herself as if comforting her own suffering. The audience ate it up. Me, I was on my feet bouncing up and down like an excited chihuahua. I love me a beautiful drag queen. It’s a mix of awe, admiration, envy, and desire. I was ecstatic. As her ballad ended, she bowed to the standing ovation, whistles and all, and stepped out of the limelight.
There was another music change, an upbeat tempo. A man appeared in a vest, loose black silky pants, and yes, a luchador mask. He thrust the air with smooth gyrations of his hips. I sat there mesmerized. He turned, slipped off his vest looking to the side sensually, swung the vest above his head flipping it between his legs with a nice grind. He threw it and it disappeared into the crowd. Then the pants were magically off. He was donning a pink thong. Oh my lord. I was crawling on top of my table applauding with ecstasy. And at last there was the grand finale: the thong came off to reveal his delicious bulging apple butt.
The group next to my table called him over to their birthday girl of the night. She screeched with delight and horror as he rolled his naked body against her. I was cracking up as I watched her mortification. And then suddenly, out of nowhere, he was on ME. I had a butt-naked stripper on me. It was an out-of-body experience, like a whirlwind of manic giggling, shocked shrieks and squeals, and a whole lot of cocoa butter.
After he finished and grabbed his clothes from the floor, Starkey and I settled down and decided to finish our beer and get the hell out of there. But before we could manage, a muscular man in a black pants and a buttoned up shirt with a little chest showing came up to me and asked me to dance. Why not?
Bachatta, which is typically more slow and sexy than other Latin dances, was playing. The man and I immediately got close, so we could feel each other’s rhythms and motions. His firm muscles pressed against me through his dress shirt as we moved. His shoulders, his arms, his back, everything was rock solid. And he could move. I lost myself again for a moment dancing and getting into it, but with the change of song, I became sharply aware of how hot we were becoming and realized that this innocent dance had turned into something a bit more intimate than I could handle at the moment. His massive sensuality intimidated me. Panicking, I thanked him, pecked him on the cheek, and hurried back to the table. The crowd swallowed him up behind me.
Starkey immediately barraged me with questions. “What did he say? Did you get his number? He was sexy. Why didn’t you go home with him?”
I was still taking in what had just happened. “Who was that guy?” I muttered.
“The stripper, you idiot.”
What? That sexy man of bodaciousness was the stripper???…. OF COURSE he was the stripper, I thought, face-palming myself. I scanned the room in search of my Cinderella. He had disappeared. I was half disappointed, but frankly, half relieved too. I didn’t know if I could handle all that man.
With enough excitement for one night, Starkey and I finally departed. Daylight was already falling upon us, menacing us with the ominous reality of having to be self-sufficient adults. I still managed to get in a fight with an annoying chiclets vendor on our walk home though, and Starkey managed to pick up a cute cholo from Tijuana. When we stumbled into the apartment, I left the lover boys to their roll in the hay in Starkey’s room and lay down on the couch. The sun had just begun to creep through the blinds. Gleeful squeals faintly seeped through the walls. I closed my eyes. What a night.
About the Author: After graduating from UC Berkeley in 2010, born and bred California girl, Angela Rage, has successfully evaded reality by trotting across the globe from Mexico all the way to South Korea teaching EFL. What she’s really passionate about, though, is creative nonfiction. Being one of six girls, she enjoys writing about her crazy family and their current crisis of the week. As of late though, she has pivoted her focus to travel writing with her blogs, jejujive.wordpress.com and chileongringa.wordpress.com.
Artwork: B.F. Pullman