Pedro Fuerte

Posted on October 30, 2016

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From THE LAMPETER REVIEW, Spring, 2016

Under skies clouded into mashed potato mush directions cease to exist. Ten-year-old taxis striped maroon and gray, potato-chip-painted delivery vans, sputtering VW bugs—vochos the Mexicans call them—couples sandwiched together on Italicas, lumbering buses with destinations scribbled on their windshields: none of them headed in a predetermined direction. Some turn right, some turn left, a pickup filled with children stalls, a truck with a slapping canvas canopy caterwauls to a stop as a traffic light blinks red. On the hills beyond warehouse roofs I detect scattered shanties connected by crisscrossing paths.

How the hell do I get back to the city center?

Just beyond the glistening cylinders of a chemical warehouse I catch a glimpse of thatch and walk towards it. Seven or eight wooden tables checkerboarded under a high peaked roof, the smell of tortillas frying in too much grease. I hesitate as a taxi honks its availability but I wave it away: I’ve spent too much at the feria and would rather walk. Or take a bus if I can figure out if one will take me to an area I know.

“Monte Albán?”  

As though materializing out of the thatch he insinuates himself into my presence: broad-shouldered, high cheek-boned face, knobby fingers clutching a long-handled broom that Oaxaca street cleaners use. Probably my age but a hard life makes him look older: cobwebby wrinkles accentuate the way his eyes, curiously offset, twitch beneath thick upper lids. “Monte Albán,” he repeats, “allá quiere ir?”

         “No, pues,” I answer in accented Spanish, “al centro. I just can’t tell, es decir, which buses go where.”

He points across the highway. The buses in the right lane turn at the light and head towards the center of the city, he says, then adds, “Turistas, they go to Monte Albán.”

Sí pues, but I’m not a turista, I live in Oaxaca.”

“Ah!” Immediately our relationship changes. No longer am I one of them—turistas—but one of us—locals. The information seems to enliven him, although the smile across a missing incisor is more a grimace than a welcome.

“I leev…” he begins in English then reverts to Spanish “allá, on the Other Side. Six years.”

I nod. Practically every Oaxacan I’ve met has worked in the United States.

“Sí, pues,” he continues as I scan traffic approaching the corner, hoping for a right-lane bus, “muy contento pero no podía quedarme.”

“The migra?

He shakes his head and looks away, like me peering towards zigzagging traffic. Then abruptly he begins to giggle. Some private joke? I shrug, mildly curious. He swipes the broom back and forth, stirring up dust, and coughs. “The migra no. Los antivicios.”

         “Vice squad?”

“Pues…”

         “Qué puta madre! What were you doing?”

“Movies.”

“Mov-…porno movies?”

“Many—many movies.” His giggles crescendo as he half-turns towards me. “Pedro Fuerte.”

“Pedro Fuerte?”

“Sí, my name. In the movies.”

Tú…me burlas?” I want to believe him but we’re standing on a godforsaken out of town intersection bombarded by screeches and clattering of traffic kilometers from nowhere, he’s clutching a huge handmade broom and I’m hungry and lost and…

“It was a long time ago.”

I nod. It occurs to me that he might be lying. It also occurs to me that he might be telling the truth.

“So. You were making porno movies. In Los Angel—…”

“San Franceesco. Pues, Oakland, it is near—”

“I know Oakland. I once had a novia there.”

Bien! Many movies there. Yo, Denver Lust—big man, blonde, but no de Denver, someplace call O-high-yo, Black Tiger…” He thrusts his fist forward from his hip imitating a huge schlong.

“Puros hombres? Mujeres no?”

         Chingada sí! Muchas chamacas! Lilí, Blondie, Boobsie, Big Bette…” His grin grows lascivious as he rattles off women’s nicknames. I’m starting to believe him but the incongruity of this muscular, scarred, broom-wielding old Oaxacan screwing dozens of willing babes as 16-millimeter cameras show close ups of the action baffles credibility. “I, mira, it’s, es decir, muy—”

“No me crees?” His lip curls pugnaciously, then the smile thrusts across the missing incisor. “Te muestro, ven!He grabs my sweater sleeve, drops the broom and heads towards the thatch. “Te pruebo, sï, claro que sí,” he insists as I wrench out of his grasp and follow him around the smelling-of-grease kitchen to an alcove where several coats are hanging on nails pegged into weathered 4x8s. He groans as he stoops to pick up a soiled backpack, unzips the front pocket and fumbles through its contents. As he proffers a billfold-sized plastic photo holder I noticed that the fourth finger on his hand is bent and rigid.

“Ya ves!” He flips the album open and shoves it into my hand. A young stud, mustached, grins from the photo. He has his arms around two bare breasted women, both quite young. There’s no mistaking that the man’s heavy-lidded slightly offset eyes are identical to the old fellow beside me.

“Bellas,” I comment. Then, shaking my head, “Pedro Fuerte.”

“Sí!” He flips to the other photos—seven or eight of them, several showing him in sexual embraces with well-endowed if not actually attractive women.

“Many movies—many,” he repeats.

“How in hell did you–?” Realizing I’m speaking English I revert to Spanish, “cómo? Es decir, they recruited you? Here in Mexico, I mean? Brought you to Oakl-…”

“Chingada qué no! I in Oakland, need work, in newspaper—this ad say Jóven, fuerte, que quiere trabajar. I go see, four stories up, a little office, man looks at me, woman—young, Oriental, very pretty, helps me fill out form. Behind the office a big room—well, not too big, ‘studio’ he says, four or five people there. He asks me if I like to screw. ‘Sí!’ I laugh, I think he is kidding, no? He points to a woman looking at us. ‘You like to screw her?’ I’m afraid to say but he sees in my face. ‘Hey,’ he calls to the woman, ‘Pedro here would like to screw you.’ ‘Yeah?’ she says, ‘what’s he got?’ ‘Pull down your pants,’ the man tells me. Okay so I do. ‘He’s got plenty,’ she says. So we start making movies.”

“Pedro Fuerte.” It’s all I can think of to say as he tucks the photo holder back in his pack and we walk together to where he dropped his broom. As we shake hands goodbye I repeat “Pedro Fuerte” and he laughs, this wrinkle-faced old man with a broken finger and porno movie past. But on the bus as it grinds along streets growing increasingly familiar I am not thinking about Pedro but about San Francisco thirty years ago, a tiny fourth-floor office, a Vietnamese receptionist, a form to fill out. I, too, had seen a newspaper ad—in English not in Spanish  Good health, physically strong, willing to work… and they had taken my form and thanked me.

But I was not Pedro Fuerte. I didn’t get the job.

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Posted in: Life in Mexico