“I am talking to you Ricardo! I said, one of these days, that dick of yours is going to get you killed!” Luisa was practically screaming at the top of her voice.
A hoarse, raspy voice bellowed from behind, “Santa Maria Madre de Dios! Luisa, you must not talk that way. Not to your brother, not to anybody. You talk like a cheap woman from the streets. Dios mio, if your father was alive today …”
“Que Mama, que? If my father was alive today you would not be here. You will be in a hospital bed recovering from broken bones and bruises after he has beaten you up.” Luisa rudely cuts in.
Like a flash, whack! Mrs. Carmen dela Vega swiftly stood up from her dilapidated makeshift dinner seat made up of pale wood and copper wires, and slapped Luisa in the face.
“You do not talk that way about your father. You do not have the right Luisa. Nunca! Not while I am still alive.” Carmen wheezed as she spoke and started coughing. She covers her mouth with a cream lace hankie and spits on it.
Ricardo momentarily stops tying his black bandanna over his head and turns around to look at the drama unfolding between the two women in his household. Luisa gives him dagger looks while touching her cheek which has mildly reddened due to the smack she got from her mother.
Ricardo looks back at the badly blurred cracked mirror nailed to the wall, right under the altar of the Virgin Mary. A lone candle is lighted and some dusty fake daisy flowers in a vase accented it. He grins and continues knotting his head scarf and sneers; “That’s what you get Luisa for poking your nose in other people’s business.”
“Do you always have to take his side Mama? How could you be blind to the things Ricardo does for a living? How can you take that bastard’s side?” Luisa starts crying.
Ricardo finally turns around and faces the women, “Cut it out Luisa, Mama is sick as it is and you are making her feel worse. All this drama is turning my stomach and is not going to be good for my business. A man has to do what a man has to do. And I will do what I want to do, when I want to do it and how I want to do it. And if this,” pauses and rubs his crotch; “is my ticket to paradise, I will use it to whoever wants it to get me out of this fucking dump!”
Carmen wheezes again and coughs incessantly. Softly, almost a whimper …”Ricardo, please …”
“Oh stop it Mama. This soap opera is making me puke. I will make you a rich woman someday, you mark my word. I will buy you a beautiful casa and Luisa can stay here with her god-forsaken ‘novio’, have babies, and get fat and ugly’” Ricardo teased.
Luisa springs to her feet and tries to claw at Ricardo’s face. Her nails are too long and crooked, and covered with flashy red nail polish that has started to peel off at the edges. Ricardo just laughs and parries Luisa’s hands.
“Hey, hey, careful with the face! Women do not like their men with scars.” Ricardo laughingly said. “Keep those farm boy loving hands away from me, woman!”
“Aaarrrgggh! Pendejo! You are going to burn in hell Ricardo. You are going to burn in hell!” Luisa screamed as she slumps down on the dirt-brown lounge chair that sits as the only piece of furniture in their small tenement room. Thin cardboard walls provide partitions between units and beaded sea shells hanging from beams are used as door curtains, for privacy, depending on how one looks at it.
“Oh well, that’s my cue. The night is young and I have business to attend to. Don’t wait up Señoritas.” With that, Ricardo swaggers out into the night wearing his signature ensemble. A body hugging black tee shirt with cut sleeves, torn and acid-washed jeans, cuffed at the seams to show faded cowboy leather boots that walked a couple of hundred miles; a wide black leather belt with a huge buckle accented by a cross. On his forearm is a tattoo of a smiling devil with his face burning, and below the face is the inscription, “El Diablo”.
Ricardo dela Vega, is the youngest child of Ambrosio and Carmen dela Vega; 21 years old. Luisa being the eldest child is 25. They had another brother, Alberto, who would have been 23 years old, but he died when he was 17 in a street gang war.
Ricardo has long black curly hair he keeps tidy by putting a bandanna across his head, about 5’10” in height, mahogany skin, mainly acquired from overstaying under the sun; deep set ebony eyes with lashes that curl up to his lids. He has a very prominent nose, a feature he inherited from his father. Besides his strong masculine look, Ricardo possesses good physique, very tight muscles and well proportioned torso to limbs ratio. He can fall between ruggedly handsome and animal appeal. However, like his father, he is not very intelligent and decided school was not for him at 5th grade. He had failed miserably twice in 4th grade and once in 5th grade so he decided that should be enough education for him. But like most of the men in the Dela Vega clan, their source of pride is being “hung”.
For Ricardo, work in the factory or the farm were just good enough for a start. He has big dreams. But totally lacking in smarts and education, he uses the one tool he thinks can make him rich. He’s a man-whore and he is a local favorite.
Walking out of the tenement units, Ricardo cannot help but belch at the stench of the place. He swears to himself that soon he will be rid of the stink of decay, mixed with odor of rotten meat and animal or probably, human wastes. He whistles.
At the clearing, Ricardo sees a couple of young boys playing cards, and recognizes one of them.
“Hey Alberto! Oy!”, Ricardo yells. “Alberto, where is your Mama Conchita? Is she home?”
A young boy of about 10 years old looks up from the crowd and shouts back. “What do you want with her? Why?”
Ricardo continues walking towards the small huddle and says; “You tell your Mama Conchita that Ricardo is here so if she wants some bang-bang tonight”, gestures humping twice with his hips; “I am free to serve”.
The young boy stands up and shouts, “No, my Mama does not need you Ricardo. Go away. When my father gets here, I will tell on you. You are a bad man!”
Everybody else collapses in laughter. The other boys jeer loudly, “Mama Conchita wants a bang-bang! Mama Conchita wants a bang-bang”. Alberto runs away from the group crying.
Ricardo says, almost to himself. “Your father’s never coming back Niño, he has crossed the wall. I can make your Mama happy.”
He looks back at the young crowd and says, “What the fuck are you chicos looking at?” And they all scampered in different directions, still jeering and chanting, “Ricardo gives a bang-bang!”
Ricardo continues walking towards the main street corner where a small convenience store right beside a bar is located. Couple of guys are smoking at the corner and one of them sees Ricardo.
“Esse”, Leandro shouts out.
“Hola, esse!” Ricardo shouts back.
Leandro walks towards Ricardo and whispers , “Word is out Ricardo, the Jefe is not very happy.”
“Hijo de puta! What does he want now? I delivered all his petty drug deals for him and I don’t try to get more than my cut! Pendejo!” Ricardo curses between his teeth.
“No esse, it’s about Esperanza. Jefe’s Esperanza. He is getting very suspicious.” Leandro insisted. “Just be warned Ricardo. Don’t be stupid. The Jefe has many eyes.”
Ricardo didn’t say anything. His mind flies to images of Esperanza; Jefe’s beautiful Esperanza. Esperanza is 32 years old and is the third wife of the Jefe who is pushing 63. The first time Ricardo saw Esperanza was when he worked at the factory and the Jefe came to visit Don Armando, the owner. He was only 17 years old then and his whole world stopped when she walked in. Her dark brown hair was tied in a bun but wisps of hair cascaded down her copper skin. Her hazel brown eyes reflected inner beauty, and her lips were pink as a rose bud, looking so soft and luscious. She was wearing an off-shoulder flamenco style beige and red dress that made her skin glow. Ricardo swallowed hard as he looked at her body, her cleavage and buxom was so pronounced he had a boner he felt so embarrassed people may have noticed it. Her waistline was waiflike but her hips were definitely signature Hispanic. For Ricardo, back then she was a goddess. In the last three month or so, she was more a favored client. It is likely that he even loves her. When she services Esperanza, Ricardo feels that they are making love and he hopes she does too. Often, she gives him pleasure beyond his wildest imaginations that he has been tempted several times not to get a fee in return. Two weeks ago, in the small conversations they exchanged, Esperanza thanked him, and he blurted out that he should be thanking her. Esperanza stopped putting on her clothes and gave Ricardo what he felt to be a loving and longing look, and then she just smiled. He could swear it broke and melted his heart at the same time.
How could she stand the Jefe? He reeked of tequila and tobacco, his face looks like it embraced a thousand glass shards, his belly is too wide, it may be three decades since he last saw his toes; and he was cruel. There are nights with Esperanza that he notices bruise marks in her arms and thighs. But he dared not ask questions. He just longed for her call. As far as Ricardo is concerned, Esperanza is part of his future. When he gets rich and famous, he will ask her to be with him. He knows he has made Esperanza feel all woman if he will judge the way she reaches her climax every time they had sex. She has been deprived of sweet loving that she deserves.
“Hey Ricardo, are you open for business?” said a woman’s voice behind him.
Ricardo was startled out of his daydream and turned around; it was Elena, Esperanza’s ama de llaves (housekeeper). But before he could reply, she quickly slipped a note into his hand and disappeared into the shadows of the night.
His heart jumped and started beating at crescendo, he opened the letter, “it’s from her”, he thought.
“10:00P.M., 211” It’s a note from Esperanza. Ricardo sniffs the paper and closes his eyes. “I can smell her scent. She wants me, tonight.”
The thought of Esperanza stirs movement in his groins, however he tries not to, the chance to feel her body, her softness, quench on her scent and juices is way too difficult to resist. And Ricardo resolves what to do. “I will tell her tonight. I will tell her my dreams for us.”Ricardo pulls out his fake silver pocket watch and checks the time. It’s a quarter past 9:00 P.M.; just enough time to make it to the usual rendezvous and the usual room. Room 211 is the room that has been the sole witness to hot, passionate nights that Ricardo and Esperanza shared.
“How can she want me again tonight when the Jefe is getting suspicious? Oh Esperanza, I knew she cannot resist me either. I knew it the first time I ever laid eyes on her that she was meant for me and me for her. Tonight if she pays me, I will give her money back to her. There are other women I can collect from. Not Esperanza. My Esperanza.” Ricardo was busy with his thoughts while he trekked his way to the Playa del Carmen’s Moongate Hotel. He lights a cigarette while he walks, takes a gum out of his jeans and pops it his mouth.
He can see the Inn’s light from where he was. Ricardo looked up at the sky. It’s a starry night; a lovely night for romance. The wind blew from the west and Ricardo felt a chill, he looked up again. It’s a beautiful night to die.
Ricardo nervously laughed at himself. “What am I thinking? That stupid Luisa! She has a way of spooking me. That cunt! I will deal with her later.”
It is not very far now, a small flight of stairs and it’s the first room on the right, overlooking the street lamps. Ricardo taps softly at the door. He realizes the door was ajar. And he thinks, “She loves me.”
He pushes the door open. And a single bullet shot pierced the silence of the night. Not very far away, birds start flapping their wings and fly. At Room 211 lying face down with arms stretched out like he was trying to stop the bullet, is Ricardo, underneath him blood gushes out to the marble floor; and almost mockingly, El Diablo’s face is a-blaze, laughing.