Standing in the middle of the Tres Estrellas Bus Terminal in Matamoros, Tina clenched her jaws. She was so pissed. For starters Roberto, the dude she’d come with for a supposedly really cool vacation in Mexico, had turned out to be a jerk. At the Popeye’s Fried Chicken where Tina worked he’d come in late at night and flirted with her for the past month. Not many guys paid that kind of attention to her. No she wasn’t the Hollywood glamour type, but golly, she had a great personality. She’d won Fry Cook of the Month twice. Now that she’d been full time with Popeye’s for three years she qualified for a week’s vacation. He’d been sweet and he’d talked her into this trip with him. “I speak their lingo, Tina and I can tell you Mexico is paradise just a day away. And Tina, wouldn’t I love to be your gentleman tour guide. Show you the exotic, Tina – that’s what I wanna do, show you the exotic, hon. How ‘bout it? You buy the bus tickets. We can stay at my Uncle’s motel in Monterrey – completely free. Hey, if you can find a better deal go for it.” He brought her a magazine article showing lush gardens, beautiful hotels, and cliff divers in Aculpulco. Well, it’d sounded really good then. The bus tickets to Brownsville, Texas had cost $296.00. This was Tina’s big adventure and it’s all she could think about for the week before her vacation started.
But as it turned out Roberto was so stupid. And Monterrey wasn’t anything like that place in the pictures. Roberto’s Uncle’s motel called “El Industrial” was between a big stinky tire factory and a string of cantinas with neon signs and outdoor speakers. Mexico and tequila made Roberto even more stupid. And horny. Persistently horny. Back in America he had been a gentleman but once across the border it seemed all he wanted was sex! Gosh darn, what kind of girl did he think I am? Some kind of whore, I guess.
And while she’d managed to protect herself against his ungentlemanly advances, he‘d retaliated by treating her ugly, calling her Gordisima. At the motel Roberto wouldn’t talk to her in English, just Spanish – of which she knew nothing beyond si, no, gracias, and adios. She suspected he was saying really nasty things to her because of his body language and what he was doing with his hand on his thing. On the second morning, he refused to take Tina to breakfast; she had to go by herself. The old man in the tiny restaurant across the street spoke English and she got a breakfast but then there was a discrepancy with the bill and the stupid bacon and eggs ended up costing her $11.00, probably a week’s pay in Mexico. Roberto was gone when she returned to the room. She skipped lunch deciding to take a walk around the neighborhood near the motel until a pack of rude Mexican boys just about drove her crazy tugging on her jacket, touching her, and never shutting up. “Señorita, señorita, some Chicles, buy my Chicles. Señorita,señorita, buy my toothpaste. Señorita, señorita, buy cigarette? Señorita,señorita you wan buy silver? I take you for to buy silver. Señorita,señorita you wan’ buy guitar? I take you..” God – they went on and on and on. “Señorita, señorita, you wan’ buy marijuana?…Some poncho? Wha’ you wan’ to buy?”
“No. Go away! I don’t wanna buy nothin’. Just leave me alone, okay?”
But they hung on like wolves until finally she decided to return to the motel and maybe watch some TV. Once back at the room, the smell of marijuana greeted her at the door, and in the glow from the television she could see a Tequila bottle and two paper cups on the night stand. There was Roberto naked, sitting up in bed sucking limes with a skinny old prostitute. He was so drunk and ugly. “Hey Tina, come on in, the water’s fine. Ha, ha, ha. Ay chinga…” That did it. In the bathroom amid the whore’s clothes she made her decision. “I am so out of here and all this, this, this shit!” To hell with Roberto and exotic Mexico. No, she didn’t need that sex maniac. Darned if she couldn’t find her own way back to Pine Bluff, Arkansas, United States of America without his sorry, whore mongering, butt. Hurriedly she threw her things into her pack while Roberto and the hooker jeered her from the bed. Before she left she stuffed the old tart’s red panties and black bra into the toilet bowl. “Good riddance.”
At the same restaurant she’d eaten breakfast she had a hamburger and fries, but again there was a discrepancy about the bill which ended up costing Tina $16. An older Mexican man kept asking her if she was married and would she like to go to his club with him for dancing and good times. Fortunately a taxi was just in front of the restaurant which she took to the bus station and on her own and without any help from Roberto she purchased a one way ticket to Matamoros, just across the border from Brownsville. A girl does what a girl’s gotta do. In her purse was the return Greyhound ticket to Pine Bluff. This time tomorrow night she’d be home and sleeping in her own bed, thank you very much. The wait was a long three hours with the bus leaving a midnight. She wished the time would pass quickly. In a way it did, because there on the hard bench of the waiting room Tina nodded out. It’d been a tough day. She awoke at a quarter till twelve with just enough time to go to the bathroom before boarding the bus. Drops of urine and flies dotted the seat of the single stinking unflushed toilet. There was no paper. Instead was a hand-lettered sign advising patrons in Spanish and English that toilet paper could be purchased at the magazine stand. Well, she’d just have to hold it and hope the bus had facilities. So before boarding she bought a comic book and a roll of Mexican toilet paper.
On the road Tina felt better, much better. She’d had taken charge of her life and peed and was now on her way back to America and the beauty of the English language, clean streets. and good hamburgers and fries that didn’t cost $l6. Roberto, go to the devil! He better never show his face at Popeye’s again. She’d tell those cops that hung out in the parking lot eating boxes of free chicken and they’d arrest Roberto haul his Mexican butt to jail. She pictured Roberto’s whore fishing her stuff out of the toilet. Leafing through the comic book she’d bought she suffered a vague unsettling feeling. The cover of the book was funny, it looked like a Donald Duck comic, but on the inside the duck figure was a homosexual, with other ducks with penises. These Mexicans are sickos. She put the book aside, then realized it was not the nasty book bothering her; it was something else. Quickly she went through the things in her purse – once, twice, and again. It was gone. The wallet containing her money, her papers –the credit card, phone card, her ID, driver’s license and Mexican tourist card. All her important papers. Gone! The Greyhound bus ticket too – gone! Oh God! One of the boys at the bus station probably picked it out of her purse when she had dozed. Oh no! There would be problems now at the border. Maybe the Mexicans would not let her leave without ID and that tourist card. Quietly she cried for a bit then prayed that God might destroy Roberto and all Mexican boys by fire.
Amid a cloud of black diesel fumes the big bus rolled to a stop in the Matamoros station. As Tina stepped down from the bus nervously anticipating facing the immigration officials, a Mexican boy tried to get her attention. “Señorita, oh señorita, psst, psst….” He tugged at her jacket and she jerked away sharply trying hard to ignore him. Oh God, how was she going to cross into the U.S. without any ID? How I wish I had those papers. Then like an answered prayer Tina heard the soft young voice of the Mexican boy, ”Señorita, señorita, you leave you papers on thee bus. I peek them up for you, here.”
“My papers, oh my God, thank you, thank you “, she exclaimed, as she turned around, her hand outstretched to the boy who handed her the roll of toilet paper Tina had left behind.
© Gary Ives
First published in November 2012, “The Story Shack”
Illustration by: Cait Maloney